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Graduate Students

Congratulations on your admission to Michigan State University! Learn about the visa and immigration processes and requirements and things you need to do before arriving at MSU.


F-1 Students

Documents Needed to Enter the U.S.

In order to enter the United States in F-1 status, students must present the following documents to the immigration inspector at the port of entry:

  • A valid passport (valid six months beyond the date of entry)
  • A valid F-1 visa stamp (not required for Canadians)
  • A valid I-20 Form
  • A copy of your SEVIS Fee Payment Receipt
  • Original financial documentation
  • Admission letter from MSU

Your passport, issued by your country of citizenship, should be valid for six months beyond the date you enter the United States and remain valid for the length of your stay. To obtain or renew your passport, contact your home government authorities. It is a good idea to keep a photocopy of your passport in case it is ever lost.

Get I-20 from MSU and Check for Errors

The Form I-20 is issued to students who intend to study in the U.S. in F-1 status.

Initial Attendance I-20

If you are not in the U.S. you will receive an Initial Attendance I-20 from MSU. You will need the I-20 to pay the SEVIS fee and to apply for an F-1 visa. If you have dependents (spouse or children) traveling with you, each dependent will need their own I-20 to apply for an F-2 visa. F-2 dependents do not pay the SEVIS fee.

Transfer I-20

If you are currently in F-1 status in the U.S., you may transfer your I-20 to MSU. Once the transfer is complete, MSU will issue you a Transfer Pending I-20. Learn more about transferring your I-20 to MSU on our Transfer In and Out webpage

Change of Status

If you are currently in the U.S. in another immigration status and will apply to change status to F-1, you will be issued and I-20 to change status. Changing status to F-1 can take 2-4 months and sometimes longer. If you are in an immigration status that does not allow enrollment in classes or studying, you will not be able to start your program at MSU until after the Change of Status is approved. If you are in an immigration status that allows enrollment in classes and studying but does not allow employment in the U.S., you will not be able to work at MSU as a student employee or graduate assistant until the Change of Status is approved. 

Learn more about how to apply on our Change of Status webpage

Check your I-20 for Errors

After you receive your I-20 and admissions materials from MSU, please review everything carefully and check for any errors on your I-20. Email oiss(at)msu.edu if you find an error on your I-20 so that we can correct it and mail an updated I-20 to you before you pay the SEVIS fee, schedule your visa interview, apply to change status, or enter the U.S.

Pay the SEVIS Fee

What is SEVIS?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) was designed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to maintain accurate and current information about international students and scholars in F, J, and M visa status, their academic activities, and their accompanying family members. There is a required government-mandated fee that has to be paid before you can apply for your U.S. visa.

The fee for F-1 students is $200. 

Learn more about the SEVIS fee on our SEVIS Fee Facts webpage.

Initial I-20 

If you are coming to MSU from outside of the United States, you will need pay the SEVIS fee before applying for an F-1 visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy. After paying the fee, print a copy of your SEVIS fee payment receipt. You will need to show the receipt to the U.S. consulate or embassy and when you enter the U.S.  Learn more about how to pay the fee on the SEVIS Fee website. 

Transfer I-20

If you are transferring your I-20 to MSU from another U.S. institution, you do not need to pay the SEVIS fee again. You already paid the fee when you first applied for an F-1 visa, entered the U.S. in F-1 status, or changed status to F-1. 

Changing Status to F-1

You will need to pay the SEVIS fee if you were issued an I-20 to Change Status to F-1 from within the United States. Learn more about changing status to F-1 on our Change of Status webpage.

Apply for an F-1 Visa

What is a Visa?

The visa is a stamp that a U.S. consulate or embassy puts in your passport. You must have a valid F-1 visa stamp and valid I-20 in order to enter the United States.

Canadian Citizens

Canadian citizens are exempt from the U.S. visa stamp requirements. At the port of entry, Canadian citizens will need to present their I-20 and Canadian passport along with proof of payment of the SEVIS fee and adequate financial support to study in the U.S. If you are a Canadian landed immigrant entering the United States, you are required to obtain a U.S. visa stamp. Please contact the U.S. consulate in your area for more information.

U.S. Consulate or Embassy Application and Appointment

Check the U.S. consulate or embassy website where you will apply for a list of required documents, forms, and instructions on how to apply for an F-1 visa. Please be aware that each consulate or embassy may require different information and have specific application procedures.

