New International Students (F-1 Visa)

The Office of International Programs (OIP) is excited that you will join us in Fall 2021! We have prepared the following resources to help with your journey at SF State!

All information on this page is subject to change. The Office of International Programs (OIP) will update you with the most current guidance Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) regarding Fall 2021.

April 30, 2021

On April 30, 2021, President Biden signed a proclamation effective May 4, 2021, which restrict entry of travelers (non-U.S. citizens) who were physically present within the Republic of India during the 14‑day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.  Late on the same day,  the Department of State included India in its National Interest Exception (NIE) policies.  Indian students with valid F-1visas intending to begin or continue study in Fall 2021 are exempt from this travel restriction.

April 26, 2021

  • Students with valid F-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program commencing August 1, 2021 or later do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel. They may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies.
Student and Exchange Vistor Program (SEVP) announced that it would continue its current special COVID-19 guidance to Fall 2021.  For Fall 2021 semester, new international students should note the following:
  • New international students who plan to pursue study in the U.S. must enroll in at least 12 units (undergraduate) or 8 units (graduate) to meet the full-time requirement.  The 12 units or 8 units must include at least one-unit of hybrid/in-person courses. 
  • New international undergraduate students who plan to pursue study outside the U.S. are not subject to the full-time requirement.  Students in this case can enroll in 100% online courses.

April 22, 2021

The California State University (CSU) announced that COVID-19 vaccines will be required for students and employees returning to CSU campuses.  See CSU Vaccination Policy.
  • People who live in California age 16 and older are eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations for free.  See the up to date San Francisco Covid-19 information at and the SF State Covid-19 Resources. 
  • If you are outside the U.S. and plan to return for Fall 2021, be sure check the linked resources regularly for most updated COVID-19 related information, including vaccine availability. 
*This information is subject to change in response to public health and vaccine availability developments.

January 25, 2021

All travelers arriving to the United States must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test or proof of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding a plane. See Negative COVID-19 Test Required for Travel to the United States Beginning January 26 - United States Department of State.

I’m Admitted, Now What?

*The following dates are subject to change at anytime

Fall 2021 DATES  
May 1, 2021 Deadline to accept admissions offer
June - July, 2021 New Student Orientation (Undergraduate Students Only).  Undergraduate students must attend New Student Orientation in order to register for Fall 2021 classes.

Sign up

August 2021
(Dates: TBD)

International Student Orientation (All undergraduate and graduate international students).  Details coming soon

Reasons to attend International Student Orientation:

  • You will learn about the Office of International Programs (OIP) and campus services
  • You will meet your international student advisors and have a chance to ask questions
  • You will connect with other international & exchange students and learn about various international student organizations at SF State

International Student Orientation is not an academic advising orientation. 

Monday, August 23
  • First day of Fall 2021 semester
  • Tuition due for NEW Fall 2021 international students
Monday, September 13
  • Last Day to Drop/Withdraw Classes without a "W" grade 
  • International students in F-1 Student visa status must enroll a full-time course load (at least 12 units for undergraduate and 8 units for graduate) by this date

A citizen of a foreign country who wishes to study in the United States must first obtain a F-1 Student visa.  F-1 visas are issued by U.S. Embassies and Consulates outside the United State, and it is not possible to obtain an F-1 visa within the United States.

Canadian citizens do not need visas to study in the U.S. However, Canadian students do need to obtain an I-20 from SF State and pay I-901 SEVIS Feeat Canadian students should enter the U.S. with their passports, I-20 issued by SF State, and other supporting documentation.  

Here is a list of useful resources:

F-1 visa is a ticket for F-1 students to enter the United States.  The expiration date shown on your F-1 visa does not reflect how long you are authorized to stay within the United States.  You can stay in the United States on an expired F-1 visa as long as you maintain your student status. However, if you are returning home or traveling to a country where automatic revalidationdoes not apply, you must have a valid visa to return to the United States.
If you are currently in the U.S. and hold an I-20 from another U.S school, you must request your SEVIS record to be transferred to SF State.  See I-20 Transfer Procedures.

International undergraduate students in other U.S visa types (for example: H-4, J-2, L-2....etc) or students who are foreign educated are welcome to attend the New International Student Orientation.

