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How to Request Certificate of Eligibility to Obtain Student Visa

All newly admitted international students are required to complete the International Student Visa Documentation process in order to receive visa-eligibility documentation (I-20/DS-2019) and/or clearance to enroll at Penn State. The following is an overview of this process (additional details are provided to the student as they progress through the steps):

Apply to Penn State

Please note:  We no longer require any visa or immigration related documentation at the time of application. The following will detail how and when that documentation will need to be submitted.

Accept your offer of admission

  • Undergraduate Students do this by paying their acceptance fees. Please log on to your MyPennState Profile to complete this step or contact Undergraduate Admissions if additional information or assistance is needed.
  • Graduate Students do this by contacting their department/program of study.

Access iStart to complete on-line International Student Visa Documentation process

Once Pre-Arrival Advising, a unit within the Directorate of International Student and Scholar Advising (DISSA), has been notified that you have accepted your offer, we will contact you via email to provide you with a set of instructions and a link so that you can access our secure on-line system (iStart). You cannot access this site until we send you the instructions. 

The system will guide you through a series of sections or eForms to be completed including biographical and immigration-related information as well as instructions on uploading required documentation (ex. visas, passports, bank statements and Affidavits of Support).

Please note:

  • All newly admitted international students will need to complete this process.
  • International students who are not requesting an I-20/DS-2019 do not need to provide any financial information.
  • The process to request an I-20 for F1 visa or a DS-2019 for J1 visa is the same.
  • You cannot access iStart until our office receives notification that you have accepted your offer of admission/paid your acceptance fees.

Financial Guarantee Requirements for International Students

Bringing dependents: If you will be accompanied by dependents (spouse and/or children), you will be fully responsible for their support and additional funds are required. University stipends (for graduate students) are not sufficient to cover dependents’ expenses and are not intended to do so.  If you intend to bring dependents within the first six months at Penn State, you must provide a financial guarantee for the dependents when applying for your  I-20 or DS-2019.  Otherwise, you will have to wait six months to bring dependents.

Case review by Pre-Arrival Advising

Once all required documentation has been submitted, Pre-Arrival Advising will review your case. If all documentation is in order, the review process can take approximately 2-3 weeks (depending on the current volume of cases).

Please note:

  • You may be required to provide additional information and/or documentation as a part of this review process, which may further delay issuance of an I-20/DS-2019. Please keep this in mind as you plan to schedule your visa interview.
  • Pre-Arrival Advising will not begin the review process until you have completed all of the required sections or eForms within iStart.

Case decision

  • If you requested an I-20/DS-2019, you will receive an email notification when your case has been approved.
  • If you did not request an I-20/DS-2019, you will receive an email notification when your case has been closed for immigration purposes.
  • If you are coming to Penn State from another U.S. Institution, you will receive an email notification and SEVIS release form when you have been pre-approved to receive an I-20/DS-2019. However, our office will be unable to prepare a new I-20 or DS-2019 document for you until after you have completed study at your current school or have completed any period of academic training (CPT/OPT) and your record has been released to The Pennsylvania State University within SEVIS.  Issuance of a new I-20 or DS-2019 will end your practical training.

Request shipment of I-20/DS-2019

You must indicate the method of shipping:  express mail which you pre-pay or regular first-class mail.   Regular first-class mail takes about 3-8 days within the U.S., and first-class, air mail takes about 2-5 weeks to addresses outside the United States. Express mail, however, is usually delivered within one week after the document has been prepared for shipping. Please note:

You can request a shipment for delivery of an I-20/DS-2019 at any time during the review process. However, requesting a shipment before you have been notified of our decision will not have any impact on when your case is reviewed. Your shipment will be processed as soon as we have completed our review and prepared the document(s) for shipping.