Item 4

Immigration Info & Updates

Immigration regulations are constantly changing, so we encourage international students to carefully visit USCIS website as well as our website for updates. Students are ultimately responsible for understanding and abiding by the guidelines imposed by their immigration status.
  • F-1 Student Visa, SEVIS & I-20
  • Maintaining F-1 Status
  • Dependents (F-2)
  • Change of Program
  • Change of Address
  • Traveling and Re-entering
  • Transferring In/Out
  • Employment Authorizations
  • Change of Status
  • Reinstatement
  • Leave of Absence/Authorized Early Withdrawal
F-1 Student Visa, SEVIS & I-20
An F-1 student visa may be granted at a U.S consulate or embassy to an individual who is qualified to pursue a full course of study at an academic or language institution authorized to admit foreign students.
Student and exchange visitor information system (SEVIS) is an electronic (internet) database that United States colleges and universities use to communicate international student information with the USCIS.
The Form I-20 (Certification of Eligibility for F-1 Student Status for Academic and Language Students), is an official U.S. government form issued by a SEVIS-approved school. A prospective nonimmigrant student who would like to study at the Academy of Art University must have a Form I-20 issued by the Academy in order to apply for a F-1 Student Visa.
On the upper right hand side directly above the barcode of the form is the student's unique SEVIS ID numbers (N followed by 9 digits).
After receiving a Form I-20 from us, you require to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee and get a proof of payment before apply to the local consulate or embassy for a visa appointment and interview. The SEVIS I-901 fee may be paid online at For alternative methods of fee payment, see the FAQ on the SEVIS I-901 fee (
In most case, at the embassy or consulate, the individual will be required to submit an I-20 form, proof of adequate funding for the period of intended study, proof of SEVIS I-901 fee payment, valid passport (at least 6 months after your proposed date of entry into the United States, one 2 x 2 photograph along with a completed application set for a nonimmigrant visa (DS-156, DS-158 and DS-157 if you are a male applicant age between 16 to 45 years old).
We highly recommend you to visit U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country web sites at for directions of how to apply for a student visa that includes how to make an appointment for a visa interview in your home country.
The following are links to web sites that will provide you with additional information on coming to study in the U.S, obtaining a visa and entry to the U.S.
An official source of information on US Visa Policy and Procedure
An official source of information on Students and Exchange Visitors
An official source of information on becoming a nonimmigrant student in the United States
An official source of information on arriving at a U.S. port of entry, what a student can expect
Maintaining F-1 Status
Students in F-1 status are required to abide by various federal regulations in order to maintain immigration status. A few of these requirements include providing us with a current address, enrolling in a full course of study and keeping appropriate immigration documents up to date.
Full Time Enrollment
Immigration regulations require that F-1 students enroll in full course of study during their stay in the US. AAU defines a full course of study depending upon the degree program.
Degree ProgramUnits Required
Undergraduate (BFA, AA and Personal Enrichment)12 units per academic term
Graduate (MFA and Personal Enrichment)9 units per academic term
Only one online class might be counted towards the student's full time enrollment requirement.
Students may be authorized to enroll in less than a full course of study if they have academic difficulties, a medical or illness condition, or are eligible for a vacation term. Students must receive permission from our office prior to enrolling in a reduced course load or dropping below a full course of study. Failure to receive permission could jeopardize your immigration status.
Students are eligible for a vacation term (usually Summer session) and might be able to receive permission to use Fall or Spring as their vacation term after completing two consecutive terms as full time student at Academy of Art University. Students must inform our office to receive such permission. Failure to receive permission could jeopardize your immigration status.
Address Changes
International students are required to report a change of address within ten days of a move. Students may update their address by logging into Student Self Service or by submitting a Change of Address form to our office.
Immigration Documents
During your stay in the US you will want to be mindful of the following:
You maintain a valid I-20, which reflects your current degree level and program of study.
You are responsible for making sure that the dates on your I-20 are current and valid.
If you are unable to finish all degree requirements before the completion date listed on your I-20, you must apply for a Program Extension before your I-20 expires. An extension cannot be granted after the program completion date has passed. Maintain a valid passport at all times. Contact your embassy or consulate to extend your passport if needed.
Dependents (F-2)
The spouse and unmarried children (under the age of 21) of F-1 students may either accompany them to the United States, or come alone on a later date by entering the U.S. on a F-2 visa. In order to apply for an F-2, the dependent(s) should have the following:
A valid passport
Proof that they and/or their spouse have sufficient funds to meet all of their expenses while in the United States (bank statements, affidavits of support, etc.)
A valid form I-20. Please contact our office to obtain a dependent I-20. In order to issue an I-20 for a spouse, the marriage must occur first.
Please be prepared to provide us a copy of the following documents for each dependent:
  • A proof of financial support for the dependent’s estimated expenses. US$5,000 per dependent.
  • A copy of marriage or birth certificate showing the relationship to the F-1 student. Please make sure to have an English translation if necessary.
  • A copy of Passport (First and Second page)
Visa issuance decisions are made by the Department of State employees at U.S. embassies or consulates abroad. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) personnel are generally not involved in these matters. By statute, a consular official has absolute authority to determine the facts that will govern the issuance of a visa and the applicant has no statutory or constitutional right to review or appeal. The regulations do allow, however, for informal review of a consular officer's adverse determination. An individual who is denied a visa must be advised of the specific reasons for denial and given an opportunity to present evidence to overcome the stated objections. Applicants can reapply for a visa.
When the family members arrive at a United States port of entry, they will present their passports containing the F-2 visa and the Form I-20 to the border patrol inspector. Upon admitting them to the United States, the inspector will stamp the Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record), which will show the date and place of entry, and the authorized period of stay. This period of stay should be the same as that of the F-1.
