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Immigration Info & Updates

Immigration regulations are constantly changing, so we encourage international students to carefully visit USCIS website as well as our website for updates. Students are ultimately responsible for understanding and abiding by the guidelines imposed by their immigration status.

ISO Contact Information

Office Location: 79 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
Phone Number: 415-274-2208

Office Hours:
Monday – Friday: 9 am to 7 pm
Saturday: 9 am – 5 pm

Drop In Hours:
Tu/Thu: 9:30 am – 12 pm
Mo/Wed/Fr: 3 pm – 5:30 pm

FAQ Section


F-1 Student Visa, SEVIS Fee Payment & I-20 for Dependents

An F-1 student visa may be granted at a U.S consulate or embassy to an individual who is qualified to
pursue a full course of study at an academic or language institution authorized to admit foreign students.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is an electronic (internet) database, which U.S. schools and universities use to communicate international student information to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The Form I-20 (Certification of Eligibility for F-1 Student Status for Academic and Language Students), is an official U.S. government form issued by a SEVIS-approved school. A prospective nonimmigrant student who would like to study at Academy of Art University must have a Form I-20 issued by the Academy in order to apply for the F-1 student visa.

After receiving an initial Form I-20 from the Academy's International Admissions Office, you are required to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee and obtain proof of payment before your F1 visa appointment and interview. The I-901 SEVIS fee can be paid online at: You will find more detailed information and possible alternative payment methods online at:

We highly recommend you to visit U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country web sites at for directions of how to apply for a student visa that includes how to make an appointment for a visa interview in your home country.

For additional information about studying the U.S., obtaining an F1 visa, entering the U.S. and maintaining your F1 visa status, please visit:

F-1 students who wish to bring their spouse and/or unmarried children (under the age of 21) may request an F-2 I-20 with the International Student Office. F-2 dependents may accompany the F-1 to the United States, or come alone on a later date by entering the U.S. on an F-2 visa. Please review the F-2 Dependent Information Sheet for more detailed information.


Maintaining F-1 Status

Students in F-1 status are required to abide by various federal regulations in order to maintain immigration status. A few of these requirements include providing us with a current address and phone number, enrolling in a full course of study and keeping your immigration documents up to date.

Full Time Enrollment: Immigration regulations require that F-1 students enroll in a full course of study during their stay in the United States. The Academy defines a full course of study depending upon the degree program.

Degree Program Unit Requirements:
Undergraduate (AA, BA, BS, BFA, 2BFA and Personal Enrichment) 12 units per academic term
Graduate (MFA, MA, Certificate and Personal Enrichment) 9 units per academic term

Only one online class might be counted towards the student's full time enrollment requirement.

Students may be authorized to enroll in less than a full course of study, if they have pre-requisite issues or a medical condition that prevents full course enrollment or they are in their last semester and have not enough classes left to be enrolled full-time. Students must receive permission from our office prior to enrolling in a reduced course load or dropping below a full course of study. Failure to receive permission could jeopardize your immigration status. Students are eligible for a vacation term (usually the summer semester as it is optional).

Address Change: International students are required to report a change of address, email address or phone number within ten days of the change.

Status Change: If you are currently in F1 status and have been approved for a different visa status, please send an email to the International Student Office and provide a proof of your new status. Proof of your new status may be a copy of your USCIS Receipt/Approval Notice, a copy of your immigrant visa, any other document.

Immigration Documents:  During your stay in the US you will want to be mindful of the following:

You must maintain a valid Form I-20 and are responsible for making sure that the information on your Form I-20 is up to date and valid. If you are unable to finish all degree requirements before the completion date listed on your I-20, you must contact the International Student Office at the Academy to request a Program End Date Extension before your Form I-20 expires. An extension cannot be granted after the program completion date has passed. If you changed your major or degree level, make sure to obtain a new Form I-20 with the International Student Office at the Academy.

You must maintain a valid passport at all times. If you passport is going to expire, please contact your embassy or consulate for further guidance on how to obtain a new passport.


Traveling and Re-entering

If you are traveling outside the U.S. while in F-1 status, please ensure that your current Form I-20 is endorsed for travel on the second page. The travel signature is valid for 12 months from the date last signed. If you need a new travel signature, bring your I-20 to the International Student Office. We will sign your Form I-20 within 1-2 business days. Keep in mind that you must be registered for the following semester, if traveling between semesters.

