Contact Us
Patricia Lausch
Assistant Director for International Student and Scholar Services and Advising
Phone: 610-526-7390
intl@brynmawr.edu Pensby Center

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Pre-arrival Information

ARRANGING YOUR ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES

GETTING YOUR ENTRY DOCUMENT AND VISA

If you decide to attend Bryn Mawr College, the first thing you should do is to complete the Entry Document Application Form and return it along with official financial documentation to the Pensby Center using the green envelope provided in your acceptance packet. To comply with U.S. government regulations, we must have these documents in original format to process the paperwork you need to obtain a student visa to enter the United States.

After we receive your documents, we will send you either an I-20 form (Certificate of Eligibility for F-1 status) or a DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for J-1 status).

Once you receive your I-20 or DS-2019 form, you must pay the SEVIS fee.

SEVIS FEE

What is the SEVIS fee?

On January 1, 2003, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (hereafter SEVIS) was implemented. This web-based system was designed by the United States government to track and monitor all students and scholars in F and J visa categories.

To offset the cost to successfully operate this program the Department of Homeland Security has announced that a mandatory fee would be charge to all individuals applying for a J-1 visa on or after September 1, 2004.

Who Must Pay The Fee?

F-1 – SEVIS I-20 Forms issued with “Initial Attendance”
J-1 – DS-2019 Form issued with “Begin New Program”

Who does not have to pay the SEVIS Fee?

F-2 and J-2 dependants are not required to pay the SEVIS Fee.

For more information on the SEVIS fee go to https://www.fmjfee.com/index.jhtml

 How to Make your Payment

  • Making your payment online?  Go to www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/

  • Making your Payment by check?  Download Form I-901 at http://www.ice.gov/graphics/sevis/i901/index.htm to submit with a check.

Current SEVIS Fees

F-1 students (I-20 holders)  $200
J-1 exchange participants (DS2019 holders)  $180

Information required on Form I-901

  • Date of Birth in month/day/year format
  • Program number for F-1 students:  PHI214F00281000 for Bryn Mawr College
  • Program Number for J-1 students:  P-1_00278 for Bryn Mawr College
  • SEVIS ID number found above the bar code on your SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019.

Please read the instructions carefully before submitting your payment.

After you make your payment

  • Be sure to print out a receipt as proof that you have paid the fee.  Submit your receipt with other documents to apply for your visa.

Is the SEVIS fee the same as the Visa application fee?

No.  When you attend your interview to obtain a visa, you will be required to pay a separate visa fee in addition to having paid the SEVIS fee

Applying for a Student Visa

Next, you need to apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate near you. [Canadian citizens are exempt from the requirement to obtain a U.S. visa, but they must present an I-20 or DS-2019 form and SEVIS fee receipt with proof of financial support at the point of entry in order to be issued an F-1 or J-1 student status.] Due to the increased security measures and delays in visa processing time at various U.S. consular offices, be sure to bring your I-20 or DS-2019, your SEVIS fee receipt, your passport, photograph, original documentation of financial resources and any other relevant documents for your visa application to be processed as soon as possible. Information on U.S. embassy and consulate hours of operation and visa application procedures may be obtained on the U.S. Department of State web site.

Please note that you can enter the United States in either the F-1 or J-1 visa category no more than 30 days prior to your program start date. You should not enter the U.S. on a
B-2 visitor's visa for full-time studies. Please note that you must attend the school whose I-20 or DS-2019 form you used to obtain your student visa to enter the United States. For example, if you use an I-20 form issued by another school to obtain your visa but decide to attend Bryn Mawr College, you need to return to the U.S. embassy/consulate and reapply for your visa with proper documentation. You may not accept any employment, including a teaching assistantship, unless you hold F-1 or J-1 student status valid for attendance at Bryn Mawr College.

