International Student Services
Welcome international students!
As the world continues to embrace a more globalized society, so too does Marymount California University.
With a highly diverse population of future leaders from more than 35 countries, MCU’s Office of International Services strives to provide a comprehensive immigration advising experience focusing on the specific needs of our international student population, while also catering to the MCU population as a whole. We offer intercultural programming and professional development campus-wide.
Over the years, MCU has welcomed students from over 52 countries, and we look forward to having you join the community.
Get to Know OIS
First and foremost, the OIS offers advising on how to maintain your visa status while in the U.S. Much of that is academically centered, and the OIS is the campus expert on how MCU’s academics intersect with federal visa regulations. Beyond that, the OIS offers advising on immigration matters including:
- Initial Form I-20 creation and Travel/Arrival Advising
- Overall F-1 Visa and Immigration Advising
- Academic Support Related to F-1 Visa Status Maintenance
- Form I-20 Travel Signatures & Regulations
- SEVIS Record Maintenance and Transfer
- Program Extensions (Extension of I-20 End Date)
- Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record Printing
- On & Off Campus Employment Regulation Advising for F-1 Students
- Social Security Number Applications
- Annual Income Tax Prep Software
- Driver’s License Application Guidance
For your convenience, we have organized information for New Incoming and Transfer International Students in one section and Information for Returning International Students in another. Each section contains the information and documents/forms you will need.
After you’ve looked through the information here, please feel free to contact us if you have questions. The OIS is here to make your transition to the U.S. and MCU as smooth as possible.
For new incoming and transfer international students
One of the most important steps in preparing to study in the U.S. and at MCU is securing the correct type of visa. MCU hosts students in the F-1 Student Visa category. Below, please review the “Preparing for Study in the U.S.” packet of information, designed to take you step by step through the F-1 visa-seeking process.
Be sure to upload all the required documentation into the MCU application Status Portal to start the process. Once these documents are uploaded, the Office of International Services will review your documents and create for you the Form I-20, with which to seek your F-1 visa.
For more detailed information and the step-by-step process, review the “Preparing for Study in the U.S.” packet.
You’ve paid your deposit, you’ve received you F-1 visa, purchased your airplane ticket… now what? Not to worry! The Office of International Services has you covered! In the “Pre-Arrival Information Packet” you’ll find all sorts of great information about some of the things you may not have even thought about! This includes links to New Student Orientation, things to pack, and how to get to MCU once you land in the U.S.!
If you are applying to MCU as an international student and you are currently in the U.S. in another visa category besides the F-1 Student Visa category, it may be required of you to change your status. Generally there are two ways to do this, depending on your current visa type;
- Request an Official Change of Status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)
- Travel out of the U.S. to Gain F-1 Status
Alternatively, if you possess a visa status that allows you to study at the University (post-secondary) level, you may not need to change visa categories currently.
For more details on which process may be right for you, or if you have other questions related to your current visa status, contact the Office of International Services.
The following forms are required as an international student seeking the F-1 visa. Please download each form and upload them back to the MCU Application Status Portal in the “International Student Visa Requirements” section.
For returning international students
Between going to class, balancing life and enjoying all that SoCal has to offer, there are added responsibilities that you as an F-1 visa-holder have to remember. The Office of International Services has created the MCU International Student Guide, which compiles all of the “extra” things you need to keep in mind as they relate to your immigration status.
Not only is this guide designed to help explain governmental regulations, it also serves as a guide to help understand things like “culture shock”, and how to navigate a new environment – one that may be very different from what you are used to.
Be sure to review the MCU International Student Guide, and make it your first stop when you have a question related to your immigration responsibilities.
Travel outside of the U.S.
When traveling outside of the United States, you should be certain to have all documents related to your visa status in the U.S. in order and with you before leaving the country. You should also be aware of possible delays in international travel and potential procedural changes at U.S. consulates and U.S. ports of entry.
Required documents for re-entry
- A valid passport (must be valid at least six months into the future.
- A valid F-1 visa. If your F-1 visa has expired (or you have been out of F-1 status for more than 5 months), you will need to obtain a new visa in order to return to the U.S. See the Visa Renewal tab below.
- Current and valid form I-20 with a recent signature of the Director of International Services (not more than 6 months old)
Suggested additional documents for re-entry
- Official MCU Transcript [link to /registrar/transcripts in new window] or “Verification of Enrollment” letter available from the OIS
- Current financial documentation (not more than 3 months old)
- Print out of your I-94 to verify previous status
- Do NOT pack immigration documents in your checked bags. You will need them on hand at the Point of Entry.
- Check the Transportation Security Administration’s website for current information.
- If you are carrying gifts, etc., do not wrap them in such a way that they cannot be opened.
- All baggage is subject to inspection and wrapped packages will be opened.
- Stay up to date on news and events happening around the world – and be aware of the potential difficulties with travel as well as re-entry to the United States.
- Be patient and respectful. Do not make inappropriate jokes in the airport.
Travel to Mexico
International students at MCU often take advantage of our close proximity to Mexico. Keep in mind that some students may need a Mexican visa to enter Mexico. Consult the Mexican Secretary of State’s website for more information.
Travel within the United States
When you are traveling around the U.S., you should bring your passport, I-94 Record and I-20 with you. A little-known regulation exists which says that international visitors to the U.S. must carry their “registration document” with them. The “registration document” for F-1 students is the Form I-94.
