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International Programs

East Tennessee State University

New Students

New students title photo

Update: The July 6th announcement from ICE has been rescinded. We will provide another update once we receive official notice from DHS. See updated FAQ for Fall 2020.


Welcome to the Office of International Programs and Services and congratulations on your acceptance to ETSU!  We look forward to welcoming you to our campus.

The purpose of this tabs are to provide pre-arrival information and a checklist of things you must do before and upon arriving in the United States. A LOT of steps are necessary for a smooth arrival to campus. To get started see the following:

  • Read all the New Students pre-arrival information provided in these tabs

Please feel free to e-mail the Office of International Programs & Services (IPS) at or call 001-423-439-7737 anytime you have questions or need assistance.

See you soon!  

The Pre-Arrival Meeting is an online meeting with the International Student Advisors, who go over the necessary steps to prepare and arrive to ETSU's campus. The format is Zoom, which is similar to Skype. 

Whether or not you have applied or completed the online SEVIS Request Form, we welcome you to join us! Following the presentation, students are able to speak directly with the advisors and ask questions. 

Meeting times are always in Eastern Standard Time (EST) or New York time. Use the below link to register and receive an email with instructions to join!   

Meeting date: August 4

Time: 8:30 (ETSU local time)

Registration link:




Processing times for requests can take approximately 2 weeks


In preparation for requesting your form I-20 or DS-2019 please follow these instructions:

Before Request

Activate Account

Activate/set up your ETSU account here. You cannot request an I-20/DS-2019 until this step is completed.


Check your ETSU email for a message from our office with detailed instructions to request an I-20 or DS-2019.

If Deferred

If you have deferred your admission, make sure that you requested an updated admission letter from the Admissions Office or School of Graduate Studies, as appropriate. You will not be able to request an updated I-20/DS-2019 until the updated admission letters are issued.

Documents to Upload



Picture page of your valid passport.

If you have dependents, picture page of their valid passports

Admission Letter

ETSU admission/acceptance Letter

Or a copy of the updated admission/acceptance letter, if you have deferred your enrollment


If you have a scholarship award letter or email, make sure it shows the scholarship dollar ($) value.

SACM students only need to provide the Scholarship Financial Guarantee Letter.

Most ETSU scholarships do not cover the cost of living expenses. As such, you must provide financial documentation for the difference between your scholarship value and the ETSU cost of attendance for international students.


Funding and the Financial Statement form must be uploaded. Uploads must be CLEARLY READABLE or the advisors will reject your request. Amount of funding must meet or exceed the estimated cost of attendance.

See the Finances Tab for financial documentation details. 

Step-by-Step Tutorial

We recommend the following tutorial before completing your SEVIS Record Request Form: Click Here.

Cost of Attendance

The estimated cost of attendance is for 9 months only (fall and spring terms). If you do not plan to return home for the summer, it will be your responsibility to make sure you have funds to support yourself during the summer vacation.

See the Finances Tab for tuition and fees details. 


Permanent vs. Mailing Address: On the request form, we ask for both a permanent and a mailing address.

Permanent address is a foreign address. We cannot use a post office box as a permanent address.  

The mailing address can either be your foreign address or a US address. It is the address you wish for your I-20/DS-2019 to be shipped to. 

Begin Request



Follow the link emailed to you


Use your ETSU login information to sign in.

DO NOT Create an Account.

See image below.


Click "Complete This Form" to begin.

See image below.

Login Image


Complete Form Image

Complete This Form

Now that you have an I-20 or DS-2019 from ETSU, you must prepare to apply for your F-1 or J-1 visa. Follow the steps below and visit the Department of Homeland's Student Process Steps for information to apply for your student visa.

Per immigration regulations, students with an Initial I-20 or DS-2019 may not enter the United States more than 30 days before the reporting date on these documents.

  • This date is July 21 for incoming Fall 2019 students. Please take this into consideration when making your travel plans.

A. Pay SEVIS I-901 Fee:

All international students applying for the F-1 or J-1 visas must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. This fee is currently $350.00 USD for the F-1 visa and $220.00 USD for the J-1 visa. The fee MUST be paid a minimum of 3 business days prior to applying for the visa. You must have the receipt of the payment when you go for your visa interview appointment.

Please visit the SEVIS I-901 Fee Payment Website to pay this fee.

B. Apply for Visa:

Visa application procedures vary somewhat among Consulates in various countries. The US Visas Website will help you through the process of applying for the student visa. Once you are on that web page, select the appropriate visa type (i.e. F or J), then read and follow the instructions.

