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Frequently Asked Questions

ISS Office

FAQ Plus IconWhat are the ISS office hours?

We are open all year around except for RIT holidays, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Zoom walk-in hours (when students may talk with an ISS advisor without an appointment) are Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 10:00am-12:00pm and Tuesday & Thursday: 2:00pm-4:00pm. Please join us at There is a "waiting room" and you will be invited to enter as soon as we finish up with the person ahead of you.

FAQ Plus IconWhat is the telephone number of the ISS office?


FAQ Plus IconWhat is the full address of the office?

International Student Services

Rochester Institute of Technology

42 Lomb Memorial Drive

Rochester, NY 14623

FAQ Plus IconI can't pick up my documents in ISS. What are the mailing options?

When ISS notifies you that you have documents or mail to pick up, and you are unable to pick up your documents in the ISS office, here are your options:

  1. Have a friend pick up your documents for you: Please reply to the ISS email and provide the name of the person you want to pick up your documents, so we know who to expect.
  2. Arrange and pay for ISS to send your documents through a TRACKABLE express mail option using UEMS E-Ship Global (RECOMMENDED): UEMS E-Ship Global allows students to pay for express mail options for ISS to send documents or mail. Students register for an E-Ship Global account, create the shipment, and ISS receives the packing slip and ships your documents/mail to you. E-Ship Global provides all customer service for shipping, including assistance with payment, special shipment requests, package status questions, and more. Please note, ISS will pay to FedEx YOUR INITIAL OPT EAD card if you are unable to pick it up in the ISS office. Students will use E-Ship Global for arranging shipment of all other mail and documents.
  1. Have ISS mail your documents to you through USPS mail (NOT RECOMMENDED): Please reply to the ISS email and provide a complete mailing address (in USPS format) and we will send your documents to you. Please note that this option provides no tracking number, and mail times vary. Check your address format here:


FAQ Plus IconHow often do I have to have my I-20 signed?

An ISS advisor must sign your I-20 once a year. This signature acknowledges that you are a full-time student and that you are maintaining your F-1 status at RIT. The signature appears on page 2 of the I-20. If you are on OPT the travel signature on your I-20 is valid for six months.

FAQ Plus IconWhat should I do if I lost my I-20?

An ISS advisor is able to issue a replacement I-20 form if yours is lost, damaged, or stolen.

FAQ Plus IconI am in my home country and I left my I-20 in Rochester. What should I do?

In this case you should contact International Student Services to request that a replacement of your form be mailed to you. You may send an email to to make this request.

FAQ Plus IconMy I-20 will expire soon. Can it be extended?

Yes. If you must remain in the US beyond the date indicated (in section 5) on your I-20, the form may be extended but it must be extended BEFORE the I-20 expires. A Program Extension Form is available on the Forms for Faculty and Staff section of the ISS website. This form must be signed by your academic advisor indicating your new program end date and submitted to ISS. Requests for extensions should be submitted 30 - 90 days prior to the expiration date of the Form I-20 so the extension process can be completed prior to the expiration date on the document.

FAQ Plus IconDo I have to have my I-20 signed while I am on OPT?

If you plan to travel internationally while on OPT the travel signature on page two of your I-20 is valid for six months. Contact ISS at if you are on OPT and need to request a travel signature.


FAQ Plus IconI want to travel to Canada, Mexico, or one of the islands (other than Cuba) adjacent to the United States. Can I return if my visa is expired?

Yes, in most cases. You can usually revalidate an expired visa automatically when returning from a visit of less than thirty days to Canada, Mexico, or one of the islands adjacent to the United States (other than Cuba) provided that you have a valid SEVIS Form I-20 and a valid unexpired Form I-94. This process is known as automatic visa revalidation.

However, if you meet any one of following criteria, you will not be able to automatically revalidate your visa.

  • You applied for a new visa and it has not been issued
  • You applied for a new U.S. visa while on your trip and were denied
  • You have a terminated SEVIS record indicating that you are out of status
  • You have been out the United States for more than thirty days
  • You are a citizen of one of the following countries: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, or Syria
FAQ Plus IconDo I need a valid visa to visit Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands?

