International Student Resources


Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) has an office serving the needs of international students on all six campuses, as well as a central Office of International Student Services (OISS).

NOVA’s Office of International Students (OIS) is here to assist you with immigration guidance and support.

OIS can process the following actions for F1 students by filling out Form 125-061 F1 Request for Services online.

  • Travel Signatures
  • Verification Letters
  • Copy of Documents
  • Update I20
  • Transfer Out
  • Recovery of Status
  • Employment
  • Reduced Course load
  • Add/Remove Dependent
  • Temporary Absence/Early Withdrawal

Current F1 students seeking immigration or academic advising from the International office should schedule an appointment with their assigned international advisor through the Navigate app in their MyNOVA. To learn how to make an appointment follow the step-by-step instructions found here.

There are several ways that international students can get involved on campus:

  • joining a student group,
  • signing up for a fitness class or
  • attending a concert or play.

Our events and organizations can help you to meet new people, explore your interests, expand your leadership skills and become active in the community. Several of our campuses have international clubs and organizations. 

If you are an F1 student approved for a Change of Status to another visa or citizenship category, you must update your status with the college as soon as possible to maintain accurate records related to domicile and immigration.

To do this, the student must;

  • Provide your International Student Advisor with a scanned PDF copy of your approval document.
  • International Student Advisor will terminate your I-20 document in SEVIS
  • International Adviser will notify the Campus Registrar of your status change.
  • Campus Registrar will update your Student Information System (SIS) record.
  • Click here for information regarding in-state tuition eligibility.

International Advisers will:

  • Upload documentation to ImageNow
  • Email their campus registrar with a request for an SIS update (including a copy of all official documents)
  • Terminate status in SEVIS and SIS
  • Inform the OIS Central Office whose record has been terminated for SIS/cohort updates.

F-1 and F-2 visa holders are eligible to apply for a driver’s license at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in their state of residency. 

Before you go to the DMV, contact an international student advisor on your campus to request a status verification letter. You should also bring your current I-20, which was stamped at the port of entry or approved by USCIS if you previously changed status.

The following links will bring you to the proper department’s website for Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Buying a Car

If you plan to purchase a car, be aware that this is a costly process. In addition to the price of the car, you must pay a sales tax and fees for Registration and Title, as well as the fee to have the car inspected. You will also pay an annual "excise" tax - the amount of this tax is determined by the value of the car and the town/city where you live. Car insurance is also rather expensive and required coverage differs from state to state.

Parking at NOVA

NOVA requires a parking permit to park at any of our campuses and centers. Click on the Parking Services link under Helpful Links on the right for more information on obtaining a parking permit.

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As an international student at NOVA, you are permitted to take part in internships, volunteer with a community service organization and engage in professional development opportunities. NOVA offers career services to provide students with information about internships and other employment opportunities.

F-1 students must obtain written authorization before beginning ANY compensated employment. United States law requires you to obtain authorization before starting any type of compensated employment. Beginning work without authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) or one of NOVA’s international student services staff is a serious violation of your F-1 status.

What is the definition of compensated employment?

USCIS defines compensated employment as work performed in exchange for a benefit. USCIS would consider employment authorization necessary if you receive a salary, hourly wage, fees, books, supplies, transportation or any other benefit in exchange for work performed.

F-1 Student Employment Information

  • On-Campus Employment [PDF]
    F-1 students are eligible to work in on-campus positions up to 20 hours per week during the semester and full time during vacation periods.
  • International Work-Study Program [PDF]
    Temporary funding for on-campus jobs for F1 students for who are experiencing unexpected financial hardship.
  • Types of Off-Campus Employment [PDF]
    Basic information on all types of employment available to F-1 students.
  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT) [PDF]
    Training for which the student will receive academic credit that will count towards a degree. 
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) [PDF]
    Full or part-time training related to the student’s major, either pre- or post-completion of the associate’s degree.
  • Severe Economic Hardship [PDF]
    Available to students who demonstrate severe economic hardship as a result of events which could not be expected.
  • International Organizations [PDF]
    Internship or temporary employment with an international organization (e.g. World Bank, IMF, OAS).
  • I-765 Application for Employment Authorization
    Use this form to request an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card).  Students should complete this form along with any application for OPT, Severe Economic Hardship or working with an International Organization.

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The College does not have a health center on campus; however, here are some resources you may find helpful if you find yourself in need of any mental, emotional, or physical care. If you have a medical emergency, call 911.

  • NOVA Athletics, Intramurals and Fitness offers sports and other recreational activities on campus and with other colleges.
  • 2-1-1 VIRGINIA provides information about health and human services in your community and statewide. You may also dial 211 on your phone to obtain information.

Local Health Resources

Health Insurance

We strongly encourage students to obtain health insurance to cover medical care before coming to study in the U.S. However, presently, health insurance is not required to study at NOVA. The College does not offer a health insurance plan for international students. Due to the high cost of health care in the United States, obtaining health insurance for the duration of your stay in the United States is strongly recommended.

