A citizen of a foreign country who wants to enter the United States generally must first obtain a US visa. The visa is a document that is placed in the traveler’s passport. A passport is a travel document issued by the traveler’s country of citizenship.
There are many different types of US visas. Most students coming to the US for academic studies at a university are applying for the F-1 Visa. This is also commonly referred to as a Student Visa.
F-1 Visas can be issued up to 120 days in advance of the start date of your program. The program start date will be specified on your I-20. However, you will not be allowed to enter the US on your student visa more than 30 days before the program start date.
Before starting on the steps below, please note that instructions may vary slightly by country. So please also check the website of your specific embassy or consulate in your home country.
1. Get accepted to a full time program at UW Tacoma
If you are told that your visa is denied, ask the officer for a list of documents they would suggest you bring next time you apply. And ask what the reason for your visa denial was. They will most likely give you a reason printed on a document. Then you can contact us at ISSS and we will try to help you. Try not to be discouraged, many people are able to get their visa after reapplying! Do not argue with the embassy/consular officer or it may affect future visa appointments.
If you have been outside the US for more than five months and did not register full time while abroad, your F-1 visa will be considered invalid, even if it has not yet expired. If you are returning to resume study, you must obtain a new visa and pay the SEVIS fee.
Study Abroad Students
If you plan to study abroad during your UW degree program, carefully review the entry visa requirements for the country where you will study. You might need a valid F-1 or J-1 US visa to apply for an entry visa to another country while you are a UW student. It is not possible to apply for a new F-1/J-1 visa inside the US. If your current US student visa is expired, you might need to travel outside of the US to obtain a new F-1 or J-1 visa before you can apply for a visa to another country. Allow enough time for the required visa applications when planning to study abroad. You should also consult ISSS regarding study abroad plans to see if and how they will affect your F-1 or J-1 status.
Canadian citizens do not need a visa but simply need to present their passport, I-20 (or DS-2019), SEVIS Fee Receipt, financial documentation, and proof of admission to UWT to the immigration officer at the Port of Entry
SEVIS Transfer Students
If you are changing schools within the US and transferring your SEVIS record to UW Tacoma, there are Visa and travel policies unique to your situation. You can travel with your current F-1 visa and UW Tacoma I-20, even if the visa has your previous school's name on it, as long as the visa is not expired, and you are not outside the US for more than five months between academic programs.
You can use your UW Tacoma "transfer pending" I-20 to enter the US, even earlier than 30 days before the I-20 start date. The 30-day rule is only for travel with "initial" I-20s, not "transfer pending" I-20s.