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PhD Student Profile + I-20 With Full Waiver + 30 Day Travel Rule for F1 Visa

Question from reader on when to travel to USA.

Thanks to the Reader  for giving permission to post the I-20.

Hello, I need some suggestion regarding my travel plan to USA for pursuing PhD in Chemistry.

Attached is my I-20 where two dates are mentioned

  • 1st is the graduate school orientation
  • 2nd is the last date of my registration to the course

I am confused about making my trip as due to the rule that I cannot come more than 30 days before the date mentioned in the I-20.

Can you please help me to clear this confusion. Shouldn’t I reach US before 20th of August?

I want to know when can I enter U.S? 1 month before 20th or 27th?

My profile: GRE V 148 Q 164 AWA 4.0 TOEFL 110. Acad. 73.9% in B.Sc and 75% in M.Sc 1st yr.(I am in the final yr now), have done two projects and applied to OSU,Michigan Ann Arbor, U Connecticut, FSU,USU,Kansas State University.

Got rejection from the 1st three and acceptance from the last three.

My visa has been granted already,the VO just asked me about my course of study ,i.e, research plan and just a few question regarding my acads. That’s all…:)

Sample I-20 with Full Waiver

Sample I20 Utah State University

F1 Visa Travel – 30 Days Rule

Here is the official rule that explains the 30 days restrictions while traveling to USA on F1 visa.

  • Students are advised of the Department of Homeland Security regulation which requires that all initial or beginning students enter the U.S. 30 days or less in advance of the course of study start/report date as shown on the Form I-20. Please consider this date carefully when making travel plans to the U.S.
  • A beginning student who wants an earlier entry into the U.S. (more than 30 days prior to the course start date), must qualify for, and obtain a visitor visa. A prospective student notation will be shown on his/her visitor visa and the traveler will need to make the intent to study clear to the U.S. immigration inspector at port of entry. Before beginning any studies, he or she must obtain approval for a change to Exchange Visitor status, filing Form I-539, Application for Change of Nonimmigrant Status and pay the fee. Also you must submit the required Form I-20 to the Department of Homeland Security office where the application is made. Please be aware that one cannot begin studies until the change of classification is approved.

Dates on I-20

  • Graduate School Orientation – August 20 – 22, 2012 (Mandatory)
  • Last Date to Report – August 27, 2012

According to 30 Days Rule, you can enter USA after July 28, 2012.

International students have to attend Mandatory student orientation before registering for the classes.

Start looking for an apartment to stay. I would plan to fly to USA sometime between Aug 5 to 15th.

Following articles will help with your travel preparation


  1. Samagra on May 25, 2012 at 8:40 AM


    I am in a similar situation as yours. The date on my I20 says “not later than 08/29/2012” and because of which I cannot enter USA before 31st July 2012 (the 30 days rule).

    I want to be there around July 20. Any suggestions!


  2. shravani on May 14, 2012 at 4:11 AM

    hi m shravani,
    i had done my bsc with 57% and msc with 60% in Biotechology.
    hw much score do i need to get in gre and toefl to get selected in top univstys?
    i heard again i hae to do ms only …and next go for phd
    do i get any problem to get my visa if have to do my maters again

  3. ARIJIT DE on May 11, 2012 at 9:39 PM

    Hi I am final year student of Radiophysics& Electronics . I want to do M.S in USA/Germany .
    I want to know whether i can get admission in M.S or i have to go for Phd ?

  4. Madhukiran P on May 8, 2012 at 1:09 AM

    hi Shruthi while applying for the Ph.D course you should have written some “Statement of Research Interest”, and the same you can tell to VO officer at interview time.
    Pls give details about your GRE an TOEFL scores, publications & guide etc., actually i thought of going for a post doc in the same uni…. for pharmacology course

  5. greg on May 7, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    I have query about admission in the program of PHD in CSE from USA. I have 3 years of exp in US based telecom giant. I have 7.2 CGPA in M.Tech. My problem is with my B.E. marks, I have only 53% aggregate.
    Can someone with this profile get admission in phd program ?
    Does it make any change if I can secure decent GRE score ?

    Please advise me if I can achieve my ambition.


    • Vignesh on May 8, 2012 at 12:48 AM

      With 53% in Bachelors you have no chance of getting admission or cracking visa interview.
      Go to Australia
      Been there, done that. Rest is your wish.

      • greg on May 8, 2012 at 1:43 PM

        Hi Vignesh,
        Thank you very much for the reply. I assume you have done Phd from Australia. I have few doubts about education and further future at Australia. Can you please give me your contact information/ email address?


  6. Ishan on May 6, 2012 at 8:15 PM

    I want to ask that can I take gre test without having passport?

    • vaibhav on May 6, 2012 at 10:11 PM

      No way.

    • vivekanandh on May 6, 2012 at 10:26 PM

      Hi My score in gre is 315(math: 166 verbal:149) . I want to study MS in USA for the sake of getting a job there. Please give your suggestions of how much i should score in toefl to get a top notch university.

      • Vignesh on May 8, 2012 at 1:00 AM

        117/120 in TOEFL is required for top notch university.
        Let me know if you get that score,admission in a top notch university and a job.
        Best of luck! 🙂

        • Nikhil Singh on May 8, 2012 at 4:32 AM


  7. Rakesh Singh on May 6, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    this is the post i was waiting for in my whole life

  8. Shruthi on May 6, 2012 at 1:48 PM

    Umm, my comment is not related to suggest you in choosing the best date of journey to US, but it is about your VISA interview…You’ve mentioned that the V.O asked you about your course of study/research plan…Hmm, do you mean that you’ve answered him/her by just giving him an outline of whatever you’ve learnt in Chemistry till now(till your M.Sc) or did you tell him about your “Future” research you are planning to carry on in your areas of interest? Hmm, well, I am asking you this because, I recently got an admit from St.John’s university for Ph.D program in Pharmacology , directly after my Bachelors’ course. So, I don’t have a clear cut idea about the research I would like to carry out/work on. So, what’s the best way in which I could answer him? Thank you!

    • Moumita on May 7, 2012 at 1:41 AM

      Hi Shruti,

      VO asked me about the course of study ,i.e, MS/PhD and future research plan.

    • yatrik shah on May 8, 2012 at 12:45 AM

      Hey Shruti,
      I am masters in pharmacology from NMIMS university, Mumbai. Even am looking for PhD in USA. Could you pls guide me with your experience, even though you only had your bachelor’s degree how could you get in?

    • Vignesh on May 8, 2012 at 1:06 AM

      Hmmmm…well you can just give him a clear thesis statement and he will understand.
      Be sure to defend your thesis and dissertation
      – Vignesh

  9. Hardeep on May 6, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    Hi! I have received I-20 and now heading for visa process. I have got tuition waiver too. I want to pursue PhD. There is a requirement to provide evidence (assured employment,property etc.) at the time of interview that I intent to return home after completion of PhD. Do I need to provide documents for that or I should convince the VO with words of mouth?

  10. Arvind on May 6, 2012 at 11:39 AM

    Hi,Congrats ! you can go to USA, before thirty days from the day of Orientation day.

  11. Sarika on May 6, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    U can take the early date ,bcz if iduction program date is the earlier one all university wants us to attend the induction program. Even I too got Phd acceptance for Chemistry from UNT and kansas state university.when is your visa interwview

  12. Guneet Singh on May 6, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    Yea, makes sense for him to come around August 5-10th. Since, he also mentions about a date for class registration, it shouldn’t be a problem if done online.

    • HSB on May 6, 2012 at 12:04 PM

      International student cannot register for classes without attending Orientation.

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