International Students at SCNM


Student Affairs is pleased to serve our international students throughout their studies at SCNM. We want your academic experience at SCNM to be a successful one. These pages are designed to answer commonly asked questions about studying in the US and provide resources and links to support your studies at SCNM and beyond.  SCNM is an approved Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)- certified school. At this time only students in the ND degree program are eligible to apply for F1 Status. 


SCNM Designated Student Officials (DSO)

Your designated school officials (DSOs) are people dedicated to help you, as an F or M student, to maintain your non-immigrant status while you attend a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school. 


Dean Ken Donnelly, Dean of Students

Melissa Winquist, VP of Student Affairs


F-1 Student Visa

If you are a non-immigrant student, your spouse and children may be admitted into the United States in the F-1 classification during your course of full-time study. This does not apply if you hold dual citizenship, are lawful permanent residents, or have a valid business visa.

If you are applying for an F-1 Student Visa, you must satisfy/submit the following SEVIS requirements:

  • Complete all outstanding admission requirements
  • Submit an admission deposit
  • Submit a completed SCNM Financial Guarantee Form
  • Supply documentation of sufficient funds. Sufficient funds must cover the cost of the first year of school, books, student fees, and all living expenses. All payments to the College must be made in US funds. Official bank statements, a signed letter of support or an affidavit of support (available from the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services), sponsor income verification, or other proof of liquid assets is required to document sufficient funds. The amount required to cover expenses for the first year is listed on the SCNM Financial Guarantee form. 

Documentation of sufficient funds is required because the U.S. federal government prohibits off-campus employment during the first year of international study. International students are limited to no more than 20 hours a week of on-campus employment while school is in session and may work full-time during vacation periods, as long as they have maintained status and intend to register for the following quarter. International students are not eligible for federal or state funded student aid programs but may obtain private loans with a U.S. citizen or resident co-borrower. Canadian students also have access to the Canadian federal student loan program.

I-20 Application Form

Upon acceptance to SCNM, you can begin working with the admissions office to initiate the I-20 application immediately. The director of admissions processes and issues the I-20 forms for students with full admission after receipt of admission deposit.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our admissions team.


Travel Signature Requirement

 Get a travel signature from an SCNM DSO prior to international travel!

  • You must have a valid travel signature on your I-20 to return to the U.S. after travel abroad.
  • Each signature is valid for one year. (F1 students on OPT: the travel signature is valid for six months).
  • A travel signature is issued by your SCNM DSO to confirm you are maintaining your F1 student status.
  • The travel signature is required for returning to the U.S. It is not required for leaving the U.S.
  • If your current travel signature will expire before you will return to the U.S., you must request an updated travel signature.
  • The travel signature is on page 2 of your I-20.


Inviting Family & Friends to the US

If your family/friends wish to visit you in the U.S. during your enrollment at SCNM, they may need to apply for a visitor visa, unless their country of citizenship is listed as a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) participant.  In preparation for their visa application and interview, your family/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.

If your family/friends need a visitor visa, they must thoroughly review the instructions for visitor visa applications. These instructions can be found on the website of the U.S. embassy/consulate where they will apply for the visa.  The consulate website should list what documents the applicants must prepare and present in their application.  This is a personal application in which applicants must demonstrate their eligibility through a visa interview.

The following information provides additional tips for visitor visa applications.  If your family/friends are from a VWP participating country, this information is still applicable to them as they may be questioned at the port of entry.


Invitation Letter

Your family/friends may bring a letter from you explaining who you are and what you are doing in the U.S. and that you want to invite them to visit for your graduation (and/or white coat ceremony, vacation, tour, etc.).  Your letter should list the dates and locations that your family/friends will visit in the U.S. You should be as specific as possible. Include your name, date of birth, SEVIS ID# (if applicable) and address in the U.S.   If your family will stay with you, mention this in your letter or include the name and address of the hotel where they will stay.

      Sample Invitation Letter.pdf


Additional Documentation

WHY are your family/friends coming to the U.S. and WHAT will they be doing?
If coming to your graduation or white coat ceremony they should show proof of this. For example: A copy of your I-20, your full-time enrollment verification and/or a letter from the academic advisor confirming that you are completing your degree or participating in white coat ceremony this spring/fall, copies of graduation ceremony tickets or invitations, etc.  If they are coming for a conference or special event, they should bring proof of this instead (or as well).