Health insurance is important when studying in the U.S. for a variety of reasons, including:

  • receiving adequate and quality health care in an emergency situation
  • having access to doctors and other health care providers to ensure optimal health throughout the year
  • reducing the chances of having to manage the high costs of health care, treatment, doctor visits and prescription medication, reducing the burden of financial hardship in case of emergency treatment

There are several health insurance companies and each have numerous plans. The cost of insurance will vary depending on your medical history and the type of coverage requested.

In choosing a health insurance plan that fits your needs, you should consider:

  • Affordability -- Calculate the monthly rate and ensure you can keep up with payments.
  • Flexibility -- Do you have an option to upgrade, cancel or change your policy, or are you under a contractual agreement?
  • Medical Examinations -- How often do you need to undergo these, and what are the guidelines for getting the first examination to verify your health?
  • Travel Assistance Services -- Does the insurance company extend these to its foreign student health insurance recipients?
  • Maternity Benefits -- Are these included if you need them at any time during your stay?
  • Low Deductibles -- Most insurance policies require paying part of your health expenses yourself (your part is called the deductible) before the company pays anything. What different deductible options are available, and what is the most realistic match for your health coverage needs?
  • Eligibility Criteria -- What specific items are the insurance company looking for (medical records, visa documentation, income verification)?

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) holds student responsible for understanding and following immigration law.

Below is a summary of the immigration responsibilities for F-1 students. If F-1 students do not fulfill all of these responsibilities, they may jeopardize their eligibility for immigration benefits, including employment on or off campus. We are required to report any students who are found not complying with F-1 regulations to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Requirements for Maintaining F-1 Status:

  1. Students must register for at least 12 credits each Fall and Spring Semester in order to maintain full time status.
  2. Students may not drop, withdraw or audit a class, if it will result in less than 12 credit hours (25 CEUs for intensive English students).
  3. Students must take 12 credits even though they may be on academic warning or academic probation. Students who are recommended to take less than 12 credits should consult with their DSO before registering.
  4. As of Fall 2023, F1 COVID regulations have ended and all F1 students will be required to take 12 credits with only 3 credits permitted to be taken online to count toward the full course of study requirement.
  5. Students must continue to make good academic progress. The purpose of F-1 status is to study and complete a degree. Although F-1 regulations recognize students may have academic problems and delays, getting poor grades may result in a termination of your status. If you are having difficulties, meet with an International Student Advisor to discuss your situation.
  6. Students are expected to make sure that their program of study is always correct on the I-20. If student plans to continue onto the Associate degree program once they complete their IEP or ESL Pathway program, they must have their I20 updated before the expiration date by OIS.
  7. Students may work on campus immediately upon arrival up to 20 hours per week and more during vacation periods.
  8. Students may not work off-campus (OPT, CPT, Economic Hardship) during the first academic year. Working without a written authorization from DHS or the Office of International Student is a violation and the consequences are severe.
  9. Students must maintain a passport that is valid for at least six months into the future.
  10. Students must report any change of mailing address to the College through My NOVA within 10 days of moving.
  11. Students must have a NOVA Designated School Official (DSO) sign their I-20 before traveling outside the U.S.
  12. The I-20 is valid until the program ending date listed on the I-20 or until the student completes their program of study, whichever comes first. If an extension is needed, the student is expected to contact the DSO at least 30 days before the program ending date.
  13. F-2 Dependents enrolling in a higher education institution must be part-time and enroll in less than 12 credits.
  14. A DSO who is aware that a student has failed to comply with any of these regulations may be required to report the student to the Department of Homeland Security and may be required to terminate the student's I-20.
  15. Students who plan to transfer their SEVIS record to another U.S. institution must submit the transfer out e-request form using the F-1 Request for Services Form 125-061.

Failure to Comply

Failure to comply with these regulations will mean possible termination of your I-20 and loss of your F-1 student status. We refer to this as being "out of status". Falling out of status has very serious consequences. If you fall out of status for any reason, we advise you to meet with an international student advisor immediately. Depending on the situation, you may be able to apply for reinstatement of your status or you may need to leave the country.

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Bank Accounts

It is best to open a bank account as soon as possible after you arrive in the U.S. To open a bank account, you will need two forms of identification (such as a passport or driver's license) and your first deposit.


  • Do not bring large amounts of cash to the U.S. Cash can be easily stolen. Carry only enough cash for your journey and a little extra for your first few days. Plan to withdraw money using an ATM card after you arrive, carry traveler's checks or have money wired to you.
  • Most banks will not cash foreign checks unless you have an account with the bank.
  • Many banks are unable to cash checks unless they are in U.S. dollars.
  • Foreign checks often require four to six weeks for the funds to become available. During that time, you will not be able to use that money.
  • Tuition payments are required upon registering for classes. 

