International Students Requirement
As an International Student with F-1 or J-1 immigration status, attending UH West O’ahu can be an excellent starting point for a global, educational adventure! We’re here to make the journey as smooth as possible. So let us walk you through the essential steps needed to get you on your way. And remember, reach out to a college success advisor for help if you have any questions or just need some guidance along the way.
International Student Health Insurance Requirement
UH policy stipulates that all international students must obtain adequate health insurance as a condition of enrollment. International students must either purchase the University endorsed student plan or another insurance plan that meets the University’s minimum requirements. If you plan to purchase another medical health insurance policy, make sure this policy will meet the UH standards before you purchase it, as many policies do not meet these requirements. Please visit the International Student Insurance website to view the requirements and other information.
Continuing students must provide documentation for health insurance covering the entire duration of the semester (fall/spring) and submit the F-1 Student Acknowledgement of Health Insurance Form to the Office of Admissions, no later than August 1 for the fall semester and January 1 for the spring semester. Newly accepted international students will have a health insurance hold placed on their registration records and will not be allowed to register until sufficient documentation is provided.
International students on F-1 and J-1 student visas must be enrolled as full-time students each semester (summer excluded). Full-time enrollment for undergraduate international students is defined as a minimum of 12 credit hours each semester. All international students are required to meet with a student services academic advisor every semester to register. Visit the Academic Advising Office.
If for some reason you are thinking about dropping below full-time status, you must see the Director of Advising to request permission prior to dropping below 12 credits or you will be out of status. If you are enrolled less than full-time without authorization, you will be considered “out of status.”
Distance Education Class Restrictions
The Department of Homeland Security restricts international students in the U.S. from enrolling in some distance learning programs. The student visa status requires a student’s physical presence on campus; therefore enrollment in distance education classes is restricted. Students may count only one three-credit distance education class per semester as part of their full-time course load.This limit applies only to the number of credits required to meet your full course of study requirements. As long as you meet these requirements, you may enroll in additional online or distance-learning courses.
For example, if you choose to take a total of 15 credits and 6 of those credits are online, that is OK because only 3 of those online credits are actually serving to maintain your full-time status requirement.
Concurrent Enrollment for International Students
Students interested in enrolling concurrently at another campus in the UH system or post-secondary institution are required to get approval from the UH West O‘ahu student services college success advisor prior to registering for non-UH West O‘ahu classes.
You are required to report to the Director of Advising within 10 days of your first arrival at UH West Oahu. Attending this required meeting for new international students will ensure you are in compliance with Homeland Security.
Transferring to Another School
If you decide to transfer to another college or university, you will need to ask the Director of Advising to help you transfer. The Director will have to transfer you out of UH West O’ahu in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) so that the next school will be able to transfer you in.
If you are planning to leave the U.S. for less than 5 months and return to school at UH West O‘ahu, you need the signature of the Director of Advising on your I-20 to certify that you have been properly maintaining your F-1 status. Along with your I-20 Form, you should have the following documents with you when you enter the U.S.: valid visa and passport, evidence of financial support, UH West O‘ahu acceptance letter, and SEVIS fee (I-901) payment receipt.
If you will be outside the U.S. for more than 5 months, you will be required to get a new I-20 Form prior to returning to the U.S.. Students on Optional Practical Training (OPT) should also carry their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and proof of employment such as a letter from the employer stating when employment will begin or resume. If your OPT application is pending, you should bring your Notice of Action (receipt notice).
Travel to a Different Country
It is important to research requirements to enter any country that you plan to visit. If you plan to visit another country, a visa to enter that country may be required.
Your passport should be valid for at least six months into the future at all times.
A visa does not determine how long you can stay in the U.S. It is OK if your F-1 student visa expires while you are enrolled at UH West O‘ahu. You do not need to renew your visa unless you will leave and return to the U.S. (Visas can only be issued outside of the U.S.; you cannot get a U.S. visa while physically present in the U.S.) If you need to renew your visa, submit the online nonimmigrant visa application (Form DS-160).
Your I-20 form must remain valid while you are a student. Check the expiration date on your I-20 form where it states “complete studies no later than August 24, 2023.” That is the date that your I-20 will expire. You are allowed to remain in the U.S. for 60 days after that date. If you will not finish your program by the expiration date on your I-20 form, please contact the Director of Advising at least 45 days prior to the expiration date. The I-20 form is a very important document so be sure to keep it secure.
