Immigration: Arriving in the US

Sunrise over the US Capitol Building on Inauguration Day 2009

Preparing to leave your home country to embark on a new journey can be overwhelming. To help you prepare to travel, please see the information below.

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 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.

Transportation in DC

The Metropolitan DC subway system, or Metro, is a safe and inexpensive method of transportation in the city. The Orange, Blue and Silver Line trains lead directly to the Foggy Bottom/GWU Metro Station, the heart of the George Washington University campus. The ISO is located a few blocks away. MetroBus and the Circulator are other popular public transportation options, with stops throughout the city. In addition, taxis are widely used throughout the metropolitan area.

Washington Airports

Washington, DC, is served by three major airports: Ronald Reagan National Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, and Baltimore Washington International Airport. Please read the following information to help determine into which airport you wish to fly. Below is an overview of airports near GW and the most economical transportation options from each location.

Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA)
DCA is the closest airport to GW’s campus (6 miles, or 9 km, away). Transportation to GW is available through:

Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)
IAD is located in Virginia, about 20 mi. (30 km) from downtown Washington. Transportation is available through:

  • Metro (Silver Line)
  • Washington Flyer: The Coach Service will take you to the West Falls Church Metro Station (Orange Line).
  • Super Shuttle: It can be used for transportation to you place of residence.
  • MetroBus 5A: It operates between the L’Enfant Plaza Station (Blue, Orange and Silver Lines) and Dulles, with stops at the Rosslyn Station (Orange/Silver Lines) and Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride.
  • Taxi: This option will be expensive, and will probably cost between $50 and $100.

Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI)
BWI is located in Maryland, about 33 miles (53 km) from Washington. For transportation to DC, the following are available:

  • The MARC Train: Take the Penn Line to Union Station, located on the Red Line of the Metro. MARC Train service operates on Monday through Friday only.
  • Amtrak Train
  • Taxi (Will probably cost between $50 and $100)

Travelers Aid or information desks located within the airports are extremely helpful in providing information on-site after you pass the port of entry.

Late Arrival Instructions

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.

Western Union GlobalPay

Western Union Business Solutions is a specialist in global education payments and is authorized to accept payments from students for the benefit of our educational institution clients. Working with our clients, GlobalPay for Students offers a convenient and cost effective way to make education payments in local currency.

To learn more about WU GlobalPay and International Wire Transfers, please refer to the Student Accounts Office website- International Payment Options