Before Your Arrival
The following information will help guide you as you plan and prepare for your arrival to campus.
Explore Our Campus Resources
International students from Saint Joseph's University share information about some of the campus resources they find helpful.
Apply for an I-20
You will need the I-20 form to apply for your F-1 student visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country. Canadian students do not need to apply for the student visa but will need the I-20 to enter the United States.
Once you are admitted to Saint Joseph's, you will receive an email with instructions on how to access our online I-20 application portal. Make sure you use your SJU username and password to log in. You cannot use a personal email address.
Complete the I-20 application by submitting the following:
Proof of financial support for tuition and living expenses for your first year of study in the United States. The bank statement must be on letterhead, in English, and no more than 90 days old. If the bank statement is in someone else’s name, you will need to provide an affidavit of support from your financial sponsor. Make sure you are aware of the information about tuition and fees. In addition to tuition, we estimate living expenses to be $18,000 per year. If you are sponsored by your government, please note that we require an OFFICIAL Financial Guarantee — we will not accept a “For Admissions Purposes” letter.
The main information page on your passport. Please make sure that the scan of your passport is clear and legible.
Your address and phone number in your home country. Please provide your full address including all applicable information (apartment, city, state, province/region). Express mail cannot be delivered to a PO Box address.
Once your application is complete, ISS will review your documents and, if everything is in order, issue and mail the I-20 form. That process can take up to 10 business days. Holidays, incomplete or incorrect documents can delay this procedure.
I-20s for the fall semester cannot be issued before March 1; I-20s for the spring semester cannot be issued before Oct.1.
Pay the SEVIS Fee
Once you’ve received your I-20, you will need to pay a SEVIS fee. (SEVIS is an acronym for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. It is a database used by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to track and monitor information about students and exchange visitors who are in the United States.)
First, check your I-20 form to make sure the information on it is correct. Contact ISS if you notice any errors on your form.
Then complete Form I-901 online and submit it along with the payment. The SEVIS fee must be paid at least 3 business days prior to a visa interview. You will receive a handout with your I-20 explaining the SEVIS fee in more detail.
Your proof of fee payment must also be presented at your visa interview.
Apply for an F-1 Student Visa
Use your I-20 to apply for your visa. Apply for a student visa from a United States consulate in your country of citizenship or country of permanent residence. The application process includes a short interview in English, the application form DS-160 and the application fee.
When you apply for a student visa, you should always be accurate and truthful. Be aware that any information you withhold from your application, or inaccurate information you accidentally or intentionally include in your application, could result in a visa denial. This information also includes your social media presence.
Please note, these directions are meant to help you understand the process but should not be considered legal advice. The U.S. Department of State ultimately provides the decision on your visa application.
Health Forms and Health Insurance
All students are required to complete the Health Evaluation Form (with the assistance of your doctor) and the TB Screening Form. Please return these documents to the Student Health Center. You should complete this paperwork before leaving your country.
As part of the required health evaluation, students must provide proof that they have received the necessary immunizations. If you do not complete these forms, a hold will be placed on your account and you will be unable to register for courses. Questions about the required forms and health records should be directed to the Student Health Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All international students are required to have health insurance. Students have the option of signing up for the group insurance plan sponsored by the University or selecting another plan with comparable coverage. Instructions for enrolling in or waiving out of the University-sponsored plan will be explained at the International Student Orientation.
Arrival in the U.S.
At the Port of Entry
F-1 students cannot enter the United States more than 30 days before the start date on their I-20. When you arrive at a U.S. airport, you will be inspected by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. Do NOT pack your immigration documents (passport, I-20, SEVIS fee payment receipt) in your checked luggage; have them ready in your carry-on bag so that you have access to them when going through U.S. Customs.
If you have any trouble at the airport, especially outside of normal business hours, call the SJU Office of Public Safety and Security at 610-660-1111. They are open 24 hours a day, and they can contact an advisor from the Office of International Students and Scholars if you need assistance. In the event that you are directed to secondary inspection, you will not be able to use your cell phone. If you need assistance while in secondary inspection, request that the CBP officer contact Saint Joseph's on your behalf.
If you have more than one visa in your passport, it is important to show the F-1 visa and other documents related to your purpose for coming to Saint Joseph’s. Otherwise, you may be admitted to the U.S. with an incorrect status.
Getting to Saint Joseph's University
The Ground Transportation Desk is located near the baggage claim area inside the airport. Someone at the desk can help you arrange transportation. Make sure you know the address of where you plan to go. Options will include shuttles, taxis or public transportation. You can also use Uber or Lyft.
Local accommodation should be arranged before traveling to the U.S. whenever possible. If you are an undergraduate student and will be living on campus, you should follow directions from the Office of Residence Life, including what date you should arrive.
If you are a graduate student, you will need to find a place to live; there is no on-campus housing for graduate students. You can use the SJU off-campus housing portal to look for an apartment and/or roommates or research off-campus housing options in the area. Please note that the off-campus housing portal may include rentals from all areas of Philadelphia. Be sure to confirm the location of the apartment building in relation to the university.
If you don’t have a place to live in Philadelphia, you should make hotel reservations. Accommodation for your first few nights in Philadelphia should be arranged before you arrive in the U.S.
There are many hotels available in Philadelphia, but the two listed below are the closest to SJU.
- Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue on 4200 City Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19131
- Courtyard by Marriott Philadelphia City Avenue on 4100 Presidential Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19131
There is also a hostel which is not too far from the university. The cost will be much lower than a hotel, but you will need to be prepared to share common spaces with other guests. Public transportation does not go directly to the hostel, so you will have to take a taxi or car service.
- Hostelling International - Chamounix Mansion on 3250 Chamounix Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19131
The I-94 is an official U.S. government record of when you enter and depart the U.S. Your I-94 record confirms what immigration status you entered the U.S. in and the duration of time you can legally remain in the U.S. It is important to print and keep a copy of your I-94 every time you enter the U.S.
For F visa holders, the amount of time is indicated by the notation “D/S” which means you can legally stay in the U.S. for the duration of your status (the duration of your studies). If you have a date listed on your I-94 record instead of D/S, contact ISS immediately. New students must submit a copy of their I-94 to ISS so that we can register their arrival in the SEVIS database.
You can get your I-94 after entering the U.S. by going to the CBP’s I-94 website. Canadians arriving in the U.S. at a land border will complete a paper I-94 card when going through immigration inspection instead of an electronic one.
All F-1 visa holders are required to attend International Student Orientation. You will receive an email with the date and time of the orientation. It usually takes place the Thursday and/or Friday before the first day of classes. Even if you attend a departmental orientation, you must still attend the International Student Orientation so that you can receive the information you need to maintain your legal status while in the United States.