J-1 Visitor Arrival & Check-In

The following webpage provides both requirements for your arrival and first days in the United States.

Entry and arrival

When planning your arrival, remember that you are eligible to enter the country up to 30 days before the start date listed on your DS-2019.

Be sure to present the DS-2019 and J-1 visa stamp to the immigration official to ensure you enter in J-1 status.

After entering the U.S., access your Electronic I-94 on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, and save if for your records.

Immigration check-in

You are required to "check-in" at the Evanston International Office or our Chicago Office  within five days of your arrival on campus. If you do not check-in within 30 days of the start date listed on your DS-2019, the SEVIS record automatically becomes inactive and you must stop work on campus and leave the U.S.

Please bring the following with you for check-in: 

  • DS-2019 (original document), and if you are a student intern, you will also need a DS-7002 (original document);
  • Passport (original document);
  • J-1 visa stamp (original document);
  • A completed printout of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Check-In Form.

Note: If you are being paid by Northwestern, we recommend checking in before completing the I-9/E-verify process.

J-1 Orientation

You are required to attend J-1 Orientation, which our office offers once a month. Topics covered include:

  • General information on the J-1 program;
  • Status maintenance;
  • Adding dependents

After you have checked in, the International Office will send you an email listing available dates and times for upcoming J-1 Orientation sessions. You can also visit our events calendar to find an upcoming J-1 Orientation.

Social Security

If you are being paid by Northwestern (or any other U.S. institution) you must apply for a Social Security number. You are eligible to apply 10 days after your arrival in the United States.

For application details, visit our webpage on Social Security.

Other steps after arrival

Get to know the International Office

Take advantage of our advice and guidance. Determine who your IO advisor is.

Get to know your academic department

Make an effort to get to know your department's administrative contacts, your supervisor, and other colleagues.

Visit or contact important offices on campus

  • Human Resources' Payroll department if you are being paid by Northwestern. You will need to submit necessary paperwork and be entered into the Human Resources database. (This must be completed before you can obtain a WildCARD or set up an email account.)
  • HR's Benefits department if you will be receiving Northwestern health insurance or the Risk Management website if you will be receiving Visiting Scholar Health Insurance.
  • WildCARD Office to obtain a WildCARD, Northwestern's ID card. You will need this card to check out library books, use the free shuttle, purchase on-campus food, receive discounts at local shops and restaurants, and do banking (if linked to an USBank account).
  • Northwestern Information Technology (NUIT) Support Center to set up your email account. Email is free, and it is the University's official form of communication.

Open a bank account

Whether or not you have a social security number, there are a variety of bank options in Evanston/Chicago.

Apply for a driver's license and/or familiarize yourself with other transportation options

Once you have a Social Security number, you can apply for a driver's license. If you do not have a social security number, you can apply for a temporary driver's license. For application details, visit our Driver's License webpage. Information about campus parking is available on the University Police website.

If you do not drive a car, you have many other transit options, including:

Read local newspapers and websites

Learn about Northwestern, Evanston, and Chicago and enjoy yourself.

Find housing

View our Housing Near and On Campus webpage for suggestions and links to housing websites.