Basic Travel Guidelines: When traveling outside the United States, you need to have the proper documents to re-enter the U.S. without any problems. Therefore, be sure to have the following documents:

  • A valid F1 visa. If your visa has expired, you will need to go to the U.S. consulate (outside of the U.S.) to apply for the new visa. Please review the F1 Visa Renewal Information Sheet if you have to apply for a new F1 visa.
  • A valid Form I-20 with the second page endorsed for travel by an International Student Advisor
  • A passport valid for at least six months into the future upon your re-entry to the U.S.

Important: If you are traveling to a country other than your own, be sure to check with the consulate or embassy of that country. You may need to apply for a tourist visa to enter this country. If you are traveling to Canada or Mexico and your current F1 visa is expired, you may qualify for the Automatic Visa Revalidation.

Warning: Whenever you apply to the U.S. consulate for a new entry visa, you always run the risk that your application may be denied. It is not recommended that you apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate in a country of which you are not a citizen. If you apply for a visa outside your home country and are denied, you cannot enter the U.S. and must travel from that country directly to your home country.


Employment Authorizations

On Campus:
The Academy of Art University offers on campus employment opportunities for international students with AAU Dining Services and AAU Housing.

F1 students are eligible to work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and up to 40 hours per week during school breaks. F1 students must be enrolled full-time students with a valid I-20 to be eligible for on campus employment.


Curricular Practical Training (CPT): CPT is employment that is an integral part of an established curriculum and is directly related to the student's major area of study.
CPT Information Sheet
CPT I-20 Request Form


Economic Hardship (ECON): Employment based on severe economic hardship is designed to address situations where a financial need beyond the student's control arises, which was unforeseen at the time the student applied to the school s/he is currently attending and after all other potential employment opportunities have proven insufficient.
ECON Information Sheet


Optional Practical Training (OPT): F-1 students may be eligible for 12 months of full- or part-time off-campus employment that is directly related to your program of study. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must approve your application and you must receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) before starting your employment.
OPT Information Sheet
OPT Online Tutorial
OPT I-20 Request Form
OPT Employment Reporting Form

24-month STEM OPT: F1 students on post-completion OPT may be eligible to apply for the additional 24-month STEM OPT work authorization.
24-month STEM OPT Information Sheet
24-month STEM OPT Tutorial
24-month STEM OPT I-20 Request Form
24-month STEM OPT Employment Reporting Form - students


Transferring In/Out Transfer Out

Transfer Out: If you are currently a student at Academy of Art University and are planning to transfer out to another U.S. school, you must complete the online Transfer Out Request Form and upload a copy of your Acceptance Letter and Transfer Release Form online. We will process your request within 2-3 business days. If anything is missing or we have additional questions, we will contact you directly via email.
Transfer Out Request Form


Transfer In: If you are currently attending another U.S. school and are returning to Academy of Art University to resume your studies, you must complete the online Transfer In Request Form and upload a copy of your passport page, financial support document, transfer release form. We will process your request within 2-3 business days and will contact you directly, if anything is missing or we have additional questions.
Transfer In Request Form


Important: If you are completing or have completed your program of study or Optional Practical Training, you only have a 60-day grace period following this completion to have your SEVIS record transferred to the new institution.


Leave of Absence/Authorized Early Withdrawal

If you are unable to complete your degree onsite and wish to continue online or you would like to take a break during your studies, you are required to submit the Leave of Absence Request Form.
Leave of Absence Request Information Sheet
Leave of Absence Request Form



A student who has failed to maintain status may be reinstated to lawful F-1 status at the discretion of USCIS, but only under the limited conditions.
Reinstatement Information Sheet


Letter Verification Requests

If you need any type of letter, the International Student Office will be able to assist. Simply request your letter online with the Verification Letter Request Form. If the type of letter you are looking for is not listed as an option, please contact the International Student Office.
Verification Letter Request Form - for F1 students only

Social Security Number (SSN)

SSN are primarily intended to identify participants in the federal government's social security program, which provides retirement and disability benefits to workers and their families.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) holds the view that a Social Security Number should be issued only for employment reasons. It is not intended to facilitate the issuance of credit cards, cell phones, bank accounts.


