Immigration & International Student Essentials

We have a number of essential items for International students. Please let us know if you have questions or need further support.

F-1 Student Employment

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As an F-1 student, you do not have permission to work off-campus at any time! Please read this notice carefully before accepting any job.

The information below will provide you with an introduction to how employment is defined by the U. S. Bureau of Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) and the various categories of F-1 employment authorization which may be available to you.

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 benefit. "Volunteering" (i.e. not getting paid) for a job that is usually a paid position is still considered employment by USCIS.

Some Notes of Caution

You should not assume that you are automatically eligible to work in the United States. The USCIS considers unauthorized employment to be the most serious violation of your F-1 status. If you engage in unauthorized work, you will not be eligible to apply for reinstatement. Please consult with the international student advisor in the Intercultural Center before accepting any employment. Your advisor can also help you with applications for employment authorization.

On-campus Employment Options

As an F-1 student you are eligible to work on-campus 20 hours a week while school is in session and 40 hours a week during vacation periods. You may begin working as soon as you are in F-1 status, though no sooner than 30 days prior to the start of classes when beginning a new program. Acceptable employment includes: work required by a scholarship, assistantship or fellowship, work in the libraries, computer center, administrative offices, the student union and other campus departments. Finding a job on campus can be difficult. Be sure to start job searching right away, as positions fill quickly. The best way to find a job is to identify a few offices where you would like to work and ask them if they are hiring.

Off-campus Employment Options

For more information or to apply for any of the F-1 off-campus employment options listed below, please make an appointment with the international student advisor in the Intercultural Center.

Curricular Practical Training

Curricular practical training is a type of work permission for work that is "an integral part of an established curriculum." This is usually defined as internships that are required for a degree program, or elective internships taken for credit. Under most circumstances, to be eligible for CPT you must have been in F-1 student status for one academic year (nine months). A job offer is required to be eligible to apply for curricular practical training, but you may not begin your internship before applying for the CPT. While there is no limit to the length of time you may be employed in curricular practical training, any student who works for twelve months or more in full-time curricular practical training automatically loses the eligibility of any optional practical training after completion of studies. For more information see Curricular Practical Training.

Optional Practical Training

Optional practical training allows students to gain practical experience in their field. It is best used for jobs or internships that are not required or eligible to receive credit. A specific job offer is not required to apply for OPT, but any work done must be related to your field of study. To be eligible for this category you must have been in F-1 student status for one academic year. You are eligible for a total of twelve months of full-time optional practical training. You may apply for periods of practical training before completion of studies, save the total twelve month period to be used after completion of studies, or use a combination of both. Employment may be full-time (during school vacations) or part-time (during the academic year), and it may take place at any location in the United States. Any periods of optional practical training used before completion of studies will be deducted from the total twelve-month period available. For example, if you worked full-time for two months during a summer vacation, you would have ten months of practical training available after graduation. You may become eligible for another twelve months of practical training when you change to a higher educational level. Students in certain majors in the fields of science, technology, engineering or math may apply to extend their OPT for an additional 24 months for a total of 36 months of OPT. For more information see Optional Practical Training.

Internship with an International Organization

You are eligible for this category as soon as you are in F-1 status. There is no 9 month waiting period. If you are maintaining lawful F-1 status and are offered employment in the form of an internship by a "recognized" international organization, you may obtain permission to engage in this work. You must first obtain a written certification from the international organization about the proposed employment, and then apply to the USCIS. Some examples of recognized international organizations include the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. A complete listing of approved organizations is available in the Intercultural Center.

Employment Due to Severe Unforeseen Economic Hardship

To be eligible for this category you must have been in F-1 student status for one academic year (nine months). A job offer is not required to be eligible to apply for this category of work authorization, and work may be done in any field, not just your field of study. If the F-1 employment authorization opportunities listed above are not available or are otherwise insufficient, you may apply to the USCIS for off-campus employment authorization based upon severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control. Statistically, it is very difficult to meet the criteria to qualify for this category of work authorization.

Employment Eligibility Verification

Within the first three days of beginning work, you and your employer must complete a form entitled Employment Eligibility Verification (USCIS form I-9), which will be kept by the employer. You may need your passport and visa documents proving that you are authorized to be employed in the U.S. to complete the I-9 form. The I-9 must be updated each time you receive a renewal of your work permission or if you change employers. Anyone earning money in the United States is required to have a U.S. Social Security number. See Obtaining a Social Security Number. You may begin working as soon as you apply for the Social Security number, but not before. If your employer has questions regarding your employment, he or she may call the Intercultural Center at 401-254-3121.

