New International Students (F-1 Visa)

The Office of International Programs (OIP) is excited that you will join us in Spring 2021 for our remote learning and instruction. We have prepared the following resources to help with your journey at SF State!

Chancellor Tim White recently announced the California State University’s decision to continue its current learning model, relying primarily on virtual instruction for the Spring 2021 semester. This decision was made with the ongoing goal of keeping our campus community healthy and safe.  Visit the SF State Campus Plan for the Spring 2021 semester.

I’m Admitted, Now What?

*The following dates are subject to change without advance notice

To be determined (TBD)

Winter Orientation 2020 (Undergraduate Students Only)

  • New F-1 International undergraduate students should attend one of the ONLINE New Student Orientation 
  • You will receive academic advising and register for Spring 2021 classes during the orientation
  • Register and pay a $50 orientation fee  (International students are not required to pay the $100 enrollment deposit before attending the orientation)
  • Before attending the online orientation:
  • Complete the English and Math placement (if required.  Check your Student Center/holds & Alerts)
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.  Visit Mandatory Health Insurance Requirements for more information.
To be determined (TBD)
  • Virtual International Student Orientation (VISO)
  • Deadline to complete the F-1 Mandatory Online Workshop on iLearn
Monday, January 25

First day of Spring 2021 semester

Friday, February 12
  • Last Day to Drop/Withdraw Classes without a "W" grade 
  • Deadline to receive transfer I-20 (If you transferred from another school in the U.S.)
  • All F-1 International undergraduate students must enroll full-time (12 units) by this date

*The following dates are subject to change without advanced notice

Spring 2021 Dates  
Saturday, December 12, 2020 – Friday, January 15

Spring 2021 class registration for new graduate students. 

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.  Visit Mandatory Health Insurance Requirements for more information.
To be determined (TBD)
  • Virtual International Student Orientation (VISO)
  • Deadline to complete the F-1 Mandatory Online Workshop on iLearn
Monday, January 25

First day of Spring 2021 semester

Friday, February 12
  • Last Day to Drop/Withdraw Classes without a W grade 
  • Deadline to receive transfer I-20 (If you transferred from another school in the U.S.
  • All F-1 International graduate students must enroll full-time (8 units)by this date

Accept Admission Offer (AAO) in your online Student Center at  Students admitted after the deadline must accept their offer within two weeks of their admission date. 

Spring 2021 Fall 2021
August 1, 2020 October 1, 2020
December 1, 2020 May 1, 2021

F-1 International students are NOT REQUIRED to submit the $100 non-refundable enrollment confirmation deposit (*Except MBA/MSA/MSBA students.  See more information below). 
Continue by clicking on the “Confirm Accept” button to complete the process.

Graduate students admitted to the MBA, MSA and MSBA programs:  Contact for AAO deadline.  A $250 enrollment deposit is required to save your spot in the program. 


Accept Admissions Offer (AAO)

  • You will be automatically assigned an SF State email account in 2-3 business days after you accepted admissions offer  
  • You will receive critical information regarding class registration for the upcoming semester and other important information through your SF State email account only.  Please check your SF State email account frequently 
  • Your SF State email may be forwarded to your existing private email account.  To set it up, please see instructions at
  • Once you have access to your SF State email account, please start communicating with any offices at SF State from your SF State email account

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.
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.

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 pay tuition

  • 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.  

Estimated Expenses for International Students

SpRING 2021 Estimated Expenses Worksheet (PDF, 120MB)

  • Tuition and fees are subject to change without advanced notice.  Please refer to Bursar's Office website for the most current tuition and fee information
  • In addition to the full-time tuition, please budget at least USD $1,820 to purchase the SF State sponsored insurance before class registration.  All international students in F-1 status are required to have the SF State sponsored insurance during their period of enrollment at SF State.

The CSU makes every effort to keep student costs to a minimum. Fees listed in published schedules or student accounts may need to be increased when public funding is inadequate. Therefore, CSU must reserve the right, even after fees are initially charged or initial fee payments are made, to increase or modify any listed fees. All listed fees, other than mandatory systemwide fees, are subject to change without notice, until the date when instruction for a particular semester or quarter has begun. All CSU listed fees should be regarded as estimates that are subject to change upon approval by the Board of Trustees, the Chancellor, or the Presidents, as appropriate. Changes in mandatory systemwide fees will be made in accordance with the requirements of the Working Families Student Fee Transparency and Accountability Act (Sections 66028 - 66028.6 of the Education Code).

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
  • Registrar’s Office will accept your own immunization in English, or your record attached with an English translation
  • You can also submit the Immunization Form signed by your medical doctor 
  • 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 

Submit the immunization record by the following methods:

  • By mail: Mail a photocopy of your own immunization record to this address: Registrar's Office (SSB 303), San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132
  • By fax: Fax your immunization record to +1-415-338-0588
  • You are also required to complete the free and online F-1 Mandatory Online Workshop on SF State's iLearn at  before arriving the U.S.
  • Spring 2021 F-1 Mandatory Online Workshop will be available in December 2020 AFTER the AAO deadline.  New F-1 International students who have AAO'd for Spring 2021 will receive logon instruction by email after December 1, 2020.
  • iLearn is San Francisco State University's learning management system, where instructors can organize their courses and materials and students can efficiently interact with resources and participate in classes
  • The F-1 Mandatory Online Workshop covers important topics such as:
    • Getting started at SF State
    • F-1 immigration regulations
    • Navigating the campus resources at SF State
    • Getting to know San Francisco
    • Culture shock and U.S. classroom culture
    • Sexual assault awareness & safety explained for International Students
    • Academic Integrity
    • California Driver's License and Identity Card
    • Earthquake Preparedness
    • SF State facts and how to get involved with the SF State community
Students are required to submit official final transcripts to verify that all admission requirements have been met. 

Arriving in San Francisco and Settling Down

As of September 2020, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has not provided specific guidance on whether new Spring 2021 admit will be allowed to travel to the U.S. for Spring 2021 to pursue online study at this time.  We are unsure when SEVP will release updated guidance, but we will provide the next steps on this page as soon as we hear further instructions from SEVP.
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.  


We have prepared a list of useful resources for International students - visit International Student Resources page
The cost to seek a 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.

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: September 2020

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