WHERE are they visiting in the U.S.?
This could be hotel reservations in Arizona, printed out information from places they plan to visit, and/or reservation confirmations from any special tours or events they will visit.

WHEN will they arrive in the U.S. and WHEN will they return to their home country?
The best way to prove this is with plane tickets that they have or are planning to purchase or a flight itinerary to prove they will not stay in the U.S. forever.  Remember that plane tickets should not be purchased until the visa is granted.  If your family/friends have a job, they should bring a letter from their employer verifying employment and that they will take a vacation and will return to work on XXXXX date.  If your family/friends are in school, they could bring documents from the school to show they will return to their home country to resume enrollment and continue their classes.

HOW will they support themselves while they are in the U.S.?
A bank statement from your family/friends should be available to show that they have the funds to travel in the U.S., or letters from their employers to show that they are working and earning a salary.


F1 Eligibility Requirements to Work Off Campus:

F1 visa holders cannot accept off-campus employment at any time during the first year of their studies. Under certain circumstances, the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) may grant permission to accept off-campus employment after one year of study. For SCNM ND students, this is limited to OPT (Optional Practical Training) or Severe Economic Hardship (see below).  For more information, please go to the USCIS website here.

Off Campus Employment Based on Severe Economic Hardship Eligibility:

  • You must have F-1 status for a minimum of one academic year
  • You must be in good academic standing
  • You must document that on-campus employment opportunities are unavailable or insufficient to meet your financial needs.

How to apply:

Contact the Dean of Students Office to discuss your situation before you complete the required documentation. The Dean of Students will determine your eligibility and assist you in completing the application and submitting it to USCIS. Required documentation includes:

  • Form I-765 (write (c)(3)(iii) in item 16)
  • $380 fee (make your check or money order payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security) 
  • Photocopy of Form I-20, with an SCNM DSO's recommendation for economic hardship employment
  • Two passport style photos
  • Photocopy of I-94 card (front and back)
  • A letter describing your financial difficulties and why on-campus employment opportunities are unavailable or insufficient; include supporting evidence
  • Photocopy of passport identification page
  • Photocopy of visa page
  • Photocopies of any previously-issued EAD cards

Application processing times vary between two to four months. Do not begin working until you receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD).


International Students and the U.S. Law

While at SCNM you are expected to follow laws and policies that govern a variety of daily life and academic activities. There are different levels of law in the U.S including federal, state, and local community laws which will differ depending on the particular jurisdiction.  Violating a U.S. law can have different consequences for an international student or scholar than for your American friends and can negatively impact your U.S. immigration status.   Similarly a violation of SCNM policies outlined in the SCNM catalog and student handbook can also impact your immigration status.


For example an arrest for “driving under the influence” of alcohol (known as DUI) could lead to the State Department revoking the U.S. visa in your passport. International students may not utilize medical marijuana in the state of Arizona as medical marijuana cards are only issued to U.S. citizens. Drug use or a history of drug use will impact your student visa status and enrollment at SCNM. Finally, international students are not permitted to own/carry a firearm or ammunition (even if you hold a temporary hunting license/permit).  


All SCNM students must immediately notify the Dean of Students of any law enforcement encounter. While it is unlikely that you will encounter any legal difficulties, there are times in life when the unexpected happens.   Knowing the law can make all the difference!

International Student Benefits After Graduation


Post Completion Practical Training: F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is available for F-1 students in SCNM's ND program who are about to graduate/graduated and have secured or are in the process of securing a full-time work opportunity and wish to remain in the U.S. In order to secure optional practical training (OPT) a student must find and secure an employment opportunity, complete a required form and follow an application process. An initial period of 12 months may be awarded by Immigration (USCIS) per degree level. The 12 month OPT post date must start within 60 days of your initial Program Completion date.  OPT requires that you pursue employment in your area of study, but does not require a specific employer at the time of filing.

