department menu

Pre-Arrival Checklist

New to Country Graduate Students

PLEASE NOTE: This checklist is for immigration purposes only. Remember to check with your department for program specific requirements and to see if they are holding a department orientation for you. 

Step 1: Accept your Admission to CSUSM by Requesting your I-20

You may request your I-20 by clicking on the link included in the email sent from International Admissions and the Office of Global Education. Please request your I-20 as soon as possible.

 Return to top

Step 2: Receive your I-20 and Pay the SEVIS Fee

When you receive your I-20 from CSU San Marcos, you must pay the SEVIS fee and make a Visa appointment for an interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Paying the SEVIS Fee:

F-1 Visa students must pay a one-time SEVIS Fee of $200 US Dollars to the Department of Homeland Security at least 3 business days before applying for a visa. Payment can be done online, by mail, or via Western Union. Payment information can be found at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

PAYING ONLINE: Students find this option to be the most convenient.

Return to top

Step 3: Apply for your F-1 Student Visa & Attend your F-1 Visa Interview Appointment ASAP

Make a Visa appointment and go to an interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Find a U.S Embassy or Consulate near you. 

 Return to top

Step 4: Review Pre-Arrival Information Document sent to your Email

The Office of Global Education has sent you an E-mail with an attachment document called “Pre-Arrival Info Packet”. Please read this document carefully for detailed information on pre-arrival requirements.

 Return to top

Step 5: Prepare your Finances

You must bring enough money to pay for your tuition, homestay or housing fees, health insurance, books, and personal expenses. Click on Tuition and Fees to view the estimated expenses per academic year for International Students.

Students will receive an email with detailed information regarding the Tuition Payment Plan.

Return to top

Step 6: Sign-Up for International Student Orientation

California State University San Marcos offers a MANDATORY orientation for new international students on the week before classes start. Students will receive important campus information, as well as essential details to maintain legal status in the USA as F-1 Students.

Fall 2016 Int'l Student Orientation Dates: August 23, 24, & 25

Sign up here for FALL 2016 Orienation

Return to top

Step 7: Plan Housing Arrangements Before You Arrive

You must make housing arrangements before you leave your home country. You must confirm your on campus housing, homestay with a local family, or other off-campus housing before you arrive in San Marcos.The Office of Global Education cannot reserve housing for you. Please read the student housing options below.

Homestay with Local Families

Living with an American family in homestay is one of the best ways to learn about American culture and customs. Many students choose homestay for their first semester. You may contact the following homestay agency directly to apply for homestay.

Homestay Services International
Coordinator: Jenny Cole
Phone: 760-740-9244

Homestay also offers short term stays. We recommend homestay if you are unsure where you want to live and need time to search when you arrive to the US.  You can request a one month stay and the host family will help you become acclimated to the San Marcos area.

Campus Housing

CSUSM offers two options for on-campus housing: The UVA (University Village Apartments) and the QUAD. Please apply early. Campus Housing fills up many months before each semester. 

For Spring semester, there is only one option: The Quad. 

University Village Apartments (Fall and Spring lease mandatory)

The QUAD (Fall and Spring lease mandatory)

Return to Top

Step 8: Meet the Immunization and Health Insurance Requirements

You must complete the Office of Global Education Immunization Form BEFORE arrival, and maintain adequate health insurance all year round.


There are three immunizations that you will need to show proof of: MMR, TB and Hepatitis B.

IF students cannot provide proof of immunization, they must arrange these during their first semester of school. The CSU San Marcos Student Health and Counseling Services provides the immunizations.

Health Insurance:

You may meet the health insurance requirement in one of two ways:

  1. Purchase CSU-sponsored health insurance from Aetna Student Insurance (offered through Wells Fargo). You are encouraged to purchase your health insurance before you arrive. Purchase CSU-sponsored health insurance. 
  2. If you wish to purchase a health insurance from your home country you must receive prior approval from the Office of Global Education. Please send details of the health insurance coverage before purchasing it to the Office of Global Education for evaluation. Please note that if the outside health insurance does not conform to CSU requirements, the Office of Global Education will require you to purchase the CSU-sponsored health insurance. 

Return to top

Step 9: Prepare to Travel to the U.S.

Entering the U.S.

You are allowed to enter the United States no more than 30 days before the reporting date listed on the I-20.

When entering the Unites States you must clear U.S Customs at the Port of Entry and you will need to present the following documents.

  • Original Passport with Visa stamp
  • Form I-20
  • Evidence of Financial Resources

Airport Information

Make your travel plans early.  San Marcos is about 37 miles (60 km) north of the San Diego International Airport (SAN) and 100 miles (160 km) south of the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).  We strongly recommend that you arrive at the San Diego International Airport.  If you have to change planes in the U.S., you must allow at least three hours to go through immigration and find your connecting flight. 

Transportation from the Airport

You must make your own travel arrangements from the airport to San Marcos.  We recommend that you arrive at the San Diego International Airport.  If you arrive in San Diego, and you are living in homestay, then you may reserve airport transportation with the homestay company.  You may also reserve an airport shuttle from Los Angeles International Airport, but this can cost about $200 and can take 2 hours to get to San Marcos.  Flights from Los Angeles to San Diego cost between $50 - $150.  You must reserve a shuttle or arrange your transportation before you leave your home country.  CSUSM does not provide airport transportation.

Companies that provide transportation from the airport include:

Cloud 9 Super Shuttle: 800-258-3826

PrimeTime Shuttle:  (800) 733-8267

Getting to your new home

It is very helpful to print or write out your new address in the U.S. to give to the shuttle driver so that they know exactly where you want to be dropped off. Make sure you have your address with you when you board your flight to the U.S.

If you will be living in the University Village Apartments (UVA) on campus, your address will be: 305 Campus View Drive, San Marcos 92078

The front office of UVA is open during the following hours:
Monday-Friday: 8am-5pm
Sunday: 3pm-8pm
If you arrive at UVA outside of these hours, you MUST call 760-750-6400 and the Resident Advisor on duty will open the door for you.

If you will be living in The Quad apartments, your address will be: 200 East Barham Drive, San Marcos 92078

The Front office of the QUAD is open during the following hours:
Monday-Friday: 8:30am-9:00pm
Saturday and Sunday: 3:00pm-8:00pm 
If you arrive at The Quad outside of these hours, you MUST call 760-750-3733 and the Resident Advisor on duty will open the door for you.

If you will be living in homestay, make sure you have your host family's address and phone number. 

Return to top Return to Top

Step 10: Attend International Student Orientation

Attendance for our International Student Orientation is MANDATORY. If you haven’t already done so, please remember to sign-up for orientation. Fall 2016 Orientation Dates: August 23, 24, & 25

  • Check in: August 23, 2016 at 8:30am
  • Location: TBD
  • Parking: Lot C
  • You will need to purchase a parking permit each day – permit booth located in the upper back corner
  • Daily Rate: $9.00

See CAMPUS MAP with Orientation Location

Return to top

Safe travels and we look forward to meeting you! 

If you have any questions you may email: