Whether you’re a new international student at St. Edward’s, or you have already spent time on the hilltop, the International Student Services Office (ISS) is committed to helping you succeed.
We understand that international students have more to consider and manage than your domestic peers, so we’ll help you navigate the process and connect you to support resources both on- and off-campus.
Information for New International Students
First, follow the steps below to secure your international student immigration status and pursue your education in the U.S. Please note: We’re trained and authorized to advise on F-1 and J-1 visa matters. For questions about other visa types and categories, seek a qualified immigration attorney.
You need a Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student (F-1) Status, which grants you eligibility to apply for the F-1 student visa or continue your F-1 status. After you’ve been admitted and made your deposit, complete the following so that ISS can issue your I-20:
- Submit a copy of your passport photo page for you and any dependents (spouse and/or children under 21). If you’ve had a U.S. visa in the past, include that copy as well.
- If you receive financial support, your sponsor (either a family member or government agency) must complete Section II of the Certification of Finances Form and then submit the form. Include any scholarship information.
- Submit proof of your financial support such as scholarship letters, a bank statement or letter from yourself or your sponsor. Bank documents must be issued within 6 months of the program start date.
- Complete this form to provide required information for your I-20.
- If you’re currently studying in the U.S. with an F-1 student visa, transfer your current I-20 record to St. Edward's University. Complete Section I of the Transfer Eligibility Form, then ask your advisor or DSO at your current school to complete Section II. When both sections are completed, submit the form.
Follow the process below to get your visa. We encourage you to visit the State Department for detailed instructions and helpful FAQs.
- Pay the SEVIS 1-901 fee and print your receipt. Here’s a helpful tutorial to walk you through the process.
- Complete the Non-immigrant Visa Application (DS-160) and pay the fees. Then, print the form confirmation page and your receipt, and bring them both to your interview.
- Schedule an appointment for your visa interview at your local U.S. embassy or consulate.
- Attend your scheduled visa interview. Bring all required documents and receipts and be prepared to answer personal questions. Here are 10 tips to help you succeed in your interview.
F-1 students may enter the U.S. 30 days before the program start date shown on their I-20.
Check-in and immigration reporting is mandatory and will occur on International Landing Day. In addition to International Landing Day, you’ll attend International Student Orientation.
Information for Current and Returning International Students
We encourage you to stay in touch with ISS during your time on the hilltop. Remember, you need our approval if you:
- Extend or change your program or degree
- Intend to transfer to a new school
- Drop below full-time enrollment
- Need your I-20 signed for travel
- Move to a new address
- Want an internship
Review the following about maintaining your visa status, work authorization and guidance on travel.
F-1 Visa Rules
Upon arrival to campus, check-in at ISS’ office to register your Form I-20 and activate your immigration record. Here are requirements to maintain your immigration status:
Keep Proper Documentation of Your Immigration Status
Always have the following documents on-hand:
- Form I-20: This is your certificate of eligibility and is the most important. Make sure to sign Page 1. Keep all older versions, but only use the most recent.
- Visa: This is the stamp in your passport and it serves as an entry document that allows you to travel to the U.S. Each time you travel to the U.S., make sure your visa is still valid.
- I-94 Entry/Departure Records: Created by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) when you enter the U.S., the I-94 is documentation of your immigration status. Make sure it shows F-1 status and "Admit Until Date: D/S". "D/S" means you may remain in the U.S. until your program end date.
It’s your responsibility to monitor expiration dates on your immigration documents. Take note of the program end date listed on your I-20 and the expiration date listed on your visa for travel.
You’re required to enroll full-time each semester (undergraduate: 12 hours; graduate: 9 hours). You may take a one-semester vacation after two consecutive semesters of full-time enrollment. Exceptions to the full-time enrollment rule may be granted if you:
- Are in your last semester and have less than 12 (undergrad) or 9 (graduate) hours left to finish the degree.
- Have a severe medical situation; a licensed medical professional must provide documentation stating you cannot maintain a full course load.
- Have an academic situation (primarily in the first semester) that allows you to qualify for a reduced course load. Your success coach and immigration advisor will evaluate your situation to see if you qualify.
