Resources for International Students

Here you will find information on applying for a Social Security Number, driving in Pennsylvania, and how to obtain a license, applying for a Reduced Course Load, program extensions, and work options. For more detailed information, do not hesitate to contact the OIP at oip@arcadia.edu

Applying for a Social Security Number

International students are only eligible for a Social Security Number (SSN) once they have secured employment in the U.S. Students are not eligible for an SSN if they are not working. 

After you receive an SSN, it is important to remember that you will need to pay taxes, this happens every April. It is also very important to keep your SSN safe. DO NOT carry your social security card with you. It is best to memorize your SSN and leave it in a safe place. Once you obtain an SSN, it is yours for life. If you lose your Social Security Card, you will need to contact the Social Security Administration for a replacement. 

Application Procedure
  1. Obtain an offer letter from your employer.
  2. Submit your offer letter to OIP so we can issue you a support letter for your SSN application. 
  3. Once you have your offer letter and support letter from OIP, you will take those items as well as the following documents to the Social Security Administration:
    • Complete the application form, Form SS-5
    • Passport
    • Visa
    • Arcadia ID
    • A copy of your most recent I-94 
    • Your most recent I-20/DS-2019

The Social Security Administration has two offices near campus:

701 E Chelten Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19144

2 Penn Center Suite 2000B
1500 John F. Kennedy Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19102

The Social Security Office is open Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 3:30 PM. 

If you are looking to apply for a credit card or driver's license but do not qualify for an SSN, you will need to obtain a Letter of Ineligibility from the Social Security Administration. To obtain this, you will bring your passport, visa, I-20/DS-2019, and most recent I-94 to the Social Security Administration's office listed above and request a 'Letter of Ineligibility'. 

New students must wait 14 days after SEVIS Registration is complete in order to apply for an SSN. 

Driving in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) requires that non-immigrants entry documents (I-20/DS-2019) be valid for at least one year into the future in order to apply for a Pennsylvania State ID or a driver's license. Therefore, those approaching the end of their program will need to wait for OPT approval or until they have new I-20s for continued education before applying/renewing a license. 

New students must wait 14 days from their SEVIS check-in before they are eligible to apply for a driver's license or state ID. More information is available on the DMV website.

If you have never driven a vehicle in PA, you will first apply for a Learner’s Permit and take a written test. After learning how to drive, applicants then take a road test to obtain a driver’s license. The driver’s license application also includes a physical exam that can be conducted at a doctor’s office.

Students must bring the following items when applying:

  • Social Security Card or letter of ineligibility from the Social Security Administration (see above)
  • Two proofs of residency (lease agreement, utility bill, phone bill, W-2, tax records, bank statement, etc.)
  • Check or money order for $34.50
  • I-20/DS-2019
  • Most recent I-94
  • Passport
  • Visa
  • EAD (if applicable)

Students must apply in person at any DMV that offers Driver’s License/Learner’s Permit Services. Locations and operating hours can be found online. 

Reduced Course Load

As an F-1/J-1 visa holder, students are required to enroll in a full-time course of study every semester. For undergraduate students, this is 12-credits, and graduate students this is 9-credits. Students are not required to enroll in any summer courses unless the academic program requires it. 

In certain circumstances there can be an exception to this requirement:

  • Initial difficulty with the English language or reading requirements. This option is limited to the first academic year only and a minimum enrollment of 6 credits is required. 
  • Initial unfamiliarity with American teaching methods. This option is limited to the first academic year only and a minimum enrollment of 6 credits is required. 
    • Improper course level placement: minimum of 6 credits required.
    • Completion of Studies: students in their final semester of study and only have a limited number of courses to complete the degree requirement.  
    • Medical Reason (s): International students may be authorized to drop or withdraw from classes in the case of an unforeseen illness or medical condition. A reduction in course load must be authorized by a (P)DSO for each semester not to exceed 12 months. To prove illness or medical condition(s), students must submit a letter from a licensed MD or clinical psychologist. 

Work Options

With an F-1 visa, international students can obtain authorization for the following types of work: Pre-Completion OPT, Optional Practical Training (OPT), STEM OPT, Curricular Practical Training (CPT), and on-campus positions. Students are not permitted to work off-campus unless it is authorized. Please discuss your options with OIP before starting any sort of work. 