Per federal regulations, B-1 and B-2 visitors who are in the United States for business and pleasure purposes are prohibited from enrolling in a course of study at a U.S. Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school.  If you are a B-1 or B-2 visitor and wish to study at a U.S. school, you must change your B-1 or B-2 status to F-1 Student status if you wish to pursue study in the U.S.

Things You Must Know

Mandatory Health Insurance Requirements: International students who will enroll in bachelor’s or master's degree programs are required to purchase SF State sponsored health insurance if they are physically in the U.S.  See Mandatory Health Insurance Requirements for more information.

How to Calculate Your Tuition and Fees

International students pay Undergraduate/Graduate Tuition Fee, and Non-Resident Tuition Fee per unit.  The Non-Resident Tuition Fee is currently $396 per semester units.

To calculate your tuition,  find the latest tuition and fee information at Bursar's website.  Look for the semester for the semester you wish to register and scroll down to "Schedule of Tuition and Fees" section. 

Take Spring 2021 as an example - 

Undergraduate students

The Undergraduate Tuition Fee for 6.1 or more units is $3,505. 
The tuition and fee for 12 units is $3,505 Undergraduate Tuition Fee + $396 Non-Resident Tuition Fee per unit X 12 units = $8,257. 

Graduate students

The Graduate Tuition Fee for 6.1 or more unit is $4,222. 
The tuition and fee for 8 units is $4,222 Graduate Tuition Fee + $396 Non-Resident Tuition Fee per unit X 8 units= $7,390

MBA/MSBA/MSA students

MBA/MSBA/MSA students pay Professional Program Fees in addition to Graduate Tuition Fee and Non-Resident Tuition fee per unit.
The tuition and fee for 8 units is: $3,505 Graduate Tuition Fee + $1,200 Professional Program Fees + ($396 Non-Resident Tuition Fee per unit + $ 270 Professional Program Fees per unit) X 8 units = $10,033

MPA students 

MPA students pay Professional Program Fee in addition to Graduate Tuition Fee
The tuition and fee for 8 units is: $3,505 Graduate Tuition Fee + $850 Professional Program Fees + $396 Non-Resident Tuition Fee per unit X 8 units = $7,523

International student health insurance:

The Undergraduate/Graduate Tuition Fee does not include the student insurance fee.  International students in the U.S. are required to purchase mandatory health insurance separately from SF State's designated insurance broker.  Please be prepare to purchase insurance before class registration.  

ATTENTION: The above calculation is based on Spring 2021.  Fall 2021 tuition and fee will be posted on Bursar's website.  Tuition and fees are subject to change without advanced notice.

How to Pay Tuition and Fees

  • Tuition is paid one semester at a time to the Bursar's Office.  The amount of the tuition should cover full-time enrollment (12 units for undergraduate students, and 8 units for graduate students).  If you are a F-1 International undergraduate student, you should prepare to pay for at least 12 units  Graduate students should pay for at least 8 units
  • Make sure you have access to your money before the first day of the semester so you can pay tuition.   
  • See payment methods at Bursar's Office website.  If you wish to pay tuition by installment plan, please be aware that there is a non-refundable service charge of 15% on each installment
Flywire Logo

SF State has partnered with flywire to streamline the tuition payment process for our international students.  SF State collects international payments via Flywire with local accounts around the world.  Flywire processes payments securely, typically in your home local currency.  You can make payments from any country, any bank, save on bank fees and exchange rates, and track your payments from start to when it reaches your school’s account. Visit Bursar's International payments information for more details.  

Financial Assistance

The cost to seek an U.S. college education while living in the Bay Area can be expensive.  Financial Assistance page strives to provide students with alternative opportunities to help fund their education while studying at San Francisco State. Visit Financial Assistance for a list of SF State and out of campus scholarships and grants.

All SF State undergraduate students must complete the First-Year English courses. To determine the type of writing that best fits students’ needs, international students are required to complete the fifteen-minute “First-Year Writing Advising” exercise before attending the orientation.

International students who meet the exceptions posted at maybe waived from the First-Year Writing Advising exercise. To determine whether you are required to take First-Year Writing Advising, check the “English Pathway Alert” in your online Student Center

Click “details” and see the Pathway you were placed in.  

