Once you receive your I-20 or DS-2019, you will:

1. Pay the SEVIS fee to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

  • This is required for all initial F-1 and J-1 students.

2. Apply for an F-1 or J-1 US entry visa  at a US embassy or consulate in your home country. 

  • Once approved, the consulate will place a F-1 or J-1 US entry visa sticker in your passport.
  • For additional information on the visa process and potential issues, see the US Entry Visa section of our site. 
  • If your visa application is delayed or denied, please us with any other relevant details.

3. Enter the United States within 30 days of the program start date on Form I-20 or DS-2019.  

  • For additional travel information and documents requirements, see our travel page.  

NOTE:  Citizens of Canada and Bermuda are exempt from the US entry visa requirement but still must pay the SEVIS fee and present form I-20 or DS-2019 when entering as an F-1 or J-1 student.


Health Insurance requirement for J-1 Students and J-2 Dependents:  The US Department of State requires J-1 and J-2 Exchange Visitors to be compliant with certain health insurance standards.  Please immediately review the J-1 Insurance information.


Other Options

The above process applies to the majority of students who will be travel from abroad and enter the US to gain F-1 or J-1 status.   

Instead of travel, certain new students may be eligible to acquire or continue F-1 or J-1 status under the following scenarios.

 
Change of Status

For eligible students who:

  • Currently hold a valid non-immigrant status in the US 
  • Will not travel internationally before the start of their F-1 or J-1 program
  • Will apply for a change of status with USCIS to gain F-1 or J-1 status
Note: Students will need to update ISSS on the progress of their change status application. In particular, if not approved before the I-20/DS-2019 start date and/or once it is approved by USCIS.
 

Transfer
For students who currently hold a valid SEVIS record at another institution in F-1 or J-1 Student status and will request their current F-1 or J-1 SEVIS record to be transferred to Penn.

To determine transfer eligibility, students should consult with their current F-1 or J-1 program sponsor.


  • For F-1 students:
    • Must report to ISSS within 15 days of program start date on the I-20
    • F-1 transfer students who still have an unexpired F-1 entry visa from their previous program may continue to use that visa for travel.
  • J-1 students must:
    • Must obtain approval from the current J-1 sponsor and Penn, in which both parties confirm that there is no major change in the J-1 visitor's program objective.
    • Must report to ISSS within 20 days from program start date on the DS-2019

Change of Education Level

For F-1 students changing from one degree program to another within Penn may apply for a new I-20 for their new program in iPenn.   The online request must be submitted to ISSS at least 3 weeks before the current program expires.  Please consult with your ISSS Advisor with any questions.

For J-1 students, please consult with your ISSS Advisor.

 
Returning from Leave of Absence

A student returning from a leave of absence should apply for a new I-20 or DS-2019 in iPenn after their academic school has confirmed their return to Penn and updated their student record.  Contact ISSS with questions.

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What's Next

Be sure to check-in with ISSS when you arrive at Penn.  Visit the Welcome to Penn section of the site to help you with non-immigration related items like housing and campus life.