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 planning better, the "ūüí≤" indicated that fee or payment is required to complete the task.¬†

Setting Financial Expectations

The cost to seek a U.S. college education while living in the Bay Area can be expensive.

Even if students have provided financial proof that they can pay for tuition and living expenses in the U.S., it does not necessary mean there will be no additional cost after students arrive in the U.S. The actual expenses to study at SF State will depend on each students' personal circumstances. Students must be prepared to cover the actual expenses by themselves.

International 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 expense (as needed)
F-1 and J-1 International students can not rely on U.S. financial aid, school emergency funds, or employment in the U.S. to pay the expenses above. 

Budgeting for International Students

Budgeting is important for international students to do because it will allow 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 come across.

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

Finding a 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 apartments, and $3000 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. OIP recommend all incoming students to visit OIP's "Housing in San Francisco" to understand what to expect while looking for temporary and permanent housing. 

OIP does not arrange housing for incoming new students. 

Phishing Email Scams 

Unfortunately, phishing email scams do happen frequently. New international students must be careful with emails that offered discounted deals or job offers that sounds 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 email 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 is going to ask you to log in to your account from within an email, and nobody will ever ask you for your password as a reply to an email.

Report a phishing email



Watch OIP's Recognizing job scams recording (Link to YouTube. Length: 4 minutes). In this video, we discussed how job scam emails looks like and what students need to do if they fall for a job scam.

Recognizing Job Scams

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:

How to Find SF State Tuition and Fees Information

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

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

    Examples from Spring 2023

    ATTENTION!  Fall 2023 tuition information will be posted on Bursar's website soon.

    • Undergraduate students

      • For Spring 2023, the¬†Undergraduate Tuition Fee¬†for 6.1 or more units is $3,764. The tuition and fee for 12 units is $3,764¬†Undergraduate Tuition Fee¬†+¬†$396¬†Non-Resident Tuition Fee¬†per unit¬†X 12 units = $8,516.¬†

    • Graduate students

      • For Spring 2023, the¬†Graduate Tuition Fee¬†for 6.1 or more units is $4,811.¬†The tuition and fee for 8 units is $4,371¬†Graduate Tuition Fee¬†+ $396¬†Non-Resident Tuition Fee¬†per unit¬†X 8 units= $7,694
    • MBA/MSBA/MSA students

      • MBA/MSBA/MSA students pay¬†Professional Program Fees¬†in addition to Graduate Tuition Fee and Non-Resident Tuition fee per unit.¬†For Spring 2023, the tuition and fee for 8 units is:¬†$4,481¬†Graduate Tuition Fee¬†+ $1,200¬†Professional Program Fees¬†+ ($396¬†Non-Resident Tuition Fee¬†per unit¬†+ $ 270¬†Professional Program Fees per unit) X 8 units = $11,009

    • MPA students¬†

      • MPA students pay Professional Program Fees¬†in addition to¬†Graduate Tuition Fees.¬†For Spring 2023, the tuition and fee for 8 units is: $4,481¬†Graduate Tuition Fee¬†+ $850¬†Professional Program Fees¬†+¬†$396¬†Non-Resident Tuition Fee¬†per unit¬†X 8 units = $8,499

    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 9 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 at¬†Bursar's Office¬†website.


    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.

    Self-Service Installment Payment plan

    • International students may enroll in the¬†Self- Service Installment Payment¬†plan for Non-Resident/International students.
    • The installment payment plan is an opportunity for students to pay each semester's tuition or non-resident tuition in¬†3 monthly¬†installments, rather than in one lump sum.¬†¬†
    ATTENTION! An additional 15% service fee will be charged on each monthly payment. This means the total service fee may add up to $500 or more each semester. Students must keep the 15% service charge in mind before enrolling in the installment payment plan.

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

    Non-refundable Fees

    Refundable Fees 

    All fees are subject to change without notice.

    Apply for a Visa

    Before Applying for a Visa

    1. Review the immigration documents (DS-2019 or I-20) when received. 
    2. Verify that all the information is correct (name spelled correctly, birth date, program dates, etc.).  
    3. Create a folder for all of the important documents ‚Äď make extra copies of all immigration documents.¬†¬†
    4. Pay SEVIS fee:   
    5. 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. However, Canadian student 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 their passports, I-20 or DS-2019 issued by SF State, and other supporting documentation.  

    Visa Interview Requirement

    The visa interview requirement may be waived for F and academic J visa applicants who:

    • Were previously issued any type of U.S. visa, and who have never been refused a visa unless such refusal was overcome or waived, or
    • Have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility, or
    • Are first-time F and academic J visa applicants who are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), provided they have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility

    See Important Announcement on F, M, and Academic J Visas (

    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. Email for more information

    While Waiting for Visa Approval

    Students should prepare to enroll at SF State while applying or waiting for visa approval. Students should clear any registration holds on their online Student Center and enroll in classes as soon as they can.

