Photo by W&J student Sunrong Qian

Washington & Jefferson College welcomes students of all backgrounds from around the world. We respect the different beliefs and customs held by our international students. Likewise, we ask each student at W&J to maintain an attitude of respect and mutual acceptance for fellow students and others living in Washington.

In addition, as an international student, there are United States immigration laws of which you should be aware. Failure to follow these laws will invalidate your F-1 visa status.


If you are not a United States Citizen or permanent resident, you will need an F-1 student visa to come to W&J and be a student on our campus. One important piece of your visa application is a document called an I-20. W&J will issue your I-20; please note that your I-20 is not your visa. You will need to make an appointment with the U.S. Consulate to apply for your visa. Please plan ahead. The Office of International Student Services is happy to assist you with any questions that you might have. Find out more about visas to study in the U.S. at the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs website.

Please also note that coming to the United States to study is different than coming as a tourist. Even if you are able to visit the United States as a tourist without a visa, you will still need a student visa to study at W&J.


On-campus Employment

  • Students with an F-1 visa are generally allowed to work on campus provided that:
  • The student has obtained a social security number.
  • While classes are in session, F-1 students may not work more than 20 hours in a week.
  • During winter and summer vacation, F-1 students are permitted to work on campus full-time.
  • F-1 students coming to study in the US for the first time may not begin on-campus work more than 30 days prior to the start of their classes.
  • F-1 students who have graduated may not work on campus during their 60 day grace period.


You may enter the United States no more than 30 days before the program start date on your I-20.

When passing through immigration, you will be asked for your passport with visa and your I-20. The first time you come to study in the United States, the school name on your visa must match the school name on the I-20. Later, if you transfer schools in the United States and receive a new I-20, your visa and I-20 will no longer match. This should not present a problem for travel.

When entering the United States, if immigration officers choose to register you under NSEERS and you are issued a FIN Number, please notify the International Student Advisor. You will subsequently be required to "Check-out" with U.S. Immigration at your port of exit when departing the U.S. Failure to do so may require you to obtain a new visa before re-entering the U.S.

If you are traveling prior to your initial entry and are planning to apply for a visa during your travels, please be aware that you can only apply for a visa in the country of which you are a citizen.

Make sure your passport has at least 6 months of validity remaining. Ideally, it should be valid for six months past the end date of your intended stay.

Each time you enter the US, you will be issued an electronic I-94 (arrival) record. It can be located at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website. You should locate your record each time you make a new entry. This helps to ensure that you entered in the correct status. You should also carry a printout of your electronic I-94 each time you travel. If you need help, please email Kara Kauffman at

Departure / Before you leave

After completion of your program, you have a 60-day grace period during which you may remain in the United States. This 60-day grace period begins on the day following the program end date on your I-20. You should not leave the U.S. and then try to re-enter the U.S. during that 60-day grace period.

Check to make sure your passport is valid.

If you have been registered in NSEERS, ask the International Student Advisor about "Check-out Procedures."

If you are participating in Optional Practical Training you will be able to depart the U.S. and return as long as you have:

  • A valid passport (with at least 6 months of validity remaining) and valid F1 visa
  • Valid Employment Authorization Documentation (EAD Card)
  • Your expired I-20 with OPT noted
  • Not been outside of the US for 5 or more consecutive months
  • A travel letter from your employer, indicating that they are aware of your absence and return (this letter is recommended, but not mandatory).

Traveling During Your Stay

You may need a visa if traveling outside of the United States. You can find this information on embassy websites.

Check to make sure your passport is valid (with at least 6 months of validity remaining) and check to make sure your F-1 visa is valid.

You should obtain the signature of the International Student Advisor/Designated School Official on your I-20 prior to any trip out of the U.S. If you have been registered in NSEERS, please ask the International Student Advisor about "Check-out Procedures."

If you are out of the US for 5 or more consecutive months, you will lose your F-1 student status and be unable to re-enter the US. This is true whether you are a student, or an OPT participant.

You may apply for a visa only in your country of citizenship. If you apply at another embassy during your travels and are refused, you may not be able to re-enter the United States. Please refer to the above arrival section for information re-entering the United States.


REMEMBER: Take all of your immigration documents with you (passport, I-20, I-94 printout, etc.) when you travel and leave the country.