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Information for Prospective International Students
We are committed to helping you experience a productive and enjoyable time here at the University. Let us know how we can serve you best.
The USciences area and Philadelphia area are likely different from the surroundings in your home country. Our staff is here to help you adjust to your new home and the sometimes confusing matters that face F-1 international students in the United States.
Our goal is to assist you in maintaining compliance with United States federal immigration regulations, and create an environment that fosters learning and success through both strong academic and personal development programs.
Explore these topics to learn more:
- What is an F-1 Student?
- How to Obtain an F-1 Visa
- What is a Visa
- Completing and Submitting Your Certification of Finances
- Creating and Mailing the Form I-20
- Processing Your SEVIS I-901 Fee
- Applying for Your F-1 Visa
- Required Health Insurance
- Health and Immunization Requirements
- If you are coming from another US Institution
- Preparing to Enter the United States
An F-1 student is a nonimmigrant who is pursuing a “full course of study” to achieve a specific educational or professional objective, at an academic institution in the United States. Such institutions must be designated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as offering courses of study to international students, and must be enrolled in SEVIS (the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). Once the educational objectives have been obtained, the F-1 student is expected by the U.S. government to return to his or her residence abroad.
A visa is a stamp or attachment to a page of a passport that enables the passport bearer to request of the Immigration officer at the port of entry to be granted admission to the U.S. under conditions specified for the type of visa (i.e. “student”) the student holds.
“Status” is a legal term describing the alien’s principal purpose for being in the U.S., represented by the immigration classification granted by Immigration upon the alien’s arrival in the country (i.e. “F-1”).
International students seeking an F-1 visa must submit a Certification of Finances (COF) form to complete your application. Contact our International Student Specialist at 215-895-3135 to obtain a copy of the form.
The COF will provide you with anticipated expenses for students in the upcoming academic year, including tuition and fees, living expenses, and the cost for coverage under the University’s student health insurance plan, which all F-1 students are required to carry. The student must complete the form thoroughly, showing the sources of funds that are equal to, or greater than, the stated expenses for attending the University. Additional living expenses must be demonstrated if the student will be bringing any dependents with him/her.
Once the prospective student has been accepted by Admissions and their Certification of Finances and tuition deposit have been received by that office, their record is then forwarded to one of the Designated School Officials (DSOs) in Student Affairs where the Form I-20 will be created. In order to complete the Form I-20, the DSO will need many pieces of personal , program, and financial information from the student. (In addition, if the student will come to the U.S. with a spouse and/or children, information will also be required for each dependent because each dependent will also be issued a personal Form I-20.)
Once the on-line form has been completed, it is entered into the SEVIS system, and a hard copy is printed. By entering the required information into SEVIS, the record is approved and an identification number is assigned to that student’s record and is displayed in the top left hand corner on Page 1 of the Form I-20. That ID number will remain assigned to that student throughout the time he/she is in compliance, and actively enrolled, in SEVIS.
The DSO then signs the bottom of Page 1 and Page 2 of the student’s Form I-20 and mails it to the student. Upon receiving their initial I-20, the student must sign his/her name on the designated line at the bottom of Page 1.
Upon receipt of the Form I-20, the student must pay for it, and therefore gain initial F-1 status in SEVIS. This can be done online at www.ice.gov/sevis/i901.
The process for paying this SEVIS fee involves completing Form I-901 online and then authorizing payment in U.S. dollars by one of two options: credit card or debit card; or payment through the Western Union Quick Pay system at a Western Union office. The current Form I-901 fee is $200. Once you have entered payment, print a copy of the receipt.
A nonimmigrant student visa is applied for through the U.S. Department of State, and specifically at the U.S. embassy in the student’s home country. (Students from Canada entering the U.S to study may be exempt from carrying a U.S. visa.) Detailed information and instructions about applying for a U.S. visa can be found online at travel.state.gov/visa.
The online application for a U.S. visa is Form DS-160. An interview at the U.S. embassy will also be required. When you have received an interview appointment, bring with you the completed Form DS-160, your Form I-20 issued by University of the Sciences, a valid passport, two (2) 2”x2” identical passport photo of yourself, and the SEVIS I-901 fee receipt.
All international students on an F-1 visa are required by the University to carry the University’s student health insurance plan. The only exception to this requirement is when a student is sponsored by his/her government and can present documentation from his/her government’s embassy accepting full responsibility for payment of all medical expenses incurred by the student.
Click here for additional information about how to enroll.
University of the Sciences requires all entering full-time undergraduate and graduate students, including all International Students, to provide proof of medical clearance to attend classes, consisting of:
- Up-to-date medical history (completed by student)
- Comprehensive health evaluation (i.e. Physical Exam by Physician/ Nurse Practitioner)
- Documentation by Physician/ Nurse Practitioner (prior to entering the U.S.) stating proof of all required vaccinations.
