Are you eligible for F-1 or J-1 student status at Penn?  You are eligible if you have been admitted to be a full time student in an approved program.  After you are admitted, your admission office will send you the information to log into iPenn and request Form I-20 or Form DS-2019.  Please read the detailed instructions below. 

ISSS will begin processing Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 when it has received both confirmation of admission from the school and the completed application. During the peak application period (April to July) this process can take up to 3 weeks once the eform application for I-20/DS-2019 is completed. Applications are processed in the order received. It is recommended that students wait to receive their visa documents before scheduling a visa interview.

  • I-20 / DS-2019 Application Information
  • Application for I-20/DS-2019 Form

    Please click on the "Online Application Portal" below to begin the process of applying for the University of Pennsylvania Form I-20 or DS-2019 that you will need to be present in the United States for your studies at Penn.

    You will need your passport and your letter of admission from Penn, including your 9-digit admission ID, after you enter the Online Application Portal (or, if you gave Penn a US social security number from a previous stay in the US, you may need that number instead).

    Online Application Portal

    Please see our video instruction on how to complete your online application for I-20/DS-2019

    Most international students will require a student visa to enter the United States. International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) is the University office responsible for assisting admitted international students with obtaining the necessary documents for their visas and their entry to the US. Working closely with the University's admission departments, ISSS facilitates the following steps in the immigration document process:

    • Student is admitted to the University of Pennsylvania.
    • The Admission Office sends an international student their admission letter.
    • The Admission Office assigns a 9-digit Admission ID and uploads the admission list through iPenn.  The Admission Office also provides the new student with the 9-digit Admission ID.
    • Student receives an automatic email from ISSS with instructions to apply for their I-20 or DS-2019 by logging in with their 9-digit Admission ID.
    • Student submits a completed application for I-20 or DS-2019, financial certification and passport copy to ISSS using iPenn.
    • ISSS prepares a US Visa Eligibility Document.  Processing may take up to 3 weeks in peak season.
    • I-20 or DS-2019 Form is mailed to the student:
      • additional information sent to the new student with the I-20 or DS-2019 includes: Information for New International Students brochure, information about International Student Orientation (ISO), instructions to pay the SEVIS Fee.
      • The I-20 or DS-2019 is typically mailed to the student by ISSS but Admission Offices have the option to pick-up the document from ISSS and mail it directly to the student. Some offices prefer this option because they mail the I-20 or DS-2019 to the student. If your department wishes to send the I-20 or DS-2019, please send an email to isss@pobox.upenn.edu.
    • The new international student must gain F-1 or J-1 student status:
    • Each international student must register immigration documents with ISSS within 30 days of starting a program. Typically, registration is administered during International Student Orientation (ISO).
    • Transferring students must register immigration documents within 15 days of starting a program.
  • F-1 versus J-1
  •                                                                                                        Updated on 11/19/2012

    Before making a decision between F-1 and J-1 status, please read the detailed descriptions of both and their requirements, located on the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs web site:

    Some factors that applicants should keep in mind when deciding between F-1 and J-1 are the following:

    Are you eligible for both F-1 and J-1 nonimmigrant student status?

    All nonimmigrant students are eligible to select F-1 status.

    Students are eligible for J-1 status, if they meet one of the following criteria:

    1. At least 51% or higher of the total cost of your studies at Penn is paid by a scholarship, fellowship, grant, or assistantship from a non-personal funding source. Some of common non-personal/family funding sources are Penn, the Rotary Foundation, your home government, the US government, an international organization of which the US is a member by treaty or statue, or a corporate sponsor, etc.
    2. Your exchange program is carried out pursuant to an agreement between the US Government and a foreign government.
    3. Your exchange program is carried out pursuant to a written agreement between:
      • American and foreign educational institutions
      • An American educational institution and a foreign governmentl; or
      • A state or local government in the US and a foreign government

    Examples of students eligible for J-1 status:

    • Penn Abroad coordinates your exchange with Penn
    • A PhD student with a full tuition fellowship

    Will you have a dual major or change of major while at Penn?

