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We are very happy to welcome you to Ohio University! Use this page to learn more about your first steps to joining the Bobcat family in Athens, Ohio. In the below sections you will learn how to get your initial immigration documentation, how to prepare for your arrival to the U.S., reporting your arrival, and preparing to learn more about your first week. 

To join a university in the U.S. you will need a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). You can join a university as a student in F-1 status using an I-20 or in J-1 status using a DS-2019. You will need the COE for several important steps in the arrival process. You can learn more about that below. 

Getting your COE (I-20 or DS-2019)

The International Student and Scholar Services Office does not create initial immigration documents. Please see below for the applicable office to contact.

Preparing for Entry

Please remain aware of impacts to your consular office due to COVID-19.

What is a visa?

A visa is an entry document that you must apply for at a consulate outside of the United States. This document is added to your passport and serves as permission to request entry at your initial U.S. entry port.

What are the types of visas available to me as a degree seeking international student?

The F-1 visa allows an academic student to enter the U.S. as a full-time student at an accredited academic institution or language training program.

The J-1 visa allows an academic student typically sponsored by an educational or non-profit institution to enter the U.S. as a full-time student.

Does every F or J student need a visa to enter the U.S.?

No, citizens of Canada and Bermuda are not required to obtain a visa for entry.

Can I enter the U.S. with an expired visa?

No, your visa must be valid to enter the U.S. Please make note of this when you plan to travel home for breaks or abroad for research.

What is the process for acquiring an entry visa?

Once you receive your COE (your I-20 or DS-2019) from the appropriate admitting office, you can begin the process for acquiring your entry visa.

  1. Pay your SEVIS fee online – this fee is referred to as the I-901 fee and is required for all non-immigrants applying to complete their academic program as an F-1 or J-1 student.
  2. Complete your DS-160 application – this application is submitted to the U.S. Department of State. Consular Officers use the information entered on the DS-160 to process the visa application and, combined with a personal interview, determine an applicant’s eligibility for a nonimmigrant visa.
  3. Schedule your visa interview
  4. Prepare your interview documents
    1. Ohio University's Form I-20 or DS-2019
    2. Valid passport for travel to the United States with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the U.S.
    3. Payment receipt for the SEVIS I-901 fee
    4. Receipt for DS-160 visa application
    5. Evidence of your funding. This evidence should match the funding information submitted with your admission documents which is also displayed on your immigration document
  5. Attend your interview – take all documents noted above as well as any specific documents required by your consular office or the type of visa you are applying for. Please review the 10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Non-Immigrant Visa from NAFSA: Association of International Educators to prepare for the interview.

Receive and review entry visa – confirm that the information on your visa stamp matches what is on your I-20 or DS-2019 and/or passport.

Entering the U.S.

Preparing for Departure

Please be aware that students may not enter the U.S. any earlier than 30 days prior to the start date on their I-20 or DS-2019. 

You should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry to the United States. The Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has authority to deny admission at the US port-of-entry. 

Students should carry all essential documents with them in their carry on luggage. Double check that you have everything:

Enter Through the U.S. Port of Entry

You will meet the Customs and Border Protection Officers at your initial port of entry into the U.S. such as O'Hare International Airport (Chicago, Illinois), JFK International Airport (New York, New York), or Port of Washington-Dulles (Sterling, Virginia). 

There will be two lines of entry: one entry for U.S. citizens and one for international visitors. 

The officer will review your documents and ask you a few questions about the purpose of your travel to the U.S.

If all is in order, the officer will admit you to the U.S. and will stamp your passport with:

  • date and place of arrival
  • immigration status
  • expiration of your stay in status

If you try to enter the U.S. without all your required documents or with unsigned or missing information, the CBP officer may deny your entry into the U.S. Alternatively, the officer might issue you a Form I-515. Learn what to do if you get an I-515.

Sometimes students are sent to secondary inspection for additional questioning by an officer to verify their status. If you are in need of support during arrival time for Ohio University, you can call our arrival and orientation line at 740.593.4339. 

During your arrival process with CBP, they will issue your I-94 record.

The Form I-94, "Arrival/Departure Record" is a critical record. It shows that you have been legally admitted to the United States, the class of admission, and the authorized period of stay. Ohio University ISSS staff will check your I-94 record for accuracy during orientation.

If you arrive by a land port, you will receive a paper Form I-94. If you arrive at the port of entry by air or sea, an automated Form I-94 record will automatically be generated for you by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers. 

Traveling to Ohio University

Getting to the State of Ohio

Your final flight destination should be to John Glenn International Airport in Columbus, Ohio. The airport code is CMH. Learn more about John Glenn International Airport.

Getting to Ohio University

You can travel to Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, with GoBus, a public bus service that offers three daily trips to the Ohio University campus. Please carefully read the bus schedule to confirm that a GoBus departure from John Glenn International Airport is available close to your expected arrival time. Please note that you should plan to debark from the GoBus at the Baker University Center stop. If your arrival is after the last GoBus trip for the day, you should plan for a hotel stay in Columbus, Ohio for the night. There are taxis and a university shuttle as travel options, however those may cost in excess of $120 per trip. If you are staying off-campus, you may need to call a taxi to take you from the GoBus Baker University Center bus stop to your final destination. If you or your family is driving to the Ohio University campus, please see our driving directions

Reporting your Arrival

The Immigration Check-in should only be completed by students who are physically inside of the US. Once you have entered the country, please log into iCats.ohio.edu. Under the gray “Requests” banner click on the entry that starts with “Admitted Spring…”.  Complete and submit the “Confirm Arrival” e-form. In order to complete this check-in you will need to have the following items available:

  • The date you entered the U.S.
  • An email and phone number for your emergency contact person
  • A copy of your passport ID page
  • A copy of your visa stamp (unless you are a citizen of Canada)

This step must be completed before we can report your arrival to the U.S. Government

Orientation Information

You can find orientation information here.

Late Arrival

If you have been approved for late arrival through the graduate college and ISSS, please visit the Late Arrival page for instructions on what to do next.