Curricular Practical Training

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Several of the academic majors at Roger Williams University require an internship or co-op experience in order to graduate:

Gabelli School of Business
Accounting, Computer Information Systems and Management.

Feinstein College of Arts and Sciences
Graphic Design Communication

School of Justice Studies
See your academic advisor for a case by case basis.

Although these are the programs that require internships, many other majors encourage you to partake in an internship experience either in the United States or another country. Students in all other majors except for Architecture should contact the Career Center about taking an internship for an elective credit. Internships can occur during the winter term, summer or academic year in conjunction with your studies.

In order to participate in any internship (required or not, paid or unpaid) within the United States, you must first apply for Curricular Practical Training.

F-1 Curricular Practical Training

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is special work permission given for work that is “an integral part of an established curriculum.” Curricular Practical Training can only be used before the completion of your studies. Students must be in legal F-1 status for at least nine months to be eligible. You may work part-time (20 hours or less per week) while school is in session and full-time (40 hours per week) during school vacations.

In order to qualify for CPT, the internship or practicum must be either:

a) a required component of the curriculum
b) taken for academic credit (i.e. the internship must be assigned a course number and you must receive credit for the work completed)

If your proposed internship does not meet either of these qualifications, you are not eligible for CPT. However, there is a different type of work permission you may apply for called Optional Practical Training. Stop by the Intercultural Center for information.

How to apply for CPT

At least three weeks before the beginning date of employment, make an appointment with your international student advisor (x3121) and bring the following:

  • A copy of your completed Cooperative Education Contract from the Career Center (with all signatures) or a letter signed by an academic advisor on departmental letterhead specifying: the student is enrolled as a degree-seeking student in the specific academic discipline; how many units of credit, under what course number, and when the credit will be given; or, if credit will not be given, that the internship is a required part of the student’s curriculum.
  • A job offer letter on company letter head from your employer stating: the name and location of the company or organization; a brief description of the proposed employment; the number of hours to be worked each week; and the estimated start and end date of employment.
  • Your I-20, I-94 and passport.

The Intercultural Center will authorize you for CPT and issue you a new I-20. When you begin work, you and your employer must complete a form entitled Employment Eligibility Verification (USCIS form I-9), which the employer will keep. You will be required to show the CPT authorization on page two of your I-20. You will also need a Social Security Number. For information on how to obtain a Social Security Number, see Obtaining a Social Security Number.

You must be careful not to continue employment beyond the date authorized on your I-20, unless you apply for and are granted an extension of your work permission. Any work done outside the authorized dates on the I-20 is illegal. There is no limit to the amount of part-time or full-time CPT a student may use, however, students that use 12 months or more of full-time CPT are ineligible to apply for Optional Practical Training.

For information on working in your field after graduation stop by the Intercultural Center to ask about Optional Practical Training.

Optional Practical Training

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Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows international students on an F-1 visa status to work in their field of study off-campus. To be eligible, the student must complete 9 months of their degree. Most Roger Williams University students do OPT after they graduate. OPT allows a student to work for 12 months and sometimes longer depending on their degree.

It takes about 3 months to apply, so contact the Intercultural Center well in advance if you are interested in this opportunity.

F-1 Student Requirements

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Full Course Load

You are required to register for a full course load (at least 12 credits for undergraduates; 9 for graduate students) every semester for each semester of your academic program. This is a federal regulation as well as Roger Williams University policy for all students. You must maintain a full course load the entire semester. At no time may you drop below a full course load (see exception below).

On-campus Employment

You are permitted to work on-campus part-time (no more than 20 hours per week) during the academic semester and full-time (40 hours a week) during winter, spring and summer vacations.

Off-campus Employment

F-1 visa holders are not allowed to work off-campus at any time, except in certain circumstances and only with prior approval of the Intercultural Center (IC). Students found working off-campus are in violation of immigration law.

Exceptions include Curricular Practical Training (for required academic internships), Optional Practical Training (both are for work related to your field of study only), international internships and severe economic hardship.

This includes any internship, paid or unpaid. All of these must be authorized by the Intercultural Center and sometimes by USCIS before work begins. Contact the IC to discuss any of these options.

