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Updated: February 27, 2023

For newly-admitted Tufts international students who plan to apply for an F-1 student visa (Form I-20) or J-1 exchange visitor visa (Form DS-2019). You must request a Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 visa certificate from Tufts before you can apply for a student visa. Please read through the checklists and steps below to initiate the I-20 / DS-2019 process.

1 - Items to Review & Prepare

To request a Form I-20 or DS-2019 from Tufts, you will be submitting several documents to the International Center through our online International Center Portal. Please review the following items to make sure that you are ready to submit your request:

  • Submit the required admissions deposit confirming your intent to enroll at Tufts. Information about how to pay the enrollment deposit will be provided to you by your school's admissions office. After your deposit is confirmed, you will receive an invitation email  with instructions about how to access the International Center Portal. Please note that the invitation email may be delayed by a few days or weeks, especially early in the process, depending on various factors.
  • Activate your Tufts email and user ID (also known as your UTLN). After you have paid your deposit, you should receive an email with information about activating your Tufts email account and UTLN, which you will need when submitting your request. Wait at least 24 hours before attempting to access the International Center Portal. You may also need to install two-factor authentication on your device in order to access the Portal.
  • Prepare a clear scanned copy (PDF or JPEG) of your passport identity page. Your I-20 or DS-2019 biographical will be based on the information reflected in your current passport. If you do not have a valid passport, contact the International Center.
  • Read our I-20 / DS-2019 Financial Requirements page and prepare clear scanned copies (PDF or JPEG) of financial documents. To qualify for the I-20 / DS-2019, you must provide documents showing that you have adequate financial resources to meet your educational expenses.
  • Read through the Special Instructions for F-1 / J-1 Transfer Students. This information, provided at the bottom of this page, applies ONLY to students who are already in the US in valid F-1 or J-1 student status. Special steps must be taken in order to transfer your visa records from your current school to Tufts. You will need to provide the name and email of an international student advisor at your current school.
  • Read through the Special Instructions for Students in the US in Another Status. This information, provided at the bottom of this page, applies ONLY to students who are already in the US using a different visa other than F-1 or J-1 status.

2 - Submit Your I-20 / DS-2019 Request

Once you have paid your enrollment deposit you will receive an invitation email from the International Center. Please note that it may take several days before the email is generated and sent to you. The email will include instructions for logging into the International Center Portal using your your Tufts email and UTLN in order request your I-20 or DS-2019. You will not be able to do this until you receive the invitation email from the International Center. Once you have access, complete any required questionnaires and upload the following:

  • Passport identification page (including any dependents accompanying you)
  • Financial documents that meets your required estimate of expenses for yourself and dependents, if any

Please note: If you are located in one of the countries that is a member of the European Economic Area or in the UK when you provide us personal information, please review our EEA Privacy and UK Privacy Statements.

3 - Receive and Sign Your Form

Once you submit your Visa Certificate Request, you will receive an automated confirmation email and your request will be sent to an International Center advisor for processing. Processing is done in order of receipt and usually takes about 7 to 10 business days once a completed request is received.

Once processed, F-1 students will receive their Form I-20 as an electronic PDF that must be printed and signed. J-1 students will be given instructions to arrange for express mail delivery of a paper copy of Form DS-2019. Read more about your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 and contact the International Center if you have any questions about the information on your form.

> Return to Checklist for New Students

Special Instructions

This section is for international students who are already in the United States in F-1 or J-1 status at another institution and who plan to start a new program at Tufts. In all cases you must currently be maintaining valid status and have an active SEVIS record with your current sponsor.

F-1 Students: To qualify for an F-1 Transfer, you must begin classes at Tufts within 5 months of completing your studies or your post-completion Optional Practical Training at your previous institution. Talk to your International Student Advisor at your current school about your plans. You will need to set a SEVIS Release Date, which is the date your current school will release your SEVIS record to Tufts. Tufts cannot produce a Form I-20 visa certificate for you until your SEVIS record is released to us.

