F-1 International Student Information

May 2015

Dear New International Student,

Congratulations on your admission to Amherst College! Your acceptance is a fine achievement for which you have surely worked very hard. You and your family should be proud of your accomplishment.     

The coming months will be a busy and exciting time, as you make plans for your new academic adventure. One of your first and most important tasks will be completing the steps leading to issuance of the Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” one of the documents needed for F-1 student status, the appropriate classification for the majority of our international students. Most of you will be applying for a new, initial F-1 student visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and must present the Form I-20 as part of your visa application materials. Others of you may be transferring from another U.S. school (either a high school or college) and may need to apply for a renewal visa if your previous F-1 visa is expired and you are planning to leave the U.S. over the summer. Still others may be citizens of Canada and exempt from the visa stamp requirement. In all cases, however, a new Form I-20, issued by Amherst College, is necessary for your legal entry to and continued presence in the U.S.

In order for Amherst College to issue your new I-20 form, you must complete the following steps:

  1. Confirm your intention to attend Amherst College by submitting your enrollment form and deposit to our Office of Admissions. This form was included in your acceptance packet.
  2. Submit a completed on-line “Information Form for New International Students” to the International Students Office. All new international students must complete this form.  In addition, if you are currently attending a high school or college in the U.S., you must also submit a “SEVIS Transfer Release Form,” completed by you and the appropriate official at your previous U.S. school. 
  3. Comply with the “Financial Documentation Requirements.” If you have been admitted as a recipient of financial aid from Amherst College, you need not submit additional financial documentation beyond that required by the Office of Financial Aid. If you are not a recipient of financial aid, however, you must submit the “International Student Certification of Finances Form” with the required supporting documentation of your family’s ability to cover your expenses at Amherst College.

In order to issue I-20 forms, Amherst College must create an electronic record for each of our new F-1 international students on a secure U.S. government website referred to as “SEVIS: Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.” The College must enter into that SEVIS record certain information needed for creation of the student’s I-20 form. The mandated data to be entered includes biographical and identifying information, passport information, permanent home address and U.S. campus address, academic program information (degree, start date, end date, major, etc.), and sources of financial support (family, scholarship, loan, etc.). The information in your SEVIS record will be available to agencies of the U.S. government, including personnel of U.S. embassies and consulates (who will access the information during the visa application process), and immigration inspection officers at U.S. ports of entry.  

Once you have satisfactorily completed all steps in the above list, the college can proceed to create your SEVIS record and begin processing your new I-20 form. To facilitate the process, you should complete all the above steps by May 31. We will begin mailing out I-20 forms in late May, but not before. This schedule has proven to be sufficient for timely visa issuance in our experience.

Detailed information on the visa application and issuance process is posted on the above website and also will be sent along with your I-20 form. Note that there are three different visa information pages: one for new F-1 international students who have not been attending another U.S. school; one for F-1 international students coming to Amherst College from another U.S. school; and one for students of Canadian citizenship. Be certain that you read the visa information appropriate to you.

New International Student Orientation is required for all new international students and runs from Wednesday, August 26 through Monday, August 31. International students traveling from abroad may occupy their dormitory rooms as early as Monday, August 24. In addition, members of the Amherst College International Students Association (ISA) will be available to meet new international students flying into Boston’s Logan Airport on Wednesday, August 26, drive back with them via our Shuttle Service to Amherst College, and assist them with moving into their dormitory rooms. [The ISA Airport Pickup Service is available only at Boston’s Logan Airport, only on Wednesday, August 26, and only to new, unaccompanied international students who made a shuttle reservation no later than Friday, August 14.] Detailed information on this and other methods of transportation to Amherst will be provided in the “Travel and Arrival Information for International Students.” However, the preliminary information on this page may be helpful to you as you plan your trip. In particular, when making travel plans, please note that U.S. government regulations do not permit you to enter the U.S. more than thirty days before the “program start date” of August 26 listed on your I-20 form. You should not try to enter the U.S. any earlier using a tourist visa or through a “visa waiver program,” as such an entry can jeopardize your legal enrollment at Amherst College. If you are expecting to enter the U.S. to attend a summer school program earlier than thirty days prior to August 26, you must contact the International Students Office to discuss your situation and make the necessary arrangements, before Amherst College issues an I-20 form to you.

You are about to embark upon an exciting new adventure with the potential for great intellectual and personal growth. I hope that you are looking forward with enthusiasm to joining the academic and campus life of Amherst College this fall. In the meantime, should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact our office via e-mail: internationalstudents@amherst.edu, or phone at (413) 542-2612. We look forward to communicating with you more over the summer and to meeting you at Orientation!


Lauren E. Clarke
Dean for International Students and Global Engagement
105-B Converse Hall
Amherst College
Amherst MA 01002