Travel outside of the U.S. post-program end date
Travel outside of the U.S. after your program end date without an OPT application filed terminates your 60-day grace period and effectively ends your F-1 visa status and any ability to file for OPT.
Traveling during post-completion OPT
If you are applying for post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT), you may travel outside of the United States while the OPT application is pending (show your I-765 receipt notice along with your passport, visa, and I-20 when you re-enter the U.S.) Once your OPT application is approved and you have received your Employment Authorization Document, you may travel outside of the country and re-enter only if you have proof that you are employed or have a job offer. If you cannot prove that you have a job to return to, you may not be allowed to re-enter. See the OIS for more details on OPT and travel.
For any other questions or concerns related to International Student Travel, please visit the OIS.
As you know, your F-1 visa is only valid until it’s expiry date, printed on the visa. If you find yourself with an expired F-1 visa, don’t panic! Your F-1 visa can actually expire while you are in the U.S., and you will still be considered in F-1 status as long as you are still an active student “maintaining your status” (See Maintaining Your F-1 Status Tab).
If you plan to travel outside of the U.S. and you have an expired F-1 visa, you will need to renew it while you are in your home country at the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Please review the F-1 Visa Renewal – Quick Reference Guide for step-by-step on how to renew your F-1 visa.
Employment & social security numbers
Employment, as defined by the USCIS, is any type of work performed or services provided in exchange for money or other compensation. As a student in F-1 visa status, you are permitted entry into the U.S. for specific purposes (study, research, etc.). The USCIS has restrictive employment regulations, particularly for off-campus employment.
Any off campus employment, paid or unpaid, must be authorized before engaging in work.
As an F-1 international student, you may work on-campus up to 15 hours per week while school is in session and over 20 hours per week (budget permitting) during official University breaks and holidays. On-campus employment encompasses jobs at the MCU for students in all programs. International students may find it difficult to locate on-campus employment because many on-campus jobs are reserved for U.S. students receiving financial aid in the form of federally funded work-study positions. The Office Internships and Career Development has streamlined the on-campus job search process here. The Office of Human Resources can also assist you with finding on-campus employment and with completing the necessary paperwork that will allow you to be paid for your work.
Opportunities for authorized off-campus employment are limited and generally must be related to your studies. There are two types of off-campus employment authorization related to field of study available to F-1 students; Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT). Certain international students may also be eligible for off-campus employment authorization based on severe economic hardship. Simply working off-campus at a coffee shop, restaurant or anywhere else that is not part of MCU is strictly prohibited and may lead to the termination of your SEVIS record. To be eligible for any type of off-campus employment authorization, you must have been in F-1 visa status for one full academic year before applying for authorization with the OIS.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT): Defined as training that is an integral or important part of your established curriculum. Employment through CPT must be in the form of a credit-bearing internship offered through MCU’s Office of Internships and Career Development. Employment authorization for CPT is made through SEVIS by the OIS. All paperwork must be completed, signatures sought and CPT authorization granted before you begin your internship. Engaging in this type of employment without the CPT authorization is considered a violation of status. Please see the Director of International Services for more information.
Optional Practical Training (OPT): Defined as temporary employment in the field of study for purposes of gaining practical experience. International students are eligible for twelve months of optional practical training. OPT is available to students both before and/or after completion of their studies. Employment authorization for OPT must be applied for directly to the USCIS. This process can take 90 days or more. You are not permitted to work until you receive your Employment Authorization Document from the USCIS. Engaging in this type of employment without the OPT authorization is considered a violation of status. Please see the Director of International Services for more information.
Severe economic hardship: If other employment opportunities are not available or are otherwise insufficient, an eligible F-1 student may request employment authorization based on severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control. These circumstances may include a loss of financial aid or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student, substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate, inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs, or unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student’s source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses.
Social security numbers
Students with authorized off-campus employment or on-campus employment must obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) to be eligible for payment of wages. Social Security Numbers are issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA) of the U.S. and are used by your employer to report your wages to the government. You will need to apply in person at the local Social Security Administration Office. The process usually takes from 2 to 6 weeks. You will receive notification of your SSN in the mail. The number issued to you by the SSA is your number forever. Keep your Social Security Card in a safe place and make a photocopy to keep in another location. For information on applying for a Social Security Number, please see the OIS.
It is the responsibility of every F-1 visa holder to file U.S. Federal and/or State tax paperwork for every calendar year that you are in the U.S. in F-1 status. The Office of International Services annually provides software to aid in the filing of this paperwork.
Whether you engage in any employment or not, you are required to file some form of paperwork. Beyond being a regulatory requirement, should you have any interest in staying in the U.S. beyond your F-1 visa status, a thorough review of tax filing will be done in conjunction with any immigrant status application.
As an F-1 student studying at MCU, generally you are considered a non-resident-type visa-holder. But because you are living in the state of California for the duration of your studies, you are eligible for a California driver’s license or a California state I.D. card. For more information on how to obtain either, please see the “California DMV Information for F-1 Students” packet below.
You will need to request an address verification letter from the Office of International Services as part of the process. Stop by to request the letter and ask any other questions you may have about getting a license or I.D.
One of the easiest things you can do to maintain your F-1 visa status is to update your address, cellphone and email address with the OIS, and we’ve made it simple! Please fill out this form with your updated information. And anytime something changes, you can easily update it here!