Wiring Money From Overseas

Since most expenses associated with starting college require immediate payment, you should arrange to transfer funds to a bank in the Virginia/Washington, D.C. area as soon as possible. Transfers may take up to one week to be processed and require a fee(s).

Paying for College

You may pay tuition using various methods, including cash, check, credit card, money order, or wire transfer.

Some students may be eligible to apply for merit-based scholarships to attend NOVA. Many of the scholarships offered have a residency requirement that you may not meet until after you have lived in the U.S. for the required time. Other scholarships require that you are a U.S. citizen. 

Many of the schools we have Guaranteed Admissions Agreements with offer scholarships for students transferring out of NOVA after having completed an associate’s degree. Please read the agreement to find out if you are eligible to apply.

You may also inquire with the Institute of International Education (IIE) or the government in your home country if there are any scholarships available to students who study abroad.

Need-based financial aid is not available to international students.

You must be able to prove that you are legally authorized for employment and have a job before you are allowed to apply for a Social Security number.

F-1 Student Checklist for Obtaining a Social Security Card

1. Obtain proof of both employment and work authorization. Proof types vary according to the type of employment listed below:

On-Campus employment:

  • An on-campus employment letter from NOVA Human Resources.

Curricular Practical Training:

  • I-20 with CPT authorization and signature on page 3.

Optional Practical Training, International Organizations and Severe Economic Hardship:

  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD card).

2.  Collect the following documents and take them to the Social Security Administration Office to apply for your card. There are many other Social Security offices in the region. Please see the Social Security Office Locator for locations.

Required Documents

  • SS-5 Application for a Social Security Card
  • Proof of employment authorization
  • Proof of employment if you are employed on-campus
  • I-20
  • I-94 card or proof of change of status to F-1 (I-797 Notice of Action)
  • Passport
  • F-1 Visa

3.  Your Social Security card will be mailed to you within three months. In the meantime your employer's Human Resources office will probably want to see your receipt showing that you have applied for a card.

4.  After receiving your Social Security card, give a copy to your employer and keep it in a safe place. The Social Security Administration advises that you should not carry your card with you.

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NOVA international student advisors are not tax specialists and are unable to provide you with tax advice. We recommend that students check all information with IRS resources or an accountant. 

Taxes are complicated even for U.S. citizens and the tax laws change yearly. If you have questions about your taxes please seek professional assistance.

Free Tax Services:

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA)
The VITA Program offers free tax help. Certified volunteers help prepare basic tax returns in communities across the country. VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other convenient locations. To locate the nearest VITA site, call 1-800-906-9887 or visit their website. Please note, VITA volunteers may not have special training in nonresident tax issues.

IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers
The IRS offers online e-file services and a list of authorized companies to assist you with filing your taxes online.

Learn More

Download our information sheet on Transferring Out of NOVA.

In order to transfer out your SEVIS record (I-20), you must do the following:

  1. Be admitted to another school in the U.S.
  2. Complete the F-1 Request for Services Form 125-061
  3. Upload a copy of your admission letter or send to your international student advisor
  4. If your new school requires any documentation to confirm your F-1 status, please submit it along with the form and admissions letter.

The standard processing time is 10 business days.

F-1 students are eligible to travel outside the United States while they are pursuing their academic program (i.e. language training or associate degree) or are engaged in Optional Practical Training
You will need to obtain a travel signature on your I-20 before you depart the United States.

Before you leave:

  • Submit F-1 Request for Services Form 125-061 at least two weeks prior to your departure.
  • Check your F-1 visa: it should be valid at least until the date you plan to return to the U.S. If it is expired, you will need to apply for a new visa at the U.S. Embassy before you can re-enter the U.S.
  • Know when your classes begin next semester and return back to U.S. on time to start your classes.
  • Communicate with your professors if any classes will be missed
  • Avoid Termination: If you return late or miss too many classes you will be dropped which will result in your I-20 being terminated if you cannot return to 12 credits quickly

To re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status have the below documents with you in your carry-on bag:

  • Valid I-20 with travel signature on the third page. NOVA recommends the I-20 be signed within five months of your return date.
  • Valid passport
  • Current F-1 visa
  • Original EAD card (if on OPT)
  • Letter of employment (if on OPT)

You may also wish to have with you:

  • Financial documents from your sponsor
  • Copy of your NOVA transcript (request through MyNOVA at least 10 days prior to departure)

Change of Status Students:

If you have previously changed from another status into F-1 from inside the U.S., you received the benefits of F-1 status, but you did not receive a new visa. This means you will need to go to the U.S. Embassy and apply for an F-1 visa in order to return to the U.S. in student status. 

Temporary Absence from the U.S.:

If you will be out of the U.S. for an extended period of time during the fall or spring semester, you may need to make arrangements to ensure your I-20 is active when you return.

Please review this document for more information:

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