F-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors are required to arrive at Washington University by the start date on their I-20 or DS-2019. Employees in H-1B and other statuses must arrive by the start date on their approval notice (if applicable). Early arrival allows students, scholars and employees time to settle in, adjust to the U.S. and St. Louis and attend mandatory orientation programs.

Obtaining a visa

Once you receive your I-20 or DS-2019 from OISS, you will need to apply for an F-1 or a J-1 visa from a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad (Canadian citizens are exempt from this requirement).

If you are an H-1B or an O-1 employee who is currently located outside the U.S., you will need to receive your original Form I-797, Approval Notice for H-1B or O-1 status. This form will be sent to you by your sponsoring department. Learn more about the visa application process.

If you are already in the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status and you are transferring your SEVIS record to WashU from another institution, or if you are an H-1B employee who is porting (transferring) from another employer, you do not need to apply for a new F-1, J-1 or H-1B visa unless you plan to travel internationally.

Initial entry F-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors

Entry to the U.S. in F- 1 or J-1 status is permitted up to 30 days before the program start date listed on the I-20 or DS-2019 for those in initial status. If you are transferring your immigration status to WashU or completing a change of level, contact OISS with questions regarding travel.

Port of entry requirements

When you arrive at a U.S. port of entry, you will be required to go through an inspection with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). As a nonimmigrant seeking admission to the U.S., you are required to present certain documents in order to be admitted to the U.S. You should carry these documents with you when you travel. Do not place them in your checked-in luggage. You will not have access to your luggage until after this inspection is over.

Required documents at port of entry

  • Passport valid for at least six (6) months from the date of entry
  • U.S. visa entry stamp
    • Stamped into your passport by the U.S. consulate or embassy after your visa is approved
    • Must be valid at the time of entry
    • Use the appropriate visa stamp that corresponds with the intended status (e.g., F-1, J-1 or H-1B)
    • Not applicable for Canadian citizens
  • Eligibility document
    • Form I-20 (for F-1)
    • Form DS-2019 (for J-1)
    • I-797 Approval Notice (for H-1B or O-1)
  • SEVIS fee payment receipt (for F or J only)
  • Evidence of financial resources (proof of funding per requirements of your visa type)
  • Letter from your department confirming employment
    • recommended for J-1 scholars and H-1B employees
    • not applicable for F-1 and J-1 students
  • Name and contact information for Designated School Official (DSO) or Responsible Officer (RO) at your intended school or program (for F or J only). See the OISS Contact Us page to find your OISS adviser (DSO) and contact information.

Upon arrival, proceed to the terminal area for arriving passengers to begin inspection. As you approach the inspection station, ensure that you have the documents listed above. You will be asked to state the reason why you wish to enter the U.S. You will also be asked to provide information about your final destination. Be prepared with your living address and WashU’s address.

Once your inspection is complete, the inspecting officer:

  • will return your passport and I-20 or DS-2019 or I-797
  • may stamp your passport with your immigration details (admission status, date of entry and status end date)

In addition, sometimes international visitors are required to go to secondary inspection. Secondary inspection is necessary when the CBP officer cannot verify your information, or if you do not have all of the required documentation. Secondary inspection allows officers to conduct additional research to verify information without causing delays for other arriving passengers. If you are asked to go to secondary inspection, you should remain calm and follow the directions of the CBP officer. You may be asked for contact information for your Designated School Official (DSO).

For more information on entering the U.S., please visit the Customs and Border Protection website.

CBP gathers travelers’ arrival/departure information automatically from their electronic travel records. Learn more about the I-94 travel record. Be sure to print your I-94 record after arrival. You will need it to verify immigration status and/or employment authorization.

Please note: CBP will still issue a paper form I-94 at land border ports of entry (i.e., Canada and Mexico). You must pre-request and pre-pay for your I-94 in this case.

Housing and orientation

New undergraduate students

For move-in and orientation information, please visit the First-Year International (FYI) Student Orientation website. Specific information about move-in instructions, dates and deadlines, and additional contact information will be available on this webpage.

For more information about housing, such as housing application for incoming first-year students, visit the Residential Life website.

New graduate students

If you need assistance in finding off-campus housing, please visit our Housing webpage. This page includes information about finding WashU-owned and non WashU-owned apartments, rental tips and rental housing scams.

For information about graduate orientation, please contact your department. For more information about OISS orientation for international graduate students, please visit our Graduate Orientation page.

Exchange and undergraduate transfer students

For move-in and orientation information, please visit the International Transfer & Exchange Student Orientation website. Specific information about move-in instructions, dates and deadlines, and additional contact information will be available on this webpage.

Scholars and employees

If you need assistance finding housing, please visit our Housing webpage. It includes information about finding WashU-owned and non-WashU-owned housing, rental housing scams and more.

For temporary housing, you may contact your department to find out if they can offer you any assistance in making temporary arrangements. Alternatively, you may reserve a hotel room for a few nights to give you time to find a place. To search for a hotel, visit the Explore St. Louis visitor website.

J-1 exchange visitors in scholar categories are required to attend orientation with OISS. Review the J-1 Scholar Getting Started page for details.

Transportation from St. Louis Lambert Airport

Information booth at the airport: You can visit the St. Louis-Lambert Airport’s main Information Booth, located in the Terminal 1 Baggage Claim area between carousels 4 and 5, for assistance with questions regarding baggage claim locations, ticket counters, meeting areas, ground transportation, directions, hotel shuttle services and more. Terminal 2 passengers can contact the Information Booth by cell phone, or via courtesy phones which are located by Gate E10 and in the lower-level across from the Southwest Airlines Baggage Office.


Taxis are available 24 hours a day and can be picked up directly at both terminals. The cost from the airport to WashU is about $30-50 USD for most neighborhoods close to campus, plus a customary 15-20% gratuity.

Hotel shuttle service

Many of the hotels near St. Louis-Lambert International Airport offer shuttle service to and from the airport at a free or discounted rate for guests of their hotels. We recommend that you inquire directly with the hotel you are booking about this service.

Ride sharing apps

The Uber and Lyft mobile apps allows customers with smartphones to submit a trip request which is then routed to drivers who use their own cars to transport the customer to their destination. You must download the Uber or Lyft app and create an account in order to use the service. For more information, visit their websites: Uber in Saint Louis and Lyft in Saint Louis.


The MetroLink light rail system has two stations on the Danforth Campus, the Skinker and Big Bend Stations. The Medical School Campus is located within walking distance of the Central West End Station. For fares and departure information, go to the Metro Transit website.

Airport shuttle

The St. Louis Lambert International Airport recommends a variety of shuttle and transportation options. You can view these option on the St. Louis Lambert International Airport website.

If you are traveling to either campus for the first time, maps of both the Danforth and Medical School campuses are available to assist you.

Health insurance

All F-1 and J-1 students at WashU are required to purchase the WashU student health insurance plan. Some J-1 scholars and employees in H-1B, O-1, TN and E-3 statuses are eligible to enroll in WashU-sponsored employee health insurance. Information about these plans and health care in the U.S. can be found on the Health Care and Insurance webpage.

J-1 Exchange Visitors should note that the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program has specific health insurance requirements for exchange visitors (both students and scholars). J-1 students should review the J-1 Student Status webpage, and J-1 scholars should review the J-1 Exchange Visitor Status webpage for more details.

After U.S. arrival

Do not forget to plan ahead by reviewing your required steps after U.S. arrival. More information about mandatory immigration check-in and post-arrival details can be found on the After U.S. Arrival webpage.