Before You Arrive

We are excited to welcome you to GW's vibrant, global community! Please see below for some helpful information as you prepare for your arrival.

For specific immigration or visa concerns, please contact the ISO at [email protected] and an International Student Advisor will be happy to assist you. 

International Student Resources

For a comprehensive collection of resources created for GW International Students, visit our International Student Resource Library. This library includes information about housing, transportation, airports, and more!


Student Health Insurance Requirement

All GW international students holding a J1 or F1 visa are required to carry health insurance. This requirement is a GW mandate. If you are an F1 or J1 visa holder, you will automatically be enrolled in Aetna Student Health Insurance plan and the fees will be added to your tuition bill.  If you have comparable coverage and wish to opt out of the plan, you must submit an online waiver form.  To complete the online waiver form, visit the Aetna website.

Waiver decisions are made immediately and you may appeal the decision using the Aetna Student Health Website.

Learn why it’s important to have health insurance.

Please note that ISO does not:

  • Administer the plans provided to students.

  • Make the final determination with regard to insurance waivers.

  • Provide information on alternative plans.

  • Remove insurance charges from student accounts.

  • Provide advising services with regard to health care, insurance or medical advice.

If you have additional questions or need more information, please visit the Student Health Services website.

English for Academic Purposes (EAP) Placement

According to university regulations, if your TOEFL score was below 100 on the Internet-based test, 250 on the computer-based test, or 600 on the paper-based test, you will be required to take one of GW's English for Academic Purposes (EAP) courses with the Language Center at the Columbian College of Arts & Sciences.

More information about Placement into EAP Courses can be found on the EAP website.

Specific courses are offered for undergraduate and graduate students.

International Students Waiting for I-20s and DS-2019s:

If you are waiting for your I-20 or DS-2019, please know that we are processing it as quickly as possible.  The ISO starts processing I-20s and DS-2019s once we receive a complete application from your admitting school or department. This is an extremely busy time for the ISO and we attempt to return a complete application with an I-20 or DS-2019 to the school or department as quickly as possible.  An incomplete application will cause delays in this process.

Please verify with your department that you have submitted all necessary documentation.  We have a large number of international students who are waiting on their documents to be processed.  Therefore, to ensure that we are fair to all of our waiting students, we process I-20s and DS-2019s in the order they are received.

Once your department or school receives the I-20 or DS-2019, it will be sent to you.  Please refrain from making your visa interview appointments at the US embassy or consulate until you are informed that your I-20 or DS-2019 is ready.  You will have to reschedule your visa appointment if you do not receive the I-20 or DS-2019 by your appointment date.

If you have further questions or a special situation, please ask your school or program's admissions representative.

Acquiring a Visa

As part of the admissions packet sent to you by the ISO, you should have received an I-20 or DS-2019 form from GW.

Plan ahead! Obtaining a visa takes time and patience, so be sure to begin the process well before classes begin.

To obtain your US visa, contact the nearest US embassy or consulate in your country for information on application requirements, procedures, and processing time. The US Department of State is responsible for issuing student visas.

Requirements and procedures vary from country to country. However, be prepared to present at least the following documents to your US embassy or consulate:

  • The I-20 (for F-1 visa) issued by GW, or the DS-2019 (for J-1 visa) issued by GW or your sponsoring agency (such as Fulbright).

  • Your valid passport

  • An original letter of admission to GW

  • Original financial documentation in English, referring to US dollars (for example: scholarship awards, bank statements, etc.) matching the funding section on your I-20 or DS-2019

  • Evidence of strong ties to your home country (cultural, social, professional, or any other aspect of your life that has a binding effect between you and your country of residence. For example: family members, a job, a steady source of income, a house, an investment, and/or bank accounts are all examples of "strong ties.") 

Remember to contact the US consulate or embassy or review their website to accurately determine all of the necessary documents you will need to apply for your visa.

Arriving in the U.S.

When to Arrive

F-1 and J-1 visa holders are not permitted to enter the US more than 30 days prior to the report date listed on their I-20 or DS-2019. This report date is located in item number five on your immigration document. Therefore, we usually recommend that you arrive in Washington, DC two to three weeks before classes start.

Finding housing can be particularly challenging and may take a lot of energy and time. Undergraduate students may visit the GW Housing website for information on how to apply for housing.  Graduate students should visit the Off-Campus Student Affairs or the GW Off-Campus Housing websites, and our International Student Resource Library for assistance. In addition to arriving early to find housing, you are also required to attend the ISO’s International Student Orientation. During this orientation, you will learn important information about maintaining your legal status in the U.S., academics at GW, and meet your fellow international students.

At the Port of Entry 

It is important that you enter the country in the proper visa type (F-1 or J-1). To do so you must present the following to an immigration office at the port of entry:

  • Your passport
  • Your US F-1 or J-1 visa stamp for the George Washington University Your I-20 or DS-2019
  • If you enter as a B-1 (business visitor) or as a B-2 (tourist), you will not be able to study until your immigration status changes. If you enter on the Visa Waiver Program (with no visa), you will not be able to study and you will not be able to change your status to that of a student while in the US. 

If you forget an immigration document, the immigration officer may issue you a form I-515 (A), which is a temporary 30-day admission. If this occurs, please come to the International Services Office as soon as possible during normal business hours. When you come to the ISO, please bring all of your immigration documents, including the form I-515 (A) issued at the port of entry, to help us assist you.

Information about transportation in the DC area can be found on our Transportation Resources page.

Late Arrival

If you cannot arrive in the US before the reporting date on your I-20, please contact you admissions liaison. They will work with ISO to determine when you may arrive and may prepare additional documentation for you to submit on inspection at the US port of entry.

The ISO requires that a request to arrive after the reporting date come directly from the admitting department or GW School.

International Payment Methods

If you have questions about how to pay your Student Account eBill, visit GW's Student Accounts Office Website to learn more about international wire transfers.