International Students

Questions for Current F-1 Visa Students

You may be brand new to EMCC or you may be preparing to transfer to a university, but you may still have questions. Please browse the Frequently Asked Questions below to see if your question may be answered there. If not, feel free to contact our office... we would be happy to assist you!

F-1 non-immigrant students who have been allowed to enter the United States agree to maintain their non-immigrant status by following strict guidelines.

Students are encouraged to read Maintaining Your Status on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) webpage, as you are responsible for knowing and understanding this information.

Also, when you arrive and check-in at EMCC, you will be asked to read and sign the Understanding How to Maintain Your F-1 Student Visa Status document. You will be required to read the document, initial each line beside each statement, and sign your name indicating that you understand what is written and agree to comply with each statement. This form will be completed and collected by your Advisor/Designated School Official (DSO) and kept in your official school file.

Failure to follow the F-1 guidelines may lead to forfeiture of your F-1 visa status and your required immediate departure from the United States.

Unfortunately, non-immigrant students (F-1) are not eligible for state and federal programs, but may qualify for institutional scholarships. Scholarships are very limited, highly competitive, and may be specific to a certain department or program of study.

Please do not include scholarships when planning to attend EMCC.

Estrella Mountain Community College is a two year community college. INS allows the Form I-20 to be issued for the length of study for the program as well as a grace period not to exceed one year. Therefore, it is possible that the Form I-20 may be issued for a maximum of three years (36 months), depending on the program being sought by the student.

F-1 students must be enrolled in, and complete, a minimum of 12 semester credit hours each fall and spring semester. The summer term is an optional enrollment period.

Falling below 12 credits or not maintaining satisfactory academic performance can and will
jeopardize your valid visa status.

Failure to follow the F-1 visa guidelines may lead to forfeiture of your F-1 visa status and your required, immediate departure from the United States.

The purpose of an F-1 visa is for an international student to study full-time with plans to return to their home country. In cases of unforeseen, extreme financial hardship, you may be eligible for on-campus employment only, which may not be available. On-campus employment opportunities are rare and highly competitive.

Please do not include being employed on or off campus as part of your plan to attend EMCC or to contribute to your cost-of-living budget.

You may not engage in off-campus employment without proper authorization from Immigration and Naturalization Services. Failure to follow the F-1 visa guidelines may lead to forfeiture of your F-1 visa status and your required, immediate departure from the United States.

However, per the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) an F-1 student may have the option of working in the United States by participating in the Optional Practical Training (OPT) Program . Please see the Employment link in the menu box to your left for more information regarding OPT.

Per the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as an F-1 student, you may have the option of working in the United States by participating in the Optional Practical Training (OPT) Program.

This is a program that some students like to take advantage of after they receive their associate degree from the community college and before they transfer to the university or return to their home country.

OPT allows a student to work in the same field as their degree, giving them some valuable work experience before they continue their education or career path.

WHEN DO I APPLY FOR OPT?

The earliest you can file your application with USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) is 90 days prior to the completion of your studies (the end date on your Form I-20). Keep in mind, it can take up to three (3) months for USCIS to approve your application and send your card. If you do not plan well, it may reduce the 12-months of OPT eligibility accordingly.

You are responsible for finding an OPT opportunity. Although EMCC does not locate or place students in OPT jobs, you are welcome to visit the EMCC Career & Transfer Center for guidance and assistance or the following link for information regarding Internships.

PLEASE REVIEW THE FOLLOWING ITEMS FOR ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS AND INSTRUCTION:

  • OPT must relate to your program of study (major) and appropriate to level of education.
  • You do not need a job offer prior to applying for OPT.
  • Your job may be anywhere in the United States.
  • You must find the OPT work opportunity on your own.
  • You can apply for up to 12 months of OPT at the attainment of each education level (i.e., 12 months at the associate’s degree level, and 12 months at the bachelor’s degree level, etc.).
  • You must request OPT through your school Advisor/DSO.
  • You must report any change of name, address, status, or employment to Advisor/DSO immediately.
  • IMPORTANT: BEFORE YOU TRAVEL OUTSIDE THE UNITED
    STATES WHILE ON OPT OR WHILE OPT IS PENDING, SEE YOUR ADVISOR/DSO.

