Travel to the United States

F-1 visa students entering the United States must have a passport valid for at least 6 months, a valid F-1 visa (except for citizens of Canada) and a valid I-20 form. They should also have ready recent proof of financial ability (bank statement) to show the officer in case this information is requested.


Initial I-20 form

If you are a new F-1 visa student entering the United States for the first time, or if you have not attended school in the United States for more than 5 months, then you will have an Initial I-20 form. It is valid as long as you are entering the United States on or before the program start date in Section 5 of the I-20 form.  

The Initial I-20 form used to enter the United States must be the same I-20 form you used to apply for your  F-1 visa (the school’s name will be noted on the visa). If the school name on the I-20 form does not match the school name on the F-1 visa for your first entry to the United States, you may not be allowed to enter the country.   

If a student has been granted an F-1 visa to start at Seattle Central, and then, before entering the United States, you decide to attend a different school, you must go to the embassy or consulate that issued the visa and request an update of your visa from the visa officer.

I-20 Forms for Transfer Students

If you are a transfer student, then you should have a Transfer Pending I-20 form from Seattle Central, with a signature on page 3. If you have the Transfer Pending I-20 form from Seattle Central, you should not use the I-20 form from any of your previous schools, as these are no longer valid.   

You may also be a transfer student whose SEVIS record was terminated or completed by your previous school. If you are outside of the United States, Seattle Central will have issued you an Initial I-20 form on a new SEVIS record.

For more information, refer to the “Applicant Transferring from Other U.S. Institutions” section on our webpage.

F-1 Visa

With the exception of Canadian citizens, all students entering the United States must have a valid F-1 visa in their passport. If you are a transfer student with a signature on page 3 of your Transfer Pending I-20 form, you still must have a valid visa to be granted entry.

Although you may have a valid F-1 visa in your passport from a previous time studying in the United States, if you have been outside the United States for more than 5 months, the U.S. State Department requires you to renew your F-1 visa at an embassy or consular post before travelling to the United States.

At the Port of Entry

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (USCBP) will inspect all travelers coming to the United States. F-1 students must give the officer their passport and I-20 form (also be prepared to provide your bank statement if it is requested). If the officer finds no problems or issues when reviewing the documents, the officer will return the passport and I-20 form to you, and create an Arrival and Departure Record, referred to as the I-94 Admission Record.

If you arrive in the United States by air or by sea, you will have an electronic I-94 Admission Record. If you make your initial entry to the United States through a land border (for example, drive into the country from Canada), you will be issued a paper I-94 Admission Record. In both cases, the USCBP Officer will stamp your passport with the date of entry, visa class of admission, and the date you must depart the United States. The electronic record will include your name and the same information indicated with the passport stamp. Note that F-1 students are admitted for Duration of Status, which allows them to stay in the United States as long as their I-20 form is still valid.

If you need view your electronic I-94 Admission Record, or to print a copy, it can be accessed on USCBP’s website: If you have a paper copy of your I-94 Admission Record, keep it stapled in your passport opposite your F-1 visa.

Additional information on the I-94 Admission Record can be found on USCBP’s website: