Congratulations on your acceptance to Western Washington University!
International Programs & Exchanges would like to welcome you to Western Washington University. We look forward to meeting you when you arrive and to welcoming you to our community. We hope that you will find your stay in Bellingham rewarding, both academically and personally.
We value your contribution to the campus community as we will learn from each other by sharing ideas and cultural heritage. We encourage you to seek out opportunities to learn about U.S. culture as well as teaching others about your background and society.
If you are a new freshman student and are in the U.S. during the summer, it is recommended that you attend Summerstart. Summerstart is your new student orientation, advising and course registration program. There is no additional fee for students to participate in Summerstart - the cost is covered by the one-time $250 enrollment fee already paid to WWU.
- More information about Summerstart
- Contact New Student Services/Family Outreach at 360.650.3846 or by e-mail for questions about Summerstart.
If you are a Transfer student, check the web site for New Student Services to find information about Western's orientation for transfer students. Transitions is your transfer student orientation and advising program at Western. At Transitions you will meet with helpful faculty, student and departmental advisors, become familiar with important campus resources, and begin registering for classes.
- More information and resources for transfer students
A general Orientation for new students occurs just before the start of classes each quarter. You will have the opportunity to attend informational workshops on academic support services and campus life and participate in programs designed to welcome you to Western.
- Check New Student Services/Family Outreach for more information.
International Student Orientation
In addition to the New Student Orientations, there will be an International Student Orientation just before the start of Fall, Winter and Spring quarters. As the information presented at this orientation session is very important, attendance is required for all new international students. Important information about academic issues, registration, maintaining visa status, SEVIS, WWU student ID cards, health insurance, etc. will be addressed at the orientation. Information about date, time and location of the International Student Orientation will be sent to new students beforehand.
All international students are strongly encouraged to attend one of the general orientations for new WWU students (Summerstart, Transitions, or quarterly Orientation) in addition to the International Student Orientation. The International Student Orientation will not cover topics such as course registration and academic advising but rather topics more specific to international student status. Your active participation will help you feel more comfortable and confident as you begin your new journey at Western.
SEVIS is an internet-based database that allows schools and federal immigration agencies to exchange data on the status of international students. Information is transmitted electronically throughout an F-1 or J-1 student's academic career in the U.S.
An electronic record is created in SEVIS for you after you are admitted and confirm enrollment at Western Washington University. This allows WWU to issue an I-20 or DS-2019, which you need to gain F-1 or J-1 status. When you apply for a student visa and arrive at a U.S. port of entry, the consular officer or immigration official may consult SEVIS in addition to your supporting documents to verify eligibility for F-1 or J-1 status. International Programs & Exchanges (IPE) will continue to provide electronic reports throughout your academic career, noting information such as registration, address changes, academic program changes, degree completion, and immigration status violations.
University Reporting Requirements
Western Washington University is required to report the following information on F-1 students to Immigration through SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System):
- Whether a student has enrolled at WWU or failed to enroll.
- A change of the student or dependent's legal name or address.
- Any student who graduates prior to the end date listed on the I-20.
- Academic or disciplinary actions taken due to a criminal conviction
- Whether the student drops below a full course of study without prior authorization from IPE.
- SEVIS record termination date and reason for termination.
- Other data generated by standard procedures such as program extension, school transfer, change in level of study or major, employment authorization, or reinstatement.
- Any student who fails to maintain status or complete his or her program.
It is important to understand the F-1 and J-1 student immigration regulations in order to maintain status while you are in the U.S.
F-1 and J-1 visa regulations require you to report to campus after you arrive at Western. To meet this requirement, you must submit photocopies of your immigration documents to International Programs & Exchanges (IPE). Photocopies must be submitted by the start of your first quarter.
Please make the photocopies in advance. These are the documents you must photocopy:
- Make the photocopy after you arrive in the U.S. so that the I-20 shows the immigration officer's stamp. (If you are changing schools within the U.S. and transferring your SEVIS record to WWU, you must wait until you receive your WWU I-20 to submit your document photocopies.)
- I-94 card (front and back)
- The I-94 card is your Arrival/Departure Record. You will have received the card on the airplane prior to arrival in the U.S. Upon entering the U.S., immigration will stamp the card and retain the "arrival" half; you will retain the "departure" half. Keep the card stapled into your passport at all times.
