Welcome, New International Students

We are very pleased that you have chosen to attend Bennington, and we look forward to meeting you. The staff of International Student Services (ISS) is here to help you learn about and follow the F-1 student visa regulations. There are many benefits and restrictions associated with F-1 status, and we’ll assist you with understanding how immigration regulations affect you and your time in the United States. Below you will find guidelines regarding pre-departure and your arrival to Bennington.

Getting Your Visa

In order to study at Bennington College, students must obtain a nonimmigrant visa. Currently, only students pursuing a full time degree are permitted to study at Bennington. To apply for your F-1 visa, you will need to make an appointment at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in your home country. Each consulate will have specific requirements for obtaining a visa. In general, you will need to bring the following items with you to your appointment:

  • A valid passport—valid for at least six months after your proposed date of arrival in the United States     
  • Three-page Form I-20 that you receive in the mail from Bennington upon acceptance
  • Receipt of SEVIS fee

Please visit F-1 Visa and Immigration for more information.

Planning for Departure

When you apply for a student visa, you should request a visa with "Multiple Entries" designated as "M" on the visa. This will enable you to re-enter the United States as many times as you like while you are a student.

United States immigration regulations state that new students entering on an F-1 visa can enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days prior to their program start date, as indicated on the I-20. International students are expected to arrive at Bennington for International Student Orientation. 

Traveling to the United States

You must carry your passport, F-1 student visa and I-20 on your person at all times. It is always safe to make copies of all your documents and pack them separately, in case you lose one of your bags during your travel.

Toward the end of your flight, the airline personnel will give you several forms to complete for United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services and United States Customs. It is forbidden to bring certain items into the United States (i.e.: fruits, vegetables, drugs, and firearms). You will be asked to report the value of items you are bringing into the United States. Simply follow the directions on the forms.

Read more about here about travel. 

At the Port of Entry

Present your passport, visa, I-20, evidence of acceptance to Bennington College, such as a recent tuition payment receipt or acceptance letter, proof of payment for the I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee, and evidence of financial support to the U.S. immigration officer at the port of entry. After questioning you about your plans in the U.S., the immigration officer will decide how long you will be allowed to stay. You will then be directed to the Customs Service for inspection of your baggage.

For additional tips and advice about entering the U.S., visit U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Getting to Campus

As you make your travel plans, keep in mind that the closest airport to Bennington is Albany International Airport in Albany, New York. However, flights to Boston or New York City are less expensive and are offered more frequently. If you enter via Boston or New York City, you can then take a domestic flight, train, taxi or bus to the Albany area (Albany International Airport or an Amtrak train or bus to Albany-Rensselaer Train Station). The Office of Student Life offers a shuttle service to new students from Albany to Bennington College. Please complete and submit the Transportation Reservation by the reservation deadline.

Documents to Bring to the United States

Bring any important documents that relate to your academic, medical, and legal history with you to the United States. These may include:

  • Official transcripts from secondary schools, colleges, or universities
  • Medical and dental records, including certificates of immunizations and vaccines
  • Information about medical conditions or treatments, prescriptions for medication (including generic and brand names) and eyeglasses
  • International driver's license

Items to Bring and How to Get Them Here

To keep travel simple, bring as little as possible. You are less likely to lose luggage if you follow the baggage limitations of international airlines. You will need to bring the following personal items with you or purchase them in the United States:

  • bedding (pillows, linens, extra-long twin sheets, blankets)
  • wash towels
  • desk lamp (standard US electric current is 110 volts)
  • alarm clock
  • toiletries
  • prescription medicine (bring the prescription written in English if you need to continue getting them in the U.S.)
  • contact lenses/glasses (these are very expensive to get in the U.S.)
  • travel adaptor or converter (the U.S. has 110V plug/outlet for your electronic appliances and/or laptop)

Make sure you do not pack anything valuable in the suitcase that you are going to check in case it gets lost. Carry all of your important documents, medications, toiletries, etc. in your carry-on luggage. You may also want to pack a change of clothes in your carry-on in the event your checked luggage gets lost. Sometimes it can take a couple of days to locate misplaced luggage.

If you are unable to bring these items with you, you can purchase them at local shops when you arrive at Bennington. There is a shopping trip planned during your orientation. The shipping fee for trunks and packages must be paid in advance. Our post office on campus will hold your boxes until you arrive.


Bring enough money with you to cover the expenses of your first month, which is likely to be one of the most expensive periods of your stay. Do not carry a large sum of cash. Traveler’s checks are a safer way to carry money. Keep in mind that credit cards are not valid from all countries. Within the first week of your arrival on campus, you will be able to open a bank account. Your family can wire money directly to this bank account, if needed. If you arrive in the States before August 27th, you will need to pay for local transportation, lodging, and meals.


