MIT Pre-Arrival Checklist

To assist MIT international students in preparing for their arrival in the U.S., the International Students Office (ISO) has provided a comprehensive “Pre-Arrival Checklist”. It is essential for students to thoroughly review and follow this checklist to ensure a successful pre-arrival to the U.S. Additionally, please be aware that specific MIT programs may have additional requirements.


  1. Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee and retain the receipt. NOTE: The SEVIS Fee is mandatory ONLY for the F-1 or J-1 student and is NOT required for any F-2 or J-2 dependents.
    • Student can find their SEVIS ID Number (Nxxxxxxxxxx) in their iMIT portal, under “SEVIS Status Information”. It can also be found on the top left of a Form I-20 or the top right of a Form DS-2019.
    • Students with an MIT-issued “Transfer” Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 “Certificate of Eligibility” document do not need to repay the SEVIS Fee.

  2. Complete and submit the required DS-160 online form with the U.S. Department of State (DOS)*.
    • The DS-160 online form allows an ‘F-1 Student (University/College)’ or a ‘J-1 Exchange Visitor (J-1 Professional Exchange, e.g. student, physician, scholar)’ to apply for a U.S. entry visa sticker/stamp, and to schedule a visa sticker/stamp appointment using the students MIT SEVIS ID Number at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad*.

  3. Attend the U.S. Embassy/Consulate entry visa sticker/stamp appointment at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad*.

  4. Retrieve the passport containing the F-1 or J-1 U.S. entry visa sticker/stamp.*
    • ATTENTION: The ISO strongly advises students to ONLY plan or book travel to the U.S. after completing this step (#4).
      • *IMPORTANT: Citizens of Canada and Bermuda are exempt from applying for the F or J entry visa sticker/stamp. However, they are still required to follow all other procedures and enter the U.S. with a valid MIT-issued Form I-20 or DS-2019 “Certificate of Eligibility” document.

  5. Complete the required ISOImmigration Orientation eCourse.
    • ALL new/incoming MIT degree-seeking international students will be required to complete their specific immigration status (F-1 or J-1) ‘Immigration Orientation eCourse’ and achieve a passing grade of 90% or higher on the associated (F-1 or J-1) ‘Immigration Orientation eCourse Quiz’.
      • ATTENTION: The ISO ‘Immigration Orientation eCourses’ are exclusively designed for F and J MIT Undergraduate and Graduate degree-seeking students. MIT Non-Degree students (e.g., Special, Exchange, Visiting) should refer to the ISO ‘Non-Degree Students Orientation’ webpage for guidance on fulfilling their immigration orientation requirements.       
    • Eligible students will be “invited” to their specific immigration status (F-1 or J-1) ‘Immigration Orientation eCourse’ by email. The email invitation will be sent to the student’s email address from Canvas.
      • If a student does not receive an email invitation to their specific immigration status (F-1 or J-1) ‘Immigration Orientation eCourse’ from Canvas, and they believe that they are eligible, then the student should first check their Junk/SPAM folders. If the email invitation is still not there, then the student should email and include their [MIT ID Number, Academic Department and Program, and future MIT program start date].
    • Students can complete the ‘Immigration Orientation eCourse’ requirement before or after arrival to the U.S.

  6. Prepare for travel and arrival to the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before the start date listed on a student’s MIT-issued “Certificate of Eligibility” document (i.e., F-1 Form I-20 or J-1 Form DS-2019). Compliance with this immigration regulation is necessary.
    • Students should plan to arrive to the U.S. and MIT on or before the start date listed on their MIT-issued “Certificate of Eligibility” document (Form I-20 or Form DS-2019).
      • Example: If a student has an MIT-issued “Certificate of Eligibility” document (Form I-20 or Form DS-2019) with a Fall 2024 start date of September 3, 2024, their entry into the U.S. can be no earlier than August 4, 2024 (30 days prior to the start date listed on their MIT-issued “Certificate of Eligibility” document).
    • NOTE: Travel outside the U.S. AFTER arrival, and BEFORE the start date listed on the student’s MIT-issued “Certificate of Eligibility” document(s) is NOT RECOMMENDED. Students planning on leaving the U.S. shortly after arrival (i.e., vacation, quick trips, cruises, etc.), and then returning to start their MIT program are advised to initially enter the U.S. as a tourist (i.e., B1, B2, ESTA, etc.). Upon returning to start an MIT program, the student can then enter the U.S. under F or J status. Following these steps helps students avoid potential issues when entering the U.S.
    • Students should thoroughly review the ISO ‘First-Time/New MIT Student Entering The U.S.’ webpage for additional information about entering the U.S.
      • ATTENTION: If a student will arrive after the start date listed on their MIT-issued “Certificate of Eligibility” document, they must obtain prior approval from their academic department and their ISO Advisor in advance.

  7. Arrive in the U.S. and clear U.S. Customs and Borders (CBP). NOTE: After initial entry into the U.S., student should avoid international travel between their U.S. entry date and the start date listed on their MIT-issued “Certificate of Eligibility” document(s).

  8. Next, carefully review and complete all the requirements listed on the ISO ‘POST-Arrival Checklist’ webpage.

Additional Questions?

After thoroughly reviewing the ISO ‘Getting Started’ webpages, students with additional questions are encouraged to use the search tool located at the top of the ISO website or consult the comprehensive FAQ section on the ISO ‘Knowledge Base’ webpage. Additionally, MIT students have the option to contact their designated ISO Advisor directly for assistance.

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