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ESL Institute/Office of Global Engagement

O'Dowd Hall, Room 326
586 Pioneer Drive
Rochester , MI 48309-4482
(location map)
Phone: (248) 364-8803
Fax: (248) 370-3587
[email protected]

ESL Institute/Office of Global Engagement

O'Dowd Hall, Room 326
586 Pioneer Drive
Rochester , MI 48309-4482
(location map)
Phone: (248) 364-8803
Fax: (248) 370-3587
[email protected]

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Small flags from many different countries in a row

Newly Admitted Students

We extend a warm welcome to all new ESL students as we support you to improve your English language skills with intensive English language instruction, a collaborative classroom environment and extensive campus resources.

Pre-Arrival Welcome Guide
Pay I-901 SEVIS Fee

The first thing you should do is carefully review your I-20 or DS-2019 for accuracy upon receipt of the "Welcome Packet". Immediately report any I-20 or DS-2019 errors by email to the ISSO at [email protected].

I-901 Form (SEVIS Fee)

You will need to fill in the I-901 form with information from your I-20 or DS-2019 form and pay the required fee. Most transfer or continuing students/exchange visitors are not required to re-pay the fee, except for a few unique circumstances. For complete information on who is required to pay the fee, see the SEVP website at: ice.gov/sevis/students

For most students, the SEVIS I-901 fee is $350 for F-1 visa holders and $220 for J-1 visa holders. You pay the SEVIS fee at fmjfee.com - make sure to print off the receipt to bring with you to your embassy visit.

Activate your Oakland University Accounts

Visit oakland.edu/activate for instructions on activating your official Oakland email and MySAIL (student portal) accounts. You will need your Grizzly ID from your acceptance letter. Set up both accounts immediately and begin checking them regularly. The ISSO will begin communicating with you regularly.

Apply for a Visa and Get Ready for Your Embassy Visit

Pre-embassy Visit

DS-160 Form

The DS-160 form is the application for a visa to the United States. Locate the website of the United States embassy or consulate where you will apply for a visa. Each consulate will be a bit different, but you are looking for the non-immigrant visa section. The United States Department of State has a frequently asked questions list that is regularly updated if you have any questions. Make sure you select the correct visa type. 

After submitting the DS-160, you will schedule an interview for the visa. To get an estimate of visa appointment wait times, use the United States Department of State's estimated wait time list

The embassy will let you know which documents you need to bring for the visa appointment. At the very least, you will need the following:

  • Valid passport (at least 6 months into the future) for you and any dependents coming with you
  • Form I-20 or DS-2019 for you and any dependents coming with you
  • Bank statement, scholarship letter, or any other financial proof cited on your I-20 or DS-2019. These funds must be cash, or readily converted to cash on hand.
  • Oakland University admission letter
  • Proof of I-901 fee payment (SEVIS fee receipt)

Immigration Documentation

Make sure to get your visa stamped at the United States embassy/consulate in your country. Also, confirm the dates/personal information are correct, and match your other documents, such as your passport and I-20 and DS-2019. ISSO advisors cannot inquire on your behalf to the embassy or consulate, so you must advocate for yourself if a document is incorrect.

Students Who Are Canadian Citizens

Students entering the United States in F-1 or J-1 immigration status DO NOT need to schedule an appointment with the United States embassy or consulate to obtain a visa stamp in their passport. 

When entering the United States from Canada, do not enter as a tourist. You must present your I-20 or DS-2019 to the Customs and Border Patrol Inspector upon your arrival at the border, and be able to present financial verification (bank statement, scholarship letter, etc.), if asked.

Embassy Visit: Tips to Remember

NAFSA, the professional organization that oversees international educators in the United States, has created 10 bullet points to remember when applying for a visa abroad. These should be used as general guidelines when applying for a visa. 

The International Students and Scholars Office at Oakland University has also interviewed current students to gain a consensus of some general questions that you should be prepared to answer during your interview. In the visa appointment, you will need to explain your reason for attending school in the United States, how your field of study relates to your future professional career and any economic or social ties that you have towards your home country. Sample US Visa Interview Questions for your reference. The questions are also located in International Student Orientation, Part One on eSpace.