If you qualify for an F-1 Transfer, you will be prompted to provide your International Student Advisor's contact information on the Visa Certificate Request form. In addition, your current advisor will receive an Approver Form email notifying them of your transfer request. Upon your advisor completing and submitting the form, your Visa Certificate Request will be updated with the Transfer-in information.

  • When you request the transfer of your F-1 SEVIS record to Tufts, you will need to provide your current international student advisor with the correct SEVIS School Name and Code for your Tufts school / program. Here is a list of Tufts's school codes for F-1 transfer students.

J-1 Students: You must notify your current J-1 sponsor that you plan to transfer to Tufts before your current J-1 program expiration date. Your current J-1 sponsor and the Tufts International Center will need to coordinate the transfer so that there are no gaps between your two J-1 programs. Your current sponsor will need to complete the Tufts J-1 Student Transfer Form and return it to you so that you can submit it with your Visa Certificate Request. In addition, you will need to set a SEVIS Release Date, which is the date your current J-1 sponsor will release your SEVIS record to Tufts. Tufts cannot produce a Form DS-2019 visa document for you until your SEVIS record is released to us.

Download the J-1 Student Transfer-in Form

Transfer Students and Entry Visas

If you are already in the US in F-1 status and are only transferring your status from your current school to Tufts, you do not need to have a valid visa or get a new visa to complete the transfer process. A US entry visa is needed only to enter the US, but does not affect the transfer process for students already in the US. You are also not required to leave the US to get a new F-1 visa just because you are changing schools. However, if you plan to travel internationally before or after starting your program at Tufts, you must have an unexpired F-1 visa (even if it was issued for your previous school), along with your I-20, to re-enter the US.

J-1 students completing a transfer to Tufts's J-1 program similarly do not need to get a new J-1 visa if already in the US. However, please consult with the International Center if you do plan to travel internationally, either before or after your arrival at Tufts.


If you are already in the US but in another status, and wish to change to F-1 (or J-1) student status, you will need to take additional steps after you have received your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 from Tufts. There are two options for changing your status:

  • Option 1: Travel: this requires departing the US, applying for a new F-1 / J-1 student visa, and entering the US with the new visa;
  • Option 2: Applying for a change of status from within the US
    • Important Note: this option only allows you to pursue a new status without having to leave the US. If you later travel outside the US, you will still need to apply for a student visa prior to returning to continue your studies (exception: Canadian citizens do not require entry visas)
    • This option is not available to any person currently or previously in J-1 or J-2 status who is subject to the two-year home residence requirement

While Option 1 is generally recommended as the fastest and most efficient method to obtain student immigration status, it may not suitable or advisable in every situation. Please consult with an international student advisor about the advantages and disadvantages of each option. For more detailed information about Option 2, change of status within the US, go to our Change of Status information page. If you decide you would like to change your status from inside the US, you will need to request a "Change of Status" I-20 when submitting your Visa Document Request to the International Center.

Update: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, international travel to and from the US is highly limited; in addition, US consular operations remain closed or on limited operations. As a result, for the present time, more students may wish to consider change of status options for pursuing student status.

Do You Need F-1 or J-1 Student Status?

You are not required to apply for F-1 (or J-1) student status if you already have another US immigration status that permits you to study. We recommend that you consult with your current immigration sponsor to determine whether your current status has restrictions on study or employment or will expire before you complete your program. In particular, students in the following situations should take note:

  • Most dependent children in a dependent visa classification (e.g., F-2, H-4, J-2) lose dependent status once they get married or turn 21, whichever comes first
  • Dependent spouses / children lose dependent status if the principal visa holder (e.g., F-1 for F-2 dependents) ends or terminates their legal status
  • F-2 dependents are not permitted to study on a full-time basis until granted F-1 status
  • B-1 / B-2 visitors are not permitted to pursue a course of study while in B-1 / B-2 status
  • H-4 dependents are permitted to study full- or part-time, but may not accept US employment unless they have been issued a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card

If you have any questions about your current status and the steps needed to obtain F-1 or J-1 student status, please contact an International Center advisor.