F-1 Student Status

F-1 student status will allow you to remain in the U.S. as long as you are a properly registered full-time student. To maintain full-time status you must take at least three courses per semester at the undergraduate level, and depending on your school, two or three courses per semester at the graduate level. F-1 status will allow you to work part-time on campus, and work in a "practical training" job directly related to your field of study during summer vacation and after completion of your studies, for a maximum of twelve months.

You may bring your spouse and children as dependents in F-2 status if you have sufficient independent financial resources for their support. Bringing family members requires careful consideration, as Bryn Mawr College offers no assistance in their support, and F-2 visa holders are not allowed to work in the U.S. under any circumstances.

J-1 Exchange Visitor Student Status

J-1 student status will allow you to remain in the U.S. for the duration of your full-time studies (defined above). J-1 status will permit you to work on-campus with permission from your J-1 program sponsor. It will also allow you to work in an "academic training" job for up to 18 months during or after the completion of your studies.

The J-1 status, in some cases, carries with it an often inescapable condition that requires you to return to your home country for two years upon completion of your studies (and academic training) before you are eligible for other visas in the U.S. This "two-year home residence requirement" applies to you if you receive any funding (including nominal travel grants) from your home government or a U.S. government agency. It also applies to you if trained personnel in your field are identified by your home government as being in short supply and your field has consequently been included in the U.S. government's "Exchange Visitor's Skills List." If you do not know whether your country and/or field appear on the "Exchange Visitor's Skills List," ask a U.S. consular officer before requesting J-1 status. Once you have acquired J-1 status and are subject to the two-year residence requirement, it may be impossible to change to another non-immigrant status or to permanent residence status.

Like the F-1 visa, it is possible to bring your spouse and children as dependents in J-2 status if you have sufficient independent financial resources for their support. However, J-2 visa holders can obtain permission to work in the U.S. under certain conditions.

ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES

When you arrive at a port of entry into the U.S., you will be required to present either your I-20 or DS-2019 form, , SEVIS fee receipt along with your passport and financial documents, to the Customs and Border Patrol Protection officer. The officer will update your information in an electronic database, take your photo and fingerprints and return the stamped I-20 or DS-2019 form.   You will be provided with a CBP admission stamp on your travel document that shows the date of admission, class of admission and date your authorized stay expires. This stamp replaces the former I-94 card.  A copy of your I-94 (record of admission) for verification of alien registration, immigration status or employment authorization, may be obtained by accessing www.cbp.gov/I94.

TRANSFERRING SCHOOLS

If you are already studying in the U.S. on an F-1 or J-1 visa, you must transfer your immigration status to Bryn Mawr College. You should immediately contact the international student advisor at your current school and the Pensby Center at Bryn Mawr College to discuss the transfer process.  
If you are in the United States on another non-immigrant status, please contact the Pensby Center directly.  Failure to transfer properly will jeopardize your student status in th
e United States.

ARRIVAL IN BRYN MAWR

All new students from abroad are strongly urged to arrange their travel schedules so that they can arrive in time for the International Student Orientation (ISO). More information about ISO will be available on this website during the summer.

TRANSPORTATION TO BRYN MAWR

Philadelphia International Airport is the nearest airport to Bryn Mawr. When making your reservation, try to fly directly or find a connecting flight to Philadelphia. You can get more information about Philadelphia Airport by checking its home page at http://www.phl.org.

From Philadelphia Airport

After you pick up your luggage at the luggage claim area in the terminal, you have several options for transportation to Bryn Mawr College. Advanced reservations are suggested.

Regional Rail

SEPTA's Airport High Speed Line has four stops within the airport--at terminals A,B,C/D, and E.  Board the Airport Line (also known as R1) and make sure to tell the conductor that your final destination is Bryn Mawr.  The cost one-way is $9.50.  Hold on to your ticket receipt--you will need it when you change trains at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia.  Travel time from the airport to Philadelphia is about 20-30 minutes.