Generally, there are several steps in this process including:

  • Completing the Online Visa Application (Form DS-160)
  • Scheduling a Visa Interview Appointment
  • Preparing appropriate documentation for the Interview
    • Required documentation varies depending on which country you are in.
    • Be sure to check with the consulate for which documents you should bring with you BEFORE your interview.

Tips for the Visa Interview:

1. Take all required and requested documents including:

  • Passport
  • I-20 or DS-2019
  • Financial documents (i.e. bank statements, scholarship letter/guarantee, etc.)
  • ETSU admission letter
  • Any other documents requested by the Consulate
    • NOTE: If you have F-2 or J-2 dependents accompanying you to the US, be sure to take their Passports, I-20s or DS-2019s, Marriage/Birth Certificates, etc. as well.

2. Make sure your financial documents match what is listed on the I-20 or DS-2019 for your financial support.

3. Remember to pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee at least 3 business days prior to your interview!

4. If you are transferring to ETSU from another U.S. institutions, please review information on Transfer Students.

5. If you are planning to apply for a change of status, please review the following information: Change of Status

A. Planning Your Flight

  • Please note, as stated by the Department of Homeland Security, "A visa does not guarantee entrance to the United States; it only permits you to arrive and seek permission to enter the country. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the U.S. port of entry has the final authority to admit entry into the country."
  • Per immigration regulations, students with an Initial I-20 or DS-2019 may not enter the United States more than 30 days before the reporting date on these documents.
    • This date is July 21 for incoming Fall 2018 students. Please take this into consideration when making your travel plans.
  • Make your travel arrangements as soon as possible. Please note, only one airport close to ETSU. Please fly into this airport, which is the Tri-Cities Regional Airport (TRI):
  • Know your flight itinerary and carry our office contact information with you. In addition, it is imperative you have your passport and travel documents (I-20 or DS-2019) with you. Do not keep them in your checked luggage! 
  • It is very important to know the flight regulations set by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and any equivalent in your home country. Before your flight to the United States, please view

B. Port of Entry

  • When you land at the first United States airport, you will be required to go through a U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection. Please view Arriving at US Port of Entry and Student Process Steps for information on what to expect.
  • It is very important that you have your immigration documents (I-20 or DS-2019 and passport) in your possession -- NOT in your checked luggage!

 C. Transportation from TRI airport to Johnson City

These are the options for getting from the Tri-Cities Regional Airport to Johnson City:

  • Sign up to participate in the International Friends Program (Host Friend Program).
    • Your host friend would pick you up from the airport, host you in their home for a few days, help you move to your apartment or on-campus dormitories, and drive you to the store to purchase supplies.
    • Please complete the International International Friends Program Application if interested in participating. We highly recommend  applying early because spots are limited!
  • Hire a taxi or Uber driver
    • F&L Limo and Taxi Service (recommended if traveling to Tri-Cities Airport)
      • Phone: 423-245-0856
      • A taxi will be cheaper than a limo
    • Uber services are available in the Tri-Cities are.

 A. Health Insurance

The short video below offers information on the U.S. Health Care System. DISCLAIMER TO VIDEO: The video below was produced by We find the information within the video helpful for a general overview of the United Statues medical system and what international students and scholars should expect. 

Insurance Video
Insurance Information

ETSU health insurance requirements:


Condition of Enrollment
International students under the F and J visas must have and maintain medical and hospitalization insurance as a condition of initial or continued enrollment at ETSU.

Plan or Waiver
All international students will be required to enroll in the ETSU Student Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan or on another plan of their choice, provided that:
  • The private policy benefits meet or exceed those provided by the ETSU policy.
  • The student submits a request for a waiver from purchasing the ETSU provided coverage. A waiver may be denied if private plan benefits are lower than those provided by the ETSU plan or ETSU cannot otherwise ensure the private plan provides sufficient coverage for the student while enrolled at the university.

J Visa
Students under any of the J Student Categories must also carry accident, illness, medical evacuation, and repatriation insurance for spouses and dependents.

Students must have coverage for 12 months (August 1st to July 31st).

Students who are enrolled at ETSU as of August 15 (fall term), and/or January 15 (spring term) but not in compliance with the health insurance requirement will have their enrollment cancelled on August 15 and/or January 15.




Vision and Dental
The health insurance coverage that you purchase at ETSU will not provide you with dental or eye coverage. We strongly recommend that you have a dental and an eye examination before departing for the United States.

The cost for insurance coverage is approximately $1873 per year.


ETSU insurance is provided through International Student Protection (ISP): Enroll Here

 B. Immunizations

All ETSU students cannot register for full-time classes or move into campus dorms until proof of immunizations has been provided to the University Health Center Office. Information and detailed requirements can be found by visiting their international section on their website. 