All the above require advanced approval from ISS; schedule an appointment to discuss your options.
Online Course Enrollment Permissions
Undergraduates must meet the following online/face-to-face course ratio, with at least one course taken at St. Edward’s for fall, spring or final term in summer. If you’re enrolled in:
- Less than 12 hours: only one online course is allowed (3 hours); requires ISS’ authorization
- 12 hours: one online course is allowed (3 hours)
- 15 hours: two online courses are allowed (6 hours)
- 18 hours: three online courses are allowed (9 hours)
Obtain Proper Work Authorization
Do not begin any type of employment without first checking with ISS and receiving proper authorization. Violating this rule will jeopardize your ability to legally stay in the U.S. and continue your studies.
Departing After You Complete Your Program
F-1 students have 60 days to depart the U.S. upon program completion and J-1 students have 30 days. Options to extend your stay include:
- F-1 Students: Apply for Authorized Post-Completion OPT work authorization
- Transfer to another school/program
- Change your education level (e.g. bachelor’s to master’s)
- Apply to change to another visa status
Plan ahead and contact ISS if you wish to pursue any of these options.
With immigration, many decisions are outside our control. If DSO learns you violated your immigration status, they must take appropriate action which may include the termination of your Form I-20. Common termination reasons include:
- Failure to register initial I-20
- Failure to request program extension before program end date
- Failure to maintain active full-time enrollment
- Failure to make satisfactory academic progress
- Working without authorization
- Being arrested for violation of any local, state or federal law
If you go “out of status,” inform ISS to discuss regaining status. Most issues can be resolved easily with your cooperation.
ISS advises on employment eligibility and facilitates work authorization for F-1 and J-1 international students.
Although international students can’t work off-campus during the first academic year, you may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions. Do not accept or begin employment without first contacting ISS to discuss eligibility and authorization requirements. Here are types of employment authorization:
F-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors are eligible for part-time on-campus employment at the start of your program. On-campus employment includes jobs with any on-campus department or office, teaching assistant positions or work at a university-affiliated business. Apply for a Social Security Number before you start.
F-1: Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
CPT is an integral part of the curriculum such as internships or practicum courses that require employment. You must be enrolled full-time for two consecutive semesters before you’re eligible to apply for CPT. See ISS at least one month before you begin your internship.
F-1: Optional Practical Training (OPT)
OPT is available to eligible F-1 students, and it allows you to be employed in a job related to your major for up to 12 months at each education level (bachelor's, master's, PhD) before graduation (pre-completion OPT), after graduation (post-completion OPT), or a combination. Review the information below, and then contact ISS at least 3–4 months before the desired start date of your employment.
Types of OPT:
Eligibility for OPT:
- Meet the one academic year enrollment requirement.
- Seek employment directly related to your major area of study.
- You’re only authorized for 12 months of practical training at each level of study.
Previous work impacts your eligibility for OPT:
- Part-time pre-completion OPT counts at half the rate (e.g. 6 months of part-time OPT only deducts 3 months from total available 12 months).
- If you take more than 12 months of full-time CPT, you will be ineligible for OPT.
- Part-time CPT does not affect OPT eligibility.
Learn more [link to task center] about the application process, including timeline and a list of required documents.
J-1: Academic Training (AT)
AT allows J-1 students to work in the U.S. in a job or internship related to their field of study. This requires approval by either St. Edward’s or ISEP and by the student’s home university. While AT can be done during or after you finish your exchange program, ISS recommends you not start until you’ve been in the U.S. at least two months. Access the request and approval forms [link to task center].
If a student performs work or services while in the U.S. without authorization, it is considered unauthorized employment and can be grounds for termination. For all work completed from inside the U.S., students should have proper authorization.
Social Security Number (SSN)
F-1 students are only eligible for an SSN if they’re working and require a number. If you already have an SSN, you don’t need to apply again.