  • If you are placed in Category 1, you are not required to complete the First-Year Writing Advising exercise. 
  • If you are placed in Category 2, 3, or 4, you are required to complete First-Year Writing Advising exercise at  We strongly suggest you complete this exercise AS SOON AS YOU CAN.  The final deadline to complete this activity is 2 business days before your New Student Orientation date. 

Questions? Email  Please include your full name and SF State student ID number in your email. 

At San Francisco State, degree-seeking undergraduate students choose their first-Year Math course based on their major.  For example, STEM and business students take Calculus-based courses, Humanities and Social Science students take statistics or other courses.  No matter which Math is chosen, there will be two options: a single course by itself or a course with extra units in the form of a lab or an additional semester.  These extra hours/units will provide academic support.

To determine whether math alone or math with support is best, students should complete the fifteen-minute First-Year Math Advising exercise before attending the orientation.  Students will learn about math options, be given a recommendation on which math to take, and then be able to make an informed decision.  The results will be used to place students in their first-year math course. To see whether you are recommended to complete the First-Year Math Advising exercise, check the “Math Pathway Alert” in your online Student Center:

Math pathway Click “details” and see the Pathway you were placed in.  

  • If you are placed in Category 2, 3 or 4, please complete the First-Year Math Advising exercise at  We strongly suggest you complete this exercise AS SOON AS YOU CAN.  The final deadline to complete this activity is 2 business days before your New Student Orientation date.  The First-Year Math Advising exercise will be live starting in May.
  • If you are placed in Category 1, you do not have to complete the First-Year Math Advising exercise.

Questions? Email  Please include your full name and SF State student ID number in your email. 

San Francisco State University values the health of every member of our community.  This is why it is so important for every student to be current for important immunizations and screenings.  Ensuring all students receive these screenings and immunizations is critical to ensuring we provide a healthy and safe environment while you pursue your education.  

California State law requires that all university students must be immunized against Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR).  Students who are 18 years of age or younger are also required to be immunized against Hepatitis B.  

  • Provide proof of the above immunization to SF State Registrar’s Office before coming to San Francisco or within four weeks of the semester start date.
  • Must be in English: Registrar’s Office will accept your immunization in English, or immunization records comes with your English translation
  • An "MMR immunization" registration hold will be placed on your Student Center if you fail to submit the immunization record to the Registrar’s Office within four weeks of the semester start date.  This hold will prevent you from registering for future classes. 
  • See processing time to clear immunization hold Registrar's immunization page 
  • For questions, contact the Registrar's Office at their contact form .
Information to be announced in June or July 2020.

Arriving in San Francisco and Settling Down

You should plan where you will stay after you arrive San Francisco, as well as where you are going to live while attending SF State.  

Temporary Housing after Arriving San Francisco

OIP is not able to assist students in finding temporary housing.  We recommend that you reserve temporary accommodations before you arrive in San Francisco.  First and foremost, you should have a specific destination when you arrive.  If you do not have a friend or relative in the area to stay with, booking a hostel or hotel in advance is the best option.

It is not feasible to attempt to find permanent housing immediately after getting off a plane, with your luggage, and no knowledge of the city.

On-Campus Housing

If you are interested in living on-campus, it is imperative that you apply as early as possible, as space is limited and the demand is high.  On-Campus housing information can be found at SF State Housing.

You do not need to wait until you are admitted to apply for on campus housing.  As long as you have a SF State student ID and password you will be able to complete the online housing application.

Off-Campus Housing

If you wish to live off campus, visit SF State Housing Off-Campus Housing resources.  New students who join the the new students Facebook group will be able to post messages regarding housing. Students can meet other students who are looking for housing or roommates at orientation.  It may take anywhere from 1-3 weeks on average searching for off-campus permanent housing.

San Francisco houses and apartments come in various architectural styles (Victorian, modern, etc.), many sizes (studios, 1-2-3 bedrooms, etc.) and also come unfurnished or furnished. There are a number of options for living situations, such as:

  • Sharing an apartment or house with roommates of your choice
  • Renting an apartment by yourself
  • Renting a room from tenants in an established household with shared common areas
  • Renting a room with an American family

Housing Hunting Tips

Beware of Scams

International students may bear the burden of finding housing while abroad.  Scammer may ask you to make deposits while you are in your home country without providing you with any rental contract.  A few things to remember:

  • You should never pay a security deposit, fee, or first month’s rent before you’ve signed a rental contract.
  • Don’t rent an apartment that you are unable to see before signing the contract.  
  • Do not provide a photocopy of your passport to the "landlord".  

