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F Visa

The F-1 visa is intended for non-immigrants wishing to pursue academic studies and/or language training programs for a period of time in the United States.

Understanding the F Visa

F-1 and F-2 Visa Details

F-1 Visa

  • The F-1 visa is intended for non-immigrants wishing to pursue academic studies and/or language training programs for a period of time in the United States. The F-1 visa program is managed by a shared database called SEVIS. F-1 students are granted permission to remain in the United States until the completion date noted on the Form I-20 plus 60 days provided they remain enrolled full-time and meet all other terms and conditions of their F-1 status.
  • Students may obtain F-1 visa stamps by visiting a U.S. embassy or consulate and presenting a Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for F-1 Student Status) issued by Pepperdine University. F-1 students are expected to attend the educational institution that issued the Form I-20.

F-2 Visa

  • The F-2 visa status is intended for the spouse and/or children (under age 21) of an F-1 student. It may be obtained by presenting to a U.S. embassy or consulate the Form I-20 issued to each family member and proof of adequate funding for the support of the accompanying family members. Proof of marriage for spouses and birth certificates for children are also required. No paid employment is permitted for F-2 visa holders under any circumstances.
  • The F-2 dependents are allowed to enroll in less than full course of study even if that part-time study eventually leads to a degree or certificate. The F-2 child may only engage in full-time study if the study is in an elementary or secondary school. The F-2 spouse and child may engage in part-time study that is recreational in nature.

Maintaining Status

F-1 students are responsible for complying with the terms and conditions of their visa status. In order to maintain F-1 status, students must assume the following responsibilities:

  • New F-1 students must register in person with the OISS as soon as possible after arrival at Pepperdine and no later than 30 days after the program start date on their Forms I-20. The OISS must report F-1 arrivals to the government within 30 days of the start date. To report your arrival, please access the OISS Student Portal at oiss.pepperdine.edu and under the tab labeled "Orientation" complete the Mandatory Arrival Report (MAR).
  • Every F-1 student must pursue full-time study each semester and make normal progress toward completing the program of study. Each school within Pepperdine has its own definition of what is considered full-time. Seaver College undergraduate students are required to be enrolled in 12 units. Graduate students should consult the their program administrator for the definition of being full-time.
  • Students must not drop a course and become less than full-time without prior authorization from the OISS. Please note that there are very limited circumstances in which pursuing less than full-time study is allowed (medical, academic difficulties, and last term of program completion. On the OISS portal, please access the pertinent Reduced Course Load e-form to request authorization for dropping below full time. Do not withdraw from your class(es) until you have been authorized by a DSO to do so.
  • Students must get authorization from the OISS before taking a leave of absence or medical leave. Please access and complete the "Exit or Transfer" eform on the OISS portal. You will receive an email confirming that your request was processed, and containing instructions about returning to Pepperdine in a future term or transferring to another school.
  • Students must not engage in unauthorized employment. Off-campus work is allowed only through an approved enrollment in an internship course and pre-authorization in SEVIS by your DSO.
  • Students must report any change of residential address to the OISS within 10 days of the change. F-1 students may report their address changes by completing the Update Information eform on the OISS portal.
  • Students must notify the OISS if they will complete their program earlier than expected (earlier than the end date of the Form I-20) or if they change their program of study.
  • Students who need additional time to complete their programs of study must request and be granted a program extension before the current expiration date/program end date on the Form I-20.
  • Students should keep their passport valid for six months into the future at all times.
  • Federal regulations change frequently. Please be sure to check the OISS website on a regular basis for the most up-to-date immigration related information.

Dependents

The accompanying spouse and children (under age 21) of the F-1 visa holder are referred to as F-2 dependents.

  • F-2 visa holders can remain in the United States as long as the F-1 student is enrolled or otherwise maintaining status.
  • F-2 visa holders are not permitted to engage in paid employment in the United States under any circumstances.
  • F-2 spouses are allowed to enroll in less than full course of study even if that part-time study eventually leads to a degree or certificate. F-2 children may enroll in primary or secondary school.
  • F-2 visa holders are not eligible for Social Security Numbers.
  • To request a Form I-20 for accompanying dependents(s), please fill out the International Student Data eform on the OISS portal. You will need to show additional funding for dependent expenses.