F-1 students are eligible for a Social Security Number only if one of the following apply:

  • Student has been issued an Employment Authorization Document / EAD by the USCIS
  • Student has an I-20 endorsed for Curricular Practical Training
  • Student is currently employed on campus or has a job offer to do so.
The Application Procedure
F-1 students must submit in person to the SSA the following documents in order to be considered for a Social Security Number:
  • A completed Form SS-5: Application for a Social Security Card
  • At least two documents that establish your age, identity and alien status
  • Passport that has been issued at least one year prior to the date that you apply for the SSN. If it has not, your birth certificate may also be required or your previous passport.
  • I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for F-1 student status).
  • A current I-94 card, also known as the "arrival / departure card." (This I-94 card should be stamped with the correct notation "F-1 D/S”)
  • Evidence of SSN eligibility, which must be one of the following:
    • EAD 
    • I-20 showing unexpired CPT endorsement 
    • For on campus employment, 2 letters are needed: 
      • A letter from the on-campus employer addressed to the SSA 
      • A letter issued by our office confirming your F-1 student status.
To find out where Social Security Offices are located, please visit

Tax Help

In general, F-1 students are considered to be non-residents for their first 5 calendar years in the U.S. Example: An F-1 student who arrived in the U.S. for the first time in January of 2002 is a non-resident through 2006. In 2007, the same student will become a resident for tax purposes if s/he remains in the U.S. for a minimum of 183 days during that year.

The primary tax forms for non-residents are listed below. Your personal circumstances will dictate which form you need to submit.

  • 1040NR-EZ - US Income Tax Return for Certain Nonresident Aliens With No Dependents
  • 1040NR - US Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return
  • 8843 - Statement for Exempt Individuals 
US tax laws are complex and changing. Please visit the website resources below to find the most current information about your US tax responsibilities.
Please note that there is no one at the International Services Office who is able to give tax advice.

CA Driver License

F-1 students, who intend to drive in the U.S, must get a California drivers license.

The Application Procedure

  • Visit a DMV office (make an appointment online for faster service). Make sure to bring your I-20, I-94 card and passport when you go to the appointment)
  • Complete application form DL 44 and pay the application fee
  • Pass a vision exam and written exam. There are 36 questions on the test. You have three chances to pass. The DMV provides free practice tests to help you prepare for the driver knowledge test. You can find free online tests and a wealth of other driver-related resources online at
  • Once you pass the written test you will get an interim driving license that you may use together with your home country driving license to start practicing for the driving test. If you have a license from another country, you will be required to take a driving test. If you have a license from another state, the driving test can be waived. You have three chances to pass the driving test. Call a DMV office to set up an appointment. (Driving tests are not given without an appointment.) Phone: 1-800-777-0133
  • After you pass your drive test you will be issued an interim license valid for 60 days until you receive your new photo license in the mail. If you did not present complete documentation to verify birth date and legal presence, you will be issued a temporary license valid for 60 days until you complete the documentation requirements. Make sure you provide the DMV with your correct mailing address.
  • WARNING: International students applying for a California driver’s license may have to wait up to one year to receive a permanent license. The reason for this is that the DMV has to go through the extra step of verifying the student’s immigration status with the Immigration Service before issuing a license. If you have not received your license after 60 days, you can write or fax the Sacramento DMV (phone: 1-916-657-7445 or fax: 1-916-657-6419) and ask again that they solicit the verification from the Immigration Service. Send to DMV a copy of your passport, 1-94 card, temporary driver’s license and phone number. The DMV will renew your request for verification with the San Francisco USCIS office. In the meantime you should continue to update your temporary license until the permanent license arrives.
  • If you wish to apply for a motorcycle license, the procedure is similar; however, you must complete a motorcycle riding training course given by the California Highway Patrol or the Department of Motor Vehicles. Obtain the Motorcycle Driver Handbook for more information.
  • Vision exam requirement: A 20/40 visual acuity with or without glasses is the department’s vision guideline. The department has authority for administering the vision exam per the California Vehicle Code.
  • Bring your eyeglasses if you wear them. Applicants who do not pass the eye exam may, depending on the circumstances, be referred to a vision specialist. The vision specialist may prescribe eyeglasses or a stronger prescription for the current eyeglasses worn.
California Identification (ID) Cards
DMV issues ID cards to persons of any age. The ID card is similar to a drivers license, but is used for identification purposes only. A regular ID card is valid for 6 years. For further information please visit DMV website at:

International Student Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

What is USCIS?

What is SEVIS?

Can I apply for a U.S. visa in a country which is not my country?

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