Travel to the United States

If approved for a visa, you are allowed to enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the program start date listed on your SEVIS I-20 form. Before traveling to the U.S., review the information below:

Documents required to enter the country

F-1 visa students must provide the following documents when entering the country:


Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry.

F-1 Visa

With the exception of Canadian citizens, all students entering the U.S. must have a valid F-1 visa in their passport. If you are a transfer student with a signature on page 3 of your Transfer Pending I-20 form, you must still have a valid visa to be granted entry.

Although you may have a valid F-1 visa in your passport from a previous time studying in the U.S., if you have been out of the country for more than 5 months, you are required to renew your F-1 visa at an embassy or consular post before travelling to the United States.

Initial I-20 form or Transfer Pending I-20 form

- If you are a new F-1 visa student entering the U.S. for the first time, or if you have not attended school in the U.S. for more than 5 months, you will have an Initial I-20 form. It is valid as long as you enter the country on or before the program start date listed on your I-20 form.

The Initial I-20 form used to enter the U.S. must be the same one used to apply for the F-1 visa. If you use a different initial I-20 form, the school name listed on the I-20 form will not match the one noted on the F-1 visa, and you may not be allowed to enter the country. If you decide to attend a different school before entering the United States, you must go back to the embassy or consulate that issued your visa and request an updated visa.

- If you are a transfer student, you should have a Transfer Pending I-20 form from Seattle Central, with a signature on page 3. If you have the Transfer Pending I-20 form from Seattle Central, do not use I-20 forms from previous schools. They are no longer valid.

You may also be a transfer student whose SEVIS record was terminated or completed by your previous school. If you are outside of the United States, Seattle Central will have issued you an Initial I-20 form on a new SEVIS record.

For more details, see the “Applicants Transferring from Other U.S. Institutions” section on our webpage.

Other documents

In addition to the above items, it is strongly recommended to hand carry the following:

- Evidence of financial resources
- Evidence of student status (tuition receipts, acceptance letters, class schedule)
- Paper receipt for the SEVIS fee, Form I-797

At the port of entry

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (USCBP) will inspect all travelers coming to the United States. F-1 students must give the officer their passport and I-20 form (also be prepared to provide your bank statement if it is requested). If the officer finds no problems or issues when reviewing the documents, the officer will return the passport and I-20 form to you, and create an Arrival and Departure Record, referred to as the I-94 Admission Record.

If you arrive in the United States by air or by sea, you will have an electronic I-94 Admission Record. If you make your initial entry to the United States through a land border (for example, drive into the country from Canada), you will be issued a paper I-94 Admission Record. In both cases, the USCBP Officer will stamp your passport with the date of entry, visa class of admission, and the date you must depart the United States. The electronic record will include your name and the same information indicated with the passport stamp. Note that F-1 students are admitted for Duration of Status, which allows them to stay in the U.S. as long as their I-20 form is still valid.

If you need to view your electronic I-94 Admission Record, or print a copy, access it on USCBP’s website: If you have a paper copy of your I-94 Admission Record, keep it stapled in your passport opposite your F-1 visa.

Additional information on the I-94 Admission Record can be found on USCBP’s website:

Other items to bring

Please find below a list of items you should bring to Seattle:

Clothing: A selection of clothing items for all seasons and weather conditions. Click here for more information on Seattle's climate.

Shoes: Comfortable shoes. Sandals and boots may be useful too.

Money: Combination of cash, traveler’s check and credit cards. Make sure you can cover at least your first month’s expenses and first quarter tuition (about $4,500). Never carry a large amount of cash!

Medicine, Eyeglasses and/or Contact Lenses: Bring extras! Also, note that Seattle Central does not require students to show proof of immunizations or completed medical examinations. If you have any health concerns or medical conditions, bring a copy of medical, dental and immunization records.

Personal Items: pictures of your family and friends, small gifts, traditional clothes, maps, posters, music and items that represent you or your culture. These items will be helpful for you to introduce yourself to people who you meet here and keep you feel close to home.

Food Items: Although there are strict rules on customs, you may want to pack a few non-perishable foods, sweets, and/or cooking spices.