The weather in Vermont is unpredictable at best, so it may be very warm when you arrive, or cool. The climate will begin to get colder after October and you will need to purchase a winter coat and boots.

To plan for the changing weather from fall through spring, you will probably want to have at least one heavy coat or jacket and a light jacket or sweater to start with. If you are from a warm weather country and do not yet own a winter coat, there will be places near the College or during the orientation shopping trip to buy winter clothing.

You will need an assortment of footwear, such as sandals for summer and heavier boots/shoes for winter. When the snow arrives, typically in November through February, a good pair of winter boots will be essential.

Health Insurance

In the United States the cost of health care is very high, including:

  • Routine medical care
  • Emergency care
  • Lab tests
  • Visits to specialists
  • Prescriptions
  • Emergency Room visits
  • Mental health care
  • Hospitalization

Health insurance from other countries often provides limited services while the student is abroad and/or may exclude the U.S. entirely.  For these reasons, incoming international students are required to purchase the Secure Plus plan from IFS insurance for the their stay in the U.S. With this plan, most campus services will have no copays, deductibles, or coinsurance. Students must sign up for the IFS Prime Plus Plan by August 1 for coverage starting August 15 (or if Spring entry, February 1 for coverage starting February 15). If policy info is not provided by the 1st, the College will purchase the IFS plan on the student’s behalf and will post the cost to the student bill with a $100 administrative fee.

If a student willfully fails to maintain the insurance coverage or makes a material misrepresentation to the College regarding the coverage, the student will be considered in violation of their good standing at Bennington College. It is the student’s responsibility, not Bennington’s, to obtain and maintain insurance coverage.

Health insurance definitions included below. Students should be in touch with the College if they have other questions or concerns regarding health insurance coverage by emailing healthservices@bennington.edu.

  • ACA-compliant coverage refers to a major medical health insurance policy that conforms to the regulations set forth in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). These plans can be sold on or off the exchange, but all new individual major medical policies sold after January 1, 2014, are required to be ACA-compliant.  This means they must include coverage for the 10 essential benefits with no lifetime or annual benefit maximums, and must adhere to the consumer protections built into the law.
  • Coinsurance refers to money that an individual is required to pay for services, after a deductible has been paid. Coinsurance is often specified by a percentage. For example, the insured pays 20 percent toward the charges for a service and the employer or insurance company pays 80 percent.  After the insured has paid the deductible, he’s responsible for a percentage of the costs, specified by the coinsurance split (80/20, 90/10, and 70/30 are common coinsurance splits, with the insured paying the smaller percentage and the carrier paying the higher percentage). That remains the case until the out-of-pocket maximum (OOMP) for the year is reached.  At that point, the insurance company starts to pay 100 percent of covered claims until the end of the year.
  • Copay or Copayment is a predetermined (flat) fee that an individual pays for health care services, in addition to what the insurance covers. For example, some HMOs require a $10 copayment for each office visit, regardless of the type or level of services provided during the visit. Copayments are not usually specified by percentages.
  • Comprehensive coverage—also known as major medical health insurance—refers to plans that cover a wide range of health services (i.e., not a limited-benefit plan or supplemental policy). All new individual policies sold after January 1, 2014 must be at least as comprehensive as the Affordable Care Act requires, meaning that they cover the ten essential health benefits with no annual or lifetime benefit caps. Plans that predate 2014 are still considered comprehensive if they are major medical policies, but they are generally not as robust as the new policies.
  • Deductible is the amount an individual must pay for health care expenses before insurance (or a self-insured company) covers the costs. Often, insurance plans are based on yearly deductible amounts.
  • Generic drug—Once a company’s patent on a brand-name prescription drug has expired, other drug companies are allowed to sell the same drug under a generic label. Generic drugs are less expensive, and most prescription and health plans reward clients for choosing generic drugs.
  • Prescription Tier—Tiers apply to the category and cost of drug. Tiers include: Preferred generic (commonly prescribed generic drugs); Generic (generic drugs that cost a little more than preferred generic); Preferred Brand (brand-name drugs that don’t have a generic equivalent); Nonpreferred Drug (higher-priced brand-name and generic drugs not considered preferred); and  Specialty (most expensive drugs on the drug list used to treat complex conditions like cancer and multiple sclerosis. They can be generic or brand name).
  • SVMC—Southwest Vermont Medical Center is the local hospital for the region located in Bennington, Vermont.

For more information see: https://www.healthinsurance.org/glossary/

Questions Regarding Visa-Related Issues

Please feel free to contact either Kate Child (PDSO) or Danielle Dohaney (DSO) with any questions about scheduling or obtaining your visa.