This page offers frequently asked questions (FAQs) that reflect different types of questions international student share. Select from the following options to learn more about the international study issues that pertain to you.
FAQ for F-1 Students
Can international students apply for financial aid and scholarships?
International students are not eligible for federal financial aid; thus, you cannot submit FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). International students applying directly as first-year students—this does not include transfer students—may be eligible for a CCA merit scholarship.
If awarded such a merit scholarship, you would be notified of the award at the time of your acceptance to CCA. Many public and private scholarship opportunities exist for international students, but these are not administered by CCA. You will need to read about and apply to them directly. Here is a suggested list of scholarship websites.
What is F-1 status?
The F-1 visa is normally for degree seeking international students.
Can I get a job on an F-1 visa?
Yes, you may work on-campus on an F-1 visa. You can work up to 20 hours per week while classes are in session and up to 40 hours per week during vacation periods, including summer break. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) are potentially options for those students who have maintained F-1 status for at least two consecutive semesters.
What is CPT (Curricular Practical Training)?
CPT is practical training that is part of a college internship program, required for completion of a degree program, or for which the student is otherwise eligible to receive academic credit. You may be authorized for CPT during the school year and vacation periods, on or off campus, including the summer break.
What is OPT (Optional Practical Training)?
OPT is work authorization available to students who have maintained F-1 status for at least two consecutive semesters and who would like to gain work experience in the United States in their field of study. Students may apply to USCIS for one year of OPT after completing a degree program. You can find detailed information on OPT and the process to apply on the OPT page of the ISAP website.
What type of work can I do on OPT?
The regulations for OPT state the employment must be directly related to the student's field of study. Students maintain status on OPT by working and so are expected to be employed during the OPT period. Students on post-completion OPT are limited to a maximum of 90 days of unemployment total during their OPT period.
You must work at least 20 hours per week on post-completion OPT. If asked, you should be able to provide evidence, acquired from your employer, to verify your start and end dates as well as the fact that you work worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.
Is it okay to work in an unpaid internship or volunteer on OPT?
You may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern, where this practice does not violate any labor laws. Note that a volunteer position or unpaid internship might be a valid option for someone who would otherwise not meet the minimum employment requirement. A signed letter from the employer is needed to verify that your volunteering is at least 20 hours a week and that the work is related to your degree program. The letter should also give start date and end date of your volunteering. You should keep this letter for your records.
How do I get a Social Security Number (SSN) for on-campus jobs?
You are not eligible for a social security number until you have been hired to work on-campus, or have been authorized for either CPT or OPT. Contact the ISAP Office for further instructions.
F-1 and J-1 students are exempted from Social Security and Medicare tax requirements. However, if F-1 and J-1 students are considered “resident aliens” for income tax purposes, social security and Medicare taxes should be withheld.
Can I extend my stay in the United States on an F-1 visa if I am unable to complete my studies in the assigned time?
Yes, you may request a program extension if you need extra time to complete your studies and meet the eligibility requirements for a program extension. Please read the program extensions information for eligibility criteria and instructions on requesting an extension.
Can I study part time?
No, U.S. immigration law requires that all international students on F-1 visas maintain full-time enrollment. To be considered full time, undergraduate and graduate students must be enrolled in a minimum of 12 credits. Visual and Critical Studies Graduate students only are considered full-time at 9 units. There are very specific, limited circumstances under which a student may request and be approved for a Reduced Course Load. Do not drop below full-time without having prior authorization from ISAP to do so.
If you have a circumstance you believe prevents you from enrolling full-time, contact the ISAP Office as soon as possible.
What should I have when entering the United States?
In general, you should be prepared to present the following at the U.S. Port of Entry:
- Passport (valid at least 6 months beyond your intended period of stay)
- Valid F-1 visa
- Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20)
- Evidence of financial support (not required but helpful)
- Copy of your course schedule for the next semester (not required but helpful)
For more information on travelling internationally while in F-1 status, please see the travel page.
What should I do when I am leaving the United States for a break?
There are several things you should always do before travelling internationally: 1. Check your visa expiration date; 2. Make sure you have a valid travel signature; and 3. Check your passport expiration date.
Contact our office before you leave the United States if:
- you will be out of the US for more than five months.
