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≤" indicated that a 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 the "Students" tab.
  • Tuition and fees are subject to change without advance notice.¬†

When to Pay Tuition and Fees

International students should pay tuition and fees after they are enrolled in classes every semester. The University Bursar's Office advise all students to make payments once there are charges on their account since the University can only accept the exact amount owed for tuition and fees

The deadline to pay tuition is posted on University Bursar's website.

    Do not pay tuition and fees before class enrollment.  

    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¬†Bursar's Office¬†website.¬†WeChat Pay payment option is available as of July 2023.


      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

      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.
      *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 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 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. 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 workshop invitation should contact the international student advisors at 

        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 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 backup 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 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.

        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 classes.
        • Visit the¬†New Student Orientation¬†website to sign up for the orientation and pay a non-refundable orientation fee.

        Graduate Students

        Full-Time Enrollment Requirement

        • To Meet the Full-Time Requirement:

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

          Graduate students must enroll in a minimum of 8 units to consider 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 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 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

        OIP 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. 

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

        Spring 2024 Tuition Deadline

        The tuition deadline is posted on the Bursar's important dates for the academic year 2023 - 2024.

        Click the "Spring 2024" tab for a list of important payment and refund dates for the Spring 2024 semester. 

        Questions About Tuition and Fees

        Visit the Bursar's Office and send an inquiry under "Service Ticket".

        Typical response time from the 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 communicate essential information to new students about the SF State experience.

        ISO Attendance is Recommended for F-1 International Students

        January 24, 2024 - Day 1 

        • Fully In-Person and FREE event! Registration is not required.
        • Date:¬†January 24, 2024
        • Time: 8:45 AM¬†(California time): Doors Open for Check In/Breakfast included (first come first serve)¬†
          • Bring an¬†SF State Student ID card if possible or memorize¬†your SF State Student ID Number¬†
          • 9:30 AM (California time): Programming Begins¬†¬†
          • 1:00 PM (California time): Programming Ends¬†
        • Location:¬†

          • SF State Student Life & Events Center (Annex I)
          • 1 North State Drive, San Francisco, CA 94132
        • Learning Objectives
          • Students will learn about the Division of International Education/Office of International Programs
          • Students will learn about SF State campus services & resources
          • Students will connect with current students and faculty at SF State and have a chance to ask questions¬†
          • Students will have the opportunity to attend an information fair with bank/phone companies and student organizations

        January 25, 2024 - Day 2
        *****F-1 international students only*****

        • Zoom registration is required (an invitation will be mailed to students who have accepted AAO)
        • Date:¬†January 25, 2024
        • Time:¬†
          • 9:00 AM (California time): Programming Begins¬†
          • 11:00 AM (California time): Programming Ends¬†
        • Location:¬†Zoom
        • Learning Objectives¬†
          • Students will learn about F-1 regulations, employment opportunities, and work authorization.
          • Students will meet your international student advisors and have a chance to ask questions
          • Students will go through a virtual ‚Äúdocument check-in‚ÄĚ to review their immigration paperwork.


        ISO Attendance is Mandatory for J-1 Exchange Students

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

        Students will receive orientation information from the Exchange Advisors.

        In accordance with the California State University Policy Executive Order and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), San Francisco State University (SFSU) 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. 

        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: December 2023

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