Plan for Housing


Oakland University Housing has seven residence halls and two apartment complexes. Living on campus means you have access to laundry, meal plans, mail service and more, right at your fingertips. Living on campus gives students independence and a built-in community. Oakland University has consistently been ranked as one of the safest college campuses in the United States, and the overall safest in Michigan.  Housing can assist you in filling out the application, and selecting the right housing type for you. 

Oakland University Housing can assist you in filling out the application and selecting the right housing type for you.


Housing Surrounding Oakland University (Rochester Hills, Auburn Hills, Rochester)

Arrival and Orientation

Be sure to have all of your paperwork with you when traveling in your personal item, or carry-on luggage. You want to be able to easily access the following documents if asked:

  • Valid passport
  • Form I-20 or DS-2019
  • Visa stamp (unless you are a Canadian citizen)
  • Immunization record (if required to enter the United States from your home country)

You will pass through Customs and Border Protection with your first stop in the United States (regardless if you have a connecting flight to Detroit or not). Additionally, if your flight pattern includes a stop at a USCBP (United States Customs and Border Patrol Preclearance) facility, you may pass through border control before arriving in the United States. 

Important Travel Tips 

The final destination on your airline ticket should be Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW). The ISSO does not recommend flying into a regional airport, as they are further from campus, and transportation options are severely limited to get to campus. Detroit Metro Airport is a designated international airport serving seventeen airlines. 

When booking your ticket, you will want to plan on arriving in Detroit with at least a few days before your program start date (remember that international students/exchange visitors can enter the country up to 30 days before their program start date begins) to give yourself time to become acclimated to the area, and explore the Oakland University campus before International Student Orientation begins. Check the baggage requirements and restrictions of the airline you will be flying with so that you can ensure all of your belongings will arrive safely. 

Things to Keep in Mind While Traveling: Always carry your important documents on your person. Do NOT leave them in your luggage. Keep copies of these documents in your luggage, or on your cell phone. Have some small denominations of United States currency with you when traveling ($1 bill, 25 cent coins, etc.). This will be helpful if you want to buy food in vending machines. Carry most of your money on your credit or debit card. You should only carry around $500 USD with you in cash.

Arrival in Detroit 

Detroit is Michigan's largest city and has the largest airport in the state. Detroit Metro Airport (DTW) is about an hour drive from Rochester, or 45 miles. Upon arrival, keep all of your belongings with you at all times. Do not leave any items unattended. Bring only what you can carry conveniently. 

Ask about ground transportation at an information desk in the airport. You will be directed to a location where you can get a taxi. Metro Cab and Metro Car Services are available on location. 

Ride-sharing, such as Uber or Lyft, is also available from the airport to Oakland University's campus, if drivers are available. Ridesharing drivers use their own unmarked cars to drive you to your destination. You will need to download the app to your phone, and attach a credit card to your account (drivers do not take cash). From the Detroit Metro Airport to OU in a basic Uber car, the estimated cost is $75-115, depending on time of day, and driver availability. 

Plan your arrival to land during the day, when information desks are staffed, and there are plenty of drivers available. If your plane lands in the middle of the night, there are not many services open to you, and you may struggle to get transportation to campus.

Alumni or current international students will often help with transportation from the airport – you can connect with others by posting on our Facebook page or Slack. We also work closely with a local non-profit organization, International Oasis, and you can request airport pickup on their website.

Arrival Planning

After you arrive at Oakland University, you should plan on accomplishing the following tasks:

  • Attend the ESL Institute orientation (bring your photo ID and for F-1 students, immigration documentation)
  • Enroll in the healthcare plan (F-1 students only)
  • Attend the first day of class


Please refer to your admittance letter for your orientation date. Additional details that are term-specific will be emailed to you. 

Bring the following items to orientation:

  • Passport or a copy of a legal ID such as Valid Driver's License for personal verification
  • Copy of your I-94 card if you are an F-1 student
  • The visa page from your passport
  • Documentation for F-2 or J-2 dependents (spouse or children) who traveled with you into the United States