CPT

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as, "alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offering by sponsoring employees through cooperative education with the school". Therefore, CPT is intended to provide F-1 students the opportunity to obtain work experience in the U.S. where it serves as an integral part of a student's academic program and established curriculum, prior to the completion of that program. 

Only students who have work experience as a required component of their program are eligible to apply for CPT. 

Employment under curricular practical training (CPT) is available to an F-1 student who has been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for a minimum of one academic year.  CPT includes internships, practicum, research, and clinical rotations.  If a student engages in unlawful employment, they are no longer eligible for practical training. 

  • CPT must be an integral and required part of an established curriculum. 
  • CPT requires a job offer before authorization.
  • CPT must be authorized and completed prior to graduation.
  • CPT can be paid or unpaid but students must apply for a Social Security Number if it is paid. 
  • CPT can be authorized for up to 12 months.  However, students who work full-time for 365 days become ineligible for OPT.  
Application Procedures
  1. Obtain a job offer and enroll in the course that corresponds with the work experience.
  2. Complete the CPT paperwork with your Academic Advisor
  3. Schedule an appointment with OIP by emailing herskovitzc@arcadia.edu
  4. Bring the offer letter and complete paperwork. Incomplete paperwork will not be accepted.

It is important to note that students must apply for CPT prior to starting work. Working without authorization is a violation of the F-1 visa and may lead to deportation. 

 

On-Campus Employment

Undergraduates

Students do not need any work authorization to work on Arcadia's campus. Undergraduates looking to work on campus should talk to staff in the One Stop Shop. They will help you find a placement. Once you have secured work, if you already have a social security number, there is no documentation you need to submit to OIP. If you need to obtain an SSN, please see the section detailing how to apply for one.  It is important to note that international students are not eligible for positions categorized as "work-study". 

Graduates

Graduates can work on campus as Graduate Assistants. Graduate Assistants are considered contractors and work on personal projects that a department will identify. If you are interested in being a Graduate Assistant, you can talk to Lindsay McGann in the Graduate Studies office. She will post your resume for departments to view and consider. Once you have secured work, if you already have a social security number, there is no documentation you need to submit to OIP. If you need to obtain an SSN, please see the section detailing how to apply for one. 

Optional Practical Training, OPT

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is available to an F-1 student who has been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for a minimum of one academic year.  If a student has engaged in unlawful employment, they are no longer eligible for practical training.  OPT allows a student who has successfully completed their degree to participate in one year of work authorization directly related to their major. There are several different kinds of OPT. Pre-Completion, Post-Completion, and STEM. 

  • Pre-Completion OPT: If a student wishes to work in a field related to their major but their program does not allow for CPT, they can apply for Pre-Completion OPT. This allows students to work on for a limited amount of time prior to graduation.
  • Post-Completion OPT: This is the most common type of OPT and allows students to work for up to 12 months after degree completion in their field of study. 
  • STEM OPT: This is permissible who have specific STEM degrees. Students can check this by cross-referencing the CIP code listed on the I-20 with the government-approved list of STEM degrees here. STEM OPT allows students to work for an additional 24 months after their initial year of Post-Completion OPT. 
In order to be eligible for OPT, students must: 
  • Have been lawfully enrolled as a full-time student for at least one academic year (2 semesters).
  • Have less than 365 days of CPT at the same school and educational level. 
  • Be in valid F-1 status.
  • Have met program/degree requirements and therefore, are graduating.

The application process can be daunting, but OIP is here to help. The earliest a student can apply for OPT is 90-days prior to degree completion. Students should use a calendar to determine what this day is exactly.  Application for OPT can take up to 90 days.  Students can apply up to 90 days before the end date of the I-20 or up to 60 days after the end date of the I-20.  Most students apply for OPT to begin after degree completion, but it is possible to begin before graduation. However, students can only work up to 20 hours per week while classes are in session but can work full-time during school breaks.