Address Changes

If you live in an off-campus apartment, you must notify the Intercultural Center of your new address within 10 days of a move. You must register your new address with both the IC and teh Registrar.

Semester Registration

Each semester you are required to come to the Intercultural Center and complete the digital "Semester Check In." This is an immigration regulation requirement. You must come within 3 days of the start of classes (fall and spring only). This registration will take no more than 10 minutes.

Passport Validity

You are required to keep your passport valid at all times. Contact your embassy for information about extension procedures at least six months before the expiration of the passport.


You must make certain before you leave the country that the U.S. visa in your passport is valid. If your visa is not valid, you will need to obtain a new entry visa to be allowed to return to the United States. It does not matter if your visa expires while you are within the United States; the visa is only needed for reentry.

Travel Abroad

To travel abroad, you will need to obtain a travel signature on page 2 of your I-20 from a DSO at the Intercultural Center. Travel signatures are good for one year. (Unless you are on OPT in which signatures are only valid for 6 months) You may come by the office with your passport and I-20 for a new signature (keep in mind you must be registered full time to receive a signature).

Reduced Course Load

You are required to carry a full course load. You may only take a reduced course load in your last semester of study. You must seek prior approval from the Intercultural Center to do so. Please fill out the request form available in the Intercultural Center. You should also discuss your academic situation with the Student Advocacy Office and your advisor.

Program Changes, Extensions and New I-20s

You will need a new I-20 if you change your major or degree program, receive an additional scholarship or need to extend the length of time required to complete your degree. You must report any changes to the Intercultural Center. You should contact the Intercultural Center at least 45 days before the expiration date on your I-20 if you need an extension. If you do not apply for an extension before your I-20 expires, you will be in violation of immigration law and out of status.

This may affect your ability to complete your studies in the U.S. To apply for a program extension you will need to fill out a request form available in the Intercultural Center. Correction of any errors on your I-20, such as spelling of your name or your date of birth, must also be corrected as soon as they come to your attention.

Any time you receive a new I-20, you should keep your old one in your files. You will need all of your I-20s when applying for any immigration-related benefits (such as work permission).

If your I-20 Is Lost or Stolen

You need to come to the Intercultural Center and fill out a request form for a new one. The process takes up to 10 days, so keep your I-20 in a safe place and double-check it well before traveling.


You are required to file an annual income tax form with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), even if you do not owe any taxes. Look for more information via email from the Intercultural Center about how to do so during February or March.

Leave of Absence or Withdrawal

If you are taking a leave of absence or withdrawing from the University, you must speak with the Student Advocacy Office and then with the Intercultural Center. Students who take a leave of absence or withdraw from the University for non-medical reasons without the approval of the Intercultural Center are required to depart the United States immediately. With approval, you have a 15-day grace period to depart the country. The Intercultural Center should be your first stop if you are planning to take a leave of absence or withdrawing. 

Medical Leave

Students requesting medical leave must seek permission from the Dean of Students. Requests must be accompanied by documentation by a licensed physician or psychiatrist.


Reinstatement is a process by which a student who falls out of status by violating student immigration regulations may apply to the USCIS to regain status. The process is complicated, and in order to qualify, a person must file an application for reinstatement within 5 months of committing a violation. For further information regarding reinstatement, please contact the Intercultural Center.

Transfer Students

If you intend to transfer to another university in the United States, you must inform the Student Advocacy Office and the Intercultural Center and complete the necessary transfer forms.

Grace Periods for Departure from the United States

Students who complete their program of study are given a 60 day period to depart from the United States. During this time you can prepare for departure or travel domestically, but not leave the country and return.

If you have a question and do not know the answer, contact the Intercultural Center before contacting USCIS or asking a friend. Call your international student advisor at the Intercultural Center at (401) 254-3400.

How to Get Around

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In addition to the free shuttle offered by Public Safety, students may be interested in riding the bus or obtaining a U.S. driver's license in order to drive a car.


RIPTA is the public transportation system in Rhode Island. It is a system of buses and trolleys that provide transportation around the state. When taking the bus it is important to know that "inbound" means service toward Providence and "outbound" is service from Providence. The bus that runs by the University is number 60-Newport/Providence. It stops right in front of the campus. It comes by approximately every 30 minutes, but during peak hours it comes every 15 to 20 minutes.

