New International Students Pre-Arrival Checklist

The information on this page will help international and exchange students better prepare for their transition to SF State. To help students plan better, the "ūüí≤" indicates that a fee or payment is required to complete the task.¬†

All new Fall 2024 students must arrive in San Francisco by August 26, 2024.

Setting Financial Expectations

Embarking on a U.S. college journey in the vibrant Bay Area comes with its share of expenses. Having sufficient financial resources to support your studies is key to a successful and stress-free experience in the U.S.

Financial Aid

New international and exchange students should understand that when studying in the U.S., they are responsible for covering all their expenses. It's important to realize that SF State does not provide financial assistance or cover the expected cost of attendance for international students. In addition, there is no U.S. financial aid or international student scholarships available to cover international students' studies at SF State. We advise all international students to seek and secure financial resources in their home countries before arriving in the U.S.

Expected Expenses v.s. Actual Expenses

Finally, while F-1 and J-1 students may have demonstrated financial readiness for tuition and living costs to receive the I-20 and DS-2019, it's crucial to recognize that unforeseen expenses can arise upon arrival. The true cost of studying at SF State varies for each student. It's essential to be financially prepared to handle these circumstances independently.


It's essential to plan and budget accordingly, ensuring you have the necessary funds to cover tuition and fees, health insurance, housing/food/living expenses, books, and school supplies, technology for school, travel/transportation/commuting expenses, and any other expenses while attending SF State.

International and exchange students must have funds available to pay for the following expenses to study at SF State:

  • Tuition and fees (each semester)
  • Housing, food, living expenses (each month)
  • International student health insurance (each semester)
  • Books and school supplies (each semester)
  • Technology for school (as needed)
  • Travel/transportation/commuting expenses (as needed)

Budgeting for International Students

Budgeting is important for international students because it allows them to keep track of their money. All international students should create budgeting plans before coming to the U.S. to prepare for any possible future expenses or obstacles they might encounter.

Visit the "Plan a Budget" section on the Life in San Francisco page for more information.

Housing Scams

A common way that scammers attempt to trick international students is through housing scams.

Before moving to the United States, international students often search for housing while abroad. Searching for long-term housing before arriving in San Francisco can be risky. For example, scammers may post fake apartment photos online and ask students to make deposit payments before they arrive in the United States or sign a rental contract.

Keep in Mind

  • Students should never pay a security deposit, fee, or first month‚Äôs rent before they‚Äôve signed a rental contract.¬†
  • Don‚Äôt rent an apartment that is unavailable to see in-person before signing the contract.¬†¬†
  • Do not provide a photocopy of a passport to the "landlord".

Further Reading

Read more about Scams and Fraud:

Phishing Email Scams 

Unfortunately, phishing email scams do happen frequently. New international students must be careful with emails that offer discounted deals or job offers that sound too good to be true. See How much money different age groups lose to online scammers (

General Advice

  • A real person will never email you about a GREAT OPPORTUNITY FOR WORK FROM HOME. Even actual, real-life recruiters will come from some legitimate source and will have emails formatted in somewhat sane English.
  • Always double-check who is sending the email. An email about a technology or account problem will never come from a random student email account.
    • For example, Judy with an asking you to type in your password is 100% a fake email
  • Nobody would ask you to log in to your account from within an email, and nobody would ever ask you for your password as a reply to an email.

Report a phishing email



Watch the Recognizing Job Scams recording (Link to YouTube. Length: 4 minutes). In this video, we discussed what job scam emails look like and what students need to do if they fall for a job scam.

Recognizing Job Scams

Finding safe, secure housing is a crucial step to preparing for a successful experience at SF State. The average rent in San Francisco is currently $2000 or more per month for a studio apartment and USD$3,000 or more for one-bedroom apartments. 

See current San Francisco rent research at Average Rent in San Francisco, CA, and Cost Information - Zumper.

Though San Francisco's rental prices are high, there are many lower-budget options available to students. The Division of International Education recommends all incoming students visit Housing in San Francisco to understand what to expect while looking for temporary and permanent housing. 

The Division of International Education does not arrange housing for incoming new students. 