When you arrive at 30th Street Station, transfer to the Paoli/Thorndale regional rail.  Take the Paoli/Thorndale regional rail to the Bryn Mawr station.  Travel time from Philadelphia to Bryn Mawr is about 20 minutes.  The campus is a five minute walk from the Bryn Mawr station. 

From the Bryn Mawr station, walk north on Morris Avenue (straight ahead as you get off the westbound train) for two blocks.  You will cross Montgomery Avenue and continue on Morris Avenue to the campus. 

If you have luggage and wish to take a taxi from the Bryn Mawr station to the College, you may order a cab from Main Line Taxi company dispatcher at the station or by calling 610-664-0444.  Their taxi service operates seven days a week, 24 hours per day.

 

From New York's JFK Airport and La Guardia Airport or New Jerseys Newark Airport

Unless you are familiar with New York City or Newark, or have friends there who can assist you, it is not advisable to travel into these cities to get the bus or train to Philadelphia. It is often more expensive and can be very confusing.

LUGGAGE

You will want to bring no more luggage than you can sensibly carry with you. Do not pack money, passport, or immigration documents in your luggage; these items should be kept in your purse or wallet and carried with you at all times .

Please keep in mind that airports and train stations in the U.S. do not assume everyone needs help managing their luggage. There might be porters to assist you, but their help goes only from the baggage claim area to the sidewalk out front. You will have to lift and carry your own luggage on the plane or train, and from the door of your resident hall to your room. Once you are on campus you can usually find fellow students to help you move your things in exchange for helping them with theirs.

TEMPORARY HOUSING

You must make a reservation for temporary accommodations if you arrive before the first day of ISO.. Accommodations are in demand at this time of the year, so reserve early.  Please be aware that housing is not available on campus before International Student Orientation (ISO) begins.

The following is a partial listing of hotels within short driving distance of Bryn Mawr.  When making reservations, ask if there are Bryn Mawr College discounts.

Courtyard by Marriott - Valley Forge
1100 Drummers Lane, Wayne
http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/phlva-courtyard-philadelphia-valley-forge-king-of-prussia/

Devon Courtyard by Marriott
762 W. Lancaster Avenue, Wayne
http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/phldv-courtyard-philadelphia-devon/

Radnor Hotel
591 E. Lancaster Avenue, St. Davids
http://radnorhotel.com/

Wayne Hotel
139 E. Lancaster Avenue, Wayne
http://www.waynehotel.com/

Embassy Suites of Valley Forge
888 Chesterbrook Blvd., Wayne
http://www.vfsuites.com/

MONEY EXCHANGE

Before you leave home, find out at a bank in your country the requirements for exchanging money and the value of your own currency in the U.S. Know how much the following U.S. coins are worth in your money: penny, nickel, dime and quarter.  Paper money is green and referred to as a bill or bills. The following are common denominations: $1, $5, $10, $20 and $50.

After arriving in the U.S., obtain some U.S. coins and bills for tipping, telephone calls and miscellaneous expenses.  There will be a bank for this purpose at most major airports.

PERSONAL SAFETY WHILE TRAVELING IN THE UNITED STATES

When you arrive in any U.S. cities, you need to be careful so that you will not become a victim of crime.  Crimes, such as thefts, are unfortunate aspects of today's society.  While certain situations cannot be prevented no matter what precautions are taken, there are a few things you can do to decrease your chances of becoming a victim of crime.

  • Do not carry or display large amounts of cash or jewelry.  Always carry traveler's checks, redeemable for cash at most banks and stores, or use major credit cards, such as VISA, Master Card and American Express.
  • Be careful with your personal belongings.  Do not leave them unattended anywhere.  Always keep money, jewelry and valuable documents in your possession; do not leave them in your luggage, in a storage locker, or in a locked car.
  • Avoid going out alone at night.  If you must go out alone at night, it is better to take a taxi to and from your destination.
  • Trust your instincts; avoid dangerous situations.