Some dependents do come to the U.S. as visitors and then try to change to another visa once they are here. Once again, our ability to advise in these matters is very limited unless the dependent is either going to be studying at Academy of Art University.
F-2 visa holders are eligible to take classes that are recreational in nature. They are ineligible to be a full-time university student and are not able to take courses on a part-time basis that can be applied toward a degree-granting program. F-2 children may study full time in elementary or secondary school (kindergarten through twelfth grade).
Change of Program
Students are responsible for making sure not only that the dates on your I-20 are current and valid but also degree level and program of study are current. Students changing degree levels or majors must initiate this process by completing an I-20 Request Form and submitting it to our office.
Change of Address
International Students are required to report a change of address within ten days of a move. Students may update their address by logging into Student Self Service or by submitting a Change of Address form to our Office.
Traveling and Re-entering
If you travel out of the U.S. while you are in F-1 status, your I-20 must be signed on the 3rd page, on the part of the document designated "for re-entry of student..." by one of the designated school officials in order for you to be permitted to re-enter the U.S. Endorsement is good for 1 year. To request this signature, bring your I-20 to our office. Most of the time, it will be signed and completed the same day. You must be registered full time on-site for current semester and next if traveling between semesters.
Basic Travel Guidelines: When traveling outside the United States, you need to have the proper documents to return. In general when you travel outside the US, you will need the following documents:
A valid visa in your passport. If your visa has expired, you will need to go to the U.S. consulate (outside of the U.S.) to apply for the new visa
A valid I-20 with the third page endorsed for travel by an international student advisor
A passport valid for at least six months beyond the date of your re-entry to the US
Important: If you are traveling to a country other than your own, be sure to check with the consulate or embassy of that country. You may need to apply for a tourist visa.
I-94 Arrival/Departure Record Card
It is a small (3x4") section of the long form you filled in on the plane every time you travel in the U.S. The INS inspector removed the bottom of it and stapled it into your passport. It bears the date and port of entry, the inspector's identification number, the status in which you are admitted, and either the date to which you are allowed to stay, or a reference to your certificate of eligibility as the controlling document in that regard. In this case, the I-94 card will be marked "D/S." (Duration of Status) . This will be true for anyone in F status
You must retain this card in your possession and surrender it when you leave the U.S. Failure to do so may delay your entry into the U.S. in the future.
Warning: Whenever you apply to the U.S. consulate for a new entry visa, you always run the risk that your application may be denied. It is not recommended that you apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate in a country of which you are not a citizen. If you apply for a visa outside of your home country and are denied, you cannot enter the U.S. and must return from that country to your home country.
Transferring In/Out Transfer Out:
If you are a student at Academy of Art University who will pursue a program of study at another school in the US, once you have been accepted by the new institution AND have decided to attend that institution, you should notify our office of your intent to transfer by submitting your acceptant letter or transfer verification form. We will then release your SEVIS record to your new school. This process must be set before the end of your grace period (no later than 60 days after completion of studies or last date of attendance). We may only process one request to transfer, so please be certain that you will attend the requested school.
Transfer In: Complete and return Academy of Art University transfer form to our office. This form must be completed by the International Student Advisor at the institution at which you are currently enrolled or most recently attended. Your SEVIS record will be released from your current school to Academy of Art University. We will complete your transfer process by creating a new I-20 for you after your registration has been completed.
If you are completing or have completed your program of study or Optional Practical Training, you only have a 60-day period following this completion to have your SEVIS record transferred to the new institution.
The start date at the transfer-in school must be within 5 months following the release date set by the transfer -out school, or within 5 months of the program completion date in SEVIS, whichever date is earlier.
Employment Authorizations
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
F-1 students may be eligible for 12 months of full- or part-time off-campus employment using OPT with an Employment Authorization Document (work authorization) approved by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Types of OPT
Post-Completion Practical Training: When all the work for a degree has been completed, you may work full or part time. This is the most common OPT. USCIS must receive the application before the completion of program (last day of your classes) or you will not qualify to apply.
Vacation Period Practical Training: You may work full or part time in a job related to your field of study during the breaks between semesters if you are currently enrolled and plan to register for the next term.
While School is in Session: You may work up to 20 hours per week during the academic year in employment related to your field of study.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
CPT is employment that is an integral part of an established curriculum and is directly related to the student's major area of study.
Economic Hardship (ECON)
Employment based on severe economic hardship is designed to address situations where a financial need beyond the student's control arises, which was unforeseen at the time the student applied to the school he or she is currently attending and after all other potential employment opportunities have proven insufficient.
Change of Status With certain exceptions, an alien already in the United States in nonimmigrant status can apply for a change to F-1 status.
A student who has failed to maintain status may be reinstated to lawful F-1 status at the discretion of USCIS, but only under the limited conditions. 
Leave of Absence/Authorized Early Withdrawal
There are immigration implications for international students who leave AAU without completing their degree. This handout provides information for several different situations in which students leave AAU prior to completing their program or experience a delay in anticipated completion dates.
Verification Letter Request Form - for F1 students only

