Passports & visas
All international students must have passports from their governments and visas from the United States before they can enter the country. This can be a lengthy process, so we encourage you to get started right away.
Some countries require that you present proof of admission to a U.S. school before they will grant you a passport. It's important to bring any necessary supporting documents with you when you apply.
Most international students will need to get one of the following visas from the U.S. government:
To apply for any of these visas, be sure to check the application requirements and procedures on the U.S. Department of State website.
Here are the basic documents you need:
- your passport
- your Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20 or DS-2019), issued by the UC campus you will attend
- proof of adequate financial support for your studies and living expenses
U.S. government regulations require that you use only the I-20 or DS-2019 issued by the UC campus you wish to attend. If you are sponsored by an international agency, then the specific UC campus should be listed on the form.
International students who apply for an F-1 student visa using an initial attendance Form I-20 or DS-2019 will need to complete form I-901 and pay a SEVIS (Student Exchange Visitor Information System) fee to the Department of Homeland Security prior to the student visa interview. The SEVIS fee is in addition to the Department of State's visa application fee. For additional information, see the SEVIS website.
Students coming directly from another country on a student visa (F-1) are limited to entering the United States no earlier than 30 days before their I-20 start date. Students already in school in the U.S. are not subject to this requirement. Please see your current school's international office for details.
When you arrive at the UC campus where you plan to study, you will be required to show your passport, visa and other travel documents. The name on the passport you use to enter the United States must match the name given on the application for admission. Consult the International Student Advisor on campus about where you should present the documents. The International Student Advisor will also advise you on the laws and regulations that affect your stay in the United States. Most UC campuses have a new international student check-in and orientation, where you will present your documents and get important information related to immigration regulations and maintaining student status.
It is possible for citizens of certain countries to come to the U.S. without a visa if they have definite plans to leave within 90 days of arrival. Do not enter the United States in this manner. You will not be permitted to extend your stay or change your status.