How to Find SF State Tuition and Fees Information

  • Tuition and fees information are¬†posted on the¬†Bursar's¬†website.¬† The tuition information will be posted under the "Students" tab.
  • Tuition and fees are subject to change without advance notice.¬†

When to Pay Tuition and Fees

  • International students should only¬†pay tuition and fees after they are enrolled in classes every semester.
  • The University Bursar's Office advises all students to make payments once the tuition charges appear on their account. SF State can only accept the exact amount owed for tuition and fees
  • The deadline to pay tuition is posted on the¬†Bursar's¬†website.

Calculate Tuition and Fees

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

     graphic explaining F1 student tuition payment process

    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). International undergraduate students who will enter the U.S. with an F-1 Student visa should prepare to pay for at least 12 units, and graduate students should pay for at least 8 units.
    • See payment methods on the¬†Bursar's Office¬†website. The¬†WeChat Pay payment option is available.


    SF State has partnered with Flywire to streamline the tuition payment process for our international students. SF State collects international payments via Flywire using local accounts around the world. We highly recommend all international students use Flywire for tuition payment.

    International students should be aware of non-refundable and refundable fees while planning to attend SF State.

    Non-refundable Fees

    Refundable Fees 

    • International student health insurance: purchased through Academic Health Plan at A non-refundable 3% fee will be charged for all credit card transactions..
    • Tuition and fees (F-1 students only): $8,000 - $12,000. See tuition and fees.
    • Housing application initial payment:¬†Restrictions apply. See refund deadline at Student Housing Application - FAQs¬†page

    All fees are subject to change without notice.

    Apply for a Visa

    Before Applying for a Visa

    • Review the immigration documents (DS-2019 or I-20) when received.¬†
    • Verify that all the information is correct (name spelled correctly, birth date, program dates, etc.).¬†¬†
    • Create a folder for all important documents ‚Äď make extra copies of all immigration documents.¬†¬†
    • Pay SEVIS fee:¬†¬† ¬†
    • Locate a local U.S. consulate; schedule an appointment for a visa interview:¬†
    • Canadian citizens do not need visas to enter and study in the U.S.
    • Canadian students must obtain an I-20 or DS-2019 from SF State and pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee at¬†
    • Canadian students should enter the U.S. with valid passports, I-20 or DS-2019 issued by SF State, and¬†other supporting documentation.¬†¬†

    Visa Interview Requirement

    See Important Update on Waivers of the Interview Requirement for Certain Nonimmigrant Visa Applicants (

    Useful Resources

    To learn what a visa is and how it works, read the "Understand F-1 and J-1 Visa" section at Visa and Immigration.

    Transfer I-20 

    International students who are transferring to SF State from another school in the U.S. should review the "I-20 Transfer Procedures" for step-by-step instructions.

    Changing Status to F-1

    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 Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school. B-1 or B-2 visitors must change to F-1 Student status to pursue study in the U.S. 

    H-4 visa holders who are in the United States as H-1B dependents are allowed to enroll in courses in H-4 status.

    While Waiting for Visa Approval

    Get ready to embark on your journey at SF State even while awaiting visa approval! Clear any registration holds and secure your class enrollment as soon as possible.

    Where to See Registration Holds

    Log into SF State Gateway, navigate to LaunchPad, and select the Student Center tile. 

    Follow the instructions on the Registrar's Holds website.

    "International Health Insurance" Hold (F-1 Students Only)

    To clear this hold, students must purchase SF State pre-approved international student health insurance through Academic Health Plan at

    Visit the Health Insurance information page for "how to purchase insurance"


    New F-1 undergraduate students may not see international health insurance hold until a few days before their New Student Orientation date.

    To avoid receiving an international health insurance registration hold on the orientation date, undergraduate students are advised to purchase insurance as soon as they sign up for the New Student Orientation.

    Why is Health Insurance Mandatory?

    The cost of medical care is high in the U.S. 

    Unlike many countries, the United States does not provide ‚Äúuniversal access‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúnational health care‚ÄĚ.¬† International students are also not eligible for any U.S. federal welfare assistance. When international students receive medical care in the U.S., doctors and hospitals will look to international students and their insurance companies to get paid for their services.¬†¬†

    According to, fixing a broken leg can cost up to $7,500, and the average cost of a 3-day hospital stay is around $30,000.

      Without insurance, international students might face financial ruin resulting from serious accidents or illness. This could prevent them from completing studies in the U.S.