The purpose of an F-1 student visa is to study in the U.S. Because it is not a work visa, employment opportunities while you are in F-1 status are limited. You may work on-campus part-time (up to 20 hours per week) when school is in session. You can find a job on-campus from Student Employment Services. Students on F-1 visas are not eligible for Federal Work-Study (“FWS”) jobs.
Students on F-1 visas are not permitted to work off-campus, except in certain limited circumstances. The Director of Advising may also be able to authorize you to work off-campus if you are experiencing severe economic hardship, through Curricular Practical Training or Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training (see below), through the Special Student Relief Program, or through certain employment sponsored by international organizations. Working off-campus without authorization is a violation of your F-1 student visa status and can involve serious consequences.
Social Security Numbers
A social security number is a tax identification number issued by the U.S. government to individuals in the U.S. who are authorized to work. You can get a U.S. social security number if you get a job. Complete the social security application form. If you have any questions about this form or about evidence documents you must provide, please visit their website, for additional information as well as locations of our offices.
If you have an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) and then get a social security number, you must use the social security number for tax purposes and discontinue using your ITIN. You must notify the Internal Revenue Service in writing. Write a letter explaining that you have an ITIN but you now have been assigned a social security number and that you want your tax records combined. Include your complete name, mailing address, and ITIN along with a copy of your social security card. Send the letter to the Internal Revenue Service, Austin, TX 73301-0057.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
After you have been in the U.S. in F-1 status for one academic year, you are eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT). CPT usually takes the form of an internship in your major field of study where you earn academic credit for your experience and may earn money as well. Using full-time CPT for one year or more eliminates eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Make an appointment to see the Director of Advising if you are interested in applying for CPT.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
After you have been in the U.S. in F-1 status for one academic year, you are also eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT is paid work off-campus in your field of study. You may work 20 hours per week while classes are in session and 40 hours per week during vacation periods. If you do OPT before you graduate (“pre-completion” OPT), you need to be aware that only 12 total months of standard OPT are available. OPT done before a degree is completed will count against that 12-month total and reduce time available after the degree is awarded.
Most students decide to save their OPT until they have completed their degree and graduate. If your application for OPT is approved, you will be allowed to work in the U.S. in a job directly related to your major field of study for up to 12 months. Students whose major field of study is in certain STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields may be eligible for an additional 24 months of OPT. You can apply for OPT up to 90 days before you graduate and up to 60 days after you graduate. Learn more about OPT and information about 24-month STEM OPT extensions.
Make an appointment to talk with Dr. Loea Akiona at firstname.lastname@example.org
Students on OPT must report information about their employment and provide current contact information, which you can do by emailing Dr. Akiona or through the SEVP Portal.
Change of Address While OPT Application is Pending
OPT applicants who have changed their address since submitting their OPT application (Form I-765) and have not received their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card can file the USCIS Online Change of Address form (AR-11). Failure to update your address can cause delays in receiving your EAD. You will need the following information when submitting the Change of Address form:
1. Your receipt notice or other notice showing your receipt number (this is your WAC number).
2. Your old and new addresses.
3. The date and port of entry of your most recent entry into the U.S.
Travel During Optional Practical Training (OPT)
In general, an F-1 student on post-completion OPT may travel outside the U.S. temporarily and be readmitted to resume F-1 status and employment for the remainder of the period authorized on his/her Employment Authorization Document (EAD). You must not have exceeded the maximum OPT unemployment time (90 days of unemployment). To re-enter the U.S., you will need to present the following at the Port of Entry:
If OPT application is pending (12-month only, not STEM):
- Valid passport with unexpired F-1 visa
- I-20 form, with an authorized signature within the preceding 6 months
- I-797c (“Notice of Action” receipt from US Citizenship & Immigration Services)
- Letter of employment offer (recommended)
- Travel during this period is risky and discouraged for the following reasons: 1) If a request for evidence is sent to you, it requires immediate attention, and 2) If your OPT application is approved while you are outside the U.S., you will be required to present the EAD upon re-entry to the U.S.
If OPT STEM extension application is pending:
- Travel is not allowed after the 12-month OPT period has expired and while the STEM extension application is pending
- Travel is permitted if you have a valid 12-month EAD card for re-entry along with the documents listed above.
If OPT or STEM extension is approved:
- Valid passport with unexpired F-1 visa
- I-20 form, with an authorized signature
- Unexpired EAD
- Letter from employer stating that you will begin or resume your employment