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!