New International Students

Congratulations on your acceptance to San Francisco State University (SF State)!

The staff at Office of International Programs are looking forward to seeing you at the Mandatory International Student Orientation.  Please plan to arrive before the orientation date.

Spring 2018 Fall 2018
January 16 - 18, 2018 August 20 - 24, 2018
*Dates are subject to change

Important Information for New Students

Please Accept Admission Offer (AAO) in your Student Center.  As an international student entering in F-1 Visa status, you are not required to pay the $100 non-refundable enrollment confirmation deposit.   Please continue by clicking on the “Confirm Accept” button to complete the process.
Spring 2018 Fall 2018

January 16 - 18, 2018

*January 18, 2018 - International Academic Advising Session (Undergraduate Students Only): 

  • Undergraduate students should attend the International Academic Advising Session January 18, if they did not attended the New Student Orientation in December or January.   
  • Check in at 9:00AM in the lobby of Cesar Chavez Student Center.
August 20 - 24, 2018
*Dates are subject to change

Orientation Schedule: Spring 2018 Orientation Schedule (PDF, 428KB)
*Schedule is subject to change

Orientation Schedule: To be announced

Location: Student Life Event Center (Annex I) (Map, PDF, 603KB). 
Walking direction: Walking from 19th Ave and Holloway or from Lake Merced Blvd and Font Blvd

Location: To be announced

New students MUST attend ONE of the following document check in sessions.  

  • Do not submit your F-1 documents to OIP front desk - we will only accept documents during the Document Check In sessions listed below.
  • You will receive a registration hold if you do not attend one of the Document Check In sessions.

F-1 Document Check-In Hours:

Spring 2018 Fall 2018

Spring 2018 F-1 check in sessions: 

  • Tuesday, January 16, 1:30PM to 2:30PM.  Location: Student Life Event Center (Annex I)
  • Tuesday, January 23, 1:30PM to 2:30PM.  Location:  Library Event Room (First/Ground floor, J. Paul Leonard Library, Room 121)
  • Friday, January 26, 10:00AM to 11:00AM. Location:  Library Event Room (First/Ground floor, J. Paul Leonard Library, Room 121)
  • Tuesday, January 30, 1:00PM to 2:00PM. Location:  Library Event Room (First/Ground floor, J. Paul Leonard Library, Room 121)

Fall 2018 F-1 check in sessions: To be announced


Please bring the following documentation:

  • Passport and your current I-20
  • Photocopy (Paper) of the biographic page of your passport
  • Photocopy (Paper) of the I-94 arrival record.  Please look up your I-94 Arrival Record online by visiting and print out the record

You can make photocopies of your documents at the J. Paul Leonard Library or Cesar Chavez Student Center.  Write down your full name and 9-digit SF State student ID number on the back of each photocopy.  You do not need to write down your full name and SF State ID at the back of your I-20. 

New F-1 International students must complete this Online Orientation at iLearn:  You will receive an e-mail instruction from OIP explaining how to logon to your online orientation at iLearn before Spring 2018 semester starts.  The online orientation will cover the information about life in San Francisco and study at SF State.  You should complete your online orientation before you attend the in-person orientation.

See How to Logon to Online Orientation on iLearn.

Steps to Enroll (Spring 2018) (PDF, 112KB)
Steps to Enroll (Fall 2018): To be announced.

SF State requires all undergraduate students to fullfil English writing requirements in order to graduate.  SF State provide a unique English program called Composition for Multilingual Students (CMS) Program.  The English courses provided by the CMS program are designed for non-native English speakers who need to fulfill undergraduate English writing graduation requirements.  If you wish to enroll in the English writing classes provided by the CMS program, you must take the CMS Placement Test (CMSPT) so you can be placed into the CMS courses most appropriate for your English level. 

*CMS program is designed for Undergraduate students. Graduate students are not required to enroll in CMS program nor take CMSPT except MA TESOL students.
Spring 2018 Fall 2018

Test Registration Link:  Register at CMS website or SF State Testing Services.

