FAQ for New International Students

This information is only for the use of students intending to attend Stanford University.If you are intending to enroll at another U.S. institution, you should contact the international student office at that campus.

Please note that most of these questions pertain to graduate students, although some are applicable to undergraduate students as well.


Q: What types of visas are issued to attend Stanford? Can I decide which visa I use?

Q: What documents do I need in order to enter the U.S. to study?

Q: How early can I enter the U.S. before school starts?

Q: I have not yet received my I-20 OR DS-2019. When will my document be issued?

Q: Can my visa document be sent by courier by Bechtel International Center?

Q: I have been refused a F-1 Visa by the Visa officials at the U.S. Embassy due to Financial Resources. What should I do?

Q: My husband/wife will be flying to the USA later. Does he/she need a separate I-20 form? Can both of us apply for our visas together, or does he/she need to apply separately just before his/her intended departure?

Q: Should I send the verification of graduate funding for the graduate study directly to the Graduate Admissions office or are there any application forms which will be mailed to me?

Q: For how many years do I need to show financial resources? Do I have to show funding to cover all the years for a Ph.D. program or just need to show funds to cover the first year of expenses?

Q: I am currently on a HI-B and am still working in the Bay Area. I was told that it could take up to 10-12 months to change my status (i.e.,. from HI-B to F-1). Would you then recommend that I leave the country and go and get my visa abroad? If so, is it quicker to get it back in my home country, or in Canada or Mexico? How do I apply for a change of status within the U.S. once I have the I-20?

Q: May I go to Canada or Mexico and change status from H to F?

Q: I have been accepted to a graduate program. My partner would like to come to the U.S. with me. Can she/he be issued an F-2 or J-2 dependent visa?

Q: I have heard that I can work on campus once I am enrolled. Is this true?

Q: Is it possible to ship belongings to Stanford before I arrive?

Q: Will I be receiving further information on orientation, housing etc.?

Q: What is the SEVIS fee?

Q: Which F-1 and J-1 visa holders have to pay the fee?

Q: Who does not have to pay the fee?

Q: When does the student or scholar have to pay the SEVIS fee?

Q: How much is the SEVIS fee and how do I pay it?

Q: What is the U.S. VISIT PROGRAM?


Q: What types of visas are issued to attend Stanford? Can I decide which visa I use?

A: The F-1 and J-1 visas are the only types of student visas issued at Stanford University. (About 80% of students have F-1 student status at Stanford.)

The I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for the F-1 Student Visa), or the DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa) will be used to obtain the either an F-1 visa stamp or a J-1 visa stamp at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country of residence.

Please note that Stanford University policy prohibits the issuance of the J-1 visa to students that are funded by over 50% personal / family funds and/or company loans; company funding may be used as long as it is not considered a loan. Federal policy prohibits students who are substantially funded by personal or family funds to obtain a J visa. It is common for students funded by their home country governments to be issued the DS-2019. Students funded by a 50% Stanford RA or TA, Fulbright Scholarship, OAS (Organization of American States), La Caixa, LASPAU: Academic and Professional Programs for the Americas, or any program sponsored by USIA (The U.S. Information Agency), will qualify for a J-1 visa.

Please note that if you are receiving a J-1 visa from Fulbright or another organization you will need to communicate with these organizations in order to obtain information on your immigration rights and responsibilities.

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Q: What documents do I need in order to enter the U.S. to study?

A: Students need three documents in order to enter the U.S. to study at Stanford:

  1. a valid passport;
  2. a certificate of eligibility for an F-1 or J-1 visa (an I-20 or DS-2019, respectively),
  3. an F-1 or J-1 visa stamp (students from Canada do not need a visa stamp, but should enter with a passport).

In addition we encourage you to carry with you your letter of admission and proof of funding.

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Q: How early can I enter the U.S. before school starts?

A: F-1 students may enter the U.S. 30 days prior to the date indicated on section #5 of the I-20.

J-1 students may enter up to 30 days before the starting date on section #3 of the DS-2019.

Students should NOT ENTER the U.S. with a tourist (B-1/B-2) visa or visa waiver just prior to attending classes. It is illegal to attend school full-time on a tourist visa.

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Q: I have not yet received my I-20 OR DS-2019. When will my document be issued?

A: Both Graduate and Undergraduate students will receive their I-20s and DS-2019s directly from the Bechtel International Center.

I-20s and DS-2019s for new students are normally issued from May through early September.

Graduate students: When you will receive your visa document is dependent upon when your completed paperwork and financial documentation has been received and evaluated by the Graduate Admissions Office. The Graduate Admissions Office will then forward the applications to the Bechtel International Center for production of the I-20 or DS-2019.

Undergraduate students should ideally submit their request for an visa document as soon as possible.

Please allow 15 business days for the Bechtel I-Center to process your visa document.

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Q: Can my visa document be sent by courier by Bechtel International Center?

