What to Expect After Applying
Congratulations, you have successfully completed your application! If accepted to the program, your I-20 and acceptance packet will arrive in 2-3 weeks.
Upon acceptance, there are still a few more steps to take before you get on a plane to the United States. If you have questions, you can always contact us at email@example.com, or schedule a one-on-one meeting with an advisor! We are also available via video call, live chat (WhatsApp, Line, and WeChat), or by phone at +1 (360) 650-3308.
Step 1: Look for the IEP Welcome Email
Once accepted, you will receive a welcome email that includes the FedEx tracking number of your mailed acceptance packet and the SEVIS number you will use to schedule your visa appointment. You should receive this email within 2 business days after staff receives your complete application package.
Step 2: Schedule Your Visa Appointment
As soon as you have the SEVIS number, contact the nearest U.S. embassy/consulate to schedule a visa appointment.
If you are not sure where the nearest embassy or consulate is, please visit the Department of State website for a full list.
Step 3: Receive Your IEP Acceptance Packet
The same day the welcome email is sent, our staff will mail your acceptance packet. It can take 1-2 weeks to arrive. The packet contains important documents you will need in order to obtain your F1 Student Visa and prepare for your arrival in Bellingham. It is critical that you take time to review all the documents and information in the packet.
Your acceptance packet includes:
- Acceptance Letter*
- SEVIS I-20 Form*
- Fee Payment Information
- Housing Application
- Confirmation of Arrival Form
*Bring these documents to your visa interview
Your acceptance letter includes next steps and important information to be aware of.
It includes the start date and time for your IEP Orientation. This orientation includes important placement testing, so it is critical that you are in Bellingham and ready to begin the quarter’s activities at that time. Some students may be asked to do remote testing to determine their level of language proficiency before the program. If needed, instructions will be included in your acceptance letter.
SEVIS I-20 Form
This is a three-page document that you will need to take to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in order to apply for a visa and enter the U.S. It’s very important that you keep the I-20 safe throughout your stay in the U.S.
Note: Due to a new SEVP policy effective June 2019, I-20 forms can only be sent or given to the student, their dependents, or, if a minor, their parents or legal guardian.
Fee Payment Information
Included in the packet are instructions on how to pay the mandatory SEVIS fee and, if you are applying for conditional admission to Western, the additional undergraduate application fee.
Students can choose the option of living on campus in one of the residence halls, or off campus in an apartment or house. The acceptance packet includes information on both choices. Regardless of your choice, students are highly encouraged to make housing arrangements at least two months before their planned arrival as housing on and off campus quickly fills up. Learn more about housing options.
All students wanting to live on campus are asked to submit a housing application which includes questions about lifestyle and preferences. This form allows the on-campus housing office to try and match you with roommates who have similar routines and interests.
Confirmation of Arrival Form
Students are asked to submit their arrival details on this form so that staff can help with airport/ transit information and pick-up services in Bellingham.
Note: You may legally enter the U.S. 30 days before the program start date listed on your I-20.
Step 4: Sign the SEVIS I-20 Form
When you receive your I-20 form, sign and date the document in blue ink at the bottom of page one. This indicates that you have read page two of the I-20 and that you understand the terms and conditions of F1 status as a non-immigrant student. If you are under the age of 18, your parent or guardian must also sign below your signature.
Step 5: Pay the SEVIS Fee
If you have not yet paid the SEVIS fee, you must do so before your visa appointment. This is a one-time fee payable to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). You can pay this fee at www.fmjfee.com. Information on how to pay this fee through us is included in your packet. If you choose to pay using the government website, here is a helpful video.
Note: Please be sure to print 2 copies of the receipt. Keep one for your records, and take one with you to your visa appointment.
Step 6: Prepare for the Visa Interview
This can be one of the most challenging parts of the admissions process. Experienced staff can always be reached with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are also available for meetings via video call, live chat (WhatsApp, Line, and WeChat), or by phone.
Check Your Documents
- Visa Application
- Make sure you have accurately completed all sections, and that your answers are clear. If you had someone else help with the application, take some time to ensure that you understand all the information they provided.
- SEVIS 1-20 Form
- Is your name spelled correctly? Does it exactly match the name in your passport?
