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

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.
  • For questions regarding in-state tuition eligibility, contact the Enrollment Management office.

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 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. Register for and successfully complete a full course of study each semester.
  2. Have a valid I-20 from NOVA. You must update your I-20 if you change major, change education level, change address or transfer to another school.
  3. Do not work without authorization.
  4. Make good academic progress.
  5. Keep your passport valid at all times.

F-1 Statement of Responsibility:

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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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.

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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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