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There are many things to prepare in advance of your arrival at DigiPen, some of which will take time to process — so be sure to begin your planning well in advance. In addition to complying with governmental regulations and applying for a visa, there are several everyday concerns and logistics you should be ready for, some of which we outline below.


What is SEVIS?

As an international student with an F-1 visa you will become part of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). SEVIS is a national tracking and monitoring system that allows the U.S government to monitor and track various events during your program of study. DigiPen Institute of Technology is required to provide the following information about you through SEVIS:

  • Your name
  • Date and place of birth
  • Country of citizenship
  • Address
  • Status (enrolled, not enrolled)
  • Date of commencement of studies
  • Degree program and field of study
  • Practical training
  • Termination date and reason
  • Documents related to your admission

You will learn more about SEVIS during orientation after arrival. However, before you enter the U.S. you need to understand that, once you have arrived, you must be committed to following all the rules related to your status. Any violations of status will be reported to the U.S. government. Students who do what is required of their status will not be greatly affected by SEVIS.


Before applying for an F-1 visa, you are required to pay a $200 fee, called the “SEVIS fee,” to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Individuals who are not required to obtain a visa (Canadian students) are required to pay this fee before entering the United States. The fee can be paid by mail, using Form-901, by credit card, or through the Internet and should be made payable to the Department of Homeland Security. If your visa has been denied, you do not need to pay the fee again if you re-apply for the same visa within nine months of the denial.

You will be required to pay this fee if:

  • You are seeking an F-1 visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate for initial attendance at a university or initial participation in an exchange program. The fee must be paid before applying for the visa.

  • You will enter the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status, but are not required to have a visa. The fee must be paid before you apply for admission to the U.S.

  • You are applying for a change of status to F-1 or J-1. The fee must be paid before you submit your change of status application.

The fee is not required:

  • For F-2 dependents

  • If your immigration status is F-1 and you are transferring to another school, program, or program category

  • If you are requesting an extension of your program or course of study

  • If you paid the fee but your application for an F-1 visa was denied and, within nine months of the denial, you re-apply for the same status

  • For a change of status application between F-1 and F-3

Applying for a Visa

Students living outside the United States must obtain a passport from their government, and then take the I-20 sent by DigiPen and any supporting documentation to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to apply for an F-1 visa. Apply for the visa as early as possible. F-1 students may enter the U.S. as early as 30 days before the start date noted in line 5 of the I-20. Students transferring to DigiPen Institute of Technology from another school must report to International Student Affairs as soon as they arrive.

Communication with DigiPen

Make sure that you have completed everything you need in order to come to DigiPen. Admissions, the Registrar, Financial Aid, Student Affairs, and other departments may require additional information from you at any time from your acceptance to your arrival date. Continue to check your email regularly and verify that your mailing address is accurate. You are responsible for all information sent to you from DigiPen.

Preparing for the United States

As an international student, there are several important things you should consider before your arrival:

  • Open a Bank Account

    Many students open a bank account while at DigiPen. Research available banking options near the DigiPen campus and see what you will need to open an account. Some banks will require documentation from your current bank, so make sure to obtain these documents in advance.

  • Cell Phone Options

    Cell phones are a great way to keep in contact with your peers, friends, and family at home. Research companies in advance and see if your phone can be used in the United States.

  • Prepare for the Weather

    The weather in Washington state can be very different than what you’re used to at home. Washington winters can be very cold and rainy, so pack plenty of water-proof gear and winter clothes.

  • Transportation

    When arriving to the U.S., make sure to plan your transportation from the airport to DigiPen accordingly. Utilize services at the airport such as Shuttle Express or King County Metro Transit.

Travel Tips

  • Travel with your passport, visa, and I-20 in your carry-on luggage. You will be inspected at the port of entry before you claim your checked baggage.
  • Arrange for transportation from the airport to wherever you are staying.
  • Take some of the things that are important to you such as prescription eyeglasses, a bilingual dictionary, and medication, and keep them in your carry-on luggage.
  • Shop around for airfares and check for baggage regulations before deciding what airline to take to the United States.
  • To avoid unnecessary delays, make sure your ticket is confirmed at least one month before the day you are required to arrive.
  • Arrive at the airport about three hours before your intended departure.
  • Make sure your schedule allows sufficient time for connecting flights.
  • Carry sufficient money for unexpected expenses or events such as missing your flight. You may also want to carry an extra change of clothing in your carry-on luggage in case of unexpected delays.