Pre-Arrival Guide Incoming Students

We have designed this pre-arrival guide to help you obtain your student visa and prepare you for your arrival in the United States, in Washington, DC, and at American University. Please review this guide and let us know what questions we can answer as you prepare to join the American University community.

After you are admitted to American University, International Student & Scholar Services will begin the process to issue your immigration documents. Please see the Immigration Process page for additional details. After you receive your immigration documents in the mail, you will need to pay the SEVIS Fee before applying for your visa.

You will need to apply for your visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside the U.S. Please visit the U.S. Department of State for information on how to apply for your visa. See also our Visa Application and Renewal page and Education USA for additional guidance. 

Activating your portal account is easy. Please follow these simple instructions:

  1. Go to
  2. Click on the "Students" link next to "New to AU? Create your account".
  3. Click "Create Student Account" on the next webpage.
  4. Follow the instructions to create your account. You will be prompted to enter the 7-digit American University ID number that you received with your admittance letter from the Admissions Office.
  5. Complete the quick tutorial to learn about the benefits of using the portal.
  6. Access your email account by logging in to, then click the "Email" link in the top right corner of the screen. Enter the same user name and log-in again. Please begin checking this email account regularly.

If you are having trouble activating your account or logging in to the portal, contact the university's Information Technology Help Desk by phone, email, or chat.

Contact your academic advisor in your department for information about the course registration process. It is important to register for your classes before you arrive on campus to start the semester.

American University provides an extensive orientation program for new students beginning the week before classes start to help make your transition to the university as smooth as possible. The ISSS orientation page has information about your orientation dates and the pre-registration process.


Students under the age of 26 must show proof of immunizations upon arrival at American University. Students over the age of 26 do not need to submit proof of immunization. Immunization forms can be found on the Student Health Center website. Immunization records must be in English or accompanied by an English translation.

Health Insurance

All students are automatically enrolled in American University health insurance. Students are required to hold American University health insurance unless proof of adequate private health insurance is given. American University health insurance meets all university and immigration requirements. For more information, review the Student Health Insurance page

F-1 students: your private health insurance must meet all university requirements (PDF). If your private insurance meets all university requirements and you would like to waive American University health insurance, please fill out and submit the university online waiver. If your waiver is accepted, the health insurance fee is removed from your student account.

J-1 students: your private health insurance must meet all university requirements (PDF) and all immigration requirements. The U.S. Department of State requires all J-1 visa holders to maintain a health insurance that meets certain minimum requirements for themselves and J-2 dependents for the entire period of their program at American University.

If your private insurance meets all university and immigration requirements and you would like to waive American University health insurance, fill out the university online waiver. If your waiver is accepted, the health insurance fee is removed from your student account. Please be aware that approval is not automatic.

For more information on university requirements and the university online waiver, please contact the Student Health Center. For more information on immigration requirements, please contact ISSS.

  • Tuition Payment is due one month before classes begin. For deadlines and other information, please visit the Student Accounts website. Payments can be made using wire transfers, cash, credit card, and check. Tuition refund insurance information is available here.
  • Monthly Payment Plans are offered by American University. For more information see the American Payment Plan website.
  • For more information about tuition payment, billing, tuition refund insurance, and other related information, please visit the office of Student Accounts website or call AU Central at +1-202-885-8000.
  • Travel and Relocation Costs: As a student coming to the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status, you have demonstrated to the U.S. government that you can finance your education without working in the United States. Before you leave, you should determine how much money you will need for the first weeks of your stay on campus.
  • Social Security Numbers for Employment and Merit Awards: Students authorized to work or receive university graduate merit awards with a work component are eligible for a Social Security number.

One of the most important things you will have to take care of before you start your studies in the United States is finding a place to live. This is an important decision since it will be one of your biggest expenses and will affect your personal and academic adjustment.

On-campus Housing: Please see the Housing & Residence Life website or contact them by phone at +1-202-885-3370.

Off-campus Housing: For an extensive list of Washington, D.C., area off-campus housing links, including roommates, group houses, apartments, and more, please visit the Off-Campus Housing Resources website.

American University expects you to report to school in time for orientation and to register for classes.

You are allowed to enter the United States no more than 30 days before the start date listed on the I-20 or DS-2019. You will not be able to enter the United States after the start date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019 document. If you are facing unexpected delays in arriving, notify the ISSS office as soon as possible to discuss your options.

Do not enter the United States on a B-2 tourist visa or visa waiver. These visas are not acceptable for the purpose of full-time studies in the United States.

When purchasing your plane tickets, please note the dates from the university's academic calendar and be sure you are arriving in time for your required orientation.

Carry the following documents with you on the plane:

  • Passport with your F-1 or J-1 visa
  • SEVIS form I-20 or DS-2019
  • Evidence of financial resources
  • Evidence of student or exchange visitor status, such as letter of acceptance, tuition receipts or transcripts
  • Paper receipt for the SEVIS fee
  • Contact information for International Student and Scholar Services
  • Inform the immigration officer at the port of entry that you will be a student in the United States to ensure that you are admitted with student status

Visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for practical information on your arrival and entry into the United States. 

Detailed information about Washington, DC transportation options and additional arrival information is available on the transportation webpage.

After arriving in the United States, you must complete on-line immigration check-in. Depending on what orientation you are attending, specific check-in instructions will be emailed to you.