To register for classes, first you will need to contact your Academic Advisor or Graduate Coordinator. Note that there are different registration procedures depending on your degree level. 

Once you register for classes, you can obtain your ETSU id card. Please visit the  ID Services web site for more information.

A. Undergraduate Students:

The Academic Advisor will assist you with any questions or concerns regarding your academic program. To find your advisor, listed by major, click here

The International Student Advisor will advise you on regulations pertaining to your F-1 or J-1 immigration status. To contact your ISA, email:  

  • F-1:
    • F-1 degree-seeking undergraduate international students are required to complete  ETSU online LAUNCH orientation before you are allowed to register for classes. The Orientation Office will send an invite to your ETSU email. The orientation fee is $30.
    • Once you complete LAUNCH, contact your academic advisor for assistance in registering for classes. The earlier you register, the better your chances of getting a seat in courses that you need. 
  • J-1: 
    • J-1 visiting/exchange students, your academic advisor will contact you via your ETSU email account. If your academic advisor does not contact you, please find the advisor for your major by clicking here and contact him or her by email.

B. Graduate Students:

The Graduate Coordinator,  listed in your admission letter, will serve as your academic advisor. Please contact him or her by email for assistance in registering for classes.

The International Student Advisor will advise you on regulations pertaining to your F-1 or J-1 immigration status. To contact your ISA, email:  


 ETSU wants our international students to be successful and so we have a full-time staff person dedicated to assisting international students with their social and academic needs. That International Student Success Coordinator is housed in the Multicultural Center on campus and directs both our International Friendship Program (IFP) and our International Buccaneer Buddy (IBB) program, and publishes a helpful weekly newsletter for international students. For more information about those services, please go to their website by clicking here.

 Attention New International Students

The Office of International Programs and Services at ETSU encourages you to apply for our International Friends Program (IFP) and our Buccaneer Buddy Program (IBB).  You may apply for either or both programs.  If you apply for the IFP, you will be paired with an ETSU faculty or staff, or community, volunteer family who will help you during the first few days after your arrival. Please note that this program is only available to new students coming to ETSU for the first time and hosts cannot accommodate family or friends traveling with the student. The benefits of applying for the program are:

  • You would have someone to pick you up at the airport, feed and house you for a night or two, help you move into your new campus housing, and take you shopping for the things you might need for your housing.
  • You would quickly know someone in the community who could answer your questions and help you as you adjust to life here.
  • You will have someone to show you around the campus and the city when you first arrive, so you can more quickly become familiar with your new home.

If you apply for the IBB, you will be paired with a volunteer student buddy who will assist you during the first month you are here, and you will be able to do activities and trips with many other IBB students that includes both American students and other international students. The benefits of applying for IBB are:

  • You will have American students to show you around campus and help answer questions about campus life and American culture.
  • You will have the opportunity to engage in new and fun activities and experiences with other students
  • You will be able to make new friends from around the world.
  • You will more quickly adapt to the life and culture here and have a richer experience of life in the USA.

There are limited openings for the program so the earlier you apply the better the chance of being served.  The deadline for applying for Fall semester is August 10 and the deadline for Spring semester is December 10.


If you have questions regarding this program, please email the International Student Success Specialist: 

This section provides information about on- and off-campus housing, as well as optional meal plans offered by ETSU Dining Services. 

Please note, when signing a rent agreement either on or off-campus, it is a legal binding document. We recommend you read and understand such documents thoroughly. 

On-Campus Housing

All the housing facilities available to you on campus are described in great detail on the ETSU Housing and Residence Life web page. Apply as soon as possible, as housing assignments are made on a first-come-first-served basis. Please note, a meal plan is required if you live on campus.

Complete an application here: Online Housing Application

Move in dates for Fall 2019 are the Friday, Saturday and Sunday prior to the start of class. Students may move in any time between 9:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. However, by special arrangement, international students may move in a week early. If you wish to take advantage of this, contact the Housing Office () 1-6 months in advance.

Off-Campus Housing

Off-campus apartments may rent from $500 - $800 per month and requires deposits for rent, electricity, internet and/or telephone connections. In addition, setup and monthly fee may be applicable and fluctuate.

The ETSU Housing Office does not provide individual assistance for off-campus housing. However, you may find a list of rental/lease units available at this website. Please contact the individual advertising the vacancy directly for more information.

Alternatively, you can view off-campus housing options by searching "Johnson City TN apartments near ETSU" on the website.

Since public transportation in Johnson City is very limited, you should search for off-campus housing within walking distance from the ETSU campus.