No. You will need a valid SEVIS Form I-20 and a valid unexpired Form I-94. Be sure that you do not have a terminated SEVIS record indicating that you are out of status.

FAQ Plus IconDo I need a Canadian visa? How can I get one?

To find out if you need a visitor's visa to enter Canada please check to see if your country is on the list available on the Canadian Government website.

Government of Canada Visitor Visa Instructions

An extra step in the Canadian visa application process is now being implemented for people from certain countries. It requires an online application, followed by a trip to an ASC - Application Support Center (the closest one to RIT is in Buffalo) for photographs and fingerprints (biometrics). The ASC nearest to you can be found through this site: USCIS Service and Office Locator.


FAQ Plus IconWhat should I do if my visa has expired?

You can stay in the United States on an expired F-1 or J-1 visa as long as you maintain your student status. However, if you are returning home or traveling to a country where automatic revalidation (see question # ?) does not apply, you must have a valid visa to return to the United States.

The Department of State recommends that you apply for a visa in your home country. For more information about visa applications visit the Department of State website at

You can apply in a third country for a visa, but you will not be able to return to the United States until your visa has been issued. In some cases, this could take several weeks if a background check is required. If your visa is denied, you will not be able to return to the United States. Be sure to check the Department of State website for specific information pertaining to each consulate.

If you have an expired visa and a terminated record, we strongly advise that you do not travel outside the United States until your SEVIS record shows that you are in active status. If you do travel, you may not be able to renew your visa or return to the United States.

FAQ Plus IconI would like to invite my spouse to join me in the U.S. How can she get a visa?

The ISS staff will provide I-20s/DS-2019s for dependents of F-1 or J-1 students and scholars applying for dependent visas at a U.S.embassy or consulate overseas. A I-20/DS-2019 Request for Dependent F-2/J-2 Visa Form is available in the ISS Forms and Handouts section of this website.

FAQ Plus IconMy parents would like to come for graduation. How do they get visitor’s visas?

If  you would like family or friends to visit you in the United States they will need to apply for B-1/B-2 Visitor Visas. Please check out Inviting Family and Friends to Visit You for information on visitor visas and a sample invitation letter you may write and send to them. This letter, explaining the reason for their visit, may be brought to their visa interview, the Port of Entry, or elsewhere as needed.

FAQ Plus IconI want to visit Canada. Do I need a visa?

To find out if you need a visitor’s visa to enter Canada please check to see if your country is on the list available on the Canadian Government website at

FAQ Plus IconHow can I get a Canadian visa?

Applicants for Canadian visas must submit applications by mail to a Canadian consulate. For complete instructions please visit the Government of Canada website.

FAQ Plus IconI have an F-2 visa and want to change it to a F-1 visa.

To change status from F-2 dependent to F-1 student, an application, fee, and supporting documents must be sent to USCIS. The International Program Coordinators will review completed application materials, make photocopies of them and mail packet for applicants.

Applicants for a change of status from F-2 to F-1 may not attend RIT until their change of status is approved by USCIS. For complete details on how to apply for a change of status, please visit the Changing Status section of this website.

FAQ Plus IconCan I renew my visa without leaving the U.S.?

No. You can only obtain a new visa when you are outside the U.S. at a U.S. consulate or embassy. Keep in mind that you do not need a valid visa once you are inside the U.S. As long as you are maintaining your status and have a valid I-20 or DS-2019 and I-94 card.

FAQ Plus IconCan I go to Canada or Mexico to apply for a new visa?

In some cases, you can. Contact the individual U.S. embassy or consulate in Canada or Mexico. However, you cannot return to the United States until your visa is issued. If the visa is denied, you will not be able to return to the United States as a student. For more information about visa applications visit the Department of State website at You can also visit, the site that provides appointments for consulates in Canada and Mexico.

Applying for a new visa is not the same as automatic visa revalidation. You cannot apply for a new visa and take advantage of automatic visa revalidation at the same time.


FAQ Plus IconI just got a co-op job. What should I do?