Spring 2018 Test date and Location:  Wednesday, January 17 at 9:30 AM.  Location to be announced.

Test information: To be announced.

Video instruction

We encourage you to watch the following videos to learn more about the CMS program and CMSPT:

Introduction of the CMS Program

(Video length: 4:05)

Introduction of the CMSPT

(Video length: 3:27)

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 $200 SEVIS fee at I-901 fee website. 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 revalidation does not apply, you must have a valid visa to return to the United States.

F-1 Pre-Arrival and Post-Arrival Checklist

Download the F-1 Pre-Arrival and Post-Arrival Checklist (PDF)

When to Arrive

All F-1 students should plan to arrive before the I-20 start date.  If this is your first time study in the United States and you have an Initial attendance I-20, you can only enter the United States, within 30 days of the I-20 start date.  If you are transferring from another SEVP-certififed school in the U.S. and have a Transfer Pending I-20 from SF State, you are not subject to the 30-day rule. However, you must arrive San Francisco early enough to take placement tests (if required) and attend the Mandatory International Student Orientation.

What to Expect at the Airport

U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Arrival Procedures for Students or Exchange Visitors.

Airport Transportation

Travel and Transportations to San Francisco State University (PDF file)

San Francisco Airport (SFO) and Oakland Airport (OAK) both serve many international airlines.  San Francisco International Airport is the closest international airport to San Francisco State University. 

Travel from San Francisco Airport to your local US housing

Travel from Oakland Airport to your local US housing: 

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.

A list of short term housing is available at SF State Housing website.  Please note the University is not associated with any of these temporary housing options, nor does the University take responsibility for any of the businesses or referrals listed here.  OIP cannot make any recommendations nor can reservations be made on your behalf. 

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 wish to live off campus, visit SF State Housing Off-Campus Housing resourcesNew 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:

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."

F-1 International students are expected to have adequate funds to support your studies at SF State.  Do not rely on earning extra money after you arrive the United States.  U.S. Financial Aid is not available for F-1 International students.

Spring 2018 payment Deadline Fall 2018 Payment deadline
Monday, January 22, 2018 by 4:00PM To be announced

Estimated Registration & Fee Schedule

Tuition is paid one semester at a time.  We recommend new international students to pay tuition while they are still in their home countries to avoid delay of class registration and/or late fee.  The amount of the tuition should cover full-time enrollment (regardless which class you are going to enroll).  For example, if you are a F-1 International undergraduate student, you should pay at least $8,381 to cover 12 units.  Graduate students should pay for at least 8 units.

Below is a current tuition chart for Undergraduate, Graduate, and MBA/MSA students per semester.  Students are advised to visit Bursar’s website for the most current information on tuition, registration fee, and important deadlines. Bursar’s website also provide a list of payment methods

You can also pay tuition by installment plan.  Please be aware that there is a non-refundable service charge of 15% on each installment.
Undergraduate Students (Per Semester)
Number of Units Undergraduate Tuition Fee Non-Resident Tuition (per unit) Total Tuition Cost
12 units (Full-Time) $3,629 $396 per unit $8,381
13 units  $3,629 $396 per unit $8,777
14 units  $3,629 $396 per unit $9,173
15 units  $3,629 $396 per unit $9,569
16 units  $3,629 $396 per unit $9,965
Graduate Students (Per Semester)
Number of Units Graduate Tuition Fee Non-Resident Tuition (per unit) Total Tuition Cost
8 units $4,346 $396 per unit $7,514
9 units $4,346 $396 per unit $7,910
10 units $4,346 $396 per unit $8,306
11 units $4,346 $396 per unit $8,702
12 units $4,346 $396 per unit $9,098
MBA/MSA Students (Per Semester)
Number of Units Graduate Tuition Fee and graduate program fee Non-Resident Tuition (per unit) Total Tuition Cost
8 units (Full-Time) $5,546 $666 per unit $10,874
9 units  $5,546 $666 per unit $11,540
10 units $5,546 $666 per unit $12,206
11 units $5,546 $666 per unit $12,872
12 units $5,546 $666 per unit $13,538

** Please note that tuition cost include local registration fees and non-resident tuition and are subject to change.

In addition to the full-time tuition, please budget at least USD $1800 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).


