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Help for New International Students

Welcome to Bentley! As an accepted student, the Center for International Students and Scholars (CISS) will help you with immigration documents (Form I-20 or DS-2019) and visas (F-1 or J-1) as you prepare to study in the United States.

Before You Arrive

Obtaining Your F-1 or J-1 Visa
  1. Once you have been admitted to Bentley and submitted your deposit, the Graduate or Undergraduate Admission Office or the Cronin Office of International Education will forward the paperwork to us so we may issue a Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigration (F-1) Student, or a DS-2019. We will send you the I-20 or DS-2019 to you as soon as possible to allow you time to obtain an F-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor visa. Please allow three weeks to process and complete the I-20 and DS-2019 forms.
  2. Once you receive your Form I-20 or DS-2019, you must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee online ($200 for F-1 students; $180 for J-1 students) using the SEVIS number and school code listed on your Form I-20 or DS-2019. Most students can pay the fee by credit card at However, if your country of citizenship is Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria or Gambia, you must pay by money order, Western Union Quick Pay, or a certified check drawn on a U.S. financial institution. After paying the fee, you must print the I-901 confirmation page (available immediately if paid by credit card) to use as your receipt and proof of payment to bring to your visa appointment.
  3. Schedule a visa appointment. Citizens of all countries except Canada are required to possess a valid visa to enter the U.S. You will complete the visa application with your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. It is strongly recommended that you review the website of the consular post to learn about their specific visa application procedures and document requirements, as they can vary slightly depending on the post. Most consular posts will process an application a maximum of 120 days prior to the start date of your program. Please keep in  mind that it may take a few weeks to schedule an appointment.
  4. Go to your visa appointment. At your appointment, you will present to the consular officer the SEVIS fee (I-901) receipt, all pages of your Form I-20 or DS-2019, the original financial documents you submitted to Bentley with your application, a DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application, and your valid passport, as well as any other requirements listed by the consular post.  Generally, appointments consist of a personal interview and the collection of fingerprints. Before your interview, practice answering questions in English about your visa application, your plans to study in the US, and your plans after you return home. If your spouse and children will remain in your country, be prepared to explain how they will support themselves without you sending them money from the US. Be positive and respond to questions with clear, concise answers.
  5. Once you have received the F-1 or J-1 visa stamp on your passport, pick up your passport at the U.S. consulate in your home country. 
  6. Plan to arrive in the United States no more than 30 days prior to the start of your academic program as listed on your Form I-20 or DS-2019. Before arriving at a U.S. airport or border facility, be sure to have your passport/F-1 or J-1 visa and your original Form I-20 or DS-2019. Carry these documents on your person and NOT in your checked luggage. You will show your documents at the port of entry. An immigration officer will review these documents and return them to you.

*Canadian citizens entering the United States with a valid Canadian passport do not require a visa but still must present a valid Form I-20 at the port of entry and must pay the SEVIS fee.

Send CISS a Visa Update

SEVIS (Immigration) Transfer Students

If you are coming to Bentley from another U.S. high school or university and are transferring your immigration record to Bentley, you are considered a SEVIS transfer student. You may be a SEVIS transfer student if you are:

  • Currently in the United States and studying at a U.S. institution and are planning on changing schools.
  • Have completed a program at a U.S. institution and will begin a new program at Bentley in the spring, summer, or fall semesters.
  • Have attended a U.S. institution or completed a program in the United States and are currently outside the country, but plan on re-entering to attend Bentley.
  • Have completed a program and are currently pursuing Optional Practical Training (OPT) in the United States, but will start a new degree program at Bentley.
How does the process work?
  • The immigration transfer process must be initiated while your SEVIS record is active or within the 60-day grace period following completion of your program or Optional Practical Training.
  • During the admissions process, you will fill out a transfer form with an advisor at the school listed on your current I-20.

  • Once the transfer date has passed, the Center for International Students and Scholars will receive the transfer and create a "transfer pending" Form I-20 for you, which you will use between programs.

What happens next?
  • Prior to your arrival on campus, you will receive information about the mandatory orientation and immigration check-in process.
  • Check your I-20 packet that you received for information on the date and time of the check-in.

  • Upon reporting, you must bring your passport and all U.S. immigration documents, such as forms I-20, DS-2019, I-797, if applicable.

  • This check-in process is mandated by U.S. federal immigration law, so make your travel plans accordingly. 
    Note: Transfer students must check in within 15 days of your program start date.

  • Once you have checked in and have been registered, you will receive a new Form I-20.  
    Note: You do not need a new F-1 visa if you are transferring your immigration record and plan to stay within the U.S., even if your F-1 visa is expired.  However, If you will travel internationally and have an expired F-1 visa, you must renew your visa to be able to re-enter the country.

Changing Your Immigration Status

Certain non-immigrant categories other than F-1 allow for part or full time study in the U.S. However, if you are currently in the U.S. in a nonimmigrant status (B1/B2, F2, H1B or H4), and would like to change to F-1 or J-1 status, you have two options: Consular Processing or Change of Status. Both are described below.

For more information on change of status procedures, contact We encourage students to carefully review the Change of Status Process & Acknowledgment Form. 