- F-1 visa
- Passport ID page
- Passport expiration date page (if different from ID page)
- Make the photocopy after you arrive in the U.S. so that the DS-2019 shows the immigration officer's stamp.
- I-94 card (front and back)
- J-1 visa
- Passport ID page
- Passport expiration date page (if different from ID page)
If you have been admitted to Western and have a question about your new WWU I-20, please contact the appropriate office:
- Academic English or Conditional Admission students: Intensive English Program
- Undergraduate Students: International Programs & Exchanges
- Graduate students: Graduate Office
If you are changing schools within the U.S., you must carefully follow certain procedures in order to maintain lawful immigration status.
If you have been admitted to Western as an exchange student and you have questions about your new WWU DS-2019, please contact International Programs & Exchanges (IPE).
When you enter the United States in nonimmigrant status, you do so for a specific purpose, such as study, work, or travel. You may enter the U.S. with one purpose and later change your purpose. When this happens, you may need to obtain a new status. Different visa/status categories allow different activities.
Contact the adviser in International Programs & Exchanges (IPE) as soon as you know you must obtain a new status. The process can be challenging, and we want to discuss your options with you.
There are two ways of gaining a new nonimmigrant status:
Leave the U.S., apply for a new visa at a U.S. consulate, and re-enter the U.S. with the new visa and other relevant documents. You will gain your new status when you are admitted to the U.S.
- This process is usually faster than changing status in the U.S.
- You will obtain the visa and the status
- Possibility of visa processing delay
- Expense of travel
Submit an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a change of status. This option allows you to change your nonimmigrant status while remaining in the U.S. With this option you may gain the new status but you will not recieve a new visa; visas are only issued outside the U.S.
- Ability to stay in the U.S. during processing
- Avoid the hassle of a visa application process (for now)
- Processing can be very slow (three to six months), which may jeopardize your ability to begin your new activity, such as studying or accepting a research or teaching assistantship or other campus employment.
- You must stay in the U.S. during processing; exiting the U.S. cancels the application
- You must still obtain a visa stamp to match your status next time you travel outside the U.S. (except for trips under 30 days to Canada or Mexico)
- The application may be denied, which could require you to quickly depart the U.S.
When deciding which option is best for you, you should consider various factors: upcoming travel plans, application processing times, the expiration date or special conditions of your current status. The regulations of your future status will help determine if it is best to travel and re-enter or apply to change status in the U.S. The following general information explains the process for applying to change nonimmigrant status in the U.S.
You may be able to change status if:
- You are maintaining your current status.
- You are eligible for the new status.
- Your current status does not prohibit change of status in the U.S.
You generally cannot change status if:
- Your period of authorized stay has already expired.
- You have otherwise violated the conditions of your current status.
- Individuals in J status who are subject to the two-year home-country residence requirement can change only to A or G status.
- Persons admitted under the Visa Waiver Program (marked "W/T" or "W/B" on the I-94) cannot change nonimmigrant status.
- Persons who hold C, D, or K status cannot change nonimmigrant status.
- A vocational student in M status cannot change to F status.
Applying for Change of Status
Contact International Programs & Exchanges (IPE) regarding your change of status. Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status is used to apply for change of status. You may submit your own change of status application or an immigration attorney can handle your application.
- Processing timeline: Processing times vary, so be prepared to wait 3 to 6 months to learn the outcome of your application. To review current processing times and your pending case status, visit the USCIS Case Status Service Online.
- Approval or denial: USCIS will notify you of their decision with Form I-797 Notice of Action. The I-797 is an important document and should be kept with your passport and I-94 card. The denial letter or approval notice will be mailed to the address listed on Form I-539 in your application. Note that if you change your address, the postal service will not forward mail sent to you by USCIS. Please provide the IPE adviser with a copy of your I-797/Notice of Action and approval notice.
- Remaining in the U.S. during processing: You may remain in the U.S. while your application is pending, even if your original status expires during the application processing.
- Travel outside the U.S. while application is pending: Do not travel outside of the U.S. while your change of status case is pending. If you leave the country, USCIS will consider your application abandoned.
- Travel outside the U.S. after application is approved: In order to re-enter the U.S. after a trip abroad (except for brief trips to Canada or Mexico under 30 days), you must visit a U.S. consulate to request a new visa to match your new status. Contact IPE for information about documents and procedures for re-entering the U.S.
- Employment eligibility: Do not begin employment, if permitted under the new status, until the change of status is approved.