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.
- 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.
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
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.