Meal Plans

ETSU dining plans are a great value, help students eat regular healthy and delicious meals, and are a great way to meet friends on campus. Whether you choose to live on-or off-campus, one of the dining meal/block plans offered will fit your needs.
Students who live on-campus, with the exception of Buc Ridge residents, are automatically enrolled in the 7-Day Anytime Dining Silver Meal plan as part of the housing agreement. Housing rent and dining meal plan is billed directly to your student Goldlink account as a part of your room and board fees.  You will be required to sign a housing and dining agreement for both the fall and spring semesters, and you will be obligated to pay per semester, if enrolled at ETSU.  Housing and Dining Agreements cannot be canceled for the convenience of the student.
Students who live in Buc Ridge or off-campus are eligible to purchased any of the dining meal or Block plans offered, but may be subject to state sales tax. For more information, please visit




All new students are required to Check-in, which is a 2 step process:

Step 1

Attend the Check-In Immigration Presentation.

Limited seating is available and therefore you must reserve a date and time. To do so follow the instructions in the invite that will be sent to your ETSU email.

Presentation details are as follows:


Zoom (use your ETSU email address to register and attend)



9:00 am - 12:00 am EST/New York Time

Starts promptly at 9:00 am. Ending time is approximate.


Thursday August 20


Step 2

Submit Check-in immigration documents online.

Some documents will not be available until after you arrive in the US.  Once you attend the Check-in Presentation, you will be able to complete this step.  

Documents required to submit:


Picture page of passport
I-20 or DS-2019 (signed and dated by you)
Entry Stamp
I-94 (you receive this after you enter the US)
Dependent/s documents if applicable




Shortly after your arrival, there will be financial obligations you must be prepared to meet. Knowing about these ahead of time and thinking about how you will take care of them will help you to have a smoother transition to studying in the United States. 

Be aware, estimations are based on an academic year of 9 months. If your do not plan to return home for the summer it is your responsibility to secure financing for a full 12 months. 

Please note, financial support is not a mere formality to obtain an I-20 or DS-2019. Nor is it to facilitate your entry into the United States. Rather, financial support must ensure that you will not become a public charge or take unauthorized employment while studying in the United States. This obligation begins when you, under an F or J visa, enter the United States and continues until the completion of your program or departure. 

1. Tuition and Fees

After you have registered for your classes for the semester, you will be able to view your student account balance on Goldlink. What you'll see reflected here are your total charges (tuition, fees, required health insurance, and room & board costs if you're living on campus or have a meal plan), minus the value of any tuition scholarships you might have received.

The amount shown will be what you owe. You may pay the entire at balance at once, or choose a payment plan in which you pay 50% of the total at the beginning of the semester, and then make two more payments of 25% each on specified dates during the semester.

Important: Please be aware that you will be purged from the class rosters if you have not either paid your bill in full or set up a payment plan by the Friday before classes begin! (If you are not yet registered by that Friday, then you will be purged from class rosters on census day -- the 10th day of classes -- if you have not paid in full or set up a payment plan.) 

You should also keep in mind that, even if you receive a tuition scholarship or graduate assistant position, you will still be responsible for the payment of the "Fees" portion of your "Tuition and Fees." You will have to pay a portion of your costs at ETSU with your own money, in other words. 

Please visit the Bursar's Office webpage for additional information and details about paying your student account balance:

Estimated expenses for the 2020/2021 academic year are as follows:

Required funding for:
Graduate or Doctoral
No Scholarship
Creative Arts
Not applicable
*GA 9 months
Not applicable
*GA 12 months
Not applicable

*Graduate Assistantship amounts are based on the average stipend amount.

**Pharmacy Students: The College of Pharmacy has different estimated expenses for its students.  Please see their website for information and details at:[BROKEN LINK]

Actual expenses may be higher or lower, depending on each student’s personal needs and preferences. Costs may change without notice. Some departments have additional course fees. Contact these offices for information of such fees.

Scholarships are NOT GUARANTEED and those that are available to F and J visa students are very limited. While our office does not oversee scholarships, you may review requirements on our website here. If you have questions or would like to apply, you must contact the offices offering these scholarships directly. 

Detailed information of the estimated cost for the current academic year can be found here: Estimated Annual Cost of Attendance for Purposes of I-20 or DS-2019

2. Dependent Family Information

A dependent is considered a spouse and/or children of an F-1 or J-1 student. For all dependents who will need immigration documents issued by ETSU, the passport biographical page for each dependent is required.

The I-20/DS-2019 Request Form provides a section to add dependent information and upload their passport/s. Or, depending on your situation, you may request to add them later.