Find a U.S. consulate or embassy website on the U.S. Department of State website.

Required Documents

  • Passport that is valid for at least 6 months beyond the date you reenter the U.S.
  • I-20
  • A copy of your SEVIS Fee Payment Receipt
  • Original financial documents verifying funding as listed on the I-20
  • Letter of acceptance from the Office of Admissions at MSU
  • Passport-type photographs
  • Application forms and fees as required by the U.S. consulate or embassy where you will apply for your F-1 visa

What happens if my visa expires while I am in the U.S.?

Your visa stamp must be valid when you enter the United States. Your visa may expire while you are in the U.S. and you may remain legally in the U.S. as long as your I-20 is still valid. 

F-1 students and F-2 dependents may remain in the United States with an expired visa stamp as long as:

  • Your I-20 is valid
  • F-1 immigration status is indicated on your I-94, along with "D/S" (Duration of Stay)
  • You maintain your immigration status

How many times can I use my visa to enter the U.S.?

Your visa stamp tells you how many times you may enter the U.S. This is usually one, two, or M (for multiple). If students or dependents use all of their entries and they wants to enter the U.S. again they must get a new F-1 or F-2 visa. It is a good idea to keep a photocopy of your visa stamp in case it is ever lost.

Learn more about Maintaining Immigration Status

Learn more about Travel and Visas

View and print your I-94 after you enter the U.S.

Additional Resources

Enter the U.S.

When can I enter the U.S.?

You may enter the U.S. no more than 30 days before the program start date, as listed on your I-20. If you will be delayed in your arrival, please notify oiss(at)msu.edu.

What happens when I enter the U.S.?

At the port of entry, the U.S. Customers and Border Officer will inspect your Form I-20 and give it back to you. The Border Officer will also inspect your passport and F-1 visa (if applicable), issue an admission stamp, write "F-1/DS", and return your passport to you.

I-94 Arrival/Departure Forms

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) admits you to the U.S. with an electronic I-94 at the Port of Entry or a paper I-94 when entering at a land border or sea border and other limited circumstances. Travelers will also receive a CBP admission stamp in their passports.

  • The new admission stamp will have the date of admission to the U.S., the class of admission (F-1), and "D/S" (Duration of Status) meaning that your F-1 status is valid until your I-20 expires, your program of study ends, or your status is terminated for failure to maintain status.

  • After entering the U.S., you will need to print out your I-94 on the I-94 website. Your I-94 printout will show your admission number. You will need your I-94 printout to apply for immigration and public benefits such as a Driver's License or Social Security Number.

  • After you print out your I-94, verify that all information is correct. If the I-94 information is incorrect, please contact OISS. OISS can advise you on how to request a correction. Also check dependent I-94 records.

  • When you leave the U.S., if you have a paper I-94 card, you will still give it to your airline at check-in or to CBP. If you have an electronic I-94, CBP will record your departure using Manifest information obtained from the commercial carrier.

Dependents in F-2 Status

Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age are considered dependents of F-1 students and can be admitted to the U.S. in F-2 non-immigrant status.

Documents Needed to Enter the U.S. in F-2 Status

  • F-2 I-20 issued by MSU
  • F-2 visa stamp
  • Passport valid for 6 months beyond the date of entry

Learn more about F-2 dependents on our Family and Dependents webpage

Notify OISS if You Are Delayed

If unexpected events cause your arrival to be delayed beyond the start date of orientation, you must notify OISS immediately by emailing oiss(at)msu.edu. We may need to create an updated I-20 for you with a postponed start date.

J-1 Students

Documents Needed to Enter the U.S.

In order to enter the United States in J-1 status, students must present the following documents to the immigration inspector at the port of entry:

  • A valid passport (valid six months beyond the date of entry)
  • A valid J-1 visa stamp (not required for Canadians)
  • A valid DS-2019 Form
  • A copy of your SEVIS Fee Payment Receipt
  • Original financial documentation
  • Admission letter from MSU

Your passport, issued by your country of citizenship, should be valid for six months beyond the date you enter the United States and remain valid for the length of your stay. To obtain or renew your passport, contact your home government authorities. It is a good idea to keep a photocopy of your passport in case it is ever lost.

Get DS-2019 and Check for Errors

After receiving your DS-2019 and accompanying documents from MSU, please carefully read all enclosed materials.

