Before You Arrive

Once you receive your immigration documents (I-20 for F status and DS-2019 for J status), please ensure the following steps are taken:

  1. Read your I-20 or DS-2019 to ensure it is accurate and free of errors. If there is an error, contact the admissions office immediately so that a correction can be made prior to your visa appointment. 



  2. Make a visa interview appointment. 
Refer to the US Department of State website to find the US embassy closest to you and get details about the procedure for making an appointment in your country. 



  3. Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee. The US government requires students to pay a SEVIS fee to qualify for a non-immigrant F or J visa for an initial entry to the US to begin an academic program of study. You can do so online at http://www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/. Print the receipt and bring it to the consulate interview as proof of payment in order to be qualified for the F-1 visa and have it with you when you enter the US at the Port of Entry. Canadian and Bermudan citizens, who are not required to have a student visa, must show proof of SEVIS fee payment for admission at a US port of entry.

  4. Prepare for the visa interview. 
The visa interview determines whether you qualify for a visa. You will be asked to demonstrate that you properly meet the requirements to be issued a visa, including the following:

    • Intent to remain in the US for a temporary, specific, limited period<
    • Evidence of funds to cover expenses in the US
    • Evidence of compelling social and economic ties to their home country
  5. Finalize your travel plans no more than 30 days in advance. All new students are expected to arrive prior to the start date of classes to take care of activities required for enrollment in classes. However, you are eligible to enter the US no more than 30 days before the start date listed on your immigration documentation, so do not arrange to fly to the US prior to getting your visa. 


  6. Determine and arrange your housing needs. You can either live in one of UAH’s residence halls or apartments or in an off-campus apartment or rental house. To live on campus, you must complete a housing application online at http://housing.uah.edu/ PRIOR to arrival. If you choose to live off campus, you will be held responsible for fully comprehending your housing contract. You will also be responsible for utilities, transportation, and other conveniences related to off-campus housing.

  7. Arrange for health insurance. All F1 and J-1 students are required to have insurance under the UAH mandatory policy. When an F or J student enrolls in classes each semester, a fee is assessed to cover the cost of insurance for that semester. Students are required to pay for this fee with their tuition. Graduate students may be offered an assistantship that covers all or a portion of the insurance premium. The tuition bill for each student will reflect the payment due to the university to cover health insurance. Students should not purchase insurance from their home country. Waivers of the UAH insurance policy are extremely limited. If you have questions about the insurance requirement, contact the Student Health Center. Note: It is a violation of immigration law for F1, F2, J-1 and J2 students and dependents to accept government/public assistance, even for medical care.

  8. Ensure you have enough money to cover your first two weeks. It is recommended that you bring $100-$500 in traveler’s checks, cash, or other funds that are immediately accessible for the first few days in the US. You will not be able to open a bank account immediately upon arrival and will need money to take care of any incidental expenses. UAH is fortunate to have both local and national banks near campus, including the Alabama Credit Union, a financial institution located on campus. Once you open a bank account and deposit funds you can make necessary arrangements to pay your tuition or other bills.

  9. Ensure you have your immigration documentation with you while traveling. If you do not have the correct immigration paperwork, you may not be allowed to board the plane. Keep your immigration documents together in a folder and pack them in you carry on baggage. You need to have them with you on the plane because you will be required to present your passport and these documents to the Customs and Border Protection officer at your port of entry. When you arrive at your port of entry, you will be inspected for admission into the US At this time you will present your passport, I-20 or DS-2019, and financial information to the officer. The officer will stamp your passport and other immigration documents and return them to you. Put these documents in a safe place because you will need to present them to the International Student Advisor at UAH at immigration processing.

  10. Schedule an airport pick-up for when you arrive. The OIE offers airport pick up from the Huntsville International Airport for new international students. Email oip@uah.edu a minimum of one week PRIOR to your arrival. Include your full name, arrival date and time, airline, flight itinerary, and place of residence in Huntsville.