MAILING AND SHIPPING

You may have your mail delivered to the Pensby Center,, Bryn Mawr College,
101 N. Merion Avenue, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010-2899 until you receive your mailbox number on campus.  The Pensby Center cannot accept packages.  We recommend that your personal effects be mailed after you arrive at Bryn Mawr so that you can receive them in person.

Personal effects should be mailed whenever possible, rather than shipped.  Benefits to be gained in mailing are ease of clearing through customs and saving on shipping charges.  Personal effects may be subject to duty.

HOUSING

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS

You will be housed on campus in the residence halls.  The College provides a bed, mattress, desk, chair, small bookshelf, and set of drawers.  Each room contains one close or wardrobet per occupant and at least one mirror.  Information about room assignments will be sent from the Office of Student Life in August.

GRADUATE STUDENTS

Off-Campus Housing

Within the Bryn Mawr area housing varies in price, convenience, location and type of accommodation.  In selecting off-campus housing, you must consider all these factors.  The faculty contact in your department or Office of Student Life might be able to make suggestions about where to live.  However, it is your responsibility to research options and secure housing.  Remember that it can take several days or longer to find housing.  In the meantime, you will need temporary accommodations and you should arrange this before you arrive in the U.S.

The lower priced apartments are often in neighboring towns.  It is important to determine how close the apartment is to the train station, and to factor in the cost of transportation when considering price.  Buying and insuring a car in this area is very expensive, so planning to buy a car is not practical for most international students.

Leases and Contracts

Most housing is rented on a contract or lease basis; that is, you agree to live in the unit for a stated period of time -- most often 12 months.  This means that you are legally responsible for all rent payments for that period whether or not you live there, unless some alternative arrangement is made with the landlord.

A deposit is always required when the lease is signed.  It is usually equivalent to one month's rent.  The deposit will be returned in whole or in part when the contract is terminated, depending on any damage or cleaning/repair charges.

Before signing a lease, read it carefully and understand all of its obligations.  If you have questions about the lease, check with a faculty or staff member before you sign it.  Obtain a signed copy for your own records.  Do not rely on verbal agreement.  Make sure you have everything in writing.

STORAGE

Please note that the College assumes no responsibility for the contents of student rooms or storage areas.  Therefore do not leave valuables in your rooms, particularly during College break periods.  Safety deposit boxes for storing small items of high value are available at all the local banks.  No on-campus storage is available during the academic year.

Over the summer, all students belongings must be removed from the rooms or any other campus site.  No storage space is available to international students.  You should never store valuables in on-campus storage.

An off-campus storage company offers secure storage to students over the summer months.  You will receive information about off-campus secure storage as the summer approaches.

MONEY MATTERS

PROBLEMS OF CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS AND TRANSFER FUNDS TO THE UNTIED STATES

Before finalizing your travel plans, become familiar with your government's regulations regarding currency restrictions and the transfer of funds.  Some governments restrict the amount of money that can be taken out of the country.  Others restrict funds until a letter from the admitting institution has been received confirming enrollment.  You should find out what letters, if any, are required from the College in order to authorize the transfer of funds.  we can provide you with the necessary documentation upon seeing proof of your full-time enrollment.

FINANCES

The cost of higher education in the U.S. is very expensive.  You should consider the cost carefully before making arrangements to study at Bryn Mawr College.  Please consult the Entry Document Application Form for an explanation of the expenses you will incur during your first year at the College.  You must arrive prepared to meet all of these expenses.  You will not receive additional financial assistance from the College after you arrive.  Employment opportunities are also severely limited.  Your tuition and fees must be paid in full in order to participate in both Fall and Spring nonacademic registration, room draw and graduation.

Please note that if you have been awarded a College grant, fellowship or assistantship, the award does NOT cover books and supplies, travel expenses, personal items and room and board during the vacation periods.  You must budget for these additional expenses.