- Is your date of birth correct?
- Is your program information, reporting dates and financial information correct? If the reporting date has passed, you must update it before your appointment.
- Is your signature on page 1 of your I-20 form in blue ink?
- Financial Documents
- Do you have your printed receipt for the SEVIS fee?
- Make sure your ability to support yourself financially during your time in the United States is clear.
- If you have documents showing financial assets/property in your name, make sure to bring them as proof that you do not plan to stay in the U.S.
Prepare Your Explanations—Do Not Memorize a Script
The interview time is typically less than 10 minutes. They will want to know that you have clear study goals, can financially support yourself and anyone traveling with you during your time in the U.S., and most importantly that you have strong ties to a place outside of the U.S. that you will return to after your studies.
Academic and Career Plan: you’ll be asked if you have thought about why you want to study in the United States, what your major will be (if applicable), and what your long-term academic and career goals are. If you are not sure if you plan to enter a U.S. university after your IEP program, focus on how your improved English proficiency will help you in future academic studies and/or your professional career in your country.
You can demonstrate that you are focused on pursuing your education in the U.S. by showing proof of conditional undergraduate/graduate admission to Western:
- Take the TOEFL, IELTS, SAT, or ACT.
- Provide proof that you completed an ESL program or college preparation program.
- Provide letters of support from your school teachers or counselors.
- Show that you are familiar with Western and its programs, as they relate to your career goals.
Review your financial support: It is important that you have reviewed and understand all the financial documents in your application. If a sponsor prepared the documents for you, make sure you are familiar with the information so you can answer any questions. This can be difficult to request as this information may traditionally be kept private (especially if your parents are your sponsor)—explain that it is very important for the success of your interview.
Long-term goals outside of the U.S.: After you have demonstrated how much studying in the U.S. will help further your academic goals, you must clearly and convincingly explain your reasons for leaving the U.S. after you complete your studies. Establish strong ties to a place outside the U.S., such as your hometown, home country, or current place of residence. Strong ties may include family, employment opportunities, property, investments, and other financial prospects. Students who are unable to show strong ties to a country other than the U.S. are often denied a student visa.
Note: If you have family in the U.S., be ready to fully explain your relationship, why they are in the U.S., and re-iterate that you have other prospects outside the U.S. that you plan to return to after your studies.
You may be asked what you will do if you are denied a visa. Stay calm—this is not a denial, but you will need to be prepared to answer the question honestly. Highlight your commitment to your studies, and explain that you would plan to reapply at a later date.
First Impressions Count!
Due to the many applications they receive, visa officers must make the process quick and efficient, which means you must make a good impression from the start. While nothing can guarantee that you will get a visa, we recommend the following:
- Arrive early for your appointment.
- Dress appropriately.
- Smile and use direct eye contact.
- Speak clearly, and in English as much as possible.
- Answer every question honestly, and avoid using a prepared speech (it is okay to ask them to repeat a question).
- Keep answers brief and to the point.
- Do not lie or hide information.
- Be polite, and never argue with the officer.
If Your Student Visa Gets Denied
If you were denied a visa, we encourage you to maintain a positive attitude. Many students do not get a visa the first time and are successful on their second attempt.
If denied your visa, we recommend the following:
- Though you may be upset, it will not help you to argue; instead, respectfully request the reasons for your denial in writing.
- Ask the officer for a list of documents and/or information you need to bring when you re-apply.
- If you have not done so, read the recommendations for preparing for the visa interview
- Review the information you submitted. Make sure your documents are clear and complete.
If the information you received as to why you were denied is unclear, contact your agent or our office (email@example.com) to help understand how you might improve your application.
Note: Staff does not take any responsibility for the outcome of your visa application.
Prepare for Your New Life in the U.S.
Time to celebrate! You have your visa, and the hardest part of the admissions process is over. Here are the steps to ensure a smooth start to your U.S. study experience. As always, if you have any questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org or make an appointment with an advisor.
Step 1: Submit the Housing Application (if You Haven’t Already)
Make a final decision about living on or off campus and submit your completed application. Things to consider are how independent you want to be, how much you want to cook for yourself, and how much you are prepared to spend. The sooner you apply, the more likely you are to get your first choice of on-campus housing communities! Please check On-Campus Housing for more details,for more details, including priority housing application deadlines for on-campus housing.
