Please review the following information to assist you in preparing for your travel and arrival to Penn. This section includes information on your Arrival and Transit, some General Preparations and a printable Pre-Departure Checklist.

Arrival & Transit

This section includes the steps required upon your arrival to the US and your arrival to Penn as well as useful information regarding your transportation to the Penn campus.

  • Arrival in the United States
  • If you are coming to the US in F or J status for the first time: 

    • You may not enter the country more than 30 days prior to the start date listed on the I-20/DS-2019. 
    • Academic program start dates are established by Penn and cannot be changed, you are advised to plan your travel accordingly.

    If you are already in the US in F or J status:

    • You are not bound to the 30-day rule. 
    • However, F-1 students transferring to Penn from another school in the U.S. must report to ISSS within 15 days of the program start date listed on Penn's I-20. 
    • Individuals in all other immigration categories should contact ISSS about how early they can arrive. 
    • Ideally you should plan to arrive in Philadelphia at least one week before beginning a program, preferably on weekday when Penn offices are open, in order to allow enough time to get settled and secure housing.

    Note:  Students should enter the US only in immigration statuses that permit full-time study, namely F-1 or J-1. For example, full-time study is not permitted for those in the B-1/B-2 and WB/WT visa categories. It is strongly advised that one not attempt to change status from visitor to student while in the US as it is both risky and time-consuming. For more information visit Change of Status.

    Before boarding an international flight:

    • You should be sure to hand-carry your passports, immigration documents, and other supporting documentation so that you can present them to an immigration officer upon arrival in the US.
    • At the Port of Entry, the admitting officer will inspect the documents and provide a US entry/admission stamp in your passport.
  • Arrival to Penn
  • Once at Penn, you must bring your immigration documents and passports to ISSS for check-in and orientation.  

    • The US government requires all students and scholars in F or J status to register their presence at Penn and present their documents within 30 days of the program start date.
    • The 30-day time frame includes internal processing time at ISSS, so individuals should report to ISSS within 20 days from the program start date. 
    • Transfer students must register their presence within 15 days.
    • Individuals must appear in person at ISSS in order to meet this requirement.
    • Failure to comply will have serious consequences and may lead to a violation of immigration status.

    Registration is incorporated in the International Student Orientation sessions held at the beginning of the academic year. International Scholar Orientation is held twice a week on Mondays and Fridays at 10:45 a.m.  If you are a new employee in H-1B, E-3, O-1, or TN status, please meet with an ISSS advisor for new employee orientation.

  • Transit to Campus
  • From the Airport to the University of Pennsylvania Campus

    The Philadelphia International Airport  is the major airport closest to campus. Airport information centers in baggage claim areas provide details on the various ground transportation options.

    It is also possible to fly to New York area airports (JFK International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, or Newark International Airport) and travel by train or bus to Philadelphia. However, travel to Philadelphia from the New York City area can be more expensive and time-consuming than direct arrival into Philadelphia, and can be very confusing to those unfamiliar with these cities.


    Ground transportation options from the Philadelphia International Airport:

    • Taxi - The easiest way to travel from the airport to Penn. Taxis are available 24 hours a day, from Zone 5 of the airport.
    • Shuttle Services take passengers from the airport to the Penn campus or Center City (downtown Philadelphia).  Advance reservations for these shuttle services are not required. More information on shuttles such as Lady Liberty can be obtained from the Centralized Ground Transportation Counters in the baggage claim areas or the Ground Transportation Hotline at Philadelphia Airport (215-937-6958).  The shuttle service operator will tell passengers when and where to meet the van.
    • Train - The SEPTA Airport Line regional rail service runs from the airport to University City and also to 30th Street Station. From University City or 30th Street Station, one can then take a taxi to the final destination in Center City or University City. Taxis are plentiful at 30th Street Station.

    Shuttles from other airports:

    • Like at the Philadelphia airport, there are private shuttle companies such as Dave’s Best Limosine Service  that provide door-to-door van transportation from JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark airports to Philadelphia. Be sure to check the cost, travel time, and destination before using this method of transportation. The shuttle vans typically seat 8-12 persons and may have luggage restrictions.

    Note:  Unlicensed individuals may offer rides to Philadelphia for a low fee.  Travelers are strongly cautioned against accepting such offers. Always make sure that the transportation arrangement is with a reputable company, i.e. one accessed from the airport transportation centers.

General Preparations for Students

It may be possible to register for your classes before you arrive, as well as arrange for other campus amenities.

  • Registration
  • Some students may receive material on course registration from their admitting school or department before their departure, while others may not.

    • Not receiving these materials before arrival in the US is no cause for concern as Penn's computerized registration system, Penn InTouch, will be available to all students once they are on campus.
    • In addition, registration forms will be available from the student’s school or graduate department.
    • It is recommended that students consult academic advisors in their departments or schools before choosing courses for the semester.
    • After registration, there is a period of a few weeks called "drop/add period" during which students can use Penn InTouch to alter their class schedules if necessary.
    • Please see the University Calendar for more information.

    NOTE: US immigration regulations require that F-1 and J-1 students maintain full-time status at all times. 

    • This means that students must be enrolled for a minimum of 4 courses per semester at the undergraduate level.
    • Full time enrollment at the graduate level is determined by the individual department or program. This usually means a minimum of 3 courses each semester; however, in some schools 4 courses or more each semester is considered to be the minimum full-time enrollment.
    • Students should consult their academic departments for specific requirements.
  • Campus Express
  • Students may also have access to Penn's online new student service, Campus Express. This service allows you to:

    • confirm on-campus housing
    • choose your meal plans
    • purchase new computers
    • apply for a PennPass or parking permits
    • sign up for Penn email
    • and more...

Pre-Departure Checklist

To assist your in preparing for your departure please use this printable Pre-Departure Checklist.