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Guide for New International Students

Preparing to Come to the United States

Visa Information

  • Visit the U.S. Department of State website to learn about the student visa process and what to expect from the paperwork and interview.
  • Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee at least three days before your visa appointment. Failure to do so will result in a denial of your visa application.
  • New international students cannot enter the U.S. more than 30 days before the program start date on their I-20 or DS-2019 form.
  • J-1 students: review Exchange Visitor Program Welcome Brochure published by U.S. Department of State.
What to Carry with You

Hand carry the following documents, instead of putting them in your checked luggage:

Visit the U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement website for information on what students can expect at a U.S. Port of Entry, as well as information about immigration documents.

After You Arrive in the U.S.

Mandatory Immigration Check-In

All new international graduate students must complete a mandatory immigration check-in process after arriving in the Greater Washington D.C. Area. To complete SEVIS check-in, submit this e-form: IntlHokies > Immigration Check-in.

Your SEVIS record will be activated only after you complete the check-in.  Failure to check in may result in the deactivation/cancellation of your SEVIS record and could mean you are no longer able to legally stay in the U.S.

Applying for Social Security Number (SSN)

If you secured on-campus employment in the form of an assistantship or wage position, you will need to apply for a Social Security number. Before you can go to the Social Security Office to apply, the following steps must be done:

  • Complete the mandatory immigration check-in.
  • Wait 1-2 weeks after your check-in to allow the SEVIS update to reach the Social Security Office.
  • Request an employment verification letter from the department that hired you. VT employers must use the university approved standard employment verification letter available on Payroll's website (in fillable .pdf format).
  • Request a SSN letter from the DSO/advisor by submitting this e-form: IntlHokies > F-1 student services > Social Security Number Letter Request
  • Wait for an email from the DSO stating that your SSN application support letter is ready to be picked up or mailed from the Northern Virginia Center.

Getting Started as a Student

Visit our new students guide to learn about all the details of getting started as a student, from getting your PID, registering for classes, dates and deadlines, housing in the National Capital Region, and more.


  • Orientation programs are offered for all new students, both by academic departments and the Graduate School during the two weeks prior to the start of classes.
  • There is a mandatory immigration session for all new international students in the Greater Washington D.C. Area. Details are emailed to students several weeks in advance.

Health Insurance Requirements

  • All international students in F-1/J-1 status and their accompanying dependents (spouse and children) in F-2/J-2 status are required to have adequate insurance coverage for the duration of their stay in the United States.
  • Aetna provides an insurance plan for Virginia Tech students that meets the minimum university requirements. Students must be enrolled full-time to qualify (final semester exceptions may apply).
  • Contact Student Medical Insurance with any questions about the insurance policy, eligibility, and costs:

Student Medical Insurance
110 New Student Services Building