When you receive your DS-2019, please review it carefully for any errors. Contact jvisas(at)msu.edu immediately if you find an error on your DS-2019.

Pay the SEVIS Fee

What is SEVIS?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) was designed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to maintain accurate and current information about international students and scholars in F, J, and M visa status, their academic activities, and their accompanying family members. There is a required government-mandated fee that has to be paid before you can apply for your U.S. visa.

The fee for J-1 students is $180. 

Prior to your visa interview, you must pay the SEVIS Fee. For more information, read the SEVIS Fee Facts that came with your DS-2019.

Apply for a J-1 Visa

What is a Visa?

The visa is a stamp that a U.S. consulate or embassy puts in your passport. You must have a valid J-1 visa stamp and valid DS-2019 in order to enter the United States.

Canadian Citizens

Canadian citizens are exempt from the U.S. visa stamp requirements. At the port of entry, Canadian citizens will need to present their DS-2019 and Canadian passport along with proof of payment of the SEVIS fee and adequate financial support to study in the U.S. If you are a Canadian landed immigrant entering the United States, you are required to obtain a U.S. visa stamp. Please contact the U.S. consulate in your area for more information.

U.S. Consulate or Embassy Application and Appointment

Check the U.S. consulate or embassy website where you will apply for a list of required documents, forms, and instructions on how to apply for a J-1 visa. Please be aware that each consulate or embassy may require different information and have specific application procedures.

Find a U.S. consulate or embassy website on the U.S. Department of State website.

Required Documents

  • Passport that is valid for at least 6 months beyond the date you reenter the U.S.
  • DS-2019
  • A copy of your SEVIS Fee Payment Receipt
  • Original financial documents verifying funding as listed on the DS-2019
  • Letter of acceptance from the Office of Admissions at MSU
  • Passport-type photographs
  • Application forms and fees as required by the U.S. consulate or embassy where you will apply for your J-1 visa

What happens if my visa expires while I am in the U.S.?

Your visa stamp must be valid when you enter the United States. Your visa may expire while you are in the U.S. and you may remain legally in the U.S. as long as your DS-2019 is still valid. 

J-1 students and J-2 dependents may remain in the United States with an expired visa stamp as long as:

  • Your DS-2019 is valid
  • J-1 immigration status is indicated on your I-94, along with "D/S" (Duration of Stay)
  • You maintain your immigration status

How many times can I use my visa to enter the U.S.?

Your visa stamp tells you how many times you may enter the U.S. This is usually one, two, or M (for multiple). If students or dependents use all of their entries and they wants to enter the U.S. again they must get a new J-1 or J-2 visa. It is a good idea to keep a photocopy of your visa stamp in case it is ever lost.

Learn more about Maintaining Immigration Status

Learn more about Travel and Visas

View and print your I-94 after you enter the U.S.

Additional Resources

Required Health Insurance

Immigration regulations require that all students and dependents in J-1 and J-2 have health insurance that meets specific requirements. 

Most students choose to use the student health insurance policy issued to MSU international students through the Blue Care Network (BCN) insurance company. You are automatically enrolled in the coverage when you enroll for classes and billed for the cost on your MSU Student Account.

If you will use this policy, please be aware of the following coverage start dates:

  • Fall Semester: August 15
  • Spring Semester: January 1
  • Summer Semester: May 12

If you will arrive before the coverage start date, you should purchase day-to-day health insurance coverage through the MSU Human Resources Solutions Center.

Please note that spouses and children are NOT automatically enrolled in the BCN health insurance plan. You must enroll your family members through the BCN website. Payment is required at the time of enrollment.

Deadlines for family member enrollment each semester are as follows:

  • Fall Semester: September 30
  • Spring Semester: February 15
  • Summer Semester: June 30

If you cannot afford the cost of health insurance for your family, please email ihealth(at)msu.edu for information about financial assistance.If you will use your own health insurance policy instead of the MSU BCN policy, your policy must meet all MSU International Student Waiver Criteria. Shortly after arrival, you must apply for a health insurance waiver through StuInfo. You will find the link on the “other” tab in StuInfo.

Health Insurance waiver deadlines for each semester are as follows:

  • Fall Semester: September 30
  • Spring Semester: February 15
  • Summer Semester: June 30

Enter the U.S.

When can I enter the U.S.?