A: The I-Center sends documents by courier if requested on the I-20/DS-2019 application form. A charge will subsequently be added to your Stanford bill.

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Q: I have been refused a F-1 Visa by the Visa officials at the U.S. Embassy due to 'Financial Resources'. What should I do?

A: You must be able to satisfy the requirements for issuance of the visa. If the Consular Official is demanding additional proof of financial sources, then present proper proof of funding so that your request may be reconsidered. Remember that original documents will be necessary with your application for an F-1/J-1 student visa. Consular standards for visa eligibility may be considerably more rigorous than the standards you must meet to qualify for an I-20 / DS-2019. The Consular Officer will require you to provide the same (and possibly additional) financial documentation you provided to Stanford University. You will most likely be required to show this documentation again upon arrival in the U.S. at your port of entry. You may want to contact your department to let them know of possible delays in your entry, and for any support letter(s) that the Consular Officer may request. You may also contact the Foreign Student advisor (internationalstudents@stanford.edu) at the Bechtel International Center (I-Center) for help.

In addition consular officials will need to be convinced that you are intending to return to your home country after your program of study is completed.

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Q: My husband/wife will be flying to the USA later. Does he/she need a separate I-20 form? Can both of us apply for our visas together, or does he/she need to apply separately just before his/her intended departure?

A: If you are considering bringing your spouse any time in the future, you should include your spouse's biographical information. You also should be sure that your funding covers spouse expenses. It is easier for spouses to obtain a visa if the spouse visa application for an I-20 application is made along with the student visa application at the U.S. Consulate BEFORE the student's initial entry. When the visa is issued to the spouse, he/she can use the dependent I-20 to enter the U.S. at a later date, if necessary.

However, should you decide that your spouse will join you after you have arrived at Stanford you should come to the I-Center for further information

Note: F-2 visa holders (dependents of F-1 visa holders) are not allowed to work in the U.S. under any circumstances.

For information about J-2 dependents, see this page ->

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Q: Should I send the verification of graduate funding for the graduate study directly to the Graduate Admissions office or are there any application forms which will be mailed to me?

A: You may fax verification directly to Graduate Admissions at (650) 723-8371. There are no forms mailed to you.

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Q: For how many years do I need to show financial resources? Do I have to show funding to cover all the years for a Ph.D. program or just need to show funds to cover the first year of expenses?

A: F-1 (graduate) students are asked to show evidence of funding for a minimum of one academic year (roughly 9 months).

Business School students, undergraduate students, and J-1 exchange students, need to show evidence of funding for the full period required to finish a degree program. There are NO exceptions to this.

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Q: I am currently on a H1-B and am still working in the Bay Area. I was told that it could take up to 5-6 months to change my status (i.e., from H1-B to F-1). Would you then recommend that I leave the country and go and get my visa abroad? If so, is it quicker to get it back in my home country, or in Canada or Mexico? How do I apply for a change of status within the U.S. once I have the I-20?

A: The change of status may take 3-4+ months to process. You may check online at the link below:

Current processing times for the USCIS California Service Center

Since processing times vary at the USCIS for the change of status, we highly recommend that students go back to their home countries, apply for the F-1 visa stamp at the the U.S. Consulate there, and re-enter under F-1 status. (Students who are pressured to obtain F status quickly because they must be in F status in order to work on-campus are especially advised to FLY BACK HOME, obtain the F-1 visa stamp in their passport, and re-enter in F-1 status.)

More specific change of status information is available here.

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Q: May I go to Canada or Mexico and change status from H to F?

A: If Canada or Mexico is not your home country, then you are advised to travel back home and request a visa stamp from the U.S. Consulate Officer in your home country. USCIS Officials do not like processing a 'change of status' at the port of entry, WARNING: There is also NO guarantee that a U.S. Consulate or Embassy from a country other than your own will issue you a visa stamp to re-enter the U.S. (It is NOT possible to renew these visa types within the borders of the U.S.)

If you apply for a visa outside of your home country and are denied, you cannot enter the U.S. and must return to your home country before attempting re-entry into the U.S.

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Q: I have been accepted to a graduate program. My partner would like to come to the U.S. with me. Can she/he be issued an F-2 or J-2 dependent visa?

A: No, dependent (F-2 or J-2) visas are not issued to a 'partner,' but only to a dependent of the principal visa holder. USCIS law defines a dependent as a child under the age of 21 or spouse. U.S. law does not provide the benefits of F-2 or J-2 status to unmarried partners. Such partners will either have to come on a visitor visa, enroll independently at a college or obtain an employment visa. NOTE: I-Center assistance to spouses and partners in terms of obtaining employment or student visas is limited.

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Q: I have heard that I can work on campus once I am enrolled. Is this true?

A: Yes: all F-1 and J-1 students who are in full-time status are allowed to work up to 20 hours a week on campus. J-1 students need approval of their sponsor (e.g. Stanford, Fulbright etc.).

