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J-1 Non-Degree Students

OISS is happy to provide support to all incoming J-1 students to MSU. Below you will find a helpful list of steps you should take prior to your arrival and within your first few days on campus.


Before You Leave

Receive DS-2019 and Check for Errors

After receiving your DS-2019 and accompanying documents from MSU, please carefully read all enclosed materials.

When you receive your DS-2019, please review it carefully for any errors. Contact jvisas(at) immediately if you find an error on your DS-2019.

Pay the SEVIS Fee

Prior to your visa interview, you must pay the SEVIS Fee. 

The SEVIS Fee for J-1 students is $220. 

Learn more about the SEVIS fee on our SEVIS Fee Facts webpage.

Schedule Your Visa Interview

Contact the nearest US Embassy or Consulate and schedule an interview appointment for a J-1 visa. Find your nearest US Embassy or Consulate.

Canadian citizens are exempt from the U.S. visa stamp requirements. At the port of entry, Canadian citizens will need to present their DS-2019 and Canadian passport along with proof of payment of the SEVIS fee and adequate financial support to study in the U.S. If you are a Canadian landed immigrant entering the United States, you are required to obtain a U.S. visa stamp. Please contact the U.S. consulate in your area for more information.

Required Documents

  • Passport that is valid for at least 6 months beyond the date you reenter the U.S.
  • DS-2019
  • A copy of your SEVIS Fee Payment Receipt
  • Original financial documents verifying funding as listed on the DS-2019
  • Letter of invitation from your host department at MSU
  • Passport-type photographs
  • Application forms and fees as required by the U.S. consulate or embassy where you will apply for your J-1 visa

Tips to Apply for a Student Visa

Before you apply for your student visa it is important to prepare yourself. Not only is it important to have your documents organized, it is also important to prepare for the visa interview. Here are two websites that offer valuable tips to help you get ready. 

U.S. Department of State - Education USA

U.S. Department of State - Education USA Tips to Apply For Your U.S. Student Visa

NAFSA: Association of International Educators

NAFSA 10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Student Visa

Find A Place to Live

Learn more about how to find a place to live, set up utilities, and other practical information on our Find a Place to Live webpage.

What to Pack and Michigan Weather

U.S. Port of Entry Checklist

Make sure you have the following documents with you in your carry-on bag when you enter the U.S. Do not pack these documents in your checked luggage. 

  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-1 or J-1 visa (except for Canadian citizens)
  • I-20 or DS-2019
  • MSU letter of acceptance
  • Proof of financial support for course of study 

What to Pack

As you prepare for your trip, keep in mind that rooms in the residence halls and apartments are generally small. In order not to crowd your room (and possibly your roommate) and to avoid excess baggage charges, bring only essentials with you. You will be able to buy many things that you need for your room, school supplies, additional clothing and personal items after you arrive. Our current international students say they consider the following items most important to bring with them from home:

  • Frequently used and favorite books
  • Educational instruments and supplies (laptops, calculators, paint brushes, etc.)
  • Spare eye glasses or contact lenses
  • Medications. You should translate ingredients and dosage instructions into English on a separate piece of paper and pack that with your medications. 
  • Adequate clothing (including national dress for special occasions)
  • Pictures, artifacts, and other items typical of your country

Weather in East Lansing

Michigan is located in the northern part of the United States. We have four distinct seasons of the year and temperatures change a lot between Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring. Temperatures and weather can change suddenly during the day and from day-to-day. We have a saying in Michigan: "If you don't like the weather, wait 10 minutes."

Summer lasts from June - September and can be hot and humid. It is common to have thunderstorms and rain during the summer. People often wear thinner cotton clothing, shorts and short sleeved shirts. Most classroom buildings are air conditioned so it can be chilly inside. Bringing a sweater with you every day is a good idea. It is also a good idea to carry a small umbrella with you in your bag every day in case the weather changes to rain. Average temperatures during the day are around 27 degrees C (80 degrees F). 

Fall lasts from September - December and ranges from hot to very cold. One day it may be hot and sunny and the next day cold and snowing. However, the first snow usually happens in late November or early December. People dress in layers of clothing in case the temperature changes during the day. It is a good idea to always carry a small umbrella with you in your bag every day in case the weather changes to rain. Average temperatures during the day range from 23 degrees C in September (73 degrees F) to 1 degree C in December (34 degrees F). 