Students who do not submit a fully completed health packet by the deadline will be charged a late fee and registration may be withheld until all health requirements are met (completed health form, physical exam and proof of all required vaccinations).
An online version of the health packet as well as additional details regarding immunization and other health requirements may be obtained on the Student Health and Counseling website.
Students accepted to University of the Sciences may be coming from a high school or another postsecondary institution within the United States. In order to maintain their F-1 status, they must inform the Designated School Officials (DSOs) at both the institution they are departing from and the University of the Sciences, and complete a USciences SEVIS Transfer Form. The DSOs at the two institutions will work together to transfer the student’s SEVIS record (including their Form I-20). This record will remain active, and follows the student throughout the period of continuous compliance with his/her F-1 status. If the period of time between leaving the previous school and arriving at University of the Sciences is less than 5 months, the student may remain in the U.S.
If you are interested in living on campus in a USciences residence hall, you must reserve a space in advance by submitting a housing application and a room reservation fee. Do not assume that a room will automatically be reserved for you. If you have not received a housing application, contact the Residence Life office. Unfortunately, there is no on-campus housing for graduate students or for married couples and families. For more information, see the Residence Life web site.
When thinking about living off-campus, there are several factors to consider: proximity to campus, safety, cost, and accessibility to public transportation. Within the USciences area, housing can vary greatly in price, condition, convenience and type of accommodation. Because renting an apartment can be expensive many students live with roommates where one or more people share in the cost of rent and utilities. Click here for more information about off-campus housing listings.
Upon arrival at the U.S. port of entry, the student must present his/her passport, visa, and their Form I-20 properly signed by both the student and the Designated School Official (DSO) from the school that the student will be attending. F-1 students will also have their photograph and two digital fingerprints taken, as part of the US-VISIT program. Finally, the I-94 Arrival/Departure Record is now processed/ entered electronically on the date and place of entry. The on-line I-94 information includes the date and place of entry, the alien’s status as an F-1 student, a unique 11-digit admission number, and the period of admission known as "duration of status", indicated by the notation "D/S". Duration of status refers to the period that a student is pursuing a full course of study, plus any optional practical training authorized following completion of the course of study.
Getting to University of the Sciences from the Philadelphia Airport:
By train - Take the R-1 train to the 30th Street Station. The train has at least 3 stops at the airport; one at each terminal, including International Arrivals. Trains leave for downtown Philadelphia every 30 minutes and the ticket is about US$6.00. Get off at the 30th Street Station stop. From 30th Street Station you can take a taxi to our University campus. It is much easier to take a taxi directly from the airport, especially if you have heavy luggage.
By taxi - The taxi fare from the airport to the University is approximately US$25.00 plus a modest tip.
By van service - There are many limousine van services leaving from the airport terminals that will take you to almost any place in Philadelphia, for approximately US$10.00 plus a modest tip.
As you prepare to come to the U.S. to study, please keep in mind a few facts. Always be prepared for additional expenses. Do not count on receiving financial aid, a scholarship or an assistantship once you are here. Educational loans are not available for international students unless you have a U.S. citizen relative who will co-sign for the loan. We suggest that you bring with you a minimum of US$1,500-$2,000 (in addition to tuition and living expenses for the year) to cover items such as the first month’s rent and required deposits, temporary accommodations, household expenses, insurance payments and other necessities.
Problems of Currency Restrictions and Transfer of Funds to the United States
Before finalizing your plans to study in the U.S. you should become familiar with your government’s regulations regarding currency restrictions and the transfer of funds out of the country. Some governments restrict the amount of money that can be taken out of the country. Others may restrict funds until a letter from the university in the U.S. has been received confirming enrollment. Find out before leaving home if any letters are required from the University that will facilitate the authorization of the transfer of funds.
There are several banks that are close to campus where you can open banking accounts and exchange money. To open an account, you will need to bring your passport and I-20. If you choose to open an account after school starts, your University identification card and/or Social Security number may be preferred.
- Overnight lodging (you may need a place to stay for a few nights when you first arrive)
- Tips for taxis and servers in restaurants
- Eating meals in restaurants until you get your own apartment or are on a USciences meal plan
- Clothing for the different types of weather in Philadelphia, especially the winter when it can be very cold. You may need to purchase warm clothing, such as: a winter coat, gloves, scarves, waterproof boots, raincoat, and warm blankets for your bed.
- Personal and household items. Even if you rent a furnished apartment, you will have to buy linens, towels, kitchen utensils, etc. These items can be purchased easily at a reasonable price in Philadelphia and we suggest you buy them once you are here.
- State and local sales taxes of 7% are added to the price of many items, except clothing and food in grocery stores.
- Security deposit when renting an off-campus apartment. It may be equal to up to 3 months rent.
Associate Dean of Students, Director of Multicultural Affairs
University of the Sciences
600 South 43rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-4495