Arrival Information

Congratulations on being accepted into an International & English Language Program at the University of Washington! You've got your visa and your plane ticket – what else do you need to know as you prepare for this adventure? The information below should help you make the transition to your new program and life in Seattle.

Entering the United States

You are allowed to enter the United States no more than 30 days before the program start date listed on your Form I-20. All F-1 student visa holders are required by law to begin full-time studies within 30 days of their entry into the country. Please do not attempt to enter the United States more than 30 days before the program start date; you may be denied entry.

If you have problems receiving your visa or with your flight arrangements, contact us immediately. We will let you know if you can arrive late.

We recommend that you carry all of the following documents with you while traveling:

  • Form I-20, passport and visa
  • SEVIS I-901 fee receipt (you may be asked to show proof of payment at the U.S. port of entry)
  • Copy of acceptance letter or other evidence of admission from UW IELP
  • Proof of finances: bank statement and letter of sponsorship (if sponsored)

Arriving by Air in Seattle

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, known as Sea-Tac, is located about 20 miles south of the main UW campus. When your flight arrives in Seattle, you will need to do the following:

  1. Pass Through Immigration Review
    United States Customs and Border Protection officials will need to see your passport, visa and I-20 (for F-1 visa holders). They will ask you some basic questions about the reason for your visit. You will also need to fill out some paperwork. Before you leave the airport, make sure that you received an entry stamp in your passport. If you did not receive an entry stamp, bring your passport back to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer who processed your documents to obtain one.
  2. Collect Your Checked Baggage
    Follow the signs to the baggage claim area to get your luggage. There will be a conveyor belt at the claim area marked with your airline and flight number. You may have to show your baggage claim ticket before exiting the area with your bags.
  3. Pass Through Customs
    After you collect your baggage, you will go through Customs. Remember: You cannot bring fresh food or plants into the United States. For more Customs information, visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Travel page.

After you are processed through Customs, proceed to the main airport terminal to get transportation into Seattle.

Note: The UW IELP office does not provide airport pickup.

Here are a few options for ground transportation from the airport:

  • Public Transportation: There is a Link Light Rail station at the airport, located on the fourth floor of the parking garage, where you can catch a train directly to downtown Seattle or to UW Husky Stadium.
  • Shuttles and Courtesy Vehicles: There are a number of shuttle services that provide shared transportation from the airport to your destination; most of these depart from the third floor of the airport parking garage. If you are temporarily staying at a hotel, you may be able to catch a courtesy vehicle from the same area of the garage that will take you there – check with your specific hotel.
  • Taxi Cabs and App-Based Rideshare: A more expensive option is to take a cab or Uber/Lyft/Wingz from the airport. Look for the Travelers' Information Boards near the baggage claim for more information about these services, or go to the Ground Transportation booth on the third floor of the parking garage.

Temporary (Short-Term) Housing

If you do not have a place to live right away when you arrive in Seattle, you will need temporary housing, such as a motel or hotel. You can make advance reservations if you would like; see the Short-Term Housing page for more information and listings of some local options.

If you have arranged to live in a UW residence hall or apartment or in an off-campus apartment, make sure you know your move-in date. The UW residence halls and apartments are usually not open during the breaks between quarters, and they may still be closed if you arrive before your move-in date.

Note: Housing is your responsibility. Please do not show up at the International & English Language Programs office with no housing previously arranged! For more information about housing options, see the Housing section of this site.

Orientation and Welcome Receptions

Many of our programs have a required orientation session and/or a welcome reception; check your acceptance information to see if your program has one or both. The orientation session allows you to learn about and ask questions regarding your program, courses, immigration issues, health and safety, banking and overall life in Seattle. The welcome reception gives you the chance to meet your fellow students, the instructors and our staff. Please attend!

Climate and Dress

Because Seattle is located between two mountain ranges and on Puget Sound, the weather can be unpredictable. The overall climate is temperate, with low humidity and few extremes of temperature. The rainy season lasts from November through May or June, and there is usually little or no snowfall. Summers are generally warm and dry.

This chart shows typical seasonal temperatures in the city.

Season Average Temperature
Autumn (Sep, Oct, Nov) 54°F (12°C)
Winter (Dec, Jan, Feb) 40°F (4°C)
Spring (Mar, Apr, May) 51°F (10°C)
Summer (Jun, Jul, Aug) 70°F (21°C)

As far as clothing needs, students should note the following:

  • It rains or drizzles throughout the year, so an umbrella and/or raincoat is essential.
  • Layers can be helpful as the weather changes from season to season; bring sweaters and light jackets or sweatshirts, plus a heavy jacket for the winter.
  • Evenings in the spring and autumn can be cool, so a light jacket or sweater is necessary.
  • In the summer, light, comfortable clothing is recommended for the warmer days.

Like other cities on the West Coast, dress and lifestyle are casual in Seattle. Most students (male and female) typically wear jeans, slacks or shorts along with T-shirts or casual tops. Athletic clothing is also popular.


We are happy to answer your questions and provide more information about International & English Language Programs.