    If you will have a dual major or change of major, we recommend that you choose F-1 status.  J-1 students are generally not eligible to change major while in the United States.

    Will you be accompanied by a spouse who wishes to work?

    If you are married and choose J-1 status, your spouse and unmarried children (under 21 years of age) are eligible for J-2 status. J-2 dependents may apply for J-2 work permission after they have entered the US in J-2 status or have been approved to change their visa status to J-2 within the US. Please note that income from a J-2’s employment cannot be used to support the J-1 but may be used for the family's customary recreational, educational and cultural activities and related travel. For more details on the requirements and process, please refer to J-2 Work Permission

    If you choose F-1 status, your spouse and unmarried children (under 21 years of age) are eligible for F-2 status. F-2 dependents cannot work in the US under any circumstances.

    What is the J Visa Two-Year Foreign Residence Requirement, INA 212(e), and will you be subject to it if you choose J-1 status?

    In some cases, students who choose J-1 status and their dependents will be subject to the J Visa Two-Year Foreign Residence Requirement, INA 212(e). Students subject to this requirement will not be able to change status within the US, obtain an H-1 temporary work or L-1 intracompany transferee visa for the US, or obtain permanent residence in the US, until they have either documented that they spent two years in their home country after the end of their J-1 program or they have obtained a waiver of the two-year foreign residence requirement.

    Not all students who choose J-1 status are subject to the Two-Year Foreign Residence Requirement, INA 212(e). You will be subject to the requirement only if you receive funding from the US government or from your home country government for your J-1 study in the US, or if you study in a field which is in demand in your home country. Please see the Exchange Visitor Skills List published by the State Department at:      http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_4514.html

    If you receive no government funding and if your country and field of study do not appear on the above list, you should not be subject.This determination is normally made when your visa is issued. The consular officer will mark your visa and/or DS-2019 with the INA 212(e) requirement.

    Please see http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1267.html#12 for more information on the Two-Year Foreign Residence Requirement.

    Are F-1 and J-1 students eligible to work? What are the differences?

    Both F-1 and J-1 status allow students holding Penn issued I-20s or DS-2019s to engage in on-campus employment at the University of Pennsylvania for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and full-time during vacation periods.
    Both statuses also allow you to work off-campus (not at Penn) in the US, but there are restrictions and prior authorization is required. You should discuss your eligibility to work with an advisor at ISSS prior to accepting employment.
    We advise that you visit our website for specific information on employment options for F-1 and J-1 students, both during and after completion of your studies.

    Are there health insurance requirements for F-1 and J-1 students?

    The US Department of State (DOS) requires J-1 students and their dependents to be in compliance with the health insurance standards listed below:

    1. Medical insurance must cover the entire period of participation in the Exchange Visitor program (refer to the program start and end dates on your DS-2019).
    2. Medical benefits must provide a minimum of $50,000 per accident or illness.
    3. Medical evacuation must be covered in the amount of $10,000, minimum (medical evacuation is emergency medical transportation to the home country).
    4. Repatriation must be covered in the amount of $7,500, minimum (in the unfortunate event of death, repatriation is the transportation of remains back to the home country).
    5. The deductible must not exceed $500 per accident or illness.

    Failure to maintain medical insurance is a violation of J-1 status.

    While the F-1 student regulations do not have the same requirement, the University of Pennsylvania itself requires all students and their dependents to have comprehensive medical insurance.

    Which status does the University recommend: F-1 or J-1?

    There is no recommendation from the University or ISSS. We will process the document as you request as long as you meet the eligibility requirements.

    For further information or questions regarding F-1 versus J-1 status, please email: isss@pobox.upenn.edu.