In addition, grants, fellowships, and assistantships are taxable, except for tuition and course-related expenses.  The College is required by law to withhold taxes from you.  The standard federal withholding rate is 14%.  If your home country has a tax treaty with the United States, BMC may acknowledge the treaty agreement if proper tax forms are submitted or you may be able to reclaim the withheld percentage when you file your tax returns.  For information about treaty eligibility, please refer to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service Publication 901, U.S. Tax Treaties posted on the Web at www.irs.gov

UNITED STATES BANKING SERVICES

As there are expenses that must be met immediately upon your arrival in the U.S., we recommend that you bring $300 in traveler's checks or a major credit card for use in purchasing linens and/or other items for your room.  Do not carry large sums of cash with you.

A few U.S. banks have branches in foreign countries.  These should be used if the U.S. bank is located within the vicinity of the College.  If not, all large U.S. banks have what are called "correspondent" foreign banks with which they have established financial connections.  A transfer of money from one correspondent bank to another requires obtaining a draft from the home bank and presenting it, with personal identification, to the U.S. bank.  The U.S. bank will then give credit in U.S. dollars.  You may also request that your bank at home "wire" money to you once you have opened an account at a bank in Bryn Mawr.

Below is a list of banks close to campus:

TD Bank
401 Lancaster Avenue
Haverford, PA  19041, USA
http://www.tdbank.com

Bryn Mawr Trust
801 W. Lancaster Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010 USA
http://www.bmtc.com/home/index.html

Wells Fargo Bank
52 Bryn Mawr Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010 USA
https://www.wellsfargo.com/

PNC Bank
18 S. Bryn Mawr Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010 USA
www.pnc.com/

Sovereign Bank
44 N. Bryn Mawr Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010 USA
http://www.sovereignbank.com/

EXPENSES OFTEN OVERLOOKED

  • Overnight lodging.  Hotel charges in the greater Philadelphia area vary from $150 to $200 per night.
  • Tips on taxi fares and restaurant meals.  Add 15% to the bill.
  • Personal items, such as towels and linens.
  • Winter clothing.  If you do not have warm winter clothing, including a heavy coat and boots, you may spend between $300 and $500 for such items.
  • Winter vacation housing.  The College provides limited housing for international students unable to travel to their homes.  However, the vacation housing is not included in term room fees; a special fee is charged.
  • Federal tax.  International students receiving aid in excess of tuition and course-related expenses will be liable to pay federal income tax.  The rate is 14%.  For tax purposes, educational costs do not include room and board.  Federal tax is assessed each semester.  It will appear on your monthly statement by November for the fall semester and on your March statement for the spring semester.  You may be eligible for a refund the following tax year after you file a federal tax return.
  • State and local taxes.  The state of Pennsylvania has an income tax rate of 3.07% which is deducted from you paycheck.  Also, a 6% sales tax is added to the price of many items and services.

HEALTH CARE

Bryn Mawr College Health Center provides a full array of primary care and counseling services. The Center is open Monday-Friday 9 am-9 pm and Saturday-Sunday 9 am-2 pm.  You must have a completed physical exam form on file at the Health Center to receive services.  In addition, you should have routine dental and eye exams done prior to arrival at the College.  The physical exam form will be sent to you by the Admissions Office for undergraduate students or your graduate school office for graduate students.

HEALTH INSURANCE

Because the cost of health care in the U.S. can be very high, the College requires all international students to carry the International Student Health Insurance Plan (ISHIP).  The current annual cost of the ISHIP for the academic year is $1400.  You must enroll in this insurance plan unless you hold health insurance that offers comparable or better coverage.  Only then can you apply to have this health insurance requirement waived. 

In addition to the International Student Health Insurance Plan, all students living in housing provided by the College are automatically enrolled in the College's Health Center Plan.  This plan supplements the ISHIP for medical treatment you receive at the Health Center.  Graduate students living off campus are strongly recommended to sign up for this insurance plan so they can use the Health Center at no additional charge.

