International Student Department
The staff at the International Student Department takes great pride in supporting you during your program. Our staff can assist you with many matters related to life at Berkeley and in the community, as well as provide you with important information regarding your rights and responsibilities as an international student in the United States.
International Student Guide
The Berkeley College International Student Guide was created to explore much of the basic information needed by our international students.
- F-1 Student Resources
Frequently Asked Questions
What is F-1 “Status”?
To be in F-1 status means that you are legally in the United States as an F-1 visa holder, obeying the F-1 rules, procedures and regulations, and engaging in the F-1 activity. The purpose of F-1 Status is to study full time in the United States. You should not consider any action that detracts from that purpose.
What is SEVIS?
The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is the web-based system that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses to maintain information on Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified schools and the F and M students who come to the United States to attend those schools.
Can I get a Social Security Number?
A Social Security Number (SSN) is issued to track earnings over a worker's lifetime. Only students holding F-1 status who are authorized to work in the United States may apply for a SSN. Please meet with an International Advisor for additional information.
Can I work in the United States as an F-1 student?
There are limited work opportunities available in the United States for F-1 students. For this reason, before coming to the United States, F-1 students must prove they have the financial ability (e.g., present bank statements) to pay for tuition and living expenses while studying. If you decide that you want to work, the first step is always to speak with your designated school official (DSO).
On-campus employment is available to F-1 students whose status is Active in SEVIS. On-campus employment is specific to work that takes place on campus or at an off-campus location that is affiliated with the school.
Off-campus employment is work that takes place outside of a school campus. Off-campus employment is only available to F-1 students who have completed at least one full academic year of their program of study, and/or who have an economic hardship that qualifies for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's emergent circumstances.
Curricular Practical Training
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is only available for F-1 students when it is part of an established curriculum within a school. CPT must relate to your program of study, however, unlike Optional Practical Training (OPT), and other work, CPT can be full time and is not restricted by a weekly 20-hour work limit. CPT is available to Berkeley College F-1 students in a degree program while taking the required Internship Course.
Optional Practical Training
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a form of temporary employment that directly relates to your program of study. You can apply for OPT during your program of study after you have completed one full academic year, which is known as pre-completion OPT, or after you finish your program of study, known as post-completion OPT. In order to apply for OPT, students must meet with an International Advisor.
Please see our F-1 OPT Questions and Answers Guide for more information.
What do I have to do to drive in the United States?
Any F-1 student in lawful status may apply for a driver’s license or state identification card, per state or territorial law. The student must present necessary supporting documents required to verify legal presence in the United States.
Please see our ID and Driver’s License Information Guide outlining the documents you need to receive a driver’s license or state identification card.
The U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement offers further information on obtaining this benefit as an F-1 student.
What are the different documents and forms I need?
SEVIS I-901 Fee
There is a one-time fee for each SEVIS I-20 that you receive. You must pay this fee before you can apply for a visa at a United States Embassy or Consulate. To pay this fee visit www.FMJfee.com and once you pay your I-901 SEVIS Fee, you must print the receipt as proof of payment and take it with you to your visa appointment and when you travel to the United States.
A passport is a travel document that proves your citizenship. If you are reentering the United States, your passport must be valid at least 6 months in the future. To renew your passport, please contact your country’s Embassy or Consulate.
SEVIS I-20 - Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status
The SEVIS I-20 document is issued by an International Student Advisor through SEVIS, a database that allows the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to receive information about international students. I-20 is the primary document to show that you have been admitted to school in the United States and that you are authorized to apply for admission to the United States in F-1 class of admission.
A visa is a document that allows a visitor to travel to a United States port of entry and request permission to enter the United States in that visa category. Your passport and I-20 must remain valid at all times while you are in the United States. It is possible your F-1 visa may expire during the course of your study. You may remain in the United States on an expired F-1 visa as long as you are maintain your student status. However, the next time you travel abroad you must obtain a new F-1 visa before returning to the United States
Form I-94 shows that you have been legally admitted to the United States, the class of admission, and the authorized period of stay. It is very important that the information on the record is correct. Since your purpose is studying full-time, your I-94 should indicate that you have been granted F-1 status for D/S. D/S means “duration of status”, meaning as long as you are maintaining your student status. The I-94 Entry record is required evidence for application for any benefit of F-1 visa sponsorship (ID license application, work authorization, H1B application, etc.).
Who do I notify about changes in my contact information?
You are required to notify an International Advisor of any change of address within 10 days of moving so we may report it to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
You also need to use Blackboard to update any of your contact information. To do so, please log into Blackboard, and under the “Student Self Service” tab, click on “Access Self Service”. Then, on the next page under “Personal Information” use the drop down menu to select what contact information you are updating (i.e. email, phone number, address) , click on the button to the right of the drop down to move to the next page and follow the directions to edit.
Please note that your local U.S. address must be your physical address, not a P. O. Box.
How many classes am I required to take?
F-1 students must pursue a full-time course of study (at least 12 credits) per semester or obtain permission to take a reduced course load (RCL).
Students must receive prior approval from an International Advisor before taking a RCL. There are limited reasons as to why you may take a RCL:
• Documented temporary medical reasons
• Academic reasons
• Last semester of your degree program and you have less than 12 required credits to graduate
Can I take time off?
F-1 students may take an annual vacation semester and remain in the United States while not registered full-time. You are eligible for a vacation semester after completing two full-time consecutive (in a row) semesters with plans to register for the following semester. During this annual vacation you may register for online classes, part-time classes, or no classes.
Before taking a vacation you must meet with an International Advisor to discuss your eligibility and fill out an International Student Change Form.
When am I required to update my I-20?
The International Division is required to report any updates to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and update your I-20 in SEVIS. It is your responsibility to ensure the information on your I-20 is up to date and accurate. You must meet with an International Advisor before any of the below events:
• Program Extension
• Change of Degree Level
• Change of Major
• Change of Funding
• Change of Name
• Changing Schools
Make sure you keep every I-20 you receive for your records.
Is health insurance required?
Berkeley College does not require F-1 students to have health insurance coverage. However we strongly encourage students to obtain a health insurance plan due to the high costs associated with the United States health care system. You can also purchase health insurance plans specifically for F-1 students.
How can I meet other international students?
Each year the International Student Department sponsors cultural events. In the past, those events have included ballet performances, United Nations tours, and lower Manhattan dinner cruises.
Hours and Location
Location: 12 East 41st Street, 14th Floor, NY, NY, 10017Hours: 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Meet the Advisors
Director, International Student Services