Further reading:

Trust your gut

If you meet a landlord or roommate and s/he seems untrustworthy, asks you for bizarre documents that you would be uncomfortable providing, or gives you a general bad feeling, then do not rent that apartment or room.

Typically, your instincts in those situations are correct.

Like many big cities, San Francisco has landlords that may not be reliable. Although you have plenty of rights and protections as a tenant, we do not want you to have an unpleasant living experience or tense relations with roommates or landlords while you're here.

Don’t rush

Although we understand what a stressful time your first few weeks in San Francisco can be between orientation, the beginning of the semester, and house-hunting, don’t feel compelled to take the very first apartment you see. You will get a feel for things after you see a few places and can determine what a quality apartment at a reasonable price in the Bay Area looks like.

Get everything in writing!

In order to protect yourself from scams or less-than-honest landlords or master tenants, it is a good idea to document all the details of your living situation as soon as an agreement is reached. For example, if your landlord or new roommate (master tenant) quotes you a monthly rent which includes the cost for water and utilities, have them write up a contract stating the conditions of the lease for each of you to sign before you move in.

San Francisco Tenants' Union

The San Francisco Tenants' Union is a community organization that exists as a resource for tenants to educate themselves about their rights concerning such issues as security deposits, evictions, landlord harassment, roommates, repairs, and rent increases, etc.  

Understand the neighborhood in San Francisco

The best way to determine the neighborhood for you is to spend some time there. Get a meal, go to a café, and walk or bike around to get a sense of that neighborhood before committing to anything.

See San Francisco Neighborhood Guide.


Advice from current International students:

"Get to San Francisco a week before orientation to start looking for housing because looking during orientation week can be stressful."

"Find a cheap hostel to stay in so you can stay there for a while if you do not find housing."

"Find a house in a well-connected area (in terms of public transportation)."

"Make sure you find housing you are really comfortable with and feel at home in—that is important! I was terribly home sick until I moved; now, I don’t want to leave!"

"Start looking for home before you get to San Francisco."

"Look for housing early, and do not despair if it does not go well in a week; every day brings better opportunities."

"Live with roommates, not on your own."

It is important to make sure that your personal information such as your name, email accounts, U.S. addresses and emergency contacts are correct in your Student Center.  If there are any changes in your personal information, you must update your Student Center within 10 days.

Update your Student Center today!  Download the instruction (PDF, 740KB)

Gator Guides App (New Students)

Gator Guides has tons of content to help make your transition to SF State as easy as possible: 

SF State Mobile App (Current and New Students)

SF State Mobile App can be downloaded at Features include a campus map, add or drop classes, payment, SF State social media, and many more!

It is a good idea to connect with student clubs at SF State and check out various SF State facilities (Library or gym) and campus resources (Therapy animals , free cooking classes  and check out Career workshop and event schedule) before you get too busy with the school work!  There are also many student clubs and organizations  at SF State - if you do not see any clubs within your interests you can start a one!  Another good way to know more about SF State is to see the International Student Resources list OIP prepared for you.

You should also get familiar with the city of San Francisco and the public transportation system.  Take a MUNI bus to downtown San Francisco, check out world famous museums, and do a bridge walk at Golden Gate Bridge!

F-1 International students are eligible to work on SF State campus up to 20 hours per week (during Spring and Fall semester) while maintaining full-time study.  Learn how to obtain on-campus work authorization from OIP, and how to find a on campus job.

Even if you can obtain a job on campus, do not rely on the income to cover all of your tuition and living expenses in San Francisco.  F-1 international students are required to have sufficient fund to support their studies at SF State.  


Students with disabilities can initiate the accommodations process by registering online with myDPRC. Please visit the DPRC homepage for the most up-to-date information about how to contact us with questions and to learn more about our services.
We have prepared a list of useful resources for International students - visit International Student Resources page

If you are currently in the U.S. and wish to change your current immigration status to F-1, please visit Change of Status to F-1 for instructions to change status. 

Last Updated: April 2021

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