When students are ready to apply for OPT, collect the following document:

  • A copy of your passport for at least 6-months into the future
  • A copy of the F-1 visa
    • It is okay if this is expired
  • Copies of all previously issued I-20s from Arcadia University
    • You need to make copies of all pages of the I-20, if you attended another institution in the U.S., you do not need copies of those I-20s. 
  • A check or money order payable to the 'U.S. Department of Homeland Security' for $410.00.
  • Two passport-sized photos
    • OIP encourages students to obtain these from a local CVS or Walgreen to ensure they meet the requirements. 
  • A completed Form I-765
    • It is okay if you're unsure how to complete this form. OIP will work with you to complete this during your appointment.
Application Procedure
  1. Gather all documents listed above
  2. Make an appointment with OIP by emailing herskovitzc@arcadia.edu
    • During this appointment, OIP will look through your documents to ensure it meets all government requirements and make any corrections necessary. We will also discuss the next steps and other important things to know while on OPT. 
  3. Receive two I-20s from OIP endorsing your request for work authorization. 
  4. Mail the completed I-765, check and supporting documents to:

US Citizenship and Immigration Services
Attn: AOS
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business, Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

STEM Optional Practical Training

Students who obtain a degree in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) as defined by STEM Designated Degree List, are employed by employers enrolled in the E-Verify system, and have received initial approval of Post-OPT, can apply for a 24-month STEM OPT Extention. Students should check the code listed under "Primary Major" on their I-20 and cross-reference it with the STEM Designated Degree List to ensure eligibility.

Students must apply for STEM OPT prior to the end of their Post-OPT end date. USCIS accepted application 90-days prior to the end date of Post-OPT. Applications must be received by USCIS prior to the OPT end date. Students are encouraged to self-monitor this and use a calendar calculator to determine the application opening date. 

When students are ready to apply for STEM OPT, collect the following document:

  • A copy of your passport for at least 6-months into the future
  • A copy of the F-1 visa
    • It is okay if this is expired
  • Copies of all previously issued I-20s from Arcadia University
    • You need to make copies of all pages of the I-20, if you attended another institution in the U.S., you do not need copies of those I-20s. 
  • A check or money order payable to the 'U.S. Department of Homeland Security' for $410.00.
  • A copy of your EAD (employment authorization document).
  • Two passport-sized photos
    • OIP encourages students to obtain these from a local CVS or Walgreen to ensure they meet the requirements. 
  • A completed Form I-765
    • It is okay if you're unsure how to complete this form. OIP will work with you to complete this during your appointment.
  • A completed Form I-983
    • This form must be completed with your supervisor or HR department. Who completes this form is up to the discretion of your employer. 

The start date of STEM OPT is automatically set to the day after your Post-OPT ends. The end date will be 24 months later and it is not possible to shorten or extend this. 

Application Procedures
  1. Gather all documents listed above.
  2. Scan and email all items to herskovitzc@arcadia.edu. OIP will then schedule an appointment at a mutually convenient time.
    • This appointment will be done via zoom or phone. During this appointment, OIP will look through your documents to ensure it meets all government requirements and make any corrections necessary. We will also discuss the next steps and other important things to know while on OPT. 
  3. Receive two I-20s from OIP endorsing your request for work authorization. 
  4. Mail the completed I-765, check and supporting documents to:

US Citizenship and Immigration Services
Attn: AOS
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business, Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

After Application is Submitted

 

On average, it takes 90 days for USCIS to review OPT petitions and make a decision. Only the applicant will be notified of the decision made by USCIS; OIP will not be notified. When the petition has been approved, the applicant will receive notice in the mail in addition to the Employment Authorization Document, or EAD. Students cannot begin working until they received the EAD and the start date listed on the card occurs. It is extremely important that students keep their official documents, including the EAD in a secure place.  

Once a student secures work, they should submit their offer letter to OIP so the information can be input in SEVIS. This will stop the unemployment calculator. Students will also receive an email from SEVP to activate a student SEVIS account so they can input the information themselves. 

During OPT, students are permitted 90 days of unemployment. After 90 days of unemployment, the student’s SEVIS record and F-1 status will auto-terminate. It is the student’s responsibility to communicate with OIP with any questions about positions that satisfy the “employment” criteria. OIP will then issue a new I-20 that details the employer's information.