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Immigration Arrival Information for Students

Congratulations! Now that you have received your visa certificate (Form I-20 or Form DS-2019) from Tufts University, you are ready to take the next steps to prepare for your arrival at Tufts as an F-1 or J-1 student. Please read through this important information and contact the International Center if you have any questions.

Step 1: Read and Sign Your Form I-20 (F-1 visa) or Form DS-2019 (J-1 visa)

Read carefully the instructions you received from the International Center with information about downloading your I-20 or DS-2019 visa certificate. Once you have downloaded the form, review the visa certificate carefully and make sure the information is accurate. In particular, make sure your name, date of birth, and citizenship are correct. Your visa certificate will typically reflect the full legal name indicated on your passport. Contact the International Center if you have any questions, or refer to the guides below.

Step 2: Make Sure Your Passport is Valid

In order to minimize possible problems when applying for a visa or entering the US, it is recommended that your passport be valid at least six months into the future at all times when traveling to or residing in the US. If your passport is due to expire at any time during your program, you should take steps to renew it so that it remains continuously valid while you are studying at Tufts.

Step 3: Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee

If your Form I-20 was issued for "Initial Attendance" (or your Form DS-2019 was issued to "Begin New Program"), you must pay the I-901 SEVIS fee for your visa type at least three days prior to your visa appointment or three days prior to entering the US, whichever comes first. The current fee is $350 for F-1 students and $220 for J-1 students. There is NO fee for F-2 or J-2 dependent family members. For more information, and to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee, go to the I-901 SEVIS Fee website.

Step 4: Apply for Your F-1 or J-1 Visa at Your Nearest US Consulate

**Citizens of Canada are exempt from the visa requirement and may skip to Step 5**

To apply for your F-1 or J-1 visa, you must prepare a visa application and schedule a visa appointment and interview at a US consulate. It is generally recommended to apply for your visa at a US consulate in your home country, i.e., country of residence. Follow any specific instructions provided to you by your US consulate.

  • Find your US consulate website
  • Read the instructions and frequently asked questions for the online nonimmigrant visa application, Form DS-160
  • Prepare photos for submission with your visa application (read about Photo Requirements)
  • Complete and submit your online nonimmigrant visa application, Form DS-160
  • Use the DS-160 online portal to schedule your visa interview at the consulate
  • Prepare documents for your interview, including:
    • Your valid and unexpired passport
    • Your Form I-20 or DS-2019 from Tufts University
    • Photos
    • Form DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa submission confirmation page
    • Proof of payment of the DS-160 visa fee
    • Proof of payment of the I-901 SEVIS fee
    • Additional supporting evidence to carry: your Tufts admission letter, financial documents and affidavits (including scholarship letters, bank letters, etc.) used to obtain your I-20 or DS-2019

Note: citizens of certain countries may be required to pay an additional reciprocity fee if the visa application is approved. This fee varies from country to country and by visa type, and is generally uncommon for most F-1 and J-1 visa applicants. However, you can check ahead by consulting the US State Department's visa reciprocity tables.

Visa interview waiver: in limited cases the US State Department may choose to waive the requirement of a visa interview, although this is generally limited to individuals who were already issued US visas that expired recently. Your consulate will determine whether or not you qualify for a waiver of the interview.

Step 5: Apply for Admission (Entry) into the United States

Once you have your visa, you are eligible to travel to the US. You cannot enter the US more than than 30 days before the program start or begin date indicated on your Form I-20 or DS-2019. Bring your passport with the F-1 or J-1 visa, your printed and signed Form I-20 / DS-2019, and other documents used in your visa application with you.

Upon arriving in the US, you will apply for "admission" (entry) into the US by undergoing immigration inspection with a US Customs and Border Protection officer. Note that having a visa is not a guarantee of entry, as a Customs and Border Protection officer must still confirm your reasons and eligibility for studying in the US on an F-1 or J-1 visa. The officer may ask you to explain your purpose for coming to the US and details about your program and intended stay. Present your passport, visa, and Form I-20 / DS-2019 and explain your intended purpose for coming to the US. Be sure to show the correct visa, especially if you have other types of US visas, so that they admit you in the correct status (F-1 or J-1).

Step 6: Confirm your Arrival

Once we are close to the start of the semester, you will receive an email notification from the International Center asking you to confirm your arrival. This is an online process that you must complete so that we can notify the US Department of Homeland Security that you have arrived on campus and enrolled in your program. Failure to complete the Confirmation of Arrival process within the deadlines provided to you may delay your ability to work on-campus, apply for a Social Security Number, or eventually remain in the US.