However, if you are on an RA or TA you are already considered to be working 20 hours per week and you may not work any additional hours while school is in session. You are permitted to work full-time on campus during the breaks between quarters and during the summer. Further information on on-campus work is available at Bechtel.

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Q: Is it possible to ship belongings to Stanford before I arrive?

A: There are very few possibilities to ship belongings preceding your arrival. You should check with your department. The Bechtel International Center cannot provide storage facilities. DO NOT SHIP YOUR BELONGINGS TO THE BECHTEL INTERNATIONAL CENTER!

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Q: Will I be receiving further information on orientation, housing etc.?

A: You should have received information on housing and health insurance. The Bechtel International Center does not mail this information. You will need to contact Graduate Admissions. The Bechtel International Center will send (in late June - early July) a "Welcome Letter" via e-mail to all admitted international graduate students. This letter will also be available on our web page. In July a message is emailed to all admitted international undergraduate students. This letter will contain further information on our orientation program.

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Q: What is the SEVIS fee?

A: The 1996 Immigration Act mandated that a fee should be charged to all new F-1 and J-1 visa holders in order to fund the federal student and scholar data base, now known as SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). This fee went into effect on September 1, 2004.

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Q: Which F-1 and J-1 visa holders have to pay the fee?

A: F-1 and J-1 students and scholars who are seeking an initial visa from an embassy or consulate abroad for an initial attendance at Stanford for student or research.

  1. An alien in the U.S. who is seeking a change of status to F-1 or J-1
  2. A J-1 who is applying for a change of category within the U.S.
  3. F-1 or J-1 students/scholars who are applying for reinstatement when they have been out of status for for more than five months.
  4. F-1 students who have been absent from the U.S. for more than five months, who were not, while absent, working towards completion of curriculum in authorized overseas study, and who now wish to re-enter for a new program of study.

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Q: Who does not have to pay the fee?

A:

  1. A continuing F or J nonimmigrant who maintains that status and whose initial document was issued before September 1, 2004. Such individuals will not have to pay the fee even when they apply for a new visa
  2. Certain J-1 visa applicants who will be on a program sponsored by the Federal Government
  3. An F-1 or J-1 nonimmigrant applying for a visa to return to the U.S. as a continuing student or scholar. In other words a student who has a document issued by Stanford after September 1, 2004 and, afterwards, needs a new visa will not be subject to a second fee as long as they have been maintaining their status.
  4. F-1 students moving from high school to college or to a higher degree level
  5. F-1 students transferring between schools at the same educational level
  6. J-1's transferring between programs
  7. F-1 or J-1 students/scholars who was initially denied a visa and is re-applying within 12 months
  8. Dependents of F-1 and J-1 students and scholars.

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Q: When does the student or scholar have to pay the SEVIS fee?

A: Applicants for an F-1 or J-1 entry visa must pay the SEVIS fee prior to submitting the application for the visa. However an interview can be scheduled before the payment is made. Those seeking a change of status can presumably file the I-901 along with the I-539 on which the change is requested, for concomitant processing.

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Q: How much is the SEVIS fee and how do I pay it?

A: The SEVIS fee is US$200 for F-1 students and US$180 for J-1 students. This fee is separate from and in addition to the visa application fee. The SEVIS fee must be paid by the Internet or by mail. It cannot be paid at a U.S. embassy or consulate and it cannot be paid at port of entry. The fee can be paid by one of two means:

  1. Electronically, by completing a form I-901 through the Internet and using a Visa, MasterCard, or American Express credit card.
  2. By mail, by submitting Form I-901, Fee remittance for Certain F, and J Nonimmigrants, together with a check or money order drawn on a U.S. bank and payable in U.S. currency. Sources for such checks and money orders include banks chartered or operated in the U.S., foreign subsidiaries of U.S. banks, or foreign banks that have an arrangement with a U.S. bank to issue a check, money order, or foreign draft that is drawn on a U.S. bank.

A third party such as a friend, family member, or other interested party can pay the fee on your behalf through the same means described above.

Online payments can be made at: http://www.FMJfee.com

Further information about the SEVIS fee.

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Q: What is the US-VISIT PROGRAM?

A: US-VISIT PROGRAM is a comprehensive entry-exit registration system. All F-1 / J-1 non-immigrant visitors attending Stanford University will participate in this program that involves obtaining a scan of two index fingerprints and a digital photograph. The U.S. immigration officer will use an inkless fingerprint scanner to read the index fingerprints of arriving visitors holding non-immigrant visas. The official will also take a digital photograph of the visitor. Together with the standard information gathered from visitors about their identity and travel, this program will verify the visitors' identity and compliance with visa immigration policies. The San Francisco port of entry is participating in the US-VISIT program and we have not seen any marked delays or problems reported by our student or scholars.

Further information about the U.S. VISIT PROGRAM

updated 6/28/2006

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