International Student Services
The Office of Multicultural & International Student Services is here to support admitted International Students in the Traditional Undergraduate and Graduate & Professional Studies programs. We advise students in applying for the F-1 student visa, and on how to maintain their F-1 visa status for the duration of their degree programs at PLNU and during periods of Optional Practical Training (OPT work authorization) after graduation.
However, the first step is to visit the Admissions page to discover which programs are available. For Traditional Undergraduates interested in the Bachelor’s degree, please visit the How to Apply page to speak to our International Admissions Counselor. For students interested in the Graduate & Professional Studies programs, please visit our GPS website for more information.
After an international student in the Traditional Undergraduate program is admitted to PLNU, our office is notified that the student has been admitted and will need additional support to obtain the F-1 visa. For the Graduate & Professional Studies (GPS) program, the prospective student will meet with the Designated School Official before being officially admitted.
The Designated School Official (DSO) will contact the student, and request the following documents:
- Valid Passport (at least 6 months before expiration date)
- Financial or Bank Documents to show the student or student’s sponsor can cover the estimated cost of tuition and living expenses for the duration of their degree program, which will be provided by the DSO. The sponsor provides a bank document translated into English (an official translation is required) dated within the last 3 months that shows enough funds for the equivalent of one year’s worth of the estimated cost of tuition and living expenses.
- Financial Sponsorship Form (provided by our office)
The DSO will then email the I-20 form to the student, which is an important document for the international student to keep during the duration of their program and stay in the U.S. The I-20 is used for entering the U.S., requesting certain permissions and benefits for the visa, and other needs during the student’s stay in the U.S. The student is permitted to stay in the U.S. for the length of time that is shown on the I-20, which corresponds to the length of the degree program. There is a start date and end date on the I-20. If the F-1 visa has expired, the student is still allowed to remain in the U.S., as long as the I-20 end date has not occurred. Before returning to the U.S., though, the student will need to visit the U.S. Embassy to renew the F-1 visa.
When the student enters the U.S., they will be issued an I-94 record. The specific information on the I-94 record is the I-94 number, the date the student arrived in the U.S., the type of visa, the expiration date of the visa or “D/S”, the name, birth date, passport number, and passport country of issuance. Students may access this record here. This record may be required for requesting a Driver’s license, USCIS applications, Social Security Number, and more.
Visa Interview Process
For information on the F-1 visa application requirements and the documents needed to request the F-1 visa, please visit the U.S. Department of State website. Here, you will find information on how to apply, including the visa application form to use (DS-160 form), how to schedule a visa interview, the documents to submit at the visa interview, the application fee, and more.
When you apply for the F-1 visa, you will also need to show that you have:
- Strong ties to your home country
- Intent to return to the home country after completing the program, and upon completion of any practical training (such as OPT)
- How you will pay for your expenses while living in the U.S. (tuition and living expenses)
- Continuing students will have to demonstrate they have maintained F-1 status throughout their program thus far (such as, being continually enrolled full time, working only when permitted).
On-Campus employment is available to F-1 students for up to 20 hours per week.
CPT (Curricular Practical Training)
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is off-campus work authorization for students who are interested in gaining work experience in their major.
- Have been in F-1 status for at least 1 academic year or two semesters
- Have a job offer related to the student's major
- Receive CPT authorization BEFORE beginning employment (authorization cannot be post-dated)
- Be enrolled in the internship class at PLNU
- Be enrolled in classes full-time at PLNU For more information, please contact the DSO (Designated School Official)
OPT (Optional Practical Training)
OPT is off-campus work authorization that is typically requested after graduation from a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree program. International students are required to apply for OPT with USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services).
Eligibility for OPT:
- Have been in F-1 status for at least 1 academic year
- Completed all course requirements for graduation (for post-completion OPT)
- Seeking employment in your Major on the current I-20
- Physically present in the U.S. at the time of submitting the application
- Valid passport for at least 6 months
- Not participated in Full-Time CPT for more than 12 months
For more information, please contact the DSO (Designated School Official) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social Security Number (SSN)
International students who have received an offer of employment are eligible to apply for the Social Security Number (SSN) at the Social Security Administration office.
Please follow these steps in order to apply for the SSN:
- Gather the documents
- I-94 print your record here
- I-20 (most recent I-20)
- Valid Passport
- Valid F-1 visa
- Letter from employer verifying on-campus employment on letterhead
- PDSO/DSO letter verifying on-campus employment on letterhead
- Go to the Social Security website to start the process of requesting the SSN
- Visit the Social Security Office with the above documents
- Wait for the SSN card to come in the mail
For more information about the Social Security Number, you can visit this website.
If you plan on traveling outside of the U.S., please be sure to have the following documents when you return to the U.S. or at the Port of Entry:
- Valid Passport (valid for at least 6 months after the date of entry to the U.S.)
- Valid F-1 Visa
- Most recent valid I-20
- Please check on page 2 of your I-20 to confirm that the Travel Endorsement or Signature is not more than 12 months old. If you are on OPT, the Travel Signature cannot be more than 6 months old.
- If you need a new Travel Signature, please contact the DSO (Designated School Official) to sign the I-20 or receive a new I-20 with the Travel Signature.
- Additional documents:
- Evidence of Financial Support
- Print out of current class schedule or transcript
- If on OPT:
- The I-20 with OPT Approval
- Letter from Employer to show student will resume employment
If the F-1 visa in the passport has expired, you will need to visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to request a new F-1 visa. For more information, please visit the U.S. Department of State.