Employment

Definition of Employment

Employment is defined as any type of work performed or services provided in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, food, or any other compensation.

Employment Eligibility Verification

Within the first three days of beginning work, the employee and employer must complete a form entitled Employment Eligibility Verification (USCIS Form I-9), which will be kept by the employer. To complete the Form I-9, students may need to show their passports, visa documents or other documents proving that they are authorized to be employed in the United States. The Form I-9 must be updated each time the work permission is renewed or there is a change of employer. Anyone earning income in the United States is required to have a U.S. Social Security Number.

Notes of Caution

One should not assume that students are automatically eligible to work in the United States. USCIS considers unauthorized employment to be the most serious violation of F-1 status. Students should consult with their advisors in the OISS before accepting any employment. The OISS can help with matters pertaining to applications for employment authorization.

Reporting Change of Employer on OPT

Students on OPT must report changes to the name and address of their employer (oiss.pepperdine.edu) within 10 days.

Social Security Numbers

F-1 students are eligible for Social Security Numbers (SSN) only when they provide evidence that they are employed at the time of application.

If you are an F-1 visa holder with on-campus employment, take your passport, your Form I-20, your Form I-94, the OISS Social Security letter, and the job offer letter from your on-campus employer confirming your job offer to the Social Security Administration Office at 10 Fawcett Street, 1st Floor, Cambridge, MA 02138.

To get the OISS Social Security letter, you must bring the employer offer letter to the OISS. The OISS interns and DSOs will issue the OISS letter to you. Please have your employer refer to the Sample F-1 SSN employer letter for instructions on what needs to be written in the letter. You must wait at least ten days before applying for an SSN upon arriving at Pepperdine for the first time.

If you are an F-1 visa holder on OPT, take your passport, your Form I-20 with the OPT recommendation, your Form I-94, and your EAD to the Social Security Administration Office at 10 Fawcett Street, 1st Floor, Cambridge, MA 02138. Please note that you cannot apply for an SSN until the start date of the EAD.

If you are an F-1 visa holder on CPT, take your passport, your Form I-20 showing your authorized CPT, and your Form I-94 to the Social Security Administration Office. You cannot apply for an SSN more than 30 days before CPT employment will begin.

At the Social Security Administration Office, you must complete an application form. You will receive your Social Security Number card in the mail. The process usually takes four to eight weeks. If you have not heard within this time period, please contact the OISS. You may call the Social Security Administration at 1.800.772.1213 or visit the Social Security Administration website with any questions.

NOTE: Once students have obtained a U.S. Social Security Number, it is not necessary to apply for a new one if the employment changes.

 

Taxes

The following is general information regarding taxation of international students. To review detailed tax information (including tax return filing during tax season) please visit the tax section of this website.

International students should be aware that taxes may be deducted from salaries, stipends, and scholarships if funds are from U.S. sources. The available income after taxes may be less than anticipated as scholars may be subject to federal, state, and/or Social Security taxes which can range from 14-30% of one's total income. The amount of taxes students may pay depends on the type of income they receive and their tax status in the United States. In addition, there are many tax treaties between the United States and other countries which may exempt certain earnings and scholarship stipends from taxes. Those who receive funding from Pepperdine will receive information from the University Financial Services office.

All international students and their dependents with U.S source income such as scholarship or fellowship are required to report their annual income by completing tax forms between January 1 and April 15 of the following year. Most international students at Pepperdine are on F-1 visas and are considered non-residents for tax purposes. Accompanying dependents on F-2 visas must complete at least one tax form as well.

To help guide individuals through the tax filing process, the OISS has purchased Sprintax, a web based tax return preparation software designed exclusively for international students, scholars, and their dependents who are nonresidents for tax purposes. It is available to anyone with a valid Pepperdine ID. Users will need their CWID and a code to access the software. Please call or email the OISS to request a free code. There is a limited supply which are distributed on a first-come-first served basis.

Due to legal restrictions, the OISS staff is not able to answer questions regarding individual tax situations. For additional information regarding U.S. income tax issues, please visit the tax section of this website.

