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Visa, Pre-Departure Checklist and FAQs

Checklist and FAQs

  • Visa, To-do Checklist, FAQ

    Be sure to complete all applicable steps before your arrival at Macalester and before any deadline required by specific Macalester offices. If you do not plan to attend Macalester, email International Student Programs (ISP) immediately.
    Contact ISP with any additional questions at  or call +1 (651) 696-6992.

    Applying for Visa (and I-20)

    Note: if you will be studying in the U.S. in a visa category other than F or J, please contact ISP immediately to discuss your situation.

    Obtain a Valid Passport

    Passport must be valid 6 months beyond your period of stay in the U.S. If it will expire while you are at Macalester, you should renew it 6 months before it expires.

    If you intend to graduate from Macalester, your passport should be valid for 6 months beyond the program end date on your I-20.

    For exchange students, passports should be valid 6 months beyond the program end date on your I-20 (or DS-2019).

    Obtain your I-20

    Degree-seeking students should follow instructions from Admissions for submitting required documents to obtain an I-20 for visa application. Non-ISEP exchange students will receive instructions from ISP.

    Necessary documents include, but are not limited to, copy of passport, and copies of recent bank/financial statements and International Student Certification of Finance (CoF) form that are no more than 6 months old.

    ISEP exchange students should communicate with their ISEP program coordinator for their DS-2019 and J-1 visa.

    Apply for a visa

    Apply for a student (F-1) or exchange visitor (J-1) visa from a U.S. embassy/consulate.

    Note: students from Canada and the Bahamas generally do not need to apply for a visa, but must present the I-20 (or a DS-2019 for the J-1 visa category) in order to enter the United States.

    After receiving I-20, pay the required I-901 SEVIS fee and print the payment receipt required before the interview (unless instructed differently by Macalester Admissions).

    Learn about Visa Appointment & Processing Wait Times at specific U.S. embassies and consulates.

    Learn about how to apply for your visa and prepare for your interview with these 10 tips. Bring any supporting documents with you, including acceptance letter, Macalester financial aid award (if you have aid), bank and other financial statements, academic records, etc.

    Everything Else to Consider


    If you attended a school in the United States immediately prior to Macalester, fill out the SEVIS Transfer Form. If you will attend a summer program in the U.S. before coming to Macalester, please  immediately so we can discuss your visa situation.

    Bring important documents

    Copies of your admission letter, financial documents, previous school transcripts, and medical prescriptions.


    Complete payment through wire transfer or another method for any tuition, room & board balance, and other fees.

    Student Employment

    Submit the student employment application form, which will be sent to you from Macalester’s Employment Services Office. This application is only for students with employment awards in their financial aid package. Consult the Student Employment Services Website for more information.


    Submit your registration form on the Orientation website.

    Visitor Visa

    Obtain visitor (B-2) visas for family members coming with you.

    Check out our family travel page for more visa application information and accommodation suggestions.


    Get a physical exam and complete your Health and Medical Forms through your Macalester Patient Portal by specific date.

    Finalize your travel plans

    And finish your Arrival Form for PO4IS/Ametrica.

    Read the information on the Ametrica Program and, if you wish to join, applications will be available in the near future. Application for Ametrica and other programs are available on the New Student Portal.

    Read the ISH

    Read ISP’s International Student Handbook before you arrive.

  • Can I mail packages to ISP?

    New students are welcome to mail luggage or packages to ISP prior to departure after mid-August. We will hold it for you until you arrive. Simply address your package in the following format:

    Your Name (Legal/Passport)
    Macalester College
    International Student Programs
    C/O: Luyen Phan
    1600 Grand Avenue
    Saint Paul, MN 55105 USA

  • Can you pick me up from the airport?

    You are strongly encouraged to arrive between regular, working hours 8 am and 5 pm on August 28th (Mon). If you arrive after 5 pm, we will pick you up based on availability. Please inform ISP if your flight will be delayed.

    On the day of the arrival, ISP offers airport pickups to all incoming international students and Ametrica participants. We shuttle Macalester vans to and from the MSP airport during Pre-Orientation for International Students (PO4IS). To be eligible for a pickup, you must arrive on the designated date and preferably during the day, allowing you more time to settle in. Fill out the Arrival Form and keep ISP updated with any changes to travel.

    NOTE: NO housing nor airport pickup is available before August 28th (Mon). You are responsible for finding a place to stay (refer to Places to Stay). Depending on availability, ISP may offer hotel pickups on August 28th.

    Arrival Form 2023

  • How do I buy a U.S. cell phone?

    There are numerous factors to take into account when deciding to purchase a cell phone and/or a cellular plan, including but not limited to cost, carrier, reception, compatibility and minutes/texting/data options. The guide to buying a phone in the US, as well as this guide to phone carriers or networks and SIM cards can help you make these decisions. Like many things related to technology service and cost mentioned are subject to change.

  • When can I open a bank account?

    During Pre-Orientation for International Students (PO4IS) you will have an opportunity to open a bank account with U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo; you are welcome to use any other bank. For more information about these banks, refer to our Banking in the US Guide.

  • How do I obtain health insurance?

    Most international students use the Macalester-sponsored insurance plan, United Healthcare Student Resources (UHCSR). If students decide to opt out of this health insurance plan, their personal plan must meet or exceed Macalester’s standards. More information about health insurance can be found at the Health and Wellness Center (HWC) website. If you have questions about obtaining health insurance, contact , the Insurance & Referral Specialist at HWC.Health care and insurance in the U.S. will be vastly different from what is offered in your country. Macalester’s HWC has created a portal for international students on information regarding medical care, health insurance, mental and sexual health; also view this video on basics of US health insurance.

  • What should I get for my room? Where can I shop for my room?

    Your dorm room comes equipped with a bed, mattress, desk, chair, dresser, and closet. You will need to bring/purchase your own pillow, bed sheets/beddings, hangers, laundry basket, shower caddy, lamp, amongst other things. Residential Life has a suggested list of things you can get for your room, also information in ISP’s International Student Handbook. During Pre-Orientation for International Students (PO4IS), depending on driver and van availability, ISP might offer a shuttle service to Target, a department store which sells a wide range of goods. Macalester Free Swap is also a good resource to find necessities and room decorations. We strongly recommend you purchase things online before you arrive. You can also shop at Target and Amazon and have them mailed to the following:

    Your Name (Legal/Passport)
    Macalester College
    International Student Programs
    C/O: Luyen Phan
    1600 Grand Avenue
    Saint Paul, MN 55105 USA

  • What clothes should I wear to stay warm?

    Thankfully, Minnesota’s summer and fall are quite mild, so you don’t need to worry too much about cold weather for the first month. For more information on different places where you can purchase winter clothes, with a wide range of prices, check out ISP’s Winter Clothes Shopping Destination guide. Here are some links to dress warmly for Minnesota winter: How to dress for Minnesota Winter & How to dress for Winter.