  • Optional practical training is one type of work permission available for eligible F-1 students. It allows graduates to get real-world work experience related to their field of study.
  • While a Designated School Official (DSO) recommends OPT in SEVIS, it is the student who must apply for the work permit with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If the OPT is approved, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The student must not begin working before the start date on the EAD.
  • No more than 90 days of unemployment is permitted during the initial 12 months of post-completion OPT. Exceeding the limit of unemployment constitutes a loss of your legal status. Be sure to report your changes in employment and address to your Designated Student Officer (DSO) promptly.


OPT Eligibility

To apply for OPT you must first obtain a new I-20 from an SCNM DSO documenting your eligibility for OPT. You will subsequently submit a paper-based application for employment authorization to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS). You must be in lawful F-1 status at the time of filing, and your period of OPT may commence only immediately following at least two full and continuous quarters of enrollment.


Application Essentials

Applications for post-completion OPT must be filed and reach USCIS:

  • No earlier than 90 days prior to the completion of study which corresponds to the end date of your I-20.
  • No later than during the grace period, presuming you have not departed the U.S. once studies are completed.
  • Within 30 days of the issuance, date on the original OPT-endorsed Form I-20 given to you by the SCNM DSO.

NOTE: If you have not completed all coursework for your degree and are unsure that you will complete your degree on time, you should consult your SCNM DSO before submitting the application for OPT.

Click here for a guide to applying for a STEM Opt


Requesting Start & End Dates of Employment

Students may request OPT to begin on any date from the day after the date of completion of studies up to 60 days after the date of completion of study. Applications for OPT can take three months or more for the USCIS to adjudicate so it is very important to plan accordingly.


Authorized Period of Employment

Students may not begin working until they have received a valid OPT employment authorization card (EAD) issued by the USCIS and the start date has been reached.


How to Apply for F-1 OPT

Step One: Complete the SCNM Online I-20 OPT Request and Form I-765. Visit the USCIS website for more information. Please complete Form I-765 electronically, save it and print it.

Step Two: Bring printed Form 1-765 along with supporting materials (if available) to an SCNM DSO. Do not submit to our office earlier than the 90 days prior to the end of your I-20.

Step Three: : DSO will review all materials and endorse. Pick up the endorsed Forms I-20 and Form I-765 from the SCNM DSO, and follow the OPT USCIS Filing Instructions. The OPT I-20 and full application must be in the hands of Immigration no later than 30 days after the OPT I-20's issue date. Do not E-File your application.

Step Four (highly recommended): Complete Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance, if you wish to receive email and/or text messages when your application has been received. NOTE: USCIS will continue to mail the receipt notices to you.  You should receive notification of receipt of OPT application within two or three weeks. If you do not receive notification of receipt - we recommend you contact USCIS.


Reporting Requirements while on OPT

While on OPT, students will must report address, phone number and employment information to their DSO. Coming soon: Students will be able to report address, phone number and employment information themselves directly through the SEVP Portal.


  • Residential Address
  • Phone & Email Address
  • Employer Information including full address
  • Start Date of Employment and End Date (if known)
  • Job Title
  • Supervisor's Name, Email Address and Phone Number
  • Any period of unemployment. You must inform your employer that they are also required to inform the SCNM DSO of a loss of employment.
  • Date of departure from the U.S.


Evaluation on Student Progress (Page 5 of Form I-983 – Completed by both Student and Employer)

During the course of the STEM OPT employment, the student is required to submit self-reported evaluations and assessments. Student evaluations are a shared responsibility of both the student and the employer to ensure that the student’s practical training goals are being satisfactorily met. The student is responsible for conducting a self-evaluation based on his or her own training progress. The employer must review and sign the self-evaluation to attest to its accuracy.

These evaluations are required at the following times:

  • First evaluation (top of page 5 of Form I-983) required after completion of 12 months of STEM OPT period
  • Final evaluation (bottom of page 5 of Form I-983) due at conclusion of 24-month STEM OPT period
  • Enter the range of the student evaluation dates: Enter start and end dates for first 12 months of STEM OPT training period.
  • Student Signature: Student must sign, print name, and enter date of signature.
  • Employer Signature: Signature by Principal Investigator (P.I.) or Supervisor upon agreement with the assessment information that the student has entered for the evaluation portion of Form I-983.
  • Upon Completion of the Evaluation: Student will provide page 5 of Form I-983 to their DSO for record purposes. This can be submitted electronically.

For more information, please contact the SCNM Dean of Student’s Office.