International Student Services

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs: Health Care and Health Insurance

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

FAQs: I-20/DS-2019 Forms

How do I request my 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.

Admitted Undergraduate Students: Visit the New Huskies website to request your I-20 or DS-2019. Questions? Email intladm@uw.edu

Admitted Graduate Students: After paying your enrollment confirmation deposit, request your I-20 or DS-2019 via your graduate application. Questions? Email uwgrad@uw.edu

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: intladm@uw.ed
Graduate students: uwgrad@uw.edu

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.

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.

FAQs: Travel and Entry to the U.S.

When can I enter the U.S.?

Students may enter the U.S. in “INITIAL” F-1 or J-1 status (as new international student, not a SEVIS transfer student) up to 30 days before the program start date provided on the I-20 or DS-2019.

F-1 students with an I-20: the earliest date to enter the U.S. is printed on the I-20 document.

i20 earliest admission date_1.PNG

May I Enter before the 30-day window? (Not Recommended!)

Entering the U.S. earlier than the 30 day window before your program start date is not recommended.

Customs and Border officers will not accept an I-20/DS-2019 and matching F-1/J-1 visas before the 30 days.

  • Students will be required to show either a valid tourist visa or permit to enter under the Visa Waiver Program
  • AND
  • Students will be required to exit and re-enter the U.S. again using the F-1/J-1 visa and I-20/DS-2019 to “activate” their F-1/J-1 status.

Multiple Exits and Re-entry to the U.S. during the 30-day Window. (Not Recommended!)

Making multiple trips in and out of the U.S. during the 30-day arrival window is not recommended. Students who try this often complain the re-entry at the U.S. border is difficult.

Customs and Border (CBP) officials expect new students who just arrived to be on campus attending orientation and starting classes. When a new student leaves the country, and tries to re-enter, CBP officials may ask many questions about class enrollment, the orientation schedule, and why “you are not “in school.”

What do I do if I bought my plane ticket to arrive in Seattle more than 30 days before the start date on my I-20/DS-2019?

Immigration regulations prohibit students from entering the U.S. earlier than 30 days prior to the start date on the I-20/DS-2019. Students should change their plane ticket to a later date.

Exception: Students transferring their SEVIS record from another school in the U.S., such as a high school or community college, and received a “transfer pending” I-20, may enter the U.S. anytime prior to the I-20 start date.

What documents do I need to show to enter the U.S.?

Student should have the following documents in their carry-on bag. Do not put these travel documents in checked suitcases!

  • Passport (valid for at least 6 months into the future)
  • F-1 or J-1 Visa (Canadian citizens exempt)
  • SEVIS Form I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1)
  • SEVIS fee receipt
  • Supporting financial documentation (most students use the same as for the visa application)
  • Proof of class registration

It is also recommended to review the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) travel FAQs before coming into the U.S. Students must be prepared to complete forms about items being brought into the U.S.

FAQs: Orientation

I am new to UW and have questions regarding the various Orientations. Which do I attend? Who should I contact?

Orientation Undergraduate Students Graduate Students
Advising & Orientation (A&O) is a mandatory program for all new freshman and undergraduate transfer students. Students will learn about undergraduate degree requirements, academic advising, and the registration process. A&O sessions are coordinated by First Year Programs. Students should complete the ISS online information session at least two business days prior to their scheduled A&O session in order to be able to register for classes at A&O. Yes N/A
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 the Foundation for International Understanding Through Students (FIUTS), in collaboration with the UW International Student Services office and other campus offices.

At Embark sessions students will:

  • Connect with other new and returning students
  • Prepare for their cultural transition to the UW and U.S.
  • Learn more about maintaining their visa status while a student at UW.
Yes Yes
Departmental/Program Orientations: The various graduate programs, departments, and schools at the University will schedule orientation activities for their own graduate students. Additionally, students who will be Research (RAs) or Teaching Assistants (TAs) should contact their department for RA/TA orientation details. N/A Yes
Dawg Daze is the University’s annual tradition of welcoming all new students to campus with entertainment, activities, and opportunities to learn about the UW campus. The entire campus comes together to provide opportunities for interaction, community-building, and fun. Yes Yes

FAQs: 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:

  1. Complete the ISS Online Information Session. Wait 2 business days. Verify the removal of the registration block MyUW.
  2. Turn in a completed measles immunization form to Hall Health Center.
  3. Attend academic advising:
    • Freshman and transfer students: Attend an Advising & Orientation (A&O) session. Contact First Year Programs for information.
    • Graduate students: Contact advisors in their academic department or graduate program.

In the event students still cannot register, even after completing the above steps, please contact the Office of the University Registrar.

How can I pay tuition? How much is tuition?

Visit the Student Fiscal Services website to learn about the 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 University 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 the total number of credits enrolled during Early Fall Start and Fall Quarter total to the minimum full-time credit requirements.

FAQs: 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.

Students who are currently studying in F-1 status at another school in the U.S., no matter what degree level, need to have their SEVIS record “transferred” to the UW. This is because only one school at a time is allowed access to a student’s SEVIS record. In order for the UW to issue an I-20, the current school of attendance must transfer a student’s SEVIS record to the UW. The current international student adviser must do this.

While attending the UW 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, students should also review the ISS “Rules and Regulations” information and become familiar with ISS services. ISS sends out weekly emails regarding F-1 and J-1 updates and important reminders. Learn more on our “About Us” page.

FAQs: Miscellaneous

I'm new to the U.S. and would like a cellphone - do I need a Social Security Number?

Most cell phone companies have alternatives for new students who don’t have a Social Security Number (SSN).

Not all students qualify for a SSN because they are only issued to international students who have been offered on-campus employment or are authorized for off-campus employment. The U.S. government will not issue a SSN for non-work purposes like cell phone purchases.

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

Students may apply for a Washington State ID after finding 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 UW Transportation 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.

Other Questions

Still have questions? Please review the ISS Resources page or feel free to contact an ISS adviser.