My DSO said I could apply for OPT… Now what?

COMPLETE YOUR FORM I-767 "APPLICATION FOR EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZATION" (E-FILE).

If approved, your DSO will provide you with a new Form I-20 with updated recommendation for this type of employment program (OPT). It is highly encouraged that you read the following INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE you apply online.

PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO COMPLETE THE FORM I-765 “APPLICATION FOR EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZATION”.

You must apply for work authorization by e-filing a Form I-765 “Application for Employment Authorization” with USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). You will be required to include the Form I-20 (endorsed by DSO within past 30 days), pay the $380 filing fee, and include various supporting documents as required.

FOR SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS FOR E-FILING (FILING YOUR FORM ELECTRONICALLY, ONLINE) YOUR FORM I-765, “APPLICATION FOR EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZATION”, PLEASE CLICK HERE .


AFTER YOU SUBMIT YOUR FORM I-765 “APPLICATION FOR EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZATION”…

Once you have submitted your application and paid the filing fee, USCIS will provide you with an electronic confirmation receipt that includes the following:

  • Your receipt number
  • Where to mail the required supporting documents listed in the form instructions. If you do not send the required documents to the address listed on the confirmation receipt, your application may be delayed or denied.
    • See page 6 – 7, #1 – 2 (A – C) of Form I-765 Instructions (04/01/13). Be sure to see section C regarding strict photograph requirements.
    • USCIS will mail you a Form I-797, “Notice of Action”. This is an important document that you should use as evidence that you filed for this application.
    • The USCIS office where your case is assigned will adjudicate (review and judge) your application.

If your application is approved by USCIS, they will send you a Form I-766 “Employment Authorization Document” (EAD).

Now you will need to apply for a Social Security Card.


APPLY FOR YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY CARD

A Social Security number is assigned to people who are authorized to work in the United States. This number is printed on their Social Security Card and should be kept in a safe place. Social Security numbers are used by your employer to report your wages earned to the U.S. government.

FOR INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO APPLY for your Social Security Card and what documents you will need to present to the Social Security Administration, please click HERE .

For the Social Security Administration APPLICATION for a Social Security Card, please click HERE

In order for you to apply for a Social Security Card, you will need to take the application and supporting documents to the Social Security Office located at:

16241 N. Tatum Blvd, Suite B
Phoenix, AZ 85032

HOURS: Monday – Friday, 9:00 AM – 3:30 PM
CLOSED: Saturdays and Sundays

Please check the SSA website for the most up-to-date information regarding location and hours of operation. Choose the “I Need Card Services” button.


DO NOT START WORK UNTIL YOUR REQUEST IS APPROVED BY USCIS (U.S. CITIZENSHIP & IMMIGRATION SERVICES)!!

For information regarding a 17-Month OPT STEM Extension.

International students may be required to file U.S. Federal Income Tax, even if you do not work. Please discuss this subject with your parents, guardian, or whoever is financially supporting your living and education expenses for guidance.

Please review the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) website for answers to some of your questions regarding your special filing requirements as an international student: F-1 Students & U.S. Taxes

Yes. As an F-1 visa student, you are allowed to take one online class each semester, toward your full-time enrollment of 12 credit hours.

Per the U.S. Government CFR (Code of Federal Regulations), the following special requirements for admission, extension, and maintenance of status pertain to F-1 visa students and the limitations placed on their ability to take online courses:

8 CFR §214.2 (f) (6) (i) (G)

“For F-1 students enrolled in classes for credit or classroom hours, no more than the equivalent of one class or three credits per session, term, semester, trimester, or quarter may be counted toward the full course of study requirement if the class is taken on-line or through distance education and does not require the student's physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion of the class.

An on-line or distance education course is a course that is offered principally through the use of television, audio, or computer transmission including open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, or satellite, audio conferencing, or computer conferencing.

If the F-1 student's course of study is in a language study program, no on-line or distance education classes may be considered to count toward a student's full course of study requirement.”