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Prearrival Information

Preparing for Travel

Required Documents

Entry to the United States requires a valid passport, a certificate of eligibility, and a valid United States visa stamp.


Your passport, issued by your country of citizenship, should be valid when 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 photo copy of your passport incase it is ever lost.

Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20 or DS-2019)

This immigration document corresponds to the immigration status you will use to enter the U.S. An I-20 is used to apply for an F-1 visa. A DS-2019 is used to apply for a J-1 exchange visitor visa. If you have dependents (spouse or children) traveling with you, they should also have an I-20 or DS-2019 to apply for an F-2 or J-2 visa stamp.


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.


If you are coming to MSU from outside the United States, you will need to obtain a visa stamp from a U.S. consulate or embassy in order to be admitted to the United States. Students and exchange visitors seeking an F-1 or J-1 visa will need to pay a SEVIS fee prior to visa issuance. Be sure to print out and keep your receipt proving your payment. For more information on how to pay the fee, please consult the consulate or embassy or visit: (

Applying for your student visa

Once your SEVIS fee has been paid, take your passport and apply for your visa (F-1 student visa if you have an I-20 or a J-1 exchange visitor visa if you have a DS-2019) at the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy. In addition to your passport and either the I-20 or DS-2019, the visa officer will ask for documents verifying your financial resources, your letter of acceptance from the Office of Admissions at MSU, passport-type photographs and proof of SEVIS fee payment. It is best to check the website of the U.S. consulate nearest to you to verify what is required for a visa stamp: (

The visa is the most commonly misunderstood immigration document. It is a stamp that the United States consulate or embassy gives foreign nationals in their passports and which they must have to enter the United States in the particular classification requested (J-1 or F-1). The validity of a visa stamp pertains only to the period during which it may be used for entry into the United States. It does not indicate how long you may stay in the United States. F and J visitors may remain in the United States with an expired visa stamp as long as their I-20 or DS-2019 is valid and the proper immigration status is indicated on the I-94 document and while in the US they maintain their status. On the visa stamp, there is also an indication of the number of entries permitted, usually one, two, or M (for multiple). If a student or scholar uses up his or her entries and wishes to enter the United States again during the same validity period, he or she must obtain a new visa. It is a good idea to keep a photo copy of your visa page in case it is ever lost.

  • 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 or 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.

  • Additional resources:

Prepare for the student visa
Points to Remember When Applying for a Nonimmigrant Visa
Preparing for an F-1 Visa Interview (

U.S. Port of Entry Checklist

Make sure you have the following documents with you when you enter the U.S.

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

Entry to the United States

According to United States immigration regulations, F-1 and J-1 international students are not allowed to enter the United States earlier than 30 days prior to the program start date listed on the I-20 or DS-2019.

Form I-94

Foreign visitors to the U.S. arriving via air or sea no longer need to complete paper Customs and Border Protection Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record (/ or Form I-94W Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Record (/ Those who need to prove their legal-visitor status—to employers, schools/universities or government agencies—can access their CBP arrival/departure record information online.

CBP now gathers travelers’ arrival/departure information automatically from their electronic travel records. Because advance information is only transmitted for air and sea travelers, CBP will still issue a paper form I-94 at land border ports of entry.

To view and print your I-94 record, visit: (/

Foreign Embassies

If you need information on how to contact your country’s embassy or consulate in the United States, please visit: (

Transfer Students

If you are now attending a school in the United States and plan to transfer your visa status to MSU, you should check with the International Office at your current institution for the proper electronic transfer procedure of your non-immigrant status. You and your current institution must complete the Transfer In Form (PDF)* (/documents/students/transfer_in.pdf). MSU cannot issue your I-20 or DS-2019 until your current institution releases your SEVIS record. If you plan to travel outside the United States before you arrive at MSU, please contact us for proper documentation.

When Should I Arrive in East Lansing?

Students who plan to live in MSU residence halls should refer to correspondence sent from the Office of Admissions or the University Housing Office for move-in dates. More information about university and off-campus housing is available in the housing section of this brochure. Remember, immigration regulations state that international students are not allowed to enter the United States earlier than 30 days prior to the start date listed on the I-20 or DS-2019. If you plan to arrive earlier than the orientation date, you may have to make alternate accommodation arrangements. For more information, please visit Orientation Schedule (/students/orientation/schedule.htm).

What to Wear

The weather in East Lansing is quite variable. From September to May, temperatures range from 0 degree F to 60 degree F (-18 degree C to 16 degree C) with both rain and snow. In the summer, temperatures range from 60 degree F to 90 degree F (16 degree C to 32 degree C). You will need both lightweight clothing, warm winter clothes, and boots in addition to an umbrella and raincoat. Of course, clothing for all types of weather is available in East Lansing stores.

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. Our current international students say they consider the following items most important:

  • Frequently used and favorite books
  • Educational instruments and supplies (laptops, calculators, paint brushes, etc.)
  • Spare eye glasses or contact lenses
  • Adequate clothing (including national dress for special occasions)
  • Pictures, artifacts, and other items typical of your country

How to Ship Your Belongings

If you want to ship items from overseas, you should know that all shipped items 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 baggage through the customs inspection and forward them to East Lansing, or you can take them through inspection yourself at the airport.

Transportation to East Lansing and MSU

  • Lansing Capital Region International Airport (LAN) (
    To make your travels to MSU as easy as possible, you are encouraged to arrange your travel schedule so that the Lansing Capital Region International Airport (LAN) is your final flight destination. Taxi service is available from the Lansing Capital Region International Airport to MSU, and is just a short 15 minute ride away.

  • Michigan Flyer (
    If your final flight destination is Detroit Metro Airport (DTW), we recommend taking the Michigan Flyer bus to East Lansing, followed by a short taxi ride to campus. The Michigan Flyer offers daily bus service between the Detroit Metro Airport (DTW) and East Lansing. Buses run 8 times a day, take around 2 hours, and cost $25.

  • Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) (
    MSU is a very large campus, and does not have taxi stands available for transportation - if you would like a taxi, you will have to call a taxi service to reserve a ride and wait for their arrival. Most MSU students utilize the CATA (Capital Area Transportation Authority) campus bus service for transportation, which operates each Fall and Spring semester, 7 days a week with 24-hour service available.

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