Permission to participate in curricular practical training is granted by the International Program Coordinators in the form of a new SEVIS I-20 with the employment information noted on it. After registering for co-op with your academic department and the Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education (please check with your department on the registration requirements for your particular degree program), you may submit the Online Curricular Practical Training Request Form (available on the ISS Forms page) along with a copy of your employment offer, or stop by the ISS office with your job offer and complete the application in person. Your job offer must include the full name and address of the company where you will be working as well as the start and end dates of the employment. You will receive an email from ISS when your new I-20 is ready to be picked up. The process usually takes no more than 48 hours to complete.

FAQ Plus IconWhen can I start working?

You may start working when you have the I-20 with curricular practical training authorization on it and after the CPT start date noted on the I-20.

FAQ Plus IconMy employer just asked me to work another term. Can I continue working?

Check with your academic department about registering for another term of co-op. If your request is approved, please repeat the steps described under "I just got a co-op job. What should I do?"

FAQ Plus IconHow many co-ops can I do?

You may do as many co-ops as your academic department requires or allows. Keep in mind, however, that if you complete more than 364 days of curricular practical training you will not be eligible for Optional Practical Training when you graduate.


FAQ Plus IconWhat forms do I need to apply for OPT?

Please visit the OPT section of our F-1 Employment page.

FAQ Plus IconWhen will I get my OPT card?

It can take three to five months for OPT to be granted. While it may take less time depending on the time of year a student applies, we recommend that RIT students plan to wait at least three months to receive Optional Practical Training authorization.

FAQ Plus IconWhat information do I need to provide USCIS when I am on OPT?

As a student on initial or extended OPT, you are required by US immigration regulations to report the following events to USCIS within ten days:

  • A change in your residential or mailing address
  • A change in your employer or loss of employment
  • Legal name change

For information on how to report this information through the SVP Portal please go to the OPT Reporting section of the ISS website.

FAQ Plus IconI am on OPT and lost my job.

You may be unemployed for a total of 90 days during your 12 months of OPT. Each day (including weekends) during the period of your OPT authorization that you are not employed counts as a day of unemployment. Students who are reaching the limit of their unemployment time should prepare to take action to maintain their status in the U.S. (secure admission to another college or university in the U.S. for further study, apply for a change of status) or prepare to leave the U.S.

FAQ Plus IconMy OPT employer wants me to continue working after my OPT expires.

If you earned a bachelor's, master's or Ph.D. degree at RIT in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (known as a “STEM field”) and your employer is enrolled in the E-Verify program, you are eligible to apply for a 24-month OPT STEM Extension. The STEM Designated Degree Program List can be found on the Study in the States website.

FAQ Plus IconHow do I apply for a STEM extension?

You may file for the 24-month STEM extension up to 90 days prior to the end of your post-completion OPT. You will find instructions in the Optional Practical Training STEM Extensions section of this website.

Social Security Numbers

FAQ Plus IconHow do I get a Social Security number?

To apply for a Social Security number you must have a job offer or be working. (Keep in mind that even during their first term in the United States international students are able to work up to 20 hours per week on campus). You will find the process for getting a Social Security number described on our website at Social Security Numbers.

FAQ Plus IconI lost my Social Security card.

You may apply for a replacement card by following all of the same steps required for a first time application. On the application form, however, you will need to answer questions about your previously issued card. The replacement card that will be mailed to you will have the same number as your previous card.

FAQ Plus IconDo I need a Social Security number to get a driver’s license?

If you are not eligible for a social security number, you'll need to complete the form NSS-1A when you apply for your license. A complete list of requirements for a New York State Driver’s License is available at the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles at


FAQ Plus IconCan my wife/husband work?

Spouses on F-2 visas are not permitted to work in the United States.

Spouses on J-2 visas can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS in order to be employed in the United States. The employment may not be for the purpose of financially supporting the J-1 spouse.The J-2 may begin employment only after receiving the EAD from USCIS.

FAQ Plus IconCan my wife/husband take classes?

Spouses on F-2 visas may not take part in full-time study. F-2 spouses may take part in study that is “avocational or recreational in nature,” meaning to pursue a hobby or if the study is occasional, casual, or recreational. This means they may not take part in classes that lead to a degree. 