For information on the bus schedule, visit and then click on schedules/maps or find the pamphlets with all operation hours at Kennedy Plaza.


In order to drive in the U.S. you must obtain a Rhode Island driver’s license you will need to pass the written exam and road test. 


1. You Will Need:

¨ A valid passport

¨  I-94 Number (retrieved from )

¨ I-20

¨ A valid Social Security Card or denial letter from Social Security Office

¨ A Status Letter with address from the Intercultural Center (Click Here for Letter Request Form)

¨ A Student ID Card from Roger Williams University

¨ $6.50 to take the Written Exam (Get the Driver’s manual from DMV office or a friend and study it. To download the driver’s manual go to

Social Security Office in Providence:

3rd Floor, 380 Westminster Street   (Located downtown in Federal Center)

Providence , RI 02903

Open M,T,TH, F:  9-3pm, W: 9-12pm

2. Go to DMV office, present your documents, pay and take the written exam by computer.


Where:            Department or Registry of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

          600 New London Avenue

                         Cranston, Rhode Island

                         Ph. 401-462-4368


When:             Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

How to get there:

By Bus:            From RWU, Bus No. 60 to Kennedy Plaza

From Kennedy Plaza, Bus No. 13 (Bus stops in front of DMV)
            (about an hour and a half)

By Car:            Take 114 North to I-195 West to I-95 South

         Take I-95 South, exit 14B to RI-37 West

                        Take exit 2A onto RI-2 South / New London Avenue         

                        Make a U-turn at Garden Hills Parkway

All Out-of-Country and US Territories drivers license transfers must be done at the DMV Cranston headquartersThese transactions are not performed at DMV branch locations or AAA branch offices.

The computerized knowledge exam is available Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm at the DMV Cranston headquarters. A vision test will be given at this time. No appointment is necessary, tests are given on a first-come, first-serve basis.

3. Once the written exam has been passed, you can schedule a road test within 3 months.  Please hold on to your test card because it also serves as your driving permit.  The license costs $26.50 (only cash is accepted) and is valid for 2 years. You can schedule your test at any DMV or call 401-462-5750.

Road tests will be given at: 325 Melrose Street, Providence

State ID Card

If you would like to have a form of identification other than your passport, but do not need a driver’s license, you can apply for a non-driver identification card if you have never had a license before.  The cost is currently $16.50 for a State ID card.

Rhode Island ID Requirements:

  • You may not hold a valid license in Rhode Island or in any other state.
  • You must have an identity document (bring your passport, I-20 and I-94).
  • You must be able to prove Rhode Island residency.
  • You must have a valid Social Security number or an acceptable denial letter (with an acceptable visa code).


If you need to take a road test (a test where you drive and an evaluator rides with you) you will need to provide your own car to do so. If you do not have a car, you will need to rent one or have a friend loan you one. Another option (especially if you have never learned to drive) is to take driving lessons and use the company’s car for the road test. Below are listed some local driving schools.

For more information on the road test, see

Please remember that freshmen are not allowed to have cars on campus.

Immigration Advising

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As an international student in F-1 status, you know there are many regulations you need to abide by regarding work, travel and course load (see F-1 Student Requirements). It can be confusing at times to keep all of them straight.

The Intercultural Center is here to help you understand and abide by all of the regulations affiliated with yout visa, and to provide you with all the information you need and answer any remaining questions you may have. Remember to come to us FIRST for advice, not your friends.

The IC can help you with:

  • Travel signatures
  • Applications for work permission
  • Obtaining a Social Security Number
  • Reinstatement requests
  • Taking a medical leave
  • Taking a reduced course load
  • Any other issues relating to your F-1 status and benefits

You may be able to get many of your questions answered by looking at our website. However, please come by to ask any other questions you may have. Our walk-in hours without an appointment are Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.  Otherwise you may make an appointment by clicking here to schedule an appointment.

Please remember to talk to your international student advisor BEFORE taking any actions that may jeopardize your F-1 status. Most situations call for prior-DSO approval, and without it you can lose your F-1 student status. If you have any doubts about anything at all, call our office!

Information For Employers

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F-1 international students are eligible to work on campus in any position you may have in your office. They may work 20 hours a week while school is in session and 40 hours a week during breaks. At no time are F-1 students allowed to work off campus without special work permission.