You may enter the U.S. no more than 30 days before the program start date and no later than 20 days after the program start date, as listed on your DS-2019. If you will be delayed in your arrival, please notify jvisas(at)msu.edu

What happens when I enter the U.S.?

At the port of entry, the U.S. Customers and Border Officer will inspect your DS-2019 and give it back to you. The Border Officer will also inspect your passport and J-1 visa (if applicable), issue an admission stamp, write "J-1/DS", and return your passport to you.

I-94 Arrival/Departure Forms

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) admits you to the U.S. with an electronic I-94 at the Port of Entry or a paper I-94 when entering at a land border or sea border and other limited circumstances. Travelers will also receive a CBP admission stamp in their passports.

  • The new admission stamp will have the date of admission to the U.S., the class of admission (J-1), and "D/S" (Duration of Status) meaning that your J-1 status is valid until your DS-2019 expires, your program of study ends, or your status is terminated for failure to maintain status.

  • After entering the U.S., you will need to print out your I-94 on the I-94 website. Your I-94 printout will show your admission number. You will need your I-94 printout to apply for immigration and public benefits such as a Driver's License or Social Security Number.

  • After you print out your I-94, verify that all information is correct. If the I-94 information is incorrect, please contact OISS. OISS can advise you on how to request a correction. Also check dependent I-94 records.

  • When you leave the U.S., if you have a paper I-94 card, you will still give it to your airline at check-in or to CBP. If you have an electronic I-94, CBP will record your departure using Manifest information obtained from the commercial carrier.

Dependents in J-2 Status

Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age are considered dependents of J-1 students and scholars and can be admitted to the U.S. in J-2 non-immigrant status. 

Documents Needed to Enter the U.S. in J-2 Status

  • J-2 DS-2019 issued by MSU
  • J-2 visa stamp
  • Passport valid for 6 months beyond the date of entry

Learn more about J-2 dependents on our Family and Dependents webpage

Notify OISS if You Are Delayed

If unexpected events cause your arrival to be delayed beyond the start date of orientation, you must notify OISS immediately by emailing jvisas(at)msu.edu. We may have to create a new DS-2019 for you with a postponed start date.

Find A Place to Live

Learn more about how to find a place to live, set up utilities, and other practical information on Find a Place to Live.

Shipping Your Belongings

If you cannot fit all of your personal belongings into your checked or carry-on luggage, it is possible to ship your belongings to East Lansing. MSU will not store personal belongings for you before move-in. See below for information on how to ship your belongings before and after move-in.   

U.S. Customs

All items shipped from outside the U.S. must be cleared through U.S. Customs at a U.S. Port of Entry. You can arrange to have a freight-forwarding company or customs broker take your packages through the customs inspection and send them to East Lansing or you can take your packages through inspection yourself at the airport.

Shipping Belongings to East Lansing Before You Move In

If your belongings will arrive in East Lansing before the date that you can move into your on-campus or off-campus housing, we recommend that you use Two Men and A Truck storage and delivery service. MSU has a contract with Two Men and A Truck in order to make the shipping and move-in process easier for students. 

To arrange for storage and delivery of your belongings, go to the Two Men and A Truck student storage website.

  1. Under "Personalize your storage plan" select "Michigan State University" and select the plan you prefer.
  2. Press "Send Request."
  3. Two Men and A Truck will email you to get more information about your shipping and delivery needs, finalize the cost, and receive payment from you. 

Shipping Belongings to East Lansing After You Move In

If your belongings will arrive in East Lansing after you move into your on-campus or off-campus housing, you can ship your belongings directly to your on or off-campus address. 

You can find your on-campus address by logging into iLiveOn. To understand how to write your on-campus address on your package go to the MSU Live On Mailing Addresses website.

What to Pack and Michigan Weather

U.S. Port of Entry Checklist

Make sure you have the following documents with you in your carry-on bag when you enter the U.S. Do not pack these documents in your checked luggage. 

