International Applicants FAQs

Visa Documents and Requirements

As an international student, it is absolutely critical that you fully understand the terms and conditions of your visa. Failure to comply with visa regulations may lead to termination of your visa and/or lead to major issues later on if you seek to change your visa status (e.g. to a work visa after graduation). Fortunately, the US government has created constantly updated websites that help to explain the terms and conditions of your visa which you can reference throughout your student career. In addition, you are strongly encouraged to contact your International Student Advisor if you have any questions. Your International Student Advisor will assist you in maintaining your visa status.

If you are an F-1 visa student, we recommend reading the Study in the States website, especially the information on "Maintaining Status."

Know about F Student Benefits

If you are a J-1 visa student, you should understand the common questions on the Department of State's J-1 visa website.

A brief summary of the reporting requirements for both F and J student visa holders is listed below:

  • Enroll in a full course of study at the beginning of every session (excluding authorized break periods)
  • Consult with their DSO before dropping below a full course of study for any reason
  • Report address changes to their DSO within 10 days of the change
  • Report any change in sources of financial support to their DSO
  • Seek the approval of the DSO/USCIS before engaging in employment or practical training
  • Report any changes in program of study to their DSO
  • Report any change in academic status to their DSO
  • Notify their DSO prior to traveling outside the United States
  • Notify their DSO upon applying for change of nonimmigrant status
  • Notify their DSO upon approval of an adjustment of status to an immigrant
  • Consult with their DSO to extend their program
  • Notify their DSO if they intend to transfer
  • Notify their DSO about changes in dependent status

When traveling inside the U.S., you should carry your original passport, and I-20 or DS-2019.

When traveling outside the U.S., you should carry your passport, student visa, and I-20 or DS-2019 with a valid travel signature. If you are entering the U.S. for the first time, you should also carry your SEVIS Fee Receipt and letter of admission from W&L. If you have any trouble entering the U.S. you should call your Designated School Officer (DSO).

Your I-20 or DS-2019 has a section for a travel signature that approves travel outside the U.S. Each signature is valid for one year. If you plan to travel outside the U.S. and your I-20 or DS-2019 has not been signed within the past 10 months, please contact your Designated School Officer (DSO) to obtain an updated signature.

SEVIS is the acronym for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, which is used by the U.S. government to track student visa records. Payment of the SEVIS fee is required to obtain a student visa and funds the system. W&L pays the SEVIS fee on behalf of students. Be sure to keep the record of your SEVIS fee payment, and keep it with you when you enter the U.S. for the first time.

The I-20 and DS-2019 documents are certificates of eligibility that demonstrate sponsorship from Washington and Lee University. These documents are extremely important and necessary for traveling both inside and outside the U.S., obtaining work authorization, and obtaining a visa. You may stay in the U.S. with an expired visa as long as your I-20 or DS-2019 is valid. If you lose your I-20 or DS-2019, please contact your Designated School Officer immediately to obtain a replacement. 

Yes, you may need to submit them for future visa applications.

An I-94 travel record provides evidence that you entered the U.S. legally on a certain date. You will need the I-94 to apply for work authorization, obtain a Driver's License, and for other purposes. You can obtain your I-94 travel record online.

Soon after you complete the international student questionnaire in your off-campus portal, your Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility will be issued. The Form I-20 will allow you to apply for your student visa at your US Embassy or consulate. Visa wait times can be long, so please schedule your visa appointment immediately upon receiving the documents. You must renew a student visa outside of the US using these instructions. Please note that you may remain in the U.S. legally with an expired visa as long as your Form I-20 is valid.

Yes, every international student must file a tax return every year, regardless of employment status. The deadline to file a tax return is mid-April. The CIE purchases code for a tax prep software program for all international students to use and provides instructions for filing both the US Federal tax return and the State of Virginia tax return. 

The CIE will help you obtain the documents you need and guide you through the process using the International Student Tax Guide.

Students are placed on academic probation whenever their term GPA, or cumulative GPA, falls below 2.0. If this happens to you, you will have one term to change your status by earning a term and cumulative GPA above 2.0. The automatic rule provides for an automatic suspension if you fail to move off of probation. Because student visa regulations require that international students must be enrolled full-time, an academic suspension will also result in a termination of your student visa. However, if you apply for and receive reinstatement, you will have the opportunity to regain your student visa status and return to W&L.

Students who wish to leave the University temporarily for academic, medical, religious or military-service reasons, may request a Leave of Absence for a specified period of time by petitioning the Committee on the Automatic Rule and Reinstatement. International students may sometimes remain in the U.S. for a medical leave of absence. The effect of a leave of absence on your visa status is explained in detail on the Study in the States website

Jobs and Internships in the U.S.

If you received a financial aid award that included a Work-Study position budget, please follow the instructions emailed to you from the Financial Aid Office to accept your Work-Study Award after your admission to W&L. You will need to accept your award before you can apply for Work-Study positions. The Financial Aid Office will accept a scanned copy of your Signature Authorization Form emailed to I encourage you to apply for positions early in order to secure your preferred assignment. As an international student, you are not eligible to work off-campus, so please do not apply for jobs that are located off-campus. If you were not offered Work-Study as part of your financial aid package but still want to work, you will learn more about the process at International Student Orientation. 

International students are not authorized to work off-campus unless approved for Practical Training. You can refer to the Career and Professional Development (CPD) international students page for more website for further information about how to find internship and job opportunities in the U.S. Information about both types of Practical Training (Curricular Practical Training) and (Optional Practical Training) are provided below in the FAQ.

Check out the CPD career fellows page to see a listing of fellow W&L students who can help you best make of use CPD services. You can also email for more info.


Curricular Practical Training (CPT) allows F-1 visa students to participate in internships (paid or unpaid) that are directly related to the student's major and must either be for academic credit or a major requirement. All declared students at W&L are eligible for CPT. The Practical Training guide provides an overview of CPT and how to obtain CPT authorization for both undergraduate and law students. 

Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows F-1 visa students to work for 12 months in the U.S. in a job or internship experience related to their majors. Students may choose to use this time immediately after graduation. In addition, STEM majors may qualify for a 24 month extension of OPT. The CIE has created a complete Overview of Optional Practical Training (pdf) for your reference, which includes a list of all STEM OPT eligible majors at W&L. 

For on-campus jobs, your F-1 visa allows you to work part-time (up to 20 hours per week) while classes are in session and full-time (40 hours per week) while on official university breaks (e.g. fall break, winter break, summer break, etc.). For off-campus job, you may work part-time or full-time while on CPT or OPT.

The Career and Professional Development (CPD) office provides career development advising to international students. CPD provides employment guides and alumni contact information specially created for international students - Search Handshake's Resource library for "Resources for International Students." In addition, CPD and the CIE partner to present programs, including, International Student Career Day (which is offered every year).

Even if you aren't being paid for an internship or other activity you may be considered an employee according to U.S. government labor and immigration laws. This is very important to understand, because international students must receive authorization to work off-campus. Working off-campus without employment authorization is a violation of your visa status. The CIE and CaPD offices collaborated to create a guide to help you understand these important distinctions.

Hunter Swanson

Designated School Official
Center for International Education
204 W. Washington St.
Washington and Lee University
Lexington, Virginia 24450