Travel & Re-entry

For travel outside the U. S. the following documents are required for re-entry to the U.S.:

F-1 Students

  • Valid Form I-20, signed once a year on page two by an advisor in the OISS.
  • Valid F-1 visa in the passport (except for Canadian citizens)
  • Valid passport

  • Evidence of the financial support listed in the Financials section of Form I-20

F-1 Students on Optional Practical Training (OPT) after Graduation

  • Valid OPT Form I-20, signed on page 2 by an OISS advisor (the signature must not be more than six months old at the time of reentry to the United States)
  • Valid F-1 visa in the passport (except for Canadian citizens)
  • Valid passport
  • Evidence of a job offer or evidence of resumption of employment
  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by USCIS (Printed on the EAD is the statement "not valid for reentry." This means that the EAD by itself is not sufficient for reentry, and must be used with the above documents)

Students who have the documents listed above may travel outside the United States and reenter even before the date their work permission begins. For example, an F-1 student who graduates in May with an EAD that begins in July, may travel and return to the United States any time after graduation.

Students must not use tourist visas or the Visa Waiver to return to the United States unless they plan on being tourists, and plan on forfeiting their F-1 OPT.

F-2 Dependents

  • Valid Form I-20, signed once a year on page two by an advisor in the OISS.
  • Valid F-2 visa in the passport (except for Canadian citizens)
  • Valid passport

F-2 Dependents of Students on OPT

  • Valid SEVIS Form I-20, signed on page 2 by an advisor in the OISS (the signature must not be more than six months old at the time of reentry to the United States)
  • Valid F-2 visa in the passport (except for Canadian citizens)
  • Valid passport
  • Photocopy of spouse's EAD

Extensions

Form I-20 Extension

Students who will not complete their degree programs by the date listed on item #5 of their Form I-20 will need to obtain an extension from the OISS BEFORE the current Form I-20 expires. Failure to extend the Form I-20 in a timely fashion will have negative consequences for the student's immigration status, so students should allow sufficient time for the processing of the extension.

In order to be eligible for an extension of the Form I-20, students must be in good standing and making normal academic progress towards completion of their programs.

How to Request an Extension of the Form I-20

Students must obtain documentation from their schools/departments indicating the new estimated program completion date together with the amount and source of financial support for the remainder of the program. Students who are using personal funds should obtain a recent bank statement showing the funds available. Students should also complete a document request form and submit all information to the OISS The information will be collected by the DSO at the OISS, who will issue a new Form I-20. The student will be notified when the Form I-20 is ready.

* Unless indicated otherwise in the list below:

Students moving from one Pepperdine school or program to another within the University should contact the OISS for information on how to update and extend the Form I-20.

Transfers and Leaving Pepperdine

Transferring to Pepperdine

Students who have been admitted to Pepperdine and are coming from another institution are considered F-1 program transfers, which is not necessarily the same as an academic transfer. The students will have to complete and submit the International Student Data (ISD) form on the international student portal. They must also speak with the international student advisor at their current schools and request that their SEVIS records be electronically released from their current schools to Pepperdine. Once the SEVIS record is released and all other admissions materials have been submitted, the new Form I-20 from Pepperdine will be processed and sent to the student by the admissions office.

TRANSFER FROM Pepperdine TO ANOTHER INSTITUTION

F-1 students who have made a commitment to attend another institution must inform their OISS advisors and request that their SEVIS records be electronically released to the new school. It is advised that students discuss their travel plans and new program start dates with their DSO before settling on a SEVIS transfer release date.

Leaving Pepperdine

F-1 GRACE PERIOD

F-1 students may remain the United State for 60 days following the completion of their academic programs if they have not applied for OPT. Individuals in F-1 status may also remain in the United States for 60 days following the expiration date of post-completion OPT. Students may remain in the United States during the grace period to prepare to leave or to change to another visa status. Students are not permitted to travel outside the United States and return on F-1 status during the grace period. Students are not permitted to work or study during the grace period.

Remaining in the United States

Individuals intending to remain in the United States for more than 60 days after completing their programs at Pepperdine should take the initiative, during the grace period, to prepare and submit proper paperwork to change to another visa status in order to maintain lawful immigration status in the United States.

Moving from the United States

Individuals are expected to leave the United States at or before the end of the 60 day grace period.