Expenses Upon Arrival

Some of the initial expenses you will encounter include your books, university fees and tuition, living cost, temporary housing costs, and local travel expenses. Do not bring a lot of cash - we recommend that you use travelers’ checks in U.S. dollars as they can be easily replaced if lost or stolen. If you have a bank account with a debit card or credit account at home, you should be able to withdraw money from an ATM in the U.S.

Expenses often overlooked by new international students

  1. Overnight lodging: Hotel charges in big cities are very high-anywhere from $90-$200/night
  2. Tips: Tips on taxi fares and restaurant meals: It is customary to add 15% to the bill
  3. Taxes: State and local sales taxes added to the price of many items or services. Consumer taxes vary from state to state. The sales tax in San Francisco is 8.5%. This means if the price tag says US$10, you will need to pay US$10.85
  4. Housing deposit: You may have to pay up to three months’ rent before moving into an off-campus apartment
  5. Personal and household items: In furnished and unfurnished apartments, you will have to purchase linens, towels, kitchen utensils, etc.

Money Matters

You may bring a bank draft or a check for deposit in an account you will be opening at a local bank. However, it may take as long as 4-6 weeks to access your funds at the local banks. While you are waiting for your bank draft to clear, your money will not be available for you to use. If you did not pay tuition while you are in your country, make sure you have access to adequate amount of money SOON after your arrival so you can pay the tuition and all initial expenses.

The cost to seek a US college education while living in the Bay Area can be expensive. This 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.
F-1 International students are required to satisfy the mandatory insurance requirement through purchase of the SF State sponsored insurance.  See Mandatory Health Insurance Requirements for instructions.
If you are currently in the US and wish to change your current immigration status to F-1, please visit Change of Status to F-1 for instructions to change status.

If you are currently attending another school in the U.S. and wish to attend SF State, you must notify your current school with the intent to transfer.  You should request your SEVIS record to be transferred to SF State.  If you have submitted all the financial documents to International Admission Office or Graduate Studies, a transfer I-20 will be issued to you. 

F-1 International students are only considered "transfer students" for immigration purposes if you are: 

  • Currently in valid F-1 status
  • No more than 5 months has passed from your last date of attendance OR your last day of OPT (whichever is later)

You can register for classes (you must clear all the registration holds) and attend orientation while waiting for your transfer I-20 to be issued by SF State.

Please keep in mind that you must receive a transfer I-20 within 15 days of the semester start date at SF State.  Fail to receive a transfer I-20 within 15 days of the semester start date will result in loss of your legal status in the U.S.  

Spring 2018 Transfer in Deadline Fall 2018 transfer in deadline
February 9, 2018 To be announced

How to receive your new SF State I-20:

Step 1

Notify the International Student Advisor at your current school that you have been admitted to SF State and intend to transfer. Please notify your advisor to transfer your record to:

San Francisco State University (SFSU)

If you are attending a certificate program, please release SEVIS record to

San Francisco State University (SFSU) - Downtown Campus

SF State does not require student's current school DSO to complete any Transfer Eligibility or Transfer Evaluation form.

Step 2

The International Student Advisor at your current school will release your record to SF State. The release date will most likely be the last day of your attendance at your current school.  Please be sure that your release date is before or within 15 days of the beginning of semester at SF State.

Step 3

Transfer I-20 will be issued by International Admissions (Undergraduate students) or Graduate Studies (Graduate students).  
If you have questions about receiving transfer I-20, please contact: 
Undergraduate Applicants
International Undergraduate Admissions
One Stop, Student Services Building (SSB)
Phone: 415-338-2382
Graduate Applicants
Graduate Studies
Administration Building, Room 254
Phone 415-405-4005


Last updated: January 2018