- your I-20 Form will expire within 30 days of your expected return to the United States.
- your visa has expired.
How do I maintain F-1 visa status?
There are many components to maintaining status. The main items are being enrolled full-time, making progress towards your degree, and not working without authorization. For a full overview on how to maintain status, please see the maintaining status overview.
FAQ for J-1 Students
What is a J-1 Visa?
The J-1 visa enables applicants to enter the United States to participate in an international exchange program. Also, a J-1 visa holder is eligible to be financially supported by a sponsoring organization which has been designated and approved by the U.S. State Department. Sponsors can be private or public organizations.
How do I maintain the J-1 status?
Students are required to enroll in a full course of study at all time, excluding summer session and other breaks. Only under certain approved circumstances may it be possible to enroll in less than a full course load. You must contact the ISAP Office to discuss and to fill out the required authorization form prior to dropping courses in the Student Records Office.
What is the Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement?
Certain J-1 visa holders are required, upon completion of their program of study, to return to their country of last legal residence for two years or apply for a waiver. This requirement does not prohibit a visitor from returning to the United States in any other immigration status.
How do I apply for the extension of stay or the program transfer?
A newly completed form DS-2019 is required in order to apply for a program extension or program transfer, and must be obtained from or with the assistance of the sponsor. Contact the ISAP director if you have more questions.
Am I eligible to work?
Exchange students at CCA normally do not work while enrolled. You may be eligible for Academic Training employment for up to 18 months, but you must have a job offer prior to the end of your program. The student’s sponsor is responsible for granting the authorization. You are eligible for Academic Training before or after completion of studies.
Should I apply for the health insurance?
You will automatically be enrolled in the CCA health insurance plan when you register as a full time student.
What should I do when I am traveling outside of the United States?
Before your departure from the United States, request a signature on your DS-2019 for reentry from the program sponsor. The signature is valid for one year.
FAQ for Study Abroad Students
I'm interested in study abroad. What should I do?
Pick up an information packet in the ISAP Office. Review the international program partner sites that are appropriate for your major and visit their websites. Information is also available at the Open House each semester. Study-abroad courses are listed in the CCA summer schedule.
If I meet the criteria for study abroad, will I definitely be able to go to the school I choose?
Every effort is made to send applicants to an appropriate study abroad school, but acceptance is conditional and no guarantees exist that students will be approved for their first choice school. In some instances, the committee will recommend a school other than what the student has chosen.
I'm considering study abroad, but I don't speak a foreign language. What should I do?
We encourage you to enroll in a language course as soon as you have decided where you would like to study. Many students who participate have only a basic comprehension of the host language. The studio nature of the exchange semester—in which students primarily create in the media and with the tools they are accustomed to working with—helps overcome language problems. You should see language not as a barrier, but as a doorway opening onto a new world of experiences. Summer study-abroad courses are a good option for students who want to go abroad without foreign language study.
Where will I live during study abroad?
Most of our partner schools have dorm rooms available for exchange students. When this is not the case, the housing office at the host school will recommend alternative housing options. Housing is included in the cost of most summer study-abroad courses.
Can I contact the foreign schools in which I'm interested?
CCA asks that International Exchange applicants do not contact the host school directly until they are accepted.
Will I need a visa? How do I get one?
You will need a visa for most International Exchange sites. If you are approved by the CCA exchange committee and the host school, the host school will send a letter of acceptance. Once you have received your letter, you should bring it to your host country's nearest embassy or consulate to request a student visa. Some International Exchange sites and most summer study-abroad courses require only a passport.
I'm interested in study abroad, but I receive financial aid and am worried about the cost.
Students who participate in exchange program study abroad with a CCA exchange partner school are eligible to receive the same level of financial aid they would normally qualify for. Tuition is paid to CCA only.
How can I be sure the credits I earn at school abroad will transfer to my CCA degree requirements?
During the International Exchange application process, you will meet with your academic advisor to review your study-abroad plan in relation to your remaining CCA requirements. During predeparture orientation you will learn how to best communicate with your CCA advisor after arriving at the partner school. When you return from your exchange semester, you will meet with your advisor again for a portfolio review of work completed at the host school. Specific credits are placed at that time.
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