Social Security Number (SSN)

SSN are primarily intended to identify participants in the federal government's social security program, which provides retirement and disability benefits to workers and their families.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) holds the view that a Social Security Number should be issued only for employment reasons. It is not intended to facilitate the issuance of credit cards, cell phones, bank accounts.


F-1 students are eligible for a Social Security Number only if one of the following apply:

  • Student has been issued an Employment Authorization Document / EAD by the USCIS
  • Student has an I-20 endorsed for Curricular Practical Training
  • Student is currently employed on campus or has a job offer to do so.
The Application Procedure
F-1 students must submit in person to the SSA the following documents in order to be considered for a Social Security Number:
  • A completed Form SS-5: Application for a Social Security Card
  • At least two documents that establish your age, identity and alien status
  • Passport that has been issued at least one year prior to the date that you apply for the SSN. If it has not, your birth certificate may also be required or your previous passport.
  • I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for F-1 student status).
  • A current I-94 card, also known as the "arrival / departure card." (This I-94 card should be stamped with the correct notation "F-1 D/S”)
  • Evidence of SSN eligibility, which must be one of the following:
    • EAD 
    • I-20 showing unexpired CPT endorsement 
    • For on campus employment, 2 letters are needed: 
      • A letter from the on-campus employer addressed to the SSA 
      • A letter issued by our office confirming your F-1 student status.
To find out where Social Security Offices are located, please visit