SSN for On-Campus Jobs
F-1 students with on-campus jobs may apply in-person at a local Social Security Administration Office 30 days before your scheduled employment start date:
- Print job offer letter
- Visit ISS to have the job offer letter signed by a DSO
- Current I-20
- Valid passport
- F-1 visa
- Most recent I-94
- Form SS-5
SSN for CPT
Students with CPT authorization may accept a paid internship or training position. If you’ll be paid, you need a SSN. Apply in-person at a local Social Security Administration Office 30 days before your scheduled employment start date:
- I-20 showing CPT was authorized
- Valid passport
- F-1 visa
- Most recent I-94
- Form SS-5
SSN for OPT
Once approved for OPT, apply for an SSN. Prepare the following documents to apply:
- EAD (OPT card)
- Current I-20
- Valid passport
- F-1 visa
- Most recent I-94
- Form SS-5
Where can I get help with academic English?
If you need help with academic English, you may meet with an academic mentor to receive peer coaching and literary support. This is a free service for international students. Academic mentors assist with:
- Reading literacy as related to directions, vocabulary, comprehension, scholarly research, etc.
- Technology tips for success
- Time management, organizing for projects, deadlines, exams, etc.
- Guidance in note-taking competency, presentation polish, lecture comprehension and more
Contact the International Student Services director for a one-on-one meeting to discuss your current educational struggle(s). Please iss [at] stedwards.edu (subject: Question%20about%20Academic%20Mentors) (email), call 512-492-3118 or stop by Moody Hall, Room 102.
Where can I get helping with college-level reading and writing?
You can access help from the Writing Center, peer tutoring and supplemental instruction. Here is a helpful list of handouts that will teach you how to survive college reading and learn new skills:
May I enroll less than full-time?
There are a few exceptions to this rule. Please contact ISS to see if you qualify.
If I have an ISS hold, how do I drop a class?
iss [at] stedwards.edu (subject: Question%20About%20Dropping%20a%20Class) (Email ISS) and tell us the class you wish to drop. If dropping the class causes you to violate your status, meet with ISS to discuss your options and the consequences of dropping. If dropping does not impact your status, we can lift the hold.
Travel Documents and Guidance
What documents do I need when I travel?
Always travel with a valid passport (should have at least 6 months of validity), visa and I-20 (signed by ISS each year). If you forgot your I-20, contact ISS to request a new one before returning to the U.S. The new I-20 can be mailed, but you’ll pay for shipping. Optional documents include official transcripts, SEVIS I-901 receipt and proof of financial support.
Additionally, the I-94 records that students have entered the U.S. It lists the immigration status and confirms that F-1 students may stay in the U.S. until they finish their program. Access your I-94.
How do I renew my passport?
Contact your country's embassy or consulate to request a new passport.
Do I need to renew my visa if I travel abroad?
If your non-immigrant visa stamp has expired, apply for a new visa to re-enter the U.S.
How do I renew my visa?
You’ll only use your visa when you enter the U.S. If your visa expires while you are in the U.S., this is not a violation. Visas can only be renewed at a U.S. consulate or embassy outside the U.S., and students only need to renew expired visas if traveling internationally. See the list of U.S. consulates.
What if I travel to Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean?
If you travel to a country that is contiguous to the U.S. (not Cuba), and you intend to stay less than 30 days and will NOT apply for a new U.S. visa, you may re-enter the U.S. on an expired visa stamp per the Automatic Visa Re-validation.
How does Automatic Visa Revalidation work?
When traveling to a contiguous country, keep the same I-94 number upon exiting the U.S. Tell the immigration official at the border that you intend to stay outside the U.S. for less than 30 days and that your U.S. visa is expired. Get your I-20 signed by ISS before you travel, and present that document along with your valid passport, form I-94 and expired visa to re-enter the U.S. Re-entry into the U.S. through Automatic Visa Revalidation is not guaranteed.
Do I need a visa to travel to Mexico, Canada or another country?
If traveling to Mexico, Canada or any country that is not your country of citizenship, you may need a visa to enter that country. Contact the following to determine if you need a visa to enter another country:
- Canada: 213-346-2711 or Immigration and Citizenship
- Mexico: 512-478-2866 or Consulado General de México
How do I extend my I-20?
