Follow this pre-arrival checklist for new students to make sure you complete all required steps related to your F-1 or J-1 status.
Complete the ISS Online Information Session
All new international students are required to complete the ISS Online Information Session before registering for classes. You will not be able to select classes until you have completed and submitted the quiz at the end of the information session.
The information session includes important information you will need to know throughout your stay in the U.S. You will need your UW NetID and password to access the online information session.
You can complete this online session at any time. There will be a delay of two business days between your completion of the information session and the removal of the ISS office registration hold. You should complete the session as soon as you confirm enrollment at UW. It is one of several steps required before registration; the other steps are described in the online information session.
Obtain Your Visa and Plan Your Travel to the U.S.
If you are living outside the U.S. you must obtain a passport from your government. Next, you must apply for an F-1 or J-1 student visa. As soon as you receive your I-20 or DS-2019, schedule your visa appointment at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa. The ISS “Visas” page has comprehensive information about the supporting documentation you should compile and how to prepare for your visa interview.
Canadian citizens do not need a visa, but simply present the I-20 or DS-2019, SEVIS fee receipt, financial documentation, and proof of admission to the UW to the immigration officer at the U.S. port of entry. A passport may be required depending on your method of travel. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of State's travel pages.
Apply for the Visa as Early as Possible
Students applying for initial entry F-1 and F-2 visas may be issued the visas up to 120 days before the academic program start date as noted in item 5 on the I-20. J-1 and J-2 Exchange Visitors may be issued visas at any time before the beginning of their programs.
You may not enter the U.S. earlier than 30 days before the start date noted in item 5 on the I-20 form or item 3 on the DS-2019 form. You should make your travel arrangements with this date in mind. The start date is chosen to allow adequte time for you to arrive for the FIUTS Orientation.
Your I-20 or DS-2019 does not require a travel signature for your initial entry into the U.S. However, you need a travel signature for subsequent trips. ISS advisers cannot sign your document for travel and reentry to the U.S. until you have registered full-time for your first quarter. Do not plan to travel outside the U.S. after your first entry unless you will be able to register first and obtain a travel signature. The ISS requires one business day for issuing travel signatures.
SEVIS Transfer Students
If you are changing schools within the U.S. and transferring your SEVIS record to the UW, there are visa and travel policies unique to your situation.
- You can travel with your current F-1 visa and UW I-20, even if the visa has your previous school's name on it, as long as the visa is not expired and you are not outside the U.S. more than five months between academic programs.
- You can use your UW "transfer pending" I-20 to enter the U.S. once without a travel signature before the start date, even earlier than 30 days before the I-20 start date. The 30-day rule is only for travel with "initial" I-20s, not "transfer pending" I-20s. However, if you wish to travel outside the U.S. after your initial entry on your UW "transfer pending" I-20, you will need a travel signature from an ISS adviser. It is recommended that transfer students wait to receive a UW "transfer complete" I-20 before traveling outside the U.S. as the "transfer complete" I-20 is issued with a travel signature.
Sign Up for Health Insurance
All international students must maintain adequate health insurance while attending the University of Washington and are required to purchase the UW International Student Health Insurance Plan (ISHIP) designed for UW students and their dependents.
If you will arrive in the U.S.before the ISHIP coverage begins, you should purchase a separate short-term insurance plan to cover medical needs that might occur before the ISHIP coverage begins. You may find other options through private insurance companies.
If you are registering from home, you will be prompted to enroll in health insurance during the class registration process.
Review the ISS health insurance information, including the specific J-1 health insurance requirements. Complete the J-1 Insurance Requirement Statement of Compliance form. Bring it with you to the U.S. You will need to submit the form along with your other J-1 immigration documents (see instructions in the "post-arrival checklist").
J-1 Students: Review the Exchange Visitor Program Welcome Brochure
The purpose of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program is to promote mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries though education and cultural exchange. Review the Department of State's Welcome Brochure.
Review Post-Arrival Checklist
Review the Post-Arrival Checklist to be prepared for your arrival in Seattle.