Official secondary school and university transcripts: Students enrolling for the University Transfer or High School Completion Plus programs may be asked by the university where they apply to transfer to provide official transcripts from schools they have attended outside the United States. This includes official records of your secondary school or university classes, grades, and diploma (if you earned one) beginning with Grade 9. These can be original documents or copies your secondary school has certified. Since it can be difficult to get your secondary transcripts once you are in the United States, we recommend that you bring with you multiple originals or copies your secondary school has certified as official, so you can include them with your university application if required.

Reminder: Most airlines only allow one check-in luggage and one personal item for carry on. Check with the airline prior to deciding what to bring with you on the airplane.

Inviting Family Members To Accompany You

Family members (other than your spouse and children) wishing to accompany you to the United States must apply for a B-2 “tourist” visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home countries.

Visitors from certain countries may be eligible for the Visa Waiver program. For more information, visit

Check the website for your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate for the specific steps to apply for a B-2 visa at The following evidence will assist your relative to apply for their visa:

1/ Invitation letter from you - Write a letter of invitation that includes the following:
- Your name and your reason for going to the U.S. (include your SEVIS Number)
- The names of your family members who wish to accompany you (include their date of birth and passport number)
- The purpose and approximate length of the visit

2/ Family Members’ Evidence of Funding: Your family members must demonstrate how they will pay for their travel expenses. They should provide proof of their own funds (a bank statement, employment verification, or other evidence of funding) or of funds from another person or source.

3/ Evidence of your status in the United States: Provide a copy of your acceptance letter and I-20 form to your family member(s). If you have already been granted a visa, provide a copy of the visa as well.

4/ Evidence of intent to return home: Your family members must prove that they will return home after visiting the United States. A round-trip airplane ticket will be helpful, but additional documents showing employment, property ownership, close family relations in home country, or enrollment in school (in the home country) are considered good evidence of intent to return home.

If you are inviting your spouse or children (under the age of 21) to the United States, read the section titled "Students With Dependents" on our Admission Requirements page.


The Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEA-TAC) is located 20 minutes south of our campus. Students should review the video and resources below, and plan airport pick-up in advance.

Airport Pick-up

If you arranged a host family or apartment through one of the homestay agencies, airport pick-up is generally included as part of the service and you will be met at the airport by the agency or host parents. Be sure to keep in touch with your homestay agency regarding flight arrival information.

All other students must arrange their own airport transportation. Use the tabs below to review available transportation options:

Agencies Providing Airport Pick-Up and Arrival Services

The following agencies provide airport pick-up services for students making their own housing arrangements. For more information (cost, restrictions, etc.), please contact the agencies directly.

Intercultural Homestays, Inc.
PO Box 27184
Seattle, WA 98165-1584
Phone: (206) 367-5332
Toll-Free Number: 1-800-340-9088
Web site:

P.O. Box 20731
Seattle, WA 98102
Phone: (206) 351-0121
Web site:


After leaving baggage claim, cross a sky bridge and go to the 3rd floor of the parking garage. Estimate cost: $40 to $60 depending on the destination (tip is additional and suggested). Note: Always make sure the taxi driver starts the cab meter!


Shuttle Express | (425) 981-7000 |

After baggage claim, cross a sky bridge and go to the 3rd floor of the parking garage. The Shuttle Express booth is in the center of the 3rd floor, between the orange and purple elevator banks (next to the airport’s ground transportation office). Cost: approximately $36.

Link Light Rail / Subway

Seattle has subway service (Link Light Rail) between the SEA-TAC airport and downtown Seattle. Passengers can reach downtown Seattle from the airport in about 40 minutes.

If you have a lot of luggage, are arriving late at night, or are unfamiliar with how to make transportation connections from the link light rail station to your final destination, you may want to choose one of the other transportation options listed in this section. Current schedules and fees can be found here.

Rental Cars

All rental car companies operate at a separate facility and offer dedicated shuttle buses to and from the main airport terminal, 24 hours a day. Passenger pick-up areas are located outside baggage claim at the north and south ends of the main terminal.

Note: Some companies may require an international driver’s license, photo identified foreign driver’s license, a major credit card (Visa or MasterCard) and the driver to be at least 25 years of age.

Local Bus

Bus stops are located at the south end of the baggage claim area, outside door number 2. Plan your trip in advance by using “Trip Planner” on the King County Metro website. Or you may ask the bus driver at the airport. Cost is approximately $2.50.

For more information about the options above, visit the Sea-Tac airport website.