Request the extension before the program end date on your I-20. Required documents include a new certification of finances form, bank letter and the I-20 Extension Request Form completed by your success coach.
Work Authorization, Paying Taxes and Volunteering
Can I travel while on OPT?
Yes, you may. Use your passport, F-1 visa, I-20, OPT card and documentation of employment. Traveling after graduation but before your OPT is approved can have a higher risk.
What is income tax?
Income tax applies to anyone who has earned income in the U.S. through authorized employment and scholarships from U.S. institutions. It’s your responsibility to understand and meet tax obligations. You may be eligible to get some of this tax money back by filing taxes at the start of the next calendar year. Generally, tax returns are due every April 15 based on earnings from the previous year, though there are exceptions to this deadline.
Do I have to pay taxes?
You should submit form 8843 each year to document your presence in the U.S. even if you received NO income during the year, but your individual situation determines which form(s) to file:
- If you received no U.S. sourced income last year and you are a non-resident alien for tax purposes, you must file Form 8843.
- If you received wages or taxable scholarships from U.S. sources and you are a non-resident alien for tax purposes, you must file Form 8843 and 1040NR-EZ or 1040NR. Determine whether Form 1040NR-EZ or 1040NR better fits your tax situation. You may use the 1040NR-EZ only if all the following conditions are met:
- You do not claim dependents.
- You are not claimed as a dependent on someone else’s U.S. tax return.
- If you were married, you do not claim an exemption for your spouse.
- Your taxable income is less than $100,000.
- You are not claiming any itemized deductions (other than for state and local income taxes).
- Your only U.S. sourced income is from wages, salaries, tips, taxable refunds of state and local income taxes, and scholarship or fellowship grants. If you had taxable interest or dividend income, you must use Form 1040NR instead of 1040NR-EZ.
- The only adjustments to income you may claim are the exclusion for scholarship and fellowship grants or the student loan interest deduction.
- You are not claiming any credits.
- The only taxes you owe are the income tax from the Tax Table and/or unreported Social Security and Medicare tax from Forms 4137 or 8919.
- You are not claiming a credit for excess Social Security and tier 1 RRTA tax withheld.
- This is not an “expatriation return.” See instructions for Form 1040NR for more information.
- If you are considered a resident for tax purposes, you will be taxed like a U.S. citizen and will file a 1040EZ or 1040.
Is my income taxable?
For students who are considered non-residents for tax purposes, interest income is not taxed if it comes from a U.S. bank, a U.S. savings and loan institution, a U.S. credit union or a U.S. insurance company. Generally, income from foreign sources is not taxed. Wages that appear on form W-2 are taxable. Scholarship or fellowship income that requires services (i.e. teaching or research assistant) will be treated as wages (like employment). Scholarships, fellowships, and grants may be partially taxed. For degree-seeking students, portions used for tuition, fees, books, supplies, and required equipment are not taxed; portions used for other expenses, like room, board (meals), and travel, are taxable.
Am I responsible for paying for Social Security or Medicare taxes?
Non-resident students on F-1 and J-1 visas, who are also considered non-residents for tax purposes, should not have Social Security or Medicare taxes withheld from pay. If these taxes have been withheld, contact your employer for reimbursement. If you can’t get a refund from your employer, use Form 843 Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement to request a refund from the IRS.
How do I know if I’m a resident for tax purposes?
If you determined based on the substantial presence test or marriage to a U.S. citizen or resident alien, that you’re considered a resident for tax purposes, then you will generally have the same federal income tax requirements as a U.S. citizen. In this context, the term “resident” applies only to your tax requirements and is not related to your immigration status.
I need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to pay tax for my scholarship, how can I get this?
Here are the steps to apply for an ITIN. Although ISS does not advise on filing taxes, we can provide a letter for you to submit along with your documents for the ITIN.
May I volunteer?
Per U.S. labor laws, unpaid work may still be considered employment for F-1 or J-1 status holders. Here are examples to highlight the differences between volunteering and unpaid employment. We also recommend students refer to the Department of Labor website which addresses volunteering.