New International Students (F-1 Visa)

The Office of International Programs (OIP) is excited that you will join us in Spring 2020. We have prepared the following resources to help you prepare for your journey at SF State!  See you in Spring!

I’m Admitted, Now What?

Dates and time to be announced in November 2019.  All F-1 International students are required to attend orientation before Spring 2020 starts.

  • Accept Admission Offer (AAO) in your online Student Center at before December 2, 2019
  • F-1 International students are NOT REQUIRED to submit the $100 non-refundable enrollment confirmation deposit. Continue by clicking on the “Confirm Accept” button to complete the process

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

It is important to understand the steps you need to complete in order to register for classes at SF State – you must set up access to your SF State school email account, buy SF State student health insurance and clear international health insurance hold, submit MMR immunization record to SF State Registrar's Office, complete English and Math placement online (undergraduate students only), and attend orientation…etc. 

Follow the Steps to Enroll for Spring 2020.  Please note the information in the "Steps to Enroll" is subject to change.  Check this website regularly for update.

International undergraduate students in other U.S visa types (for example: H-4, J-2, L-2....etc) or students who are foreign educated may attend the New Student Orientation with F-1 international students.  Contact New Student Programs at if you wish to sign up for the International New 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.

Before Leaving Your Home Country

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 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 Pre-Arrival and Post-Arrival Checklist

Download the F-1 Pre-Arrival and Post-Arrival Checklist (PDF, 383KB)

When to Arrive

If this is your first time to study in the United States and you have an "Initial Attendance" I-20, you can only enter the United States 30 days prior to the program start date on your I-20 start date. You must at least one week before the Spring 2020 semester start date to attend orientation. If you are currently in F-1 status and 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. You must at least one week before the Spring 2020 semester start date to attend 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. 

Expenses Upon Arrival

You should bring enough money to cover the initial expenses - tuition and fees, books, 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 $150-$200/night
  2. Tips: Tips for restaurant meals: It is customary to add 15% - 20% 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. 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.

Make sure you have access to adequate amount of money SOON after you arrive in San Francisco so you can pay the tuition and fees, as well as and all initial expenses.

Spring 2020 tuition deadline: Monday, January 27, 2020 at 4PM (San Francisco Time)

  • Tuition is paid one semester at a time.  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 “Understand Tuition and fee” section at for tuition deadline  
  • See payment methods at  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

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) $3,635 $396 per unit $8,387
13 units  $3,635 $396 per unit $8,783
14 units  $3,635 $396 per unit $9,179
15 units  $3,635 $396 per unit $9,575
16 units  $3,635 $396 per unit $9,971

Graduate Students (Per Semester)

Number of Units Graduate Tuition Fee Non-Resident Tuition (per unit) Total Tuition Cost
8 units $4,352 $396 per unit $7,520
9 units $4,352 $396 per unit $7,916
10 units $4,352 $396 per unit $8,312
11 units $4,352 $396 per unit $8,708
12 units $4,352 $396 per unit $9,104

MBA/MSA/MSBA 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) $5,552 $666 per unit $10,880
9 units  $5,552 $666 per unit $11,546
10 units $5,552 $666 per unit $12,212
11 units $5,552 $666 per unit $12,878
12 units $5,552 $666 per unit $13,544

** 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).

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 4 weeks of Spring 2020 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
  • In person: Bring immunization record to Registrar’s counter located at One Stop, Student Services Building (SSB), first floor. Write your 9-digit SF State student ID on your immunization record. DO NOT EMAIL the immunization record to SF State
  • 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.
  • F-1 Mandatory Online Workshop will be available in December 2019.  Spring 2020 will receive logon instruction by email in December 2019
  • 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 partcipate 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
  • SF State requires all undergraduate students to fulfill oral communication and written English (English) and Quantitative Reasoning (Math) requirements and in order to graduate
  • To determine which written English class and Math classes you should enroll in your first semester at SF State, you are advised to complete the free and online English placement (Write to Register (WTR)  ) and Math placement (ALEKS  ) at least 2 days before you attend the orientation
  • To find out if you should complete WTR or ALEKS, check the English and Math Pathway Alert on your Student Center.  Click the "details" to see which Pathway/Category you are placed in based on the transcripts you submitted to the International Undergraduate Admissions Office
  • If you are placed in English Pathway Category 2, 3 or 4, you are advised to complete WTR
  • If you are placed in Math Pathway Category 3 or 4, you are advised to complete ALEKS
  • Certain transfer undergraduate students may not need to complete WTR or ALEKS.  Visit the Developmental Studies Office  to determine if you should complete the online placement and email the Developmental Studies Office  at if you have questions

Having insurance while studying in the U.S. can avoid the financial challenges of unexpected medical expenses, and to ensure that you have access to immediate and proper medical care when you need it.  The Board of Trustees of the California State University (CSU) requires all F-1 international students to have health insurance as a condition of registration and continued enrollment in the California State University system. 

At SF State, F-1 International students are required to satisfy the mandatory insurance requirement through purchase of the SF State sponsored insurance.  We recommend you to purchase insurance online before arriving the U.S.  Insurance coverage for new Fall students starts as early as August 1.

Purchase SF State Health Insurance

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.

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 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."

Arriving in San Francisco

Dates and time to be announced in November 2019.
Dates and time to be announced in November 2019.
Date and location to be announced in November 2019.
Date and location to be announced in November 2019.

Settling down

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: August 2019