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International Student FAQ’s

As a newly admitted international student, you probably have a lot of questions about typical college business. Please review the most frequently asked questions below. If you have a question that you feel should be on this page, send an e-mail to vvlasenko@westfield.ma.edu and we'll add it to the list.

How do I maintain F-1 status?
1. Keep your I-20 and your passport valid at all times. Do not let them expire.
2. Pursue a full course of study (12 credits or more)
3. Follow all of the proper procedures when:

  • Changing educational level (from associate to bachelor's or master's program)
  • Transferring to another school
  • Working on- or off-campus
  • Traveling in and out of the U.S.
  • Extending your program before expiration
  • Taking a leave of absence from the school
  • Taking less than a full-time course load

4. Before you work on- or off-campus, obtain proper authorization from your ISA and USCIS.
5. Do not work more than 20 hours per week during the academic year. During official school vacation periods you can work full time on campus.
6. Obey American laws and do not commit any crimes.
7. When you move, be sure to change your address. Change of address forms are available at the International Program Office.

For more information on immigration procedures, consult your international student advisor.

When can I begin practical training?
A total of 12 months full-time optional practical training (OPT) is allowed.

  • Before your completion of studies, you must have attended an educational institution for at least one academic year to be eligible for practical training. You must obtain the employment authorization document (EAD) from the USCIS.  The time you use in this training category will be deducted from your post-completion practical training.
  • You may apply for post-completion practical training 90 days before the completion of your degree requirements. Note: completion of studies is not always the graduation date. Example: If May 30 is your completion date, you may begin applying for post-completion practical training on February 28.  Applications for post completion OPT must be received by USCIS no later than 60 days after the completion date of your degree requirements. The latest you can begin your post-completion practical training is 60 days after your degree completion.

Can I work while studying?
On-campus employment:

  • F-1 students are allowed to work on campus if they meet the requirements. A maximum of 20 hours per week during school sessions and full time during vacation periods is allowed.
  • Employment with companies or commercial firms that provide direct services to Westfield State students, such as restaurants or the college bookstore, is considered on-campus employment.  Contact your International Student Advisor or DSO for the necessary paperwork.

Off-campus employment:

  • The F-1 regulations permit F-1 students to apply for part-time off-campus employment after they have attended an educational institution for one academic year, if they can demonstrate economic necessity. The student must be in good academic standing before the DSO can support their application.

Curricular practical training:

  • A student may use curriculum practical training for an internship if it is an integral part of an established curriculum.  If you participate in curricular practical training full time for 12 months, you will not be eligible for optional practical training. For procedures, see your international student advisor.

Can I obtain a social security number (SSN)?
You must obtain a social security number if you are earning money in the United States.  Social security numbers are used to record your earnings for tax purposes.  The social security office will only give you a social security number if you have a job offer.  If you do not have a job offer, the social security office will give you a letter of denial. The denial can be used to apply for a Massachusetts driver's license.

What do I need to apply for a social security number?

  • Passport
  • U.S. Immigration Arrival/Departure Form I-94
  • I-20 Form
  • Another form of identification with photo
  • On-campus work authorization from the IPO office
  • Social security application form 

Can I get a Massachusetts driver's license?
All drivers must have valid driver's licenses. To obtain a driver's license in Massachusetts, you must take both written and practical (road test) exams administered by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. In the mean time, it is useful to have an international driver’s license to be used here in conjunction with your valid driver's license from your home country. You must get your international driver's license in your home country and it is good for one year from the time you arrive in the United States so long as your country is a signatory of the Driving Convention Treaty.

Below is a free online service that will help international students prepare for the driver knowledge test and become safe drivers in the US. Here is the link to the Massachusetts practice tests: http://dmv-permit-test.com/massachusetts/practice-test-1.html
To apply for a driver’s license in Massachusetts you will need:

  • Your passport, I-94 and I-20 forms.
  • Social security card or a letter of denial from the social security office.
  • Document proving the date of birth (Passport)
  • Document proving signature
  • Massachusetts residency (a bank statement, phone or utility bill, school correspondence)

How long does it take to get my Form I-20 signed for travel?
Your form can be signed during Walk-In Advising hours or can be dropped off at the International Programs Office for takes 24 hour processing. Plan to have your Form I-20 signed well in advance of travel outside of the U.S.

What if I want travel to Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island for less than 30 days and my F-1 visa is expired?
If you have a valid passport, an expired F-1 visa, a Form I-20, and I-94 (arrival/departure record) indicating you have been admitted in F-1 status for “D/S” you can re-enter the U.S. in valid F-1 status as long as your trip is for less than 30 days. You must retain your I-94 and tell the border official that you are taking advantage of “automatic visa revalidation.” (Currently, this benefit does not apply to citizens of Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.) If you decide to renew your visa in Canada, Mexico or any adjacent island, while your visa application is pending and/or if your visa is denied, you may not re-enter the U.S. on automatic visa revalidation.

What if I decide to transfer out of Westfield State University to attend another school?
You must meet with your ISA prior to starting classes at the new university. If Westfield State is unaware of your transfer then your new school will not be able to issue you a transfer Form I-20.
I am interested in taking an online course. How many courses am I allowed to take each semester?
You may take one online course or no more than 6 credits of online coursework or distance education per semester which can be counted towards your full course of study.

Do I have to file U.S. tax forms?
Yes! All F-1 visa holders who have been in the U.S. for less than 5 years are Nonresidents for tax purposes and must file the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 8843. Those who have had U.S. source income must also file Form 1040NR or 1040NREZ and some may have to file a Massachusetts State tax form as well.