Tax Help

In general, F-1 students are considered to be non-residents for their first 5 calendar years in the U.S. Example: An F-1 student who arrived in the U.S. for the first time in January of 2002 is a non-resident through 2006. In 2007, the same student will become a resident for tax purposes if s/he remains in the U.S. for a minimum of 183 days during that year.

The primary tax forms for non-residents are listed below. Your personal circumstances will dictate which form you need to submit.

  • 1040NR-EZ - US Income Tax Return for Certain Nonresident Aliens With No Dependents
  • 1040NR - US Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return
  • 8843 - Statement for Exempt Individuals 
US tax laws are complex and changing. Please visit the website resources below to find the most current information about your US tax responsibilities.
Please note that there is no one at the International Services Office who is able to give tax advice.

CA Driver License

F-1 students, who intend to drive in the U.S, must get a California drivers license.

The Application Procedure

  • Visit a DMV office (make an appointment online for faster service). Make sure to bring your I-20, I-94 card and passport when you go to the appointment)
  • Complete application form DL 44 and pay the application fee
  • Pass a vision exam and written exam. There are 36 questions on the test. You have three chances to pass
  • Once you pass the written test you will get an interim driving license that you may use together with your home country driving license to start practicing for the driving test. If you have a license from another country, you will be required to take a driving test. If you have a license from another state, the driving test can be waived. You have three chances to pass the driving test. Call a DMV office to set up an appointment. (Driving tests are not given without an appointment.) Phone: 1-800-777-0133
  • After you pass your drive test you will be issued an interim license valid for 60 days until you receive your new photo license in the mail. If you did not present complete documentation to verify birth date and legal presence, you will be issued a temporary license valid for 60 days until you complete the documentation requirements. Make sure you provide the DMV with your correct mailing address.
  • WARNING: International students applying for a California driver’s license may have to wait up to one year to receive a permanent license. The reason for this is that the DMV has to go through the extra step of verifying the student’s immigration status with the Immigration Service before issuing a license. If you have not received your license after 60 days, you can write or fax the Sacramento DMV (phone: 1-916-657-7445 or fax: 1-916-657-6419) and ask again that they solicit the verification from the Immigration Service. Send to DMV a copy of your passport, 1-94 card, temporary driver’s license and phone number. The DMV will renew your request for verification with the San Francisco USCIS office. In the meantime you should continue to update your temporary license until the permanent license arrives.
  • If you wish to apply for a motorcycle license, the procedure is similar; however, you must complete a motorcycle riding training course given by the California Highway Patrol or the Department of Motor Vehicles. Obtain the Motorcycle Driver Handbook for more information.
  • Vision exam requirement: A 20/40 visual acuity with or without glasses is the department’s vision guideline. The department has authority for administering the vision exam per the California Vehicle Code.
  • Bring your eyeglasses if you wear them. Applicants who do not pass the eye exam may, depending on the circumstances, be referred to a vision specialist. The vision specialist may prescribe eyeglasses or a stronger prescription for the current eyeglasses worn.
California Identification (ID) Cards
DMV issues ID cards to persons of any age. The ID card is similar to a drivers license, but is used for identification purposes only. A regular ID card is valid for 6 years. For further information please visit DMV website at:

International Student Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

What is USCIS?

What is SEVIS?

Can I apply for a U.S. visa in a country which is not my country?

Get to Know Us

Get to know our world-class staff and see why we’re one of the top arts universities in the country.

View the Directory