  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-1 or J-1 visa (except for Canadian citizens)
  • I-20 or DS-2019
  • MSU letter of acceptance
  • Proof of financial support for course of study 

What to Pack

As you prepare for your trip, keep in mind that rooms in the residence halls and apartments are generally small. In order not to crowd your room (and possibly your roommate) and to avoid excess baggage charges, bring only essentials with you. You will be able to buy many things that you need for your room, school supplies, additional clothing and personal items after you arrive. Our current international students say they consider the following items most important to bring with them from home:

  • Frequently used and favorite books
  • Educational instruments and supplies (laptops, calculators, paint brushes, etc.)
  • Spare eye glasses or contact lenses
  • Medications. You should translate ingredients and dosage instructions into English on a separate piece of paper and pack that with your medications. 
  • Adequate clothing (including national dress for special occasions)
  • Pictures, artifacts, and other items typical of your country

Weather in East Lansing

Michigan is located in the northern part of the United States. We have four distinct seasons of the year and temperatures change a lot between Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring. Temperatures and weather can change suddenly during the day and from day-to-day. We have a saying in Michigan: "If you don't like the weather, wait 10 minutes."

Summer lasts from June - September and can be hot and humid. It is common to have thunderstorms and rain during the summer. People often wear thinner cotton clothing, shorts and short sleeved shirts. Most classroom buildings are air conditioned so it can be chilly inside. Bringing a sweater with you every day is a good idea. It is also a good idea to carry a small umbrella with you in your bag every day in case the weather changes to rain. Average temperatures during the day are around 27 degrees C (80 degrees F). 

Fall lasts from September - December and ranges from hot to very cold. One day it may be hot and sunny and the next day cold and snowing. However, the first snow usually happens in late November or early December. People dress in layers of clothing in case the temperature changes during the day. It is a good idea to always carry a small umbrella with you in your bag every day in case the weather changes to rain. Average temperatures during the day range from 23 degrees C in September (73 degrees F) to 1 degree C in December (34 degrees F). 

Winter lasts from December - March and ranges from very cold to mildly warm. We usually have a lot of snow in January - March. People dress in warm sweaters, down feather coats, warm boots, hats, scarves and gloves. Buildings can be hot inside, so it's a good idea to dress in layers. Average temperatures during the day range from -1 degree C in January (30 degrees F) to 7 degrees C in March (44 degrees F). 

Spring lasts from March - June and ranges from very cold to warm. It can snow in April. People dress in warm sweaters, wool or fleece coats, hats, scarves and gloves. Buildings can be hot inside, so it's a good idea to dress in layers. Average temperatures during the day range from 14 degrees C in April (58 degrees F) to 26 degrees C in June (78 degrees F). 

Travel and Transportation to MSU

Airport Options

MSU campus is located in the city of East Lansing in the state of Michigan. 

Lansing Capital Region International Airport (LAN) 

The closest airport to MSU is Lansing Capital Region International Airport (LAN). If you want to fly into Lansing, you will have to fly through another city in the U.S. Many students fly to Lansing through Detroit or Chicago. Taxi service is available from the Lansing Capital Region International Airport to MSU. The drive to campus will take 15 minutes. 

Detroit Metro Airport (DTW)

Many students choose fly to Detroit Metro Airport (DTW). The Michigan Flyer bus company offers comfortable and inexpensive coach bus rides from Detroit to East Lansing. The Michigan Flyer bus stop in East Lansing is at the Marriott hotel. Taxis will be available to drive you to your residence hall on campus. Purchase your Michigan Flyer ticket online before flying to Detroit. 

Michigan Flyer Schedules, Fares, and Buy Tickets

Welcome Tables

OISS organizes welcome tables and volunteers at the Lansing Airport and Michigan Flyer bus stop in East Lansing to greet new students, give out campus maps, and help them get a taxi to their hotel, residence hall, or off-campus housing. Welcome tables typically begin on Friday before move-in and end on Sunday night before IAOP begins.

Immigration Check-In

Immigration check-in is required for both F-1 and J-1 students. During immigration check-in, OISS Advisors will check your passport, visa, and I-20 or DS-2019. You will also update your U.S. address, phone number and emergency contact information in StuInfo, the university records system. 

Orientation and Welcome Events

Orientation

For more information, visit the Graduate School's website.

Ask your graduate department for details regarding orientation and immigration check-in dates and times.

Welcome Events

We will share a list of Welcome Events for Graduate students with you. Come to these events to have fun and meet new people during orientation week!

Classes Begin

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Follow your Monday schedule so that you can meet all of your instructors and classmates this week. 

On Thursday and Friday, you will follow your Thursday and Friday class schedule. 

There are no classes on Monday, September 3, 2018 for the Labor Day holiday. Enjoy your first, long weekend!