New International Graduate Students


International students from all over the world choose graduate study at Virginia Tech. Tech has a vibrant graduate community in which students and faculty from diverse backgrounds collaborate to advance research and scholarship. Virginia Tech offers a range of services to support international graduate students throughout their courses of study.

How to Get your I-20 or DS-2019 form to Apply for F-1 or J-1 Status

International students who have been accepted into a graduate program at the Blacksburg campus must supply the following information and documents before an I-20 or DS-2019 form can be issued (students accepted for the National Capital Region must contact NCR for assistance). Documents may be submitted along with the application for admission, or any time after that, but before the deadline of June 1 for fall admission or November 1 for spring admission:

  • Show proof of having sufficient funds to cover all educational and living expenses for the first year. See our Financial Requirements page for details.
  • Be in legal status, eligible for transfer, if already in the U.S. Submit transfer information form signed by current international student advisor.
  • Complete the Immigration Information Form, and provide a copy of your passport ID page.

Transfer Procedures for Students Already in the U.S. in F-1/J-1 Status
International students who are enrolled in another higher education institution in the United States may transfer to Virginia Tech (to our Blacksburg or National Capital Region campus), whether to continue in a graduate degree program or start a new degree program. Students must review the details of transfer procedures and submit the additional documentation required before an I-20 or DS-2019 can be issued. Students must have their SEVIS record released to Virginia Tech (Blacksburg campus: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University--Graduate School, WAS214F01228001; National Capital Region campus: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University--Northern Virginia Extended Campus Sites, WAS214F01228003; or J-1 program # P-1-00071; ) before an I-20 or DS-2019 can be issued.

Mailing of Immigration Documents
Once we receive and accept all the required documents (allow at least two weeks for processing), an I-20 or DS-2019 form will be issued and mailed by bulk airmail (allow 20-30 days for delivery) unless you pay for express mail. Immigration forms for the fall semester are issued between March and July. Please allow 3-4 months for the visa application and approval process from the date you receive the I-20 or DS-2019 form. Learn more about mailing options. Forms for transfer students who are already in the U.S. may be issued until a week before classes begin.

Preparations for Coming to the United States

  • Learn about the student visa process and what to expect from the paperwork and interview at the U.S. Department of State website.
  • Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee at least three days before your visa appointment. Failure to do so will result in a denial of your visa application. You can pay the fee online. If you do not have a credit card, there are instructions for processing by mail or through Western Union. Review our guidelines.
  • New international students cannot enter the US more than 30 days before the Program Start Date on the I-20 or DS-2019 form. Please make your travel plans with this restriction in mind.
  • J-1 students are encouraged to review the Exchange Visitor Program Welcome Brochure published by the Department of State.

Travel Tips

  • Hand carry (do not put in check-through luggage) the following documents:
    • Your passport;
    • Your I-20 or DS-2019 form;
    • Evidence of financial resources;
    • Evidence of student or exchange visitor status, such as transcripts or letter of acceptance;
    • Paper receipt for the SEVIS fee (if applicable);
    • The name and contact information of your designated school official or program sponsor
    • Important Note: If you are a new student or a new exchange visitor participant, remember to carry with you the sealed envelope given to you by the U.S. Department of State's  Consular Officer - attached to your passport. It is important that you do not open this envelope.
  • Visit the website for U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement to find information on what students can expect at a U.S. Port of Entry, as well as information about immigration documents. The link called "I-515A Tool Kit" provides information about what documents you need to carry with you when arriving in the U.S., and anytime you travel outside of the U.S.

After You Arrive in the U.S.

Mandatory Check-In After Arrival
All new international graduate students must check in with International Graduate Student Services (IGSS) in the Graduate School after arriving in the U.S. (120 Graduate Life Center at Donaldson Brown). Please note that while immigration check-in is mandatory, it does not have to be completed before you can register for classes, get your Hokie Passport, and take care of other items on the new student checklist.

Your SEVIS record will be activated only after you check in with the IGSS. Check-in takes about 15 minutes per student. We offer nearly 500 time slots during a three-week period before school begins. Please sign up for any one of the available time slots and remember to show up for your appointment with all the necessary documents (do not register for multiple time slots; we will honor only the first registration).

Students without an appointment will be assisted if/when an immigration advisor becomes available. Failure to check in may result in the de-activation/cancellation of your SEVIS record and could potentially cause problems with your ability to stay in the U.S. Provide a copy of any external sponsorship documents, such as government or other agency funding letters, to the University Bursar's Office. This is necessary so that your sponsoring agency can be billed for tuition and fees in a timely manner.

English Placement Test
It is Graduate School policy to administer an English placement test (EPT) to international students with TOEFL scores below certain minimums. The VT Language and Culture Institute manages this exam on behalf of the Graduate School. EPT sessions are offered during the orientation period prior to the beginning of classes. Learn more about the requirement and register for a test date online.
Teach and Speak Test for International GTA's
The Graduate School administers a teach and speak test to new  international teaching assistants who will have teaching responsibilities in the classroom or lab. No oral testing is required for GTA's who have grading duties only, or who have scored 26 or higher on the Speaking subtest of the internet-based TOEFL (iBT).

For the TEACH Test, each student will give a mini-lecture (10-15 min.) on a topic chosen by the student in his/her academic field at the undergraduate level. The SPEAK test is an institutional version of the Test of Spoken English (TSE), consisting of 12 tape-recorded questions on a variety of topics, with timed responses, ranging from 30 to 90 sec. Students must sign up online for a 30-minute individual appointment. TEACH/SPEAK Testing Dates: TBA

Orientation Programs and Getting Started as a Student
Orientation programs are offered for all new students, both by academic departments and the Graduate School. There will be a mandatory online immigration session for all new international students. Visit our online student guide to learn about all the details of getting started as a student, from getting your PID, registering for classes, dates and deadlines, expectations for graduate education, travel to and housing in Blacksburg, and more.

Medical Records and Immunication History Form Requirement
All new students entering Virginia Tech are required to submit a completed immunization history form that is signed by a licensed health care professional. Read about the requirements and download the Immunization Form and instructions from the Schiffert Health Center website. This is required by Virginia state law, and students who do not comply will receive a medical hold on their record that will block their registration for the next semester's classes.You can phone 540-231-6444 if you have questions. It is highly recommended that new international students sign up for an Orientation to Healthcare and Immunization History Review session offered by the Schiffert Health Center to learn about student healthcare at Virginia Tech, tour the facilities, and have their immunization history form reviewed.

Health Insurance Requirements
All international students in F-1/J-1 status and their accompanying family members in F-2/J-2 status are required to have adequate insurance coverage for the duration of their stay in the United States. This requirement protects students in cases of medical emergencies. Health care is very expensive in the United States, and without insurance coverage one could not afford paying for many services.

Aetna is the company under contract with Virginia Tech to provide insurance coverage for students which meets the minimum university requirements. Students must be enrolled full-time to qualify for this insurance policy. Questions regarding the insurance policy, eligibility and costs may be referred to: Student Medical Insurance,110 New Student Services Building,  (540) 231-6226, See more information about the insurance requirement and compliance details.

Additional Resources