However, an additional expense for each dependent is added to the total estimated cost of attendance as follows:




If you make your request to add a dependent later, please note, you are required to submit updated financial documents, regardless if you just made a submission.

Please see the Dependents tab for current students to make your request at a later date.

3. Room & Board

For information about the accommodations and meal plans available on campus, please visit:

For information on the cost of on campus housing, please see:

For information on the cost of meal plans, please see:

It is very important that you do not overlook or underestimate the cost of living in Johnson City when considering how much money you need to have available. The cost of living in Johnson City is less expensive than in many other cities in the U.S. but it may be expensive compared to your home country living costs. Whether you choose to live on or off campus, you should plan to spend a minimum of $1500 per month on food, shelter, books and supplies, and personal care items while you are in the United States.

You do not have to live on campus, although doing so is a great way to meet new friends and to really become part of the ETSU community as well as to experience all that university life in the United States has to offer. 

Financial Aid

1. Scholarships

There are some scholarships designed specifically for international students. Scholarships reduce the amount you have to pay for tuition. For information about scholarship opportunities available to international students, please visit:  Scholarships

Please note that the Merit Scholarships and Tuition Scholarships, for undergraduate and graduate students, have different values. The Merit Scholarship covers one half of the in-and out-of-tuition cost but does not cover fees. The Tuition Scholarship covers the total cost of the in- and out-of-state graduate tuition cost, but does not cover fees.

Scholarships are NOT GUARANTEED and those that are available to F and J visa students are very limited. As our office does not oversee scholarships, you must contact the offices offering these scholarships directly if you have questions or would like to apply. You may review requirements on our website by using the link provided above.

2. Sponsorships

If you are sponsored by a government, education institution or official agency, these entities must provide the following:

  • provide an official Scholarship Award letter with clearly defined scholarship terms and/or any measures that would affect the student’s scholarship

  • have an agreement to pay ETSU directly for the student’s tuition and if applicable, fees including housing and meal plan (we will verify this agreement with ETSU’s Bursar’s Office before issuing an I-20)
  • provide a stipend to cover living expenses, books, housing and meal plan (if applicable) and other related educational costs

  •  will cover the insurance fee via the stipend or provide medical insurance that meets or exceeds ETSU’s requirements

If you are sponsored by SACM, Kuwait Cultural Division, Huddersfield, Fulbright, etc. your sponsors meet the above-required criteria.

If sponsoring entities cannot meet the above-mentioned criteria, the student needs to follow the instructions for submitting financial documents on the online request form. A summary is located in Financial Documents below. 

3. Financial Documents

Financial documents must meet or exceed the Estimated Cost of Attendance and the following guidelines:

  • Current bank statements:
    • Showing the 3 most current months of account transactions. Please note, we are not accepting financial documentation from businesses.
    • In English and identify:
      • The account holder
      • Currency
      • Name and address of bank
    • Must be in liquid funds
      • Such as savings/banking statements or certificates of deposit
      • It cannot be investment fund statements, salary/income confirmation, etc. (see additional information on Dynamic Forms)
    • The Financial Agreement form completed and uploaded with bank statements (form and its instructions located in the online request form).
 4. Graduate Assistantship

For graduate students, some departments offer graduate assistantships, which reduce the amount of tuition you have to pay, plus provide a stipend in exchange for work you do for the department. The stipend may be used to assist you in meeting your living expenses, purchasing books and supplies, or for any other costs you incur while studying in the United States. 

For information on graduate assistantships, please contact your academic department's Graduate Program Coordinator.

You can find a list of GA and TS vacancies here.

 5. On-Campus Employment 


International students are limited in the types of employment they may pursue while studying in the United States. In general, as an international student, you may work on campus only, and for no more than 20 hours per week when school is in session. Jobs are not guaranteed to international students and there are a limited number of positions available. 

International students are only eligible for "RSWP" (Regular Student Work Study) positions.

View information and available student worker positions here:  On-Campus RSWP Jobs


This section is designed to provide you with information which does not "fit" into the other sections. Please be sure to go over each of the items below, as each has important information that will be helpful for you to know.

1. ETSU Campus Map
2. Hotels and Banks near ETSU
3. Johnson City, Quick Facts
4. Student Organizations


Regular office hours:  Monday to Friday, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm
Call  Office of International Programs and Services: 001-423-439-7737
Non-office hours: (after 4:30 p.m. or during weekends and holidays)
Call  Office of Public Safety: 001-423-439-4480

Give the Dispatcher your name, a general explanation of your problem, your phone number and tell him/her that you need to contact the International Programs and Services Director. The International Programs and Services Director or a designee will contact you as soon as possible.

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