  • Financial Documentation
    1. I already sent my financial certification to my department/admission office when I applied for admission. Do I have to send them again to ISSS with the I-20/DS-2019 application?
    2. What types of documents qualify for Financial Certification?
    3. What information should my Financial Certification contain?
    4. Which of my funding sources goes into which category?
    5. Why is the financial amount on the I-20/DS-2019 lower than the amount I provided on the financial cover sheet?
    6. My school's financial aid office is taking a long time to make a decision about my award. Do I have to wait for them to apply for the I-20/DS-2019?
    7. How is my financial requirement determined?

    I already sent my financial certification to my department/admission office when I applied for admission. Do I have to send them again to ISSS with the I-20/DS-2019 application?

    Yes, you do, since the ISSS office does not participate in the admission process.

    In addition, ISSS requires that your financial documents be valid within 1 year at the time you apply for your I-20/DS-2019.

    What types of documents qualify for Financial Certification?

    Your funds must be liquid. This means that they are cash that can be immediately accessed. Checking accounts or savings accounts without withdrawal prohibitions do qualify. An assessment of the value of your assets (home, car, property, jewelry) does not qualify. Proof of employment or salary does not qualify. A report on your stock and investment portfolio does not qualify.

    If you are using a printout of your online bank statement, please make sure it included account holder's name, account type, and bank name. But it's highly recommended that you should get an official bank statement for visa interview.

    What information should my Financial Certification contain?

    • ISSS requires that your financial certificate be valid within 1 year at the time you apply for your I-20/DS-2019.
    • The financial cover sheet must contain your full name and admission number
    • You must meet the financial requirement for your program. The total amount of money provided must cover the FIRST YEAR of your study at Penn.
    • If your bank letter is not written in English, you must include a notarized translation into English. It's recommended that the bank statement be written in English.
    • Showing your funds converted into US dollars is preferable. If this is not possible, please make sure that the quantity and type of currency is clearly written.

    Which of my funding sources goes into which category?

    Personal Funds:

    • Saving or Checking bank account in your name
    • Pre-approved student loan (with bank name and loan amount) taken out in your name such as Wharton loan

    School Funding:

    • Fellowship, Scholarship, Assistantship or Grant money awarded to you by Penn

    Other Funding:

    • Scholarship or grant from a non-Penn source (example: your home government, your current employer) Please provide the sponsor letter on official letterhead from your government, your company or private organization
    • Bank account in your mother's or father's name
    • If a person other than your mother or father is supporting all or a portion of your study, please include a letter from that person stating their relationship to you and their intention to support your studies for the amount of $XXX. Please find the affidavit of support letter here.

    Why is the financial amount on the I-20/DS-2019 lower than the amount I provided on the financial cover sheet?

    Per guidance that our office received from Department of State (DOS), we were encouraged to use the total estimation of one academic year for issuing the I-20/DS-2019. Please do not be concerned if the amount showing on your I-20/DS-2019 is less than the amount you have provided on your financial statements. The I-20/DS-2019 only needs to show you have funds for the estimated cost for your program.

    My school's financial aid office is taking a long time to make a decision about my award. Do I have to wait for them to apply for the I-20/DS-2019?

    If you want to use your award letter as part of your financial proof to obtain the I-20/Ds-2019, you have to wait.  You can still submit the rest of your online application; however, your application will be put on hold until you send us a copy of the award letter.

    Please explain to the financial aid office that you first need the award letter to obtain the I-20/DS-2019 from ISSS. The processing time for the I- 20/DS-2019 may take up to 3 weeks during the peak season. Once you receive the I-20/DS-2019, you have to schedule a visa interview with the US embassy/consulate. It is difficult for you to plan your trip without having the I-20/DS-2019 and the visa. Kindly ask the financial aid office to make a decision at their earliest convenience so you can attend Penn.

    My school's financial aid office is taking a long time to make a decision about my award. Do I have to wait for them to apply for the I-20/DS-2019?