      When to Purchase Insurance

      New international students must purchase SF State pre-approved international health insurance prior arriving to in the U.S. Travel insurance or other insurance plans are not acceptable.

      Students are eligible for a full refund if unable to obtain visas (The 3% credit card transaction fee is non-refundable).

      Visit the Health Insurance information page for "how to purchase insurance"

      CSU Enrollment Requirement

      F-1 International Students

      The Board of Trustees of California State University (CSU) requires F-1 international students to have health insurance as a condition of class registration at SF State. An "International Health Insure Hold" registration hold will be placed on the student center.  F-1 students must clear this registration to register.

      J-1 Exchange Students 

      As per J-1 immigration regulations and the above-mentioned CSU policy, all exchange students on J-1 visas and J-2 dependents must maintain health insurance coverage for the duration of their program as indicated on Form DS-2019.

      F-1 Mandatory Online Workshop

      This is an online asynchronous workshop on SF State’s learning management platform, Canvas. This workshop covers important U.S. regulations that apply to F-1 students. All international students who will enter the U.S. in F-1 visa status should complete this workshop before arriving in the U.S.

      Students who have accepted the admissions offer will receive an invitation from Canvas to their SF State email account. Students who did not receive the email invitation should email 

      Students should complete the workshop before entering the United States.

      J-1 Exchange Student Pre-Arrival Orientation 

      This mandatory online orientation provides J-1 exchange students with essential information about the Exchange Visitor Program, immigration requirements, program activities, SF State academics, and advice about housing, employment, and other topics. Students must complete the Pre-Arrival Orientation prior to entering the United States.

      Register for Classes (J-1 Students Only)

      J-1 exchange students receive a Priority Registration Period that allows them to register for up to 16 units of coursework before most other students. Priority Registration takes place several months before students arrive at SF State and ends a few weeks before the beginning of the semester. Please visit Academic Calendar for the exact Priority Registration dates.

      Please note that while the Division of International Education tries to give J-1 exchange students the best access to classes possible, we cannot guarantee access to all SF State classes due to availability, academic restrictions, and other factors. For this reason, the Division of International Education requires all participants to have backup classes in mind when building their schedule and recommends that students register for classes promptly when their registration period opens to ensure the best selection of classes possible.

      Students register for courses through the SF State¬†Student Center¬†(also called the Student Gateway), which they may access after activating their SF State student account. After logging into their Student Center, students may view their priority registration dates under the ‚ÄúEnrollment Dates‚ÄĚ. They will also be able to view their class schedule, contact information, and other essential information.

      When they are ready to register for classes, students can find detailed registration instructions here. They may also browse available courses by semester on the Class Schedule webpage.

      To meet J-1 immigration requirements, J-1 exchange students must register for and maintain full-time enrollment status (see Exceptions to the Full-Time Requirement for exceptions to this rule). At SF State, full-time enrollment is defined as a minimum of 12 coursework units.

      Register for Classes (F-1 Students Only)

      Undergraduate Students

      Graduate Students

      Important Registration Dates

      ūüí≤Undergraduate Students¬†

      • Undergraduate students MUST attend New Student Orientation to receive academic advising and register for classes.
      • Visit the¬†New Student Orientation¬†website to sign up for the orientation and pay a non-refundable orientation fee.
      New student attending orientation

      Graduate Students

      Full-Time Enrollment Requirement

      • To Meet the Full-Time Requirement:

        Undergraduate students must enroll in a minimum of 12 units to be considered full-time, of which at least 9 units must be in-person/hybrid.

        Graduate students must enroll in a minimum of 8 units to be considered full-time, of which at least 5 units must be in-person/hybrid.

      • Read¬†Maintaining Status¬†for other full-time requirements information, such as online classes vs.. in-person/hybrid classes.

      After Visa Approval/Denial

      Visa Approved

      Enter the United States NO MORE THAN 30 DAYS before the Program Start Date

      Students should enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before and no later than the beginning date indicated on their I-20/DS-2019. While students may want to arrive sooner to find an apartment and prepare for school, U.S. law prohibits them from doing so. The only exception is for F-1 students who have transferred their SEVIS record from another school to SF State.

      No Late Arrival

      No late arrival is allowed.  The Division of International Education does not grant permission nor issue any letters to support late arrivals.

