Getting Started

Congratulations on your admittance to MIT! As you begin to think about your trip to Cambridge, we’d like to offer you some important information that will be helpful in your planning. This entire “For Students” section of our web site, including “newly admitted student information,” “important information,” and “life at MIT,” will be useful to you. We hope that you will take the time to review this online guide carefully, as it should answer many of the questions that you may have. While you read, keep in mind that information often differs for undergraduate, graduate, and non-degree students. We will try to present procedures clearly for all groups of students. Upon arrival, you will receive much more information and have opportunities to attend orientation sessions. Best wishes as you plan your travel to MIT. We look forward to seeing you in Cambridge.

First Steps for students who are outside of the US

If you are already in the US, go to the next section.

Before you arrive, you MUST do the following:

  1. Submit your online forms to apply for the I-20 or DS-2019 online.
    (Allow 2 weeks for processing time in addition to mailing time.)
  2. Receive the I-20 or DS-2019 from the ISO & carefully review the ISO letter that comes with your document.
  3. Make an appointment with the US Consulate with the SEVIS ID on the I-20 or DS-2019* to apply for the F-1 or J-1 visa.
  4. Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee, print receipt.
    (http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/index.htm)
  5. Have appointment with the US Consular officer*.
  6. Pick up passport with F-1 or J-1 visa*.
  7. Prepare for travels to the US no more than 30 days before your program start date (MIT's offical registration date for the your first term).  This is required by immigration regulation.
  8. Arrive in the US and cross the US Borders.
    (Note: The ISO recommends that you do not travel outside of the US between the day you enter the US and your initial Registration day at MIT.)
  9. Check in at the MIT ISO

*Canadian citizens do NOT need to apply for the F or J visa. However, they still have to follow the rest of the procedures and enter the U.S. with a valid I-20 or DS-2019.

First Steps for those who are already in the US

  1. Submit your online forms to apply for the I-20 or DS-2019 online.
    (Allow 2 weeks for processing time in addition to mailing time.)
  2. If you are already in the US at another academic institution on F or J visa status AND you wish to stay in the same visa status, you will be prompted to enter additional information when you apply for your I-20 or DS-2019. If you leave the U.S. before starting the "SEVIS Transfer" process, you will not receive a "Transfer" I-20 but rather a new "Initial Attendance" I-20 (which may require the payment of a new SEVIS I-901 Fee).
  3. Receive the I-20 or DS-2019 from the ISO & carefully review the ISO letter that comes with your document.
  4. If you are currently in the U.S. on another visa category, please see our Change of Visa Status section and contact an ISO advisor immediately to discuss next steps. You must be in F or J status, or another immigration status that allows for full-time study, before enrolling in classes at MIT. If you change your visa status to F or J, you will also need to pay SEVIS I-901 fee.
  5. Arrive in Cambridge
  6. Complete the Online Check-In Process and schedule attendance at an ISO New Student Orientation Session, via iMIT.

Important NoteFor Students Already in the U.S. Traveling Outside the US before your MIT program begins
Please note that newly admitted students entering the US from abroad with their new MIT visa document (Form I-20 or Form DS-2019) may only enter the U.S. up to 30 days prior to the program start date listed on the Form I-20/Form DS-2019.  This includes students who may have already been in the US in F-1 or J-1 status at a different institution before your MIT program but plan to travel between the end of their previous program and starting at MIT. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our office and speak with an advisor. Please see our Obtaining a Visa section for more detail.

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