    The estimated financial figures for the program will appear on Form I-20 or DS-2019. Please keep in mind that the estimated expenses are only estimates, provided to ISSS bygraduate schools, before the actual figures were confirmed by the University. It is possible that the actual figures will be different, but minor discrepancies will not affect visa application.

    Please note that the figures listed in the online eform reflect the estimated expenses that students incur by studying during the fall and spring semesters of each academic year. The figures do not include expenses for study at the University of Pennsylvania during summer period. Students who plan to study at the University of Pennsylvania during any summer period should be aware that the everage living costs is $7,270. As enrollment at the University of Pennsylvania during the summer semester is optional for most graduate students, graduate students do not need to show proof of funding for summer enrollment when submitting their Application for Form I-20 or DS-2019 to ISSS.

    *The funding/tuition requirements is subject to change in the future

  • Visa Application Information & SEVIS Fee Payment
  • Student Visa Application Process

    International students coming to the University of Pennsylvania will need be sure they have the proper visa status and documentation before beginning their academic programs or employment. While some individuals may already hold a type of status that permits study or employment, most will need to obtain an immigration document from the University and apply for the appropriate visa stamp at a US Embassy or Consulate. Students already in the United States at another institution and/or in another immigration status will need to take the appropriate steps and apply to the appropriate agencies before commencing at the University of Pennsylvania. Please follow the instructions below.

    Apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa stamp at a US Embassy or Consulate

    The student should pay the SEVIS fee to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  Then, schedule an appointment for a visa interview at a US Embassy or Consulate in his or her home country. Each visa applicant will need to complete the visa application, pay the necessary fees, and bring Form I-20 or Form DS-2019, financial documentation, and additional documentation as required to the interview. Students should consult the documentary requirements of the individual embassy or consulate at which they will be applying - http://www.usembassy.gov. Once the visa application is approved, the consular officer will place a visa stamp in the individual's passport. Please click here for more information on obtaining a visa.

    Note: Citizens of Canada are exempt from the visa stamp requirement but must pay the SEVIS fee and present evidence of fee payment and Form I-20 or DS-2019 at a US Port of Entry where they will be admitted in the appropriate immigration status.

    Other Options

    Not all newly admitted students will obtain their immigration documents and status precisely in the way described above. Please see below for the situation that best applies.

    Change of Status – Newly admitted students who are already in the United States and are changing from their current immigration status to another status such as F-1 or J-1  should contact ISSS and review the information here . F-1/J-1 students must inform ISSS if the change of status has not been approved by the program start date indicated on Form I-20 or Form DS-2019. Students must immediately report the results of their change of status application to ISSS when notified by USCIS.

    Transfer - F-1/J-1 students transferring from another institution to Penn and remaining in the same immigration status will have to request that their SEVIS records be electronically transferred to Penn.

    • F-1students will receive a Form I-20 from the University of Pennsylvania that reads “Transfer Pending” and must report to ISSS within 15 days of the program start date indicated on Form I-20. ISSS will then validate the SEVIS record and issue a Form I-20 for “Continued Attendance”.
    • J-1 students transferring from another institution will receive Form DS-2019 from the University of Pennsylvania and must report to ISSS within 20 days from the program start date indicated on Form DS-2019.
    • J-1 students must first obtain approval from the current J sponsor and ISSS. Both parties must confirm that there is no major change in the exchange visitor’s program objective.  A change of J category cannot be effectuated by transfer.

    Change of Education Level  - Students changing from one degree program to another within the University of Pennsylvania should contact ISSS to request new immigration documents.  The online request must be submitted to ISSS at least 3 weeks before the current program expires.

    Returning from Leave of Absence - Students returning from leave of absence should contact ISSS for instructions.