      Research Airport Transportation in Advance

      The San Francisco Bay Area offers many public transportation options that students may use to travel to the SF State campus or their temporary housing. Please visit their websites for further details and make a few plans in advance:

      • Muni¬†(San Francisco‚Äôs bus and light rail service)
      • Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)¬†(Bay Area rail system)
      • Taxi (available curbside in designated airport locations)
      • Rideshare services (Uber and Lyft are available in the Bay Area)

      Airport Wi-Fi

      Both San Francisco and Oakland airports offer free Wi-Fi. Students can use it to look up directions or book transportation from their phones on arrival. For more information about Wi-Fi and other airport services, please see below.

      Carry the Required U.S. Entry Documents

      When entering the United States, international students must present the following documents at the port of entry:

      • Valid passport with valid F-1 or J-1 visa.¬†
      • Valid I-20 or DS-2019 immigration document.

      Additional supporting documentation:

      • F-1 students: Copies of admission letter and proof of finance for the first year of study
      • I-901 SEVIS fee receipt

      The Division of International Education recommends that students keep their passports and immigration documents with them in their carry-on luggage when traveling. Students’ family members should also have copies of these documents in case of emergency.

      Temporary Housing

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

      The Division of International Education does not arrange temporary housing for incoming new students. We recommend that students reserve temporary accommodations before they arrive in San Francisco. First, students should have a specific destination when they arrive. If they do not have a friend or relative in the area to stay with, booking a hostel or hotel in advance is the best option.

      Permanent Housing 

      Be aware of housing scams. Students should never pay deposits without seeing the actual apartment themselves.

      Visit "Recognizing Scams and Fraud" to understand how to avoid being scammed.

      Fall 2024 Tuition Deadline

      The tuition deadline is posted on the Bursar's website.  Go to the Bursar's Office website.

      Questions About Tuition and Fees

      Visit the Bursar's Office website and submit an inquiry under "Service Ticket". Typical response time from the Bursar's Office is 1 - 2 business days (not including weekends and national holidays)

      Visa Denied

      It is important to understand why it was denied. See the U.S. Department of State's information on Visa Denials.

      Reapply for Admissions/No Admissions Deferral

      Students may reapply for the next available semester and apply for F-1 visa again. There is no admission deferral.

      • Undergraduate applicants

      Contact International Undergraduate Admissions at

      • Graduate applicants

      Contact Division of Graduate Studies at

      Please include your full name and SF State student ID number while contacting the admissions offices.

      Students Who Have Purchased Insurance

      Students may contact for insurance refund.

      Students Who Have Enrolled in Classes

      Students must drop all the classes if they no longer plan to attend SF State. University will not drop the students.

      Students Who Have Enrolled in Classes and Paid Tuition

      Students must drop the classes (university will not drop the classes for students) and request tuition and fees refund before the first day of semester.

      First Semester Expectations

      Orientations help new students transition to SF State and connect with current students. Most orientations are mandatory, as they communicate essential information to new students about the SF State experience.

      See the international and exchange orientation page.

      In accordance with the California State University Policy Executive Order and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), San Francisco State University has implemented immunization requirements and recommendations. 

      All incoming international students need to complete a TB (Tuberculosis) Risk screening within Student Health Services' MyHealth before coming to the SF State campus. 

      Students who are under 18 or living on campus will need to provide proof of immunization. 

      Read SF State's vaccinations and immunizations requirement >>

      Disability Programs and Resource Center (DPRC)

      Students are encouraged to contact the Disability Programs and Resource Center (DPRC) if they anticipate needing accommodation during their studies at SF State. Students can register with the DPRC and document their disability to help them fully access student life at SF State.

      Phone: (415) 338-2472

      Wellness and Academic Success

      Resources for Wellness & Academic Success at SF State

      All Student Resources

      Student Resources at SF State

      SF State students are occasionally required to complete mandatory training regarding several topics related to academics and campus life. Notifications for mandatory training will be communicated via SF State student email.

      For example, all incoming students must complete a mandatory sexual violence prevention education training online during their first semester at SF State (more details available at Sexual Violence Prevention Education Online Training). Academic departments and other offices may also require that students complete training before coming to campus, using the school laboratories and equipment, etc.

      Please pay attention to these training requirements and complete them in a timely manner by the deadlines provided. 

      Last updated: March 2024

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