Before You Arrive

In this section prospective international students will find information about requesting or refusing an I-20 or DS-2019, insurance and financial requirements, and other essential pre-arrival information.

Our goal is to assist and advise incoming international students on U.S. immigration related issues and regulations.  We also help direct students to finding answers to many questions about the transition to Penn State as a newly admitted student.

Request your I-20 or DS-2019 to Obtain a Student Visa

The Directorate of International Student and Scholar Advising (DISSA) is not involved with the academic admission process.  DISSA is responsible for the processing of visa eligibility documents and advising, and works with students once they have been officially admitted to the University.  Refer to the Admissions Office for admission inquiries.

The process for requesting your documentation is outlined below.

1. Accept your Offer of Admission

  • Undergraduate Students: Access your acceptance letter and pay the acceptance fees through MyPennState.
  • Graduate Students:  After final review by the Graduate School, you will receive formal notification of your admission. Questions concerning your admission or denial should be directed to your intended program/plan of study.
  • EA International Exchange Students: You will be contacted by an international student adviser directly via email.  Please refer to the EA International Exchange Students webpage.
  • Non-Degree-Seeking: Please refer to our the Non-Degree Study webpage.

2. Access iStart to complete the request

Pre-Arrival Advising will contact you via email and provide a set of instructions and a link to our secure on-line system called iStart. You cannot access iStart until we send you the instructions.

iStart hosts a Pre-Arrival Checklist for newly admitted international students which will list all of the required steps before you arrive to your campus.

iStart will guide you through a series electronic forms (eForms), to be completed. The eForms include biographical and immigration-related information and instructions for uploading required documentation such as visas, passports, bank statements and/or certification of financial support.

  • All newly admitted international students will need to complete the iStart 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.
  • Undergraduates cannot access iStart until our office receives notification that you have paid any acceptance fees.

3. Case Review by Pre-Arrival Advising

Once you have submitted your document or clearance request through iStart, a pre-arrival adviser will review your case. The review process can take approximately 3 weeks during peak season from May to July.

You may be asked to submit additional information or documentation which can further the issuance of your document.

Your request cannot be reviewed until you complete all of the required eForms and submit your file for review.

4. Case Decision

  • When your I-20 or DS-2019 is prepared, you will receive an email from the pre-arrival adviser.
  • If you did not request a document, but clearance to study on your current visa, you will receive an email from the pre-arrival adviser when your request is approved.
  • If you are transferring your SEVIS record from another U.S. school, you will receive an email notice with instructions from a pre-arrival adviser.  The SEVIS Transfer information, also known as a "transfer-in form" will be in email format once your request is approved. The data is not available on our website.

5. Shipment of your document

Be sure to complete the Express Mail eForm in iStart.  You can complete the Express Mail Request now, but your document cannot be shipped until it is issued and prepared by our office.  Completing the shipping request early will not speed the review of your I-20 or DS-2019 request.