  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
    1. I'm a newly admitted international student to Penn. Where is my I-20/DS-2019?
    2. I received the instructions from the admission office but cannot log into the online application for I-20/DS-2019. What can I do?
    3. I am a current student in the U.S.  How can I transfer my current F-1 or J-1 record to Penn?
    4. I'm returning from a leave of absence. How do I apply for a new I-20 or DS-2019?
    5. I am currently studying at Penn and I was admitted to a new program. How do I apply for a new I-20 or DS-2019?
    6. Which status is suitable for me: F-1 or J-1?
    7. What is the normal processing time for ISSS to issue an I-20/DS-2019?
    8. How do I check the status of my I-20/DS-2019 application?
    9. What can I do if my application has taken more than 3 business weeks to process?
    10. How should I upload documents into iPenn?
    11. What general advice do you have for me when faxing documents to ISSS?
    12. I already received my own I-20/DS-2019 from Penn. How do I request an I-20 or a DS-2019 for my dependent?
    13. Where can I find more information (such as housing and airport information) that will help me prepare my arrival to the US?
    14. Can I bring money to the US?
    15. My visa application was rejected or delayed. Where can I find information that will help me prepare my visa interview?

    I'm a newly admitted international student to Penn. Where is my I-20/DS- 2019?

    Penn does not automatically issue I-20s or DS-2019s to its admitted students. You must apply for the document.

    If your application for admission is successful, you will receive an email with instructions to apply for an I-20 or a DS-2019. We encourage you to apply for the I-20/DS-2019 as soon as you receive these instructions.  If you did not receive the email or you do not have a 9-digit admission ID, please notify your Penn admissions office or department.

    For more detailed information about the process of your I-20 or DS-2019, please visit Student Visa Application Process and click on "I-20 / DS-2019 Application Information.

    I received my 9-digit admission ID from the admission office but cannot log into iPenn for I-20/DS-2019. What can I do?

    If you are not able to login to the online application system, this is most likely because the admission office has not yet uploaded the admission record into iPenn, verifying that you have been admitted to Penn. Please contact the admission office directly and urge them to inform ISSS of your admission immediately. If the admission office already uploaded your admission record in iPenn, please verify the date of birth with the admission office.

    I am a current student in the U.S.  How can I transfer my current F-1 or J-1 record to Penn?

    To complete the SEVIS transfer procedure: (1) You must complete Section A of the Transfer In Request Form. (2) An international student advisor at the current US institution must complete Section B and return the form to you.  (3) The I-20/DS-2019 will be created for you once ISSS has received your Application for I-20/DS-2019 and the Transfer In Request Form and after the release date issued by the current US institution. (4) After arriving at Penn you must attend a mandatory document check-in and orientation session at ISSS within 15 days of the program start date listed on the Penn I-20/DS-2019. Failure to complete the transfer process as described will jeopardize your immigration status in the US.

    Attention International Student Advisor (DSO/ARO):  In SEVIS, our school name appears as “University of Pennsylvania”.  Our SEVIS F-1 school code is PHI214F00151000 (Campus name: University of Pennsylvania) and our J-1 program number is P-1-00183.

    Attention Current F-1 or J-1 Students at Another U.S. Institution
    The University of Pennsylvania does not issue F-1 I-20s or J-1 DS-2019s for all programs. Please review the list of programs here.

    I'm returning from a leave of absence. How do I apply for a new I-20 or DS-2019?

    Please contact your school to get permission to return to the program. Then, use your Pennkey to log into iPenn. Please note that your I-20 or DS-2019 application may be put on hold until your department approves your return and updates the Student Record System. Please see instructions here, start at the section "Return from Absence Instructions"

    I am currently studying at Penn and I was admitted to a new program or changed education level. How do I apply for a new I-20 or DS-2019?

    If you are an F-1 student admitted to the same or different education level, or if you are a J-1 student admitted to a higher education level, please use your Pennkey to log into iPenn.

    If the student is concurrently admitted into both programs at the same educational level, and need additional time to finish both programs, the student may apply for program extension.  Please refer students to review program extension application request here.