F-1 students are not eligible to apply for Social Security Numbers until they have secured a job or job offer. A student will be able to begin working for you as soon as he or she has applied for a s Social Security Number. He or she does not actually need the number to begin working and getting paid. When filling out form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification), W-2, or any other form that requires a Social Security Number, you must put “applied for” if the student has not yet received his or her card. For more information go to

F-1 students working on-campus must secure a letter from their employer to be used to apply for the Social Security Number. Please contact the Intercultural Center for a sample employer letter.

F-1 students may get special authorization to work off-campus in certain situations. Their employment eligibility can be verified on page 2 of their I-20 and/or an Employment Authorization (EAD) card.

Obtaining A Social Security

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F-1 student visa holders are not eligible for Social Security Numbers unless they intend to engage in employment. In order to apply for a Social Security Number you will need to do the following:

If you are an F-1 student and will work on-campus:

  • Ask your on-campus employer for a job offer letter on official letterhead 
  • Bring the employer letter to the Intercultural Center hours to request an additional Social Security letter
  • Bring your passport, visa, I-20, most recent I-94 number, the employer letter and the Intercultural Center letter to one of the Social Security Offices listed below

If you are an F-1 visa holder on CPT: take your passport, your I-20 visa document showing your authorized CPT (on page 2), and your I-94 form to one of the Social Security Offices listed below.

If you are an F-1 visa holder on OPT: take your passport, your I-20 visa document showing the authorized OPT (on page 2), your I-94 form, and your EAD card to one of the Social Security Offices listed below.

At the Social Security Administration Office, you must complete an application form. You will receive notification of your Social Security Number in the mail. The process usually takes four to eight weeks. You may call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 with any questions. For more information, check the website: You may begin working while the application is pending (i.e. you may not work until you have filed the application, but you may work before you receive the card). If your on-campus employer has any questions, they should contact the Intercultural Center at extension 3121.

Social Security Administration Office locations:

3rd Floor, 380 Westminster Street
Providence , RI 02903
Open M,T,TH,F 9am- 3pm   Wed 9-12pm
Directions: Located downtown in Federal Center (2nd building in from intersection of Westminster & Empire Streets)

Room 210, 130 Bellevue Avenue
Newport, RI 02840
Open M,T,TH,F 9am- 3pm  Wed  9-12pm
Directions: There is a large green sign in the front yard. The office is in the building in the back. There is free parking. Enter the double doors and go to 2nd floor.

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. The Social Security Number is valid for life. Do not lose your Social Security card.

Tax Information

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Each year ALL F and J visa holders must file at least one tax form – even if you did not work!

During “tax season” (February – April) the Intercultural Center will send out information to you about the tax forms and where to get help with them if needed. Because of legal restrictions on our capacity to advise you about your tax liabilities, Roger Williams University and the Intercultural Center CANNOT answer questions regarding individual taxes or help you fill out your tax forms, but we will tell you where you can get help. We will also have the tax forms available at the Intercultural Center for you to pick up.

It is important to check your email regularly to receive this important information on taxes.

You might also be required to file a Rhode Island tax return, which is separate from the federal return. See their website for more information:

Visa Status vs. Visa Stamp

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There can be much confusion over the word “visa” and what to do when it expires. Do you have to go home? Can it be extended? To answer these questions, it is important to know what “visa” you’re talking about.

Visa Status: Visa status is what you have when you are inside the United States. When you are outside the United States, you have no visa status. Students and scholars at Roger Williams University will be either in F-1 status or J-1 status. Their dependents are in F-2 or J-2 status. Your visa status is governed by the dates on your I-20 or DS-2019. The end date is how long your program of study is, and when you are expected to be finished. If you will not be finished with your program by that date, come to the Intercultural Center to speak with your advisor at least 60 days beforehand. After the end date has passed, F-1 students have 60 days to remain in the United States; J-1 students and scholars have 30 days.

Visa Stamp: Your visa stamp is like your entry ticket to the country. You apply for it at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad and use it at the port of entry. It is the sticker inside your passport (Canadian and Bermudan citizens do not need a visa stamp). Your visa stamp may be good for one entry, two entries or multiple entries. The end date on the stamp is based on reciprocity tables, not on the dates of your I-20 or DS-2019. You may receive a stamp that is good for just a few months or several years. Your stamp is allowed to expire while you are in the United States. It is only needed at the port of entry. However, once you travel outside the country, if your stamp is expired you will have to get a new one.