Pre-Arrival & New Student Resources

Before Your Departure 

Congratulations on your admission to USF! As an international student, there are important steps to take and documents to prepare before leaving your home country. Review each section carefully to ensure you take the necessary steps as you start your journey as a USF student.

Information about the Certificate of Eligibility (I-20/DS-2019), how to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee, and visa application process can be found here

Students are eligible for a SEVIS transfer when there is less than a 5 month break between their current program end date and new program start date. However, students need to complete the SEVIS transfer within 60 days of their current program end date. Students who complete a SEVIS transfer can remain in the US or travel in and out of the US during the break in their studies. The SEVIS fee is not required when transferring schools within the United States. Detailed information about transferring to USF can be found here.

Students are eligible for a Change of Education Level (for example: undergraduate to graduate) when there is less than a 5 month break between their current program end date and new program state date. However, the Change of Education Level needs to be completed within 60 days of their current program end date.

Change of Education Level students can remain in the US or travel in and out of the US during the break in their studies. Change of Education Level students will get a new I-20 at the end of their current program. If you plan to engage in OPT in-between your degrees, you should speak with your ISSS advisor about your plans to ensure that your OPT will not impact your Change of Education Level.  If you plan to travel in-between the degrees, you should inform the respective admissions office (graduate or undergraduate) of your plans as you will need your new I-20 before you re-enter the U.S.


Living on-campus provides you with an authentic college experience that no student should miss. It is a chance to make new friends, learn first-hand about a different culture, and participate fully in the campus community. Accommodations on campus typically include two students living in one residence hall room. Your reservation for housing is not processed until you complete the application and accept your housing assignment. If you would like to live on campus (or if you are required to live on campus) you must complete the online application in MyUSF. To access the application, log into MyUSF, click on the Student Tab, and click on USFrooms. For more information on how to apply for housing and the USF on-campus living requirement, visit Student Housing and Residential Education (SHaRE) website.

Please note that the housing contract is a legally binding agreement; once signed, you are required to live on campus for the duration of the contract. University housing operates August through May with a brief closure during the winter holidays (usually around December 15-31). On-campus housing is very popular, so be certain to apply as soon as possible. If you have difficulties or questions, please contact the Student Housing and Residential Education office via email or phone +1 (415) 422-6824. You should secure your housing arrangements before arriving at USF.

Student Housing and Residential Education offers some assistance in locating off-campus housing. However, renting an apartment in San Francisco will take some time and effort and is ultimately up to the student to find their own off-campus accommodations. The best resource to start your search is the USF Off-Campus living website.


More About Living Off-Campus: With the competitive rental market, it can take up to three weeks to locate accommodation, so plan your arrival and living arrangements in San Francisco accordingly. In order to rent an apartment, most rental agencies and landlords will verify your “credit history” in the United States, which would be evidenced by prior rentals in the United States, U.S. bank accounts, or credit cards. However, if you are new to the United States, then you can explain to the landlord that you do not have the mentioned documents. Additionally, ISSS has created a letter that explains these circumstances on behalf of USF international students. Go to the ISSS letters page to access the Vendor Letter and follow the instructions provided. Typically, landlords are understanding and welcome international guests. For more information about living off-campus, visit the USF Off-Campus website.

When you first arrive in San Francisco you will likely need an immediate place to stay while you continue your search for more permanent housing. A listing of Housing Search Resources are on the Off-Campus housing website. 

International students are expected to arrive at USF prior to the start of International Student Orientation (as orientation approaches, dates, times, and schedule details will be available on the ISSS website. In most cases, the date of the International Student Orientation will also be the program start date indicated on your Certificate of Eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019). If you cannot arrive by the program start date specified on your Certificate of Eligibility, notify the ISSS office and your academic department. You may need to defer your program start date if your academic department does not allow late arrivals.  

If you have confirmation of on-campus housing, please contact the Student Housing and Residential Education office (SHaRE) by phone at +1(415) 422-6824 or by email at for any questions about housing.

If you wish to travel within the United States before the start of classes, you may do so on your student visa. You may enter as early as 30 days before your program start date on your Certificate of Eligibility. From February 2023, U.S. Embassies and Consulates usually issue the F-1 or J-1 student visa as early as 365 days before the entry date on the Certificate of Eligibility. Do not enter the United States on a tourist visa (B-2) or under the Visa Waiver Program.

For transportation options from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to the USF campus, please visit the Getting to USF web page.

The USF Next Steps is a great resource for detailed information on getting ready for your studies. This guide will help you register for classes, satisfy immunization requirements, know how to pay your tuition and more! Read the USF Next Steps online.

When you arrive at USF you will need to show proof of immunizations in order to get cleared for being able to attend classes and live on-campus. You should consult your medical provider in your home country to get proof of your medical history and immunizations you have already received. For a list of required immunization and how to submit proof visit the Health Promotion Services (HPS) website. You will also want to obtain records about any medical conditions you have, treatments you need, prescriptions for medication (including the generic and brand names), and eye glasses. Dental and medical records for you, and your dependents if applicable, are strongly recommended in case you need further treatment while in the United States. USF will require that you purchase student health insurance unless you show proof of comparable health insurance for the United States. If you believe that you have health insurance that can meet the requirements, bring proof of this insurance and details about the plan to apply for a health insurance waiver. You can read more about the health insurance requirement on the HPS website.