Consular Processing

Travel outside of the U.S. and follow all of the above listed steps to obtain an F-1 or J-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy abroad. You will re-enter the U.S. using your new visa and Form I-20/DS-2019.

Change of Status from Within the U.S.

You may apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to change your status without leaving the U.S. by completing a form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status and sending supporting documents. This process can take between 3 and 6 months, and you should not travel while the application is pending. For certain statuses (e.g., B1/B2), change of status from within the U.S. is less likely to be approved. 

If your application is approved, you will be in your new status and can remain in the U.S. in this status. However, once you travel outside the U.S., you will need to apply for a new visa stamp in order to re-enter.

Change of Status: Travel and Re-entry or Applying in the U.S.
Factor Travel and Re-entry Change of Status
(form I-539)
Timing More control over timing (unless a security clearance is needed). Student should factor in the time needed to travel and schedule the visa appointment. Can take months to be approved (+6 months). If student leaves the U.S., application should be canceled or will be considered abandoned by the USCIS.
Stamp in Passport Will have a visa in their passport for the next time they travel. Student will need to apply for visa on next trip abroad.
Cost Cost of flight, possible hotel fees $370 application fee for I-539. Cannot travel outside the U.S. while applying.
In-person or Application Face-to-face interview with a consular officer for interview. May be easier to explain situation and answer questions. USCIS adjudicator is making a decision based on the application alone. A "Request for Evidence/Information" could delay the process.
Risk Assess risk of obtaining visa given country of origin/where student will apply for the visa. If application is denied, student may need to leave the U.S.
Other Considerations Health, safety in home country. Mid-semester start date is OK if student has been studying full-time. Can remain in the U.S. while COS application is pending. May need a "bridge to extension" to extend current visa status.


Arriving at Bentley

Mandatory Immigration Check-In


Prior to your arrival on campus, you will receive information about the mandatory orientation and immigration check-in process. Check your I-20 packet that you received for information on the date and time of the check-in.

International students on the F-1 and J-1 student visas must complete the mandatory Immigration Registration Form by September 7, 2021. 

F-1 Immigration Registration Form

J-1 Immigration Registration Form


Review this travel and arrival information (also included in the mailer with your I-20).

Orientation for Undergraduate Students

All students must complete Online Orientation through the MyBentley portal prior to coming to Bentley. 

On the first day of each orientation, students must check in with all appropriate documents at the CISS office on the 3rd Floor of the Student Center Building, Suite 310. 

Orientation for Graduate Students

Graduate students will have a mandatory immigration check-in and a mandatory visa presentation.

A Graduate Student Orientation is also planned by Graduate Student Life. 

Health Insurance and Vaccination Requirements

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Public Health requires full time students (students taking 9 or more credits) to complete and submit the following before arriving to Bentley University:

1. Health History Questionnaire
2. TB Risk Assessment Questionnaire
3. Immunization Record

To access forms, upload documents, enter immunizations and submit this information, log into the Online Student Health Portal. Log on using your Bentley short name (everything to the left of the @ in your email address).

For further information and details please go to Bentley University Health Center. Our website contains details about the requirements, downloadable forms, allowable waivers, and Zoom video instruction for navigating the portal. You will not be able to move into housing or begin classes until you have submitted the required information. You will also be charged a $50 nonrefundable fee if you remain non-compliant.



On-Campus Housing

On-Campus Housing is available to undergraduate students. The Residential Center will inform you of the day on which you may move into your residence hall. You must complete all of the required paperwork indicated in your MyBentley account. Residential Center staff are available to answer any questions. Please note: first-year resident students are not allowed to register automobiles on campus during their first year of study.

Email with questions related to on-campus housing.

Off-Campus Housing

Waltham is a beautiful town just west of Boston. Waltham has a number of popular apartment complexes and privately owned apartments and housing throughout town. It's also surrounded by the towns of Belmont, Newton, Arlington and Watertown, which are also options for living.

Popular apartment complexes close to campus include:

Windsor Village
976 Lexington Street
Waltham, MA 02451
(781) 349-5627

Cronin Landing Apartments
25 Crescent Street
Waltham, MA 02453
(844) 283-9094

Finding a place to live off-campus can be very challenging for any new student. Make sure to be a smart consumer!  When renting a room or apartment, we recommend you:

  • Let landlords and real estate agents know what type of rental units you are looking for (such as studio or one-bedroom; furnished or unfurnished).
  • Do not rent a place that you have not seen.
  • Have any repairs or maintenance work agreed to in writing by the landlord before you sign a lease.
  • Be prepared to sign a lease (binding rental agreement) for one year.
  • Be prepared to pay first month’s rent, last month’s rent and a security deposit for your room or apartment before you are permitted to move in.

Students are advised to use all resources available to them when choosing a place to live. Please contact an advisor in CISS if you have further questions about finding a place to live. 

Bentley University is not responsible or liable for any off-campus student housing arrangements. Furthermore, neither Bentley University nor the CISS staff endorse the above apartment complexes or apartment-finder websites. Bentley University does not inspect the premises of any off-campus housing locations nor does it assume responsibility for contracts/leases or other housing arrangements between individuals.