ORIENTATION

INTERNATIONAL STUDENT ORIENTATION

The International Student Orientation (ISO) is organized to help you become acquainted with life in the U.S. and at the College.  ISO is required for all incoming international students. It begins two days before "Customs Week," a general orientation for all new undergraduate students.  Students participating in ISO will be housed on campus and receive passes to eat in the dining facilities.  Parents, family members and friends accompanying new students should arrange for their housing at local hotels and are invited to an information session duirng ISO.

ISO is required for all incoming international students in order to provide you with a head start on getting settled in Bryn Mawr.  You will meet other new international students, ask questions about Bryn Mawr, get to know the greater Philadelphia area, and take care of practical matters such as opening a bank account and applying for a U.S. Social Security number.  There are various activities that keep you busy from morning till night.  Additional information about ISO will be sent to you with your I-20 or DS-2019.

CUSTOMS WEEK

The Customs Week orientation program for all new undergraduates starts immediately after ISO.  Customs Week includes five days of activities that continue until classes begin.  You will have the opportunity to work closely with a sophomore or junior "customs person" who helps you learn the formal and informal workings of college life at Bryn Mawr.  Placement tests in mathematics and languages, advising sessions with the deans, academic registration, social activities and workshops are all part of the program.

In addition to meeting other beginning students, you will meet faculty and staff through a great variety of activities designed to help make adjustment to the college enjoyable.  You will stay with your "customs group," an essential part of your first-year experience.  Each customs group participates in college traditions and community service activities.

CLIMATE AND CLOTHING

You should come prepared for changes in the weather: cold winters, hot summers and pleasant days in between.  The temperature frequently drops to 5° to 10°F (-15° to -12°C) in winter and rises to 90° to 100°F (32° to 37°C) with high humidity in summer.  You will need warm clothes, especially an overcoat, from November to April.  Clothing for rainy weather is also necessary.

Most students do not dress formally for class except on special occasions.  On campus, informal wear such as T-shirts, jeans, slacks (long pants) and shirts are acceptable.  You may wish to bring national costumes to wear to certain campus events and international celebrations.

CUSTOMS AND CULTURES

Social patterns, assumptions and values may be very different in the U.S. from those to which you are accustomed.  Prepare yourself for these differences by securing information at the closest U.S. embassy or Information Service, or better still, by talking to people in your home country who have studied here.  There are more than 40 countries represented in the student population at Bryn Mawr.  The Association of International Students also sponsors events and activities throughout the academic year.

EMPLOYMENT RESTRICTIONS

Anyone who wishes to work must first consult with the Office of International Programs.  Working without permission will jeopardize your stay in the United States.

ON-CAMPUS EMPLOYMENT

Both F-1 and J-1 students may seek on-campus employment.  You must be pursuing a full course of study and be in good academic standing.  Employment is limited to 17.5 hours per week during the academic year and full-time during vacation periods.

OFF-CAMPUS EMPLOYMENT

Practical Training

The opportunity to work in a position directly related to your field of study is available to students who have F-1 or J-1 status.  F-1 students may take up to a total of 12 months of "optional practical training" during and after completion of their studies; J-1 students are eligible to apply for up to 18 months of academic training during and after their studies.  F-1 students do not need a job offer to be authorized for practical training; J-1 students must have a job offer within 30 days of completing their studies to receive authorization for academic training.  Authorization for practical training employment must be obtained from the RO/PDSO on campus (Responsible Office/Principle Designated School Official) (and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration and Service in the case of F-1 students) prior to the beginning of employment.

Hardship Employment

F-1 and J-1 students may apply for permission to work off-campus if there has been an unforeseen change in their financial situation since arrival in the U.S.  Documentation of this unanticipated change in your financial situation must be provided to RO/PDSO
(and UCIS for F-1 students) before authorization can be granted.  F-1 students must have completed one academic year to be eligible to apply for this employment category.  Please note that this type of employment authorization is very difficult to obtain.  You should consider the cost of your entire education at Bryn Mawr before making arrangements to study here as the College offers no additional financial assistance after you arrive.

For more information about employment options for those who have F-1 or J-1 status, please consult with us.