Winter lasts from December - March and ranges from very cold to mildly warm. We usually have a lot of snow in January - March. People dress in warm sweaters, down feather coats, warm boots, hats, scarves and gloves. Buildings can be hot inside, so it's a good idea to dress in layers. Average temperatures during the day range from -1 degree C in January (30 degrees F) to 7 degrees C in March (44 degrees F). 

Spring lasts from March - June and ranges from very cold to warm. It can snow in April. People dress in warm sweaters, wool or fleece coats, hats, scarves and gloves. Buildings can be hot inside, so it's a good idea to dress in layers. Average temperatures during the day range from 14 degrees C in April (58 degrees F) to 26 degrees C in June (78 degrees F). 

Travel and Transportation to MSU

We do not recommend that you purchase plane tickets until your J-1 visa is granted. 

Airport Options

MSU campus is located in the city of East Lansing in the state of Michigan. 

Lansing Capital Region International Airport (LAN) 

The closest airport to MSU is Lansing Capital Region International Airport (LAN). If you want to fly into Lansing, you will have to fly through another city in the U.S., usually Detroit or Chicago. Taxi service is available from the Lansing Capital Region International Airport to take you to your hotel or residence. 

Detroit Metro Airport (DTW)

Many students and scholars choose fly to Detroit Metro Airport (DTW). The Michigan Flyer bus company offers comfortable and inexpensive coach bus rides from Detroit to East Lansing. The Michigan Flyer bus stop in East Lansing is at the Marriott hotel. Taxis will be available to drive you to your hotel or residence. Purchase your Michigan Flyer ticket online before flying to Detroit. 

Required Health Insurance

Immigration regulations require that all students and dependents in J-1 and J-2 have health insurance that meets specific requirements. 

Most students choose to use the student health insurance policy issued to MSU international students through the Blue Care Network (BCN) insurance company. You are automatically enrolled in the coverage when you enroll for classes and billed for the cost on your MSU Student Account.

If you will use this policy, please be aware of the following coverage start dates:

  • Fall Semester: August 15
  • Spring Semester: January 1
  • Summer Semester: May 12

If you will arrive before the coverage start date, you should purchase day-to-day health insurance coverage through the MSU Human Resources Solutions Center.

Please note that spouses and children are NOT automatically enrolled in the BCN health insurance plan. You must enroll your family members through the BCN website. Payment is required at the time of enrollment.

Deadlines for family member enrollment each semester are as follows:

  • Fall Semester: September 30
  • Spring Semester: February 28
  • Summer Semester: June 30

Very few international students studying inside the U.S. are eligible for a waiver based on alternative health insurance coverage. Learn more about waiver eligibility

Notify OISS if You Are Delayed

If unexpected events cause your arrival to be delayed more than 20 days after the start date on your DS-2019, you must notify your MSU host department and jvisas(at) immediately. We must create a new DS-2019 for you with a postponed start date.

After You Arrive

Arrival Date

You may enter the U.S. no more than 30 days before the program start date and no later than 20 days after the program start date, as listed on your DS-2019. If you will be delayed in your arrival, please notify jvisas(at)

Check-in at OISS

Check-in is required. It is very important that all new J-1 students check in with the OISS as soon as possible after arrival. When you check in, the reception staff will schedule you for the next J-1 Exchange Visitor Orientation session. 

Bring the following documents and information with you to OISS. 

OISS hours and location

  • Passport
  • DS-2019
  • U.S. residential address
  • U.S. telephone number
  • Email address
  • Names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses for people we can contact if you have an emergency

If you do not yet have a U.S. residential address or U.S. telephone number during check-in, you can provide a temporary or hotel address and provide a U.S. telephone number to OISS after you get one. After you have a U.S. residential address and U.S. telephone number, you must provide this information to Office of the Registrar using StuInfo within 10 days. This information will be updated in your Department of Homeland Security SEVIS record.

We created a blog with step-by-step instructions on how to update your address.

American Semester Program Students

You will complete the required check-in process during your orientation program a few days before classes start. Dates and locations for orientation will be sent to you by the American Semester Program office. 

Attend Orientation

J-1 Exchange Visitor Orientation

Every Friday at 10am
Room 105, International Center

American Semester Program Students

Information about orientation dates and times will be sent to you by the American Semester Program office. There will be required immigration sessions offered for F-1 and J-1 students during the orientation program.