    Please consult with ISSS advisors if there are OPT or travel related concerns. See our office hours.

    Which status is suitable for me: F-1 or J-1?

    Please refer to our information on selecting F-1 versus J-1 status.

    What is the normal processing time for ISSS to issue an I-20/DS-2019?

    The processing time may take up to 3 weeks after we receive your complete application with all financial documents during the peak season.  If we have not received all your financial documents, we cannot start the process.

    I-20/DS-2019 documents are processed in the order we receive your documents. Regretfully, we cannot expedite your request due to the high volume of applications. We advise you do not set up your visa interview until you receive the document.

    How do I check the status of my I-20/DS-2019 application?

    After you have submitted your complete application with all financial documents, you can check the status of your application in iPenn.  When your document is processed, you will see "SEVIS Status Information" change from "No SEVIS Information" to "Initial Status" and other program information.

    Please do not have your friends, relatives or departments call or email us to check the status of your application.

    What can I do if my application has taken more than 3 weeks to process?

    If your application is complete, please do not upload again.  Uploading again will send your application to the end of the queue.

    Please email ISSS at isss@pobox.upenn.edu with the following information so we can investigate your case immediately:

    • Your full name and date of birth or 9-digit admission identification number
    • Indicate whether you are admitted by Penn as an undergraduate, graduate or non-degree student
    How should I upload documents into iPenn?
    • You can scan or photograph your documents and save as PDF format.  (JPG also available)
    • Then you can upload them into iPenn.
    • Please do not upload the same document again.  Uploading again will send your application to the end of the queue.
    • If you are unable to upload, you can also fax your documents to us at 215-573-9587
    What general advice do you have for me when faxing documents to ISSS?
    • Fax required documents only to the designated fax number (215-573-9587).
    • Please fax only ISSS required documents together to the designated fax number. Please do not fax us things such as your housing application and enrollment deposit. We are not responsible for forwarding them to other offices.
    • Write your full name and date of birth on every single page. If the document does not have your full name and date of birth, we may be unable to match it to your application.
    • Get a confirmation from the fax machine to confirm your fax went through successfully.
    I already received my own I-20/DS-2019 from Penn. How do I request an I-20 or a DS-2019 for my dependent?

    Dependent(s) is defined by US Immigration as "spouse and/or children under 21 years old only." If your spouse and/or children are US citizens or permanent residents of the US, they are not eligible for an I-20 or a DS-2019.

    iPenn allows you to submit each dependent's I-20 or DS-2019 application together with your application or separately.

    Where can I find more information (such as housing and airport information) that will help me prepare my arrival to the US? Can I bring money to the US?

    You may choose to bring large sums of money with you in the form of cash, money order, or traveler's checks when entering the US You may bring as much money as you wish into the US, however, any amounts of money exceeding the allowed $10,000 (US dollars) maximum must be declared in advance.

    When you arrive in the US, you are required to declare all monies that you are bringing into the country. You will receive Form 6059B Customs Declaration, which must be filled in completely and truthfully. If you do not declare your money, the penalties for noncompliance can be severe. Your money might be taken away, you will be required to provide a written explanation of your failure to comply, your case will be evaluated, and you might have to pay a considerable fine.

    For more information, visit Money and Other Monetary Instruments at the US Customs and Border Protection Agency web site.

    My visa application was rejected or delayed. Where can I find information that will help me prepare my visa interview?

    We are very sorry to hear that your visa application was rejected.  Please email us at isss@pobox.upenn.edu to let us know any relevant details.

    Before you go back to the US embassy/consulate, please review the following information from US State Department and ISSS web sites to help you prepare your next visa interview:

    • "Empowering a diverse group of students to lead"
    • "tools, knowledge, community to make a positive impact "
    • "meaningful dialogue about cultural interactions"
    • "Most Valuable & Interesting Experiences at Penn"