Step 2: Book your Flight(s) and Submit your Confirmation of Arrival Form
Most students fly into Seattle and take an airport bus, but there are many ways to get to Bellingham. If you are confused, feel free to contact us! During your planning, remember that if you arrive in Bellingham (not Seattle) inside our pickup window of 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on the Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday before your orientation begins, staff will pick you up from the bus station or local airport and help with your housing check-in process.
Note: You may legally enter the U.S. 30 days before the program start date listed on your I-20. However, on-campus housing will charge you an early arrival fee for each day you need housing before the official move-in date.
Step 3: Immunizations
All international students in IEP must enroll in the LewerMark insurance plan accepted by Western. The cost of this insurance will be automatically billed to your account. Check the Health Page for more details.
You are required to submit proof of two immunizations against Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR). Students who do not have proof will be referred to the student health center for immunizations before IEP registration.
New Student Orientation
Orientation takes place every quarter for new students and it is required. See the quarterly schedule for exact dates of orientation. If you are not able to attend the orientation, you should defer enrollment to the following quarter. Please contact the IEP office if this is the case.
What You Can Expect at Orientation
- Assessment to place you in the correct level
- Advising (immigration, safety, etc.)
- Introduction to campus life and resources
- Familiarization about academic and program expectations
- Meetings with other international students
- Getting to know the IEP Director, instructors, and staff members
What to Bring to Orientation
- Passport and current VISA
- Your new U.S. address and/or phone number
- Proof of health insurance in English if you have it
- E-mail address
- Parent or emergency contact information in your home country, including a current e-mail address and/or phone number
- Comfortable walking shoes—you will walk to various locations across campus
- Extra layers of clothing—you will be spending time indoors and outside
- Refillable water bottle and a light snack
There are two housing options for IEP students, on- and off-campus housing. Please read this information carefully to choose the best housing option for you.
Please note: You must have your F-1 student visa before you apply for on campus housing, unless you are a transfer student or do not need and F-1 student visa.
General Housing Information
International students generally live in Buchanan Towers, a residence hall which has been designated an international community.
There are two bedrooms in each apartment. You will share a room with a roommate. There are a total of four students living in each unit. Laundry facilities are located near each apartment building.
Note: On-campus housing fills up quickly and is not always available.
[grid of dorm and apartment style photos]
Apartment Style Housing
On-campus apartments house four students. Includes: two bedrooms a living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom and balcony. Amenities: information desk, TV lounge & laundry. Utilities - except phone - included. Bus to campus is nearby. Full-year occupancy available.
Suites house 4 students sharing two bedrooms, a bathroom, living area and a kitchenette with refrigerator, sink and stove. Amenities include: full meal plan, pool table, TV room, piano lounge and convenience market next door. Suites are open for full-year occupancy.
How to Apply
Complete the Housing Application included in the IEP acceptance packet and return to the IEP office.
Housing Application Deadlines
Price of On-Campus Housing
On-Campus Apartment-meal plan not included
On-Campus Dormitory with 100 Meal Plans
If choosing to live off campus, is the responsibility of the student to find an apartment or house. There are many different types of apartments and homes for rent. Often, students must have a co-signer living in the U.S. or be able to pay a larger deposit. Most students must be willing to rent the apartment for 12 months or risk losing their deposit.
Studio apartments have a kitchen, living area and sleeping area in one room. These apartments are usually the cheapest. One bedroom and two bedroom apartments and houses have one or two bedrooms separate from the kitchen and living area. A duplex is a house attached to another house. The two homes share the yard. Most apartments and houses are not furnished.
Off-Campus Housing Prices
A one bedroom is available in the price range of $550-800 per month. Sharing an apartment with a roommate may be less expensive. Rent is generally due on the first day of each month and is paid directly to the property manager.
How to Apply for Off-Campus Housing
Contact a property management company. Each management company has different applications and rules.
Property Management Companies
3800 Byron Ave. #112,
Bellingham, WA 98229
2100 Iron St.
Bellingham, WA 98225
4061 Eliza Street
Bellingham, WA 98226
109 E. Chestnut Street,
Bellingham, WA 98225