Preparing to Travel to the U.S.

Required Documents

Entry to the United States requires a valid passport, an I-20/DS-2019, and a valid United States F-1 or J-1 visa stamp. Upon entry to the U.S., your I-94 record will be created by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. 


If you have not done so already, you should apply for a passport from your home country. A valid passport is required for all persons wishing to enter the United States. Passports should be valid at least six months into the future.

Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20 or DS-2019)

After you have been admitted to YSU, you will be issued the Form I-20 if you are an F-1 student or the Form DS-2019 if you are a J-1 student (please note that the I-20 or DS-2019 will not be issued until proof of financial responsibility is shown). The I-20 or DS-2019 is used to apply for a U.S. visa. If you have dependents (spouse or children) traveling with you, they must also have an I-20 or DS-2019 to apply for an F-2 or J-2 visa stamp.

SEVIS Registration

If you are entering the U.S. for the first time in F-1 or J-1 student status you must pay the SEVIS fee. The SEVIS fee must be paid before going for your visa interview at the U.S. consulate. Please visit or for more information about the SEVIS fee, who needs to pay it, and pay options. In most cases if you had previously paid a SEVIS fee you will not be required to pay the fee again. Dependents of F-1 and J-1 visa holders are not required to pay the SEVIS fee.

Applying for a U.S. Visa

It is important to apply for your visa as early as possible (up 120 days prior to planned arrival date), since visa processing time varies according to country.

All persons (except for Canadian citizens) wishing to enter the U.S. as students must obtain an F-1 or J-1 visa stamp from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

On the day of your visa interview you should bring a completed visa application form (DS-160), required passport-type photographs, the Form I-20 or DS-2019 issued by YSU. You must also provide documents verifying that you have sufficient financial resources for your education and stay in the United States (bank statements, sponsorship letters, scholarships/graduate awards), your letter of acceptance from Youngstown State University, transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended; scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc. Please view the USCIS website for information about applying for a U.S. visa:

Things to remember:

  • Do not schedule a visa interview until you have all the required documents
  • You should make photocopies of all documents you plan to submit to the consular officer. Also bring along extra copies of your original documents in the event that the consular officer request them. 
  • Review the USCIS website’s information and requirements on applying for a U.S. visa:

Youngstown Weather  

September to December are cool to cold months in Youngstown and surrounding regions. Temperature ranges between 70 degrees F, (degrees 21C) to 25 degrees F (-4ºC).   Summer clothing gives way to sweater and then winter coats, hats, gloves and boots in December. The average January temperature is 25.5 Fahrenheit (-4ºC). While the average annual snowfall is 40 inches (101.6 cm). Students should pack warm clothing appropriate for cold winter weather and should invest in warm winter shoes to avoid frost bite. If you are coming from a warm climate, it may be more affordable to purchase winter clothing after your arrival to Ohio.