International Student Services

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Health Insurance

I read that I must purchase UW health insurance. I already have insurance from my home country. Is that good enough?

The majority of F-1 and J-1 students must purchase UW insurance, although there are a few exceptions. Please review the exceptions and learn more about the waiver process on our health insurance information page.

Where do I go to see a doctor or find more information about medical issues and health?

Hall Health Primary Care Center is one of many local options for getting healthcare. It is especially convenient because it is located on campus and offers a variety of services especially for students.


How do I request my initial I-20/DS-2019?

I-20s and DS-2019s for newly admitted UW students are issued by the Admissions Offices, not the ISS office. Please contact the appropriate admissions office to inquire about the I-20/DS-2019 request process.

Undergraduate students:

Graduate students:

When will my I-20/DS-2019 arrive?

If you have requested an I-20/DS-2019 through an admissions office, please inquire with them about how you chose to receive your I-20/DS-2019.

Undergraduate students:

Graduate students:

I have a visa interview with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate but I don’t have my I-20/DS-2019 yet. What should I do? Will I still get the visa?

You should reschedule your interview with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. You must have your I-20 or DS-2019 with you for your visa interview.

I bought my plane ticket to arrive in Seattle more than 30 days before the start date on my I-20. What should I do?

Immigration regulations prohibit students from entering the U.S. earlier than 30 days prior to the start date on the I-20. You should change your ticket to a later date. Exception: if you are transferring your SEVIS record from another school in the U.S., such as a high school or community college, and received a “transfer pending” I-20, you can enter the U.S. anytime prior to the I-20 start date.

What’s a DSO?

The government calls university staff members who can update SEVIS “DSOs,” which stands for “Designated School Officials.” The International Student Advisers in the ISS office are all DSOs.

DSO is a term we want you to remember. It is used frequently in government instructions for students.


I just arrived and would like to purchase a cell phone. The company told me that I need to have a social security number. How can I get one?

Social security numbers are issued to international students who have been offered on-campus employment or are authorized for off-campus employment. A Social Security number will not be issued for non-work purposes.

How can I get a Washington State ID or driver license?

You can apply for a Washington State ID after you find a place to live in Seattle. For more details and instructions, visit the Washington State Department of Licensing information page.

Who do I contact with questions about the U-Pass, parking on campus, and other transportation issues?

Contact Commuter Services to learn about the variety of transportation options for navigating campus and the city.

Who do I contact with questions about campus housing?

Contact Housing and Food Services for information about your residence hall assignment, contract, housing options, dining options, and more.


I am new to the University of Washington and have questions regarding Orientation. There seems to be more than one. Which do I attend? Who should I contact?

Advising & Orientation (A&O) is a mandatory program for all new freshman and undergraduate transfer students. It will introduce you to undergraduate degree requirements, academic advising, and the registration process. A&O sessions are coordinated by First Year Programs. You should complete your ISS online information session at least two business days prior to your A&O session so that you will be able to register for classes at A&O.

Embark is required for all new international students on F-1 or J-1 visas at the University of Washington Seattle. Embark is organized by FIUTS, the Foundation for International Understanding Through Students, in collaboration with the UW International Student Services office and other campus offices.

At your Embark session you will:

  • Connect with other new and returning students
  • Prepare for your cultural transition to the UW and U.S.
  • Learn more about maintaining your visa status while a student at UW.

Embark sessions are offered as part of your international welcome programming in the quarter you are entering UW.

Dawg Daze is a week-long festival welcoming all new students to campus. The entire campus comes together to provide opportunities for interaction, community-building, and fun.

For new Research (RAs) or Teaching Assistants (TAs), contact your department for RA/TA orientation details.

Registration and Academics

I completed the Online Information Session, but I still can’t register.

In order to register for classes, the following steps must be completed:

After completing these steps, if you still cannot register, contact the Registration Office.

How can I pay tuition? How much is tuition?

Visit the Student Fiscal Services website to learn your options for paying tuition, as well as other resources regarding rates, financial management, and more.

How can I obtain a document to prove I’m a UW student?

Contact the Office of the Registrar to obtain an official enrollment verification letter.

I need to take an English as a Second Language (ESL) course my first quarter. Does that course count towards my full-time credit requirements?

Yes. Undergraduate students are required to register for at least 12 credits each academic quarter and graduate students must register for at least 10 credits. An ESL class will count towards that minimum. For more information about ESL courses, contact the UW Intensive English Program.

I’m participating in Early Fall Start. Does that course count towards my full-time credit requirements for Fall Quarter?

Yes, as long as your total credits enrolled during Early Fall Start and Fall Quarter total to the minmum full-time credit requirements.

Visas and Regulations

What does “transfer” mean exactly? I’m confused; I will be a freshman, but the adviser in the International Student Services mentioned a transfer.

If you are currently studying in F-1 status at a school in the U.S., no matter what degree level, you need to have your SEVIS record “transferred” to the UW. This is because only one school at a time is allowed access to your SEVIS record. In order for the UW to issue your I-20, your current school must transfer your SEVIS record to the UW. Your current international student adviser must do this.

While attending the University of Washington on an F-1 or J-1 visa, can I work or find a paid internship?

It is possible to be employed on campus for fewer than 20 hours per week. Off-campus employment is only allowed with prior authorization from either ISS or Immigration. Review the F-1 employment options or J-1 employment options for more information about employment eligibility.

Where can I learn more about the F-1 and J-1 regulations?

The ISS Online Information Session provides an introduction to the F-1 and J-1 regulations. However, you should also review the ISS “Rules and Regulations” information and familiarize yourself with ISS services. We send out weekly emails regarding F-1 and J-1 updates and important reminders. Learn more on our “About Us” page.

Other Questions

Still have questions? You may be able to find the answer to your question on our Resources page or feel free to contact your primary ISS adviser.