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Before You Arrive

Congratulations on your new position at Cornell! We look forward to meeting you on campus. Here are the steps you need to follow to get ready to enter the United States.

  1. Understand
  2. Receive Docs
  3. Get Insurance
  4. Apply for Entry

1 Understand your visa type.

J-1 Exchange VisitorThe most common visa for Cornell’s visiting academic staff. Learn about J-1.
H-1B Temporary Worker
0-1 Extraordinary Ability
TN Canada and Mexico
E-3 Australia

2 Receive visa eligibility documents.

Cornell will send you the appropriate visa eligibility document or form (DS-2019, I-797, or TN letter). You will need the form to apply for a visa stamp at a U.S. consulate, unless you are a Canadian citizen. Before applying for your visa, review and sign the form if necessary.


3 Get health insurance for you and your family.

Find out more about the options. 

If you are a J-1 exchange visitor, health insurance is a U.S. federal requirement.

As a J-1 exchange visitor, you and your J-2 dependents must have health and accident insurance during the entire length of your stay. Read more about J-1 health insurance requirements and options for Cornell employees.

Does Cornell offer medical insurance for international visitors with academic appointments?

Yes. Eligibility depends on the conditions of your appointment. Please check with your department’s human resources or hiring manager. Learn about health plans for Cornell employees.

If you do not qualify for Cornell insurance, you should make alternative plans to get coverage for your entire visit. GeoBlue insurance is a reliable option for exchange visitors.

What is the minimum level of J-1 coverage?

  • Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness
  • Repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000
  • Expenses associated with the medical evacuation to home country in the amount of $50,000
  • Deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness

4 Apply for an entry visa at a U.S. consulate.

Make an appointment with a U.S. consulate and obtain an entry visa stamp. If you are a J-1 exchange visitor, pay the SEVIS fee.

Canadian citizens skip this step. At the port of entry, show your Canadian passport and documents for your visa type (DS-2019, I-797, or TN letter). If you are a Canadian “landed immigrant,” please check with a U.S. consulate to find out if you need a visa stamp.

Is my visa status the same as the visa in my passport?

No. All international faculty and staff, except for Canadians, apply at the U.S. consulate for an entry visa stamp. This stamp is only used to enter the country. Once you are in the United States, you are allowed to stay—even after the entry visa in your passport expires—as long as you maintain your visa status.

I need to find housing near campus. How do I get started?

Visit Your First Week to explore off-campus living, neighborhoods, and short-term housing options.

I’d like to bring my car to the United States. What do I need to know?

It’s tricky to import a car manufactured abroad, because of strict U.S. safety, bumper, and emission standards. Read the U.S. Customs and Border Protection rules about importing vehicles.

Learn about driving in the United States. Or check out our local transportation tips for other ways to get around Ithaca.

Next Up: Enter the U.S.