International Student Services

If you're an international student planning to attend PLNU, you're in the right place! We're here to help you all the way from the application process to the first time you step foot on campus. 

Ready to apply? Visit the How to Apply page to begin your journey.

F-1 Visa Basics

Some Terminology You Might Encounter During the Application Process

USCIS: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
On March 1, 2003, service and benefit functions of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) transitioned into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

I-20: Certificate of Eligibility issued to a student applying for admission as an F-1 student. This document is used in support of an application for an F-1 student visa.

I-94: The "white" card (Admission/Departure Record) attached to your passport when you arrive in the U.S. with the 11-digit number at the top left corner; denotes "Admitted F-1.....D/S. I-94 can also be printed via the web.

D/S (Duration of Status): You are permitted to stay legally in the U.S. for the length of your course of study and as long as you enroll full time even if your F-1 visa has expired.

Visa (F, J, B): An entry visa allowing you to enter the U.S. if it is still valid; when it expires while you are still in the U.S., you need to renew it ONLY if you plan to travel outside of the U.S. temporarily for the purpose of re-entering to resume full-time study (exceptions are Canada and Mexico); please refer to the F-1 Visa Travel Requirements website.

F-1 Visa (student visa): F-1 students are here for the purpose of studying full time.

Full Time: 12 units for undergraduates students; 9 units for graduate students. 

Maintaining Status: If you are enrolled according to the above, you are considered to be maintaining full-time status.

Out of Status: If you do not comply with USCIS regulations of enrollment or work authorization requirements, you are considered out of status.

Extension of Stay: If you cannot graduate by the date shown on Item 5 of your I-20, schedule an appointment with the director of International Student Services to extend your graduation date 30 days before the completion date.

Visa Interview Process

For information on visa application requirements for a U.S. embassy/consulate in a particular country, visit the U.S. Department of State travel site.

When applying, you will need to show the following:

  • Strong home ties to your country
  • Intent to return home after studies and practical training have been completed.

Continuing students only need to demonstrate maintenance of F-1 status (continuous full-time enrollment, no work without authorization).

What to expect at your interview

Your interview will be brief and conducted in English. You may want to practice your interview with a friend before making your visa application. You will want to make a favorable impression in the first minute or two of the interview, since the consul official is under time pressure to conduct a short and efficient interview. Keep your answers short and to the point. Show a positive attitude and do not argue with the consul official. If you are denied, ask the officer for a list of the additional documents he or she would suggest you provide for your next interview.

Before the interview, prepare your answers to the following questions:

  • What are your home country ties?
    • Show that you or family members own property.
    • Show that there is a job waiting for you after graduation.
    • Show that family members remain at home and have not immigrated to the U.S. 
    • Show that you have completed any required military service if you are subject to such requirements.
  • Are you prepared for your education?
    • Show that your language skills are adequate for study in a U.S. university
    • Show that you have been a serious student before coming to the U.S.
  • Are you a serious student (especially important for continuing students)?
    • Show that you are getting good grades (have a transcript ready).
    • Show that you are continuously enrolled as a full-time student (have a transcript ready).
    • If you have received authorization for a reduced course load, be prepared to show photocopies and answer questions about this.
    • Show that you have registered for the following semester (fee receipt/class schedule).
    • Show that you are making normal progress toward getting your degree.
  • How will you apply your education in your home country?
    • Show that you know the job market at home for graduates with your major.
    • Show that you know what companies are hiring students with your major and you have begun contacting these companies or at least begun research as to which companies you would like to work at.
    • Show that you have discussed with academic advisors how you are going to apply your U.S. education in your country. Letters of support from faculty will be very helpful.
  • How are you going to pay for your education and living expenses in the U.S.?
    • Show bank statements, sponsor letters, affidavit of support.
    • Show that you are aware of the length of time it will take to complete your entire program and you have a continued source of support for the full program.
    • For continuing students, you may want to show fee receipts and personal bank account monthly statements that show university invoices are paid and there are regular deposits from home into your bank account.

Note: Students who indicate they intend to work, even legally, to earn part of their expenses in the U.S. are likely to have the visa denied.


On-Campus Employment

To maintain F-1 status, students are limited to working 20 hours per week.

Off-Campus Employment

CPT (Curricular Practical Training)

Curricular practical training is an integral part of an F-1 student’s established curriculum, allowing the student to engage in experiential training in any type of "required" or internship/practicum experience. Students may engage in CPT only for the specific employer, location, and period approved and recorded by the PDSO/DSO in SEVIS — and must have an offer of employment from an employer offering work that qualifies as CPT.

  • CPT must be directly related to the student's area of study.
  • CPT is only available before degree completion and while the student is still an F-1 visa holder.
  • CPT can be approved for part time (20 hours or less) or full time (more than 20 hours).
  • Students who have completed more than 12 months of full-time CPT (defined as more than 20 hours per week) are not eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT). This would be an unlikely situation, since most academic departments limit internships to one or two semesters.

OPT (Optional Practical Training)

OPT is authorized employment undertaken by international students in F-1 status related to the student's program of study. Practical training employment is designed to give students practical work experience in their chosen field of study so they may make a more effective professional contribution upon return to their home country. Applications for OPT (post-completion) must be submitted no earlier than 120 days before graduation and no later than 60 days after graduation.

For more information, please set an appointment with the director of International Student Services at (619) 849-2524 or

Travel Requirements

If you have a valid F-1 student visa in your passport, you need the following documents with you at the port of re-entry:

  • A valid passport
  • An appropriate and valid visa
  • A valid, updated I-20 (we will update your I-20 by signing page three)
  • Current I-94 showing D/S (Duration of Status)

If you do not have a valid F-1 student visa in your passport, you will need to obtain a new visa from the U.S. embassy or consulate. For more information, please go to the US Department of State travel site.