New International Students

Welcome to San Francisco State University (SF State)!

Please Accept Admission Offer (AAO) in your online Student Center within 30 days after you receive admission. 

As an international student entering in F-1 Visa status, you are NOT REQUIRED to pay the $100 non-refundable enrollment confirmation deposit.   Continue by clicking on the “Confirm Accept” button to complete the process in the online Student Center.

Spring 2019 Fall 2019

New Student Orientation (Undergraduate): Dates to be announced

Graduate New Student Orientation: Dates to be announced

Date: To be announced

Orientation Schedule: To be announced

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

Parking: See Parking & Transportationfor parking map. 

*The parking space outside Annex I is for SF State staff and faculty only.  You can park in the parking garage (Parking fees apply) or along Winston Drive or Lake Merced Blvd.  Please check the street cleaning signs to avoid parking tickets.      
To be announced

New F-1 International students who accepted admissions offer (AAO) must complete the Mandatory F-1 Visa Online Workshop at iLearn:  You will receive an e-mail instruction from OIP explaining how to logon to this workshop in January 2019.  This onlinew workshop will cover the information about life in San Francisco and study at SF State. 


Undergraduate Students

SF State requires all undergraduate students to fulfill oral communication and written English requirements in order to graduate.  International students can choose to enroll in the English courses offered under the Composition for Multilingual Students (CMS) Program. The CMS program is a University-wide undergraduate program through which non-native English speakers can fulfill undergraduate oral communication and written English graduation requirements.

You must complete the online Write to Register for CMS, formerly known as the English Composition Test for New Students (CMSPT), to be placed into the CMS courses that are most appropriate for your English level.  Visit Write to Register for CMS information pageto determine if this is the program for you.  International students whose primary language is English, and students who are upper division transfers from California community colleges or universities in the U.S. are not required to complete Write to Register for CMS.

You will have access to Write to Register for CMS at iLearn: after you accepted admissions offer (AAO).  You will receive an email when Write to Register for CMS is open.  This placement activity/test is only conducted online. 

Graduate Students

You do not need to complete Write to Register for CMS.  However, MA TESOL may required its international students to complete this test.  Please contact English Department ( for additional information.

SF State requires all undergraduate students to fulfill Quantitative Reasoning (Math) requirements in order to graduate. All F-1 international students are required to complete the online math placement, ALEKS, in order to be placed into the Math courses that are most appropriate for their Math level.  

You will not need to complete ALEKS If you meet ONE of the following categories :

  • You have earned a 570 or above on the SAT or 23 or above on the ACT for Math
  • You have Advanced Placement Calculus AB or Calculus BC with AP Exam score of 4 or 5
  • You have completed the International Baccalaureate (IB) HL Math Exam with a score of 4 and students who complete the GCE AS/A Level exam in math
  • You are a transfer student that has completed a transferable college/university level math course with a ‘C’ grade or better (college algebra, statistics, pre-calculus, calculus, trigonometry etc.)

If you have any questions about the Math (Quantitative Reasoning) requirement, please email the Developmental Studies Office at

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 revalidationdoes 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, 383KB)

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-certified 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 International Student Orientation.

What to Expect at the Airport

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)'s Study in the States website has information about What to Expect at a Port of Entry with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer.

Airport Transportation

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. 

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 2019 payment Deadline Fall 2019 Payment deadline
To be announced 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 methodsIf you wish to pay tuition by installment plan. Please be aware that there is a non-refundable service charge of 15% on each installment.

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.  

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.  You can also leave the U.S. while waiting for your transfer I-20, but keep in mind that you MUST enter the U.S. with SF State's I-20.  Be sure to make an arrangement how you want to receive your I-20 with the International Undergraduate Admissions or Division of Graduate Studies when you plan your travel. 

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 2019 Transfer in Deadline Fall 2019 transfer in deadline
To be announced 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)

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: September 2018