Spouses on J-2 visas may study in the United States.


FAQ Plus IconI am stuck at a U.S. port of entry.

If you find yourself stuck at a U.S. point of entry during regular business hours (8:30 am – 4:30 pm, Monday – Friday) please call ISS at 585-475-6943 and ask to speak to an International Student Advisor. If you are in this situation outside of regular business hours please contact RIT Public Safety at 585-475-3333. A Public Safety officer will get in touch with a member of the ISS staff who will then contact you and try to resolve the problem.

FAQ Plus IconI need to go home immediately.

If you need to go home immediately it is recommended that you inform your academic department and the ISS office. In some emergency situations, however, there is not time for a student to contact these offices. If this is the case, please contact these offices by phone or email as soon as possible.

FAQ Plus IconI have a legal problem.

One of the services provided by Student Government is free legal advice for RIT students. You may arrange for an appointment with an attorney who comes to campus to assist students. For more information please visit the Student Government website.

Miscellaneous Questions

FAQ Plus IconHow long may I stay in the U.S. after I graduate?

Students who have maintained valid F-1 or J-1 status are eligible for a grace period after finishing their program. For students on F-1 visas the grace period is 60 days, and for students on J-1 visas the grace period is 30 days. During this time you may travel within the U.S., make arrangements to return home, transfer your SEVIS record to another school, or apply to USCIS for a Change of Status.

If you are leaving before finishing your program, the grace period will be shortened or eliminated. In this case, you should leave the country or make other arrangements promptly. In this situation an ISS advisor will be happy to discuss the necessary time frame for your departure.

FAQ Plus IconHow can I transfer to another university?

After being admitted to another university please make an appointment to meet with an ISS advisor. If you have been given a Transfer Form from the new university it is important for you to bring it with you. If you have not been given a Transfer Form contact the university to ask if they have one. The ISS advisor who meets with you will discuss the “release date” that will be entered into the SEVIS database. After that date the new university will be able to make an I-20 for you.

FAQ Plus IconHow can I manage my health insurance?

All full and part time RIT international students are automatically enrolled in the RIT Basic Student Accident and Sickness Insurance policy unless otherwise exempted by RIT. Information about health insurance for international students as well as how to request a waiver is available in the Health Insurance section of our website.

FAQ Plus IconHow can I become a PAL?

Peer Advisor Leaders (PALs) are current graduate/undergraduate, international and American students who volunteer to be back on campus early to prepare for the arrival of all of the new international students on move-in day. They assist new students throughout Orientation. Please watch for an email from International Student Services in the spring announcing when PAL applications will be available.

FAQ Plus IconWhere can I get help completing tax forms?

International Student Services provides a variety of tax-filing resources for international students: free software, workshops, access to a tax consultant, and more. Emails with information regarding filing taxes are sent out in the spring to all RIT international students.

Please visit the Taxes section of our website for more details.

FAQ Plus IconHow can I invite family or friends to visit me?

If you would like to invite family or friends to visit you in the U.S. they will need to apply for B-1/B-2 Visitor Visas  unless their country of citizenship is listed as a participant in the Visa Waiver Program. If your family or friends need visitor visas they will need to carefully read the instructions for visitor visa applications. These instructions may be found on the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where they will apply for the visa. When arriving in the U.S. most visitors are granted permission to stay for three to six months at a time.


In preparation for their visa application and interview, your family or friends will need to prove WHY they are coming to the U.S., WHAT they will be doing here, WHERE they are going in the U.S., WHEN they will be in the U.S. and WHEN they will return to their home country and, lastly, HOW they will support themselves while they are in the U.S.


A short letter inviting your family member or friend can be helpful in explaining the reason for their visit. This letter should come from you and be addressed to the individual so they may bring it with them to their visa interview, the Port of Entry, or elsewhere as needed. Below you will find a template you may consider using as an example. Each visitor should receive a separate letter.


Sample Invitation Letter


In addition to sending an invitation letter we suggest that students send their friends or family members an Enrollment Verification Form available from the Office of the Registrar. This form may be requested online.

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