    Where to See Registration Holds

    Log into SF State Gateway, navigate to LaunchPad, and select the Student Center tile. Follow the instructions at Registrar's holds website.

    "C19 Vaccination or Exemption Required" Hold

    To clear this hold, students must upload proof of COVID-19 vaccination record or request exemption at Student Health Services page.

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

    To clear this hold, student must purchase SF State pre-approved international student health insurance through Relation Insurance Services. Students can view the SF State pre-approved international student insurance plan and purchase it at

    New F-1 undergraduate students may not see international health insurance hold until a few days before their orientation date. Therefore, students are advised to purchase insurance as soon as they sign up for the orientation to avoid receiving insurance hold before 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., the 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 sponsored international health insurance at prior arriving to the U.S. Students are eligible for full refund if unable to obtain visas.

      CSU Enrollment Requirement

      • F-1 International Students

      The Board of Trustees of the California State University (CSU) requires F-1 international students to have health insurance as a condition of class registration at SF State. A "International Health Insure Hold" registration hold will be placed on student center.  F-1 students must clear this registration in order 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 the Form DS-2019.

      For the health and safety of the SF State community, it is REQUIRED all students (both in person and online) submit COVID-19 vaccination record or request exemption. Visit SF State's Campus Comeback for the most current vaccination policy.

      F-1 Mandatory Online Workshop

      This online workshop covers topics that include U.S. regulations that apply to F-1 students, navigating SF State, U.S. classroom expectations....and more!  Only F-1 students who have completed their Accepted Admissions Offer (AAO) will be able to access this workshop. Students should complete the this workshop prior to entering the United States.

      Students who have AAO'd but do not see the workshop on their iLearn account should contact for assistance.

      J-1 Exchange Student Pre-Arrival Orientation 

      Description: This mandatory online orientation provides J-1 exchange students with important 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 prior to students arrival at SF State and ends a few weeks before the beginning of the semester. Please visit Academic Calendar - SF State University ( for the exact Priority Registration dates.

      Please note that while OIP 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, OIP requires all participants to have back-up classes in mind when building their schedule and recommends that students register for classes promptly when their registration period opens in order 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 important 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.

      In order to meet J-1 immigration requirements, J-1 exchange students must register for and maintain full-time enrollment status (see J-1 Exchange Students Only - 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 Fall 2023 classes.
      • Visit¬†New Student Orientation¬†website to sign up for the orientation and pay a non-refundable orientation fee.

      Graduate Students

      Full-Time Enrollment Requirement

      • International undergraduate must enroll in at least 12 units.¬†¬†International graduate must enroll in at least 8 units.
      • No 100% online study is allowed:¬†Students who plan to enter the U.S. for Fall 2023 cannot pursue 100% online study in the U.S. Some exceptions may apply for transfer students who have been in F-1 status in the U.S.

      After Visa Approval/Denial

      Visa Denied

      It is important to understand why it was denied. See 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.

      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.  OIP 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 phone 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.
      • Negative COVID viral test
      • Documentation shows fully vaccinated

      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

      OIP recommends that students keep their passports and immigration documents with them in their carry-on luggage when traveling. Students’ families 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. 

      OIP does not arrange temporary housing for incoming new students. We recommend that students reserve temporary accommodations before they arrive in San Francisco. First and foremost, 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 scam. Students should never pay deposits without seeing the actual apartment themselves.

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

      Spring 2023 Tuition Deadline

      January 30, 2023 (First day of Spring 2023 semester)

      Questions About Tuition and Fees

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

      First Semester Expectations

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

      Reasons to Attend International Student Orientation

      • You will learn about the Office of International Programs (OIP) and campus services
      • You will meet your international student advisors and have a chance to ask questions
      • You will connect with other international & exchange students and learn about various international student organizations at SF State

      ISO Attendance is Mandatory for J-1 Exchange Students

      As per J-1 immigration regulations, exchange students must attend orientation.

      Required Immunization at SF State

      SF State immunization policy requires that all students provide proof of immunization against Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR).  SF State students who are 18 years old or younger need to show proof of Hepatitis B immunization.

      Students are required to submit proof of MMR (or Hep B, if required) within the first four weeks of their first semester at SF State. We encourage all international student to submit immunization as early as possible.

      Proof of Vax Hold 

      Students will receive "Proof of Vax" registration hold if they do not provide proof of MMR immunization. The hold will prevent students from registering for next semester.

      To clear the hold, visit Student Health Service's Vaccinations and Immunizations for step by step instructions.

      Disability Programs and Resource Center (DPRC)

      If students anticipate needing accommodations as an SF State student, we recommend them to contact the Disability Programs and Resource Center (DPRC).  They can register with the DPRC and document their disability to help them fully access student life at SF State.

      Email:  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 trainings regarding various topics related to academics and campus life. Notifications of mandatory trainings will generally 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 trainings 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: February 2023

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