Current International Students FAQs

Welcome to the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) at Columbia College Hollywood!

OISS assists incoming international students and current international students with information on their immigration status and visa matters. OISS also provides advising for international students regarding immigration status, work authorizations, visa applications, as well as non-academic matters such as understanding US culture and the academic system.


Frequently Asked Questions

How do I maintain my F-1 status?

As an international student, you are responsible for meeting the obligations to maintain your legal status in the United States. OISS will continue to keep you informed of the current changes to immigration regulations as we become aware of them.

  1. Check-In with the Columbia College Hollywood international student office at the start of every quarter.

  2. Attend Orientation (New Students only) and complete an initial meeting with an International Student Office (ISO) advisor.

  3. Maintain a valid/current passport. If the expiration date is within 6 months, visit your country’s closest consulate or embassy and apply for a new passport.  

  4. Update your contact information with your ISO advisor within 10 days of every change of address or contact number change. You should also update your address and contact number changes on the CCH Student Portal.

  5. Only attend the school listed on your current and stamped I-20. To attend another school, you must transfer to that school and obtain approval on a new I-20.

  6. Be a full-time student each quarter in attendance.  You must complete (not just register) for a full course load of 12 credit hours or more each quarter.  To maintain your status, you must successfully complete at least 12 credit hours each quarter.  If you need to drop below full-time hours, make an appointment to see the your ISO Advisor BEFORE taking any action.

    If you drop below twelve units without permission, the International Student Office is required to report this to the Department of Homeland Security.

    You may only fall below the twelve units during your last quarter at CCH.

  7. Attend three consecutive quarters before you take a quarter off.

  8. Meet the college’s Standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress. Under these standards, the student is required to complete degree studies within the Prescribed Program Length and to demonstrate a certain level of achievement which includes maintaining a 2.0 Cumulative GPA or C average. Coursework must count towards completion of degree.

  9. Apply for an extension of your I-20 before the expiration date.  The extension can only be applied for at the International Student Office before the end date on your I-20. 

  10. Obtain a new I-20 whenever you make a change in degree levels.  This includes changing levels at the same school or a new one (e.g., changing from an Associate of Fine Arts program to a Bachelor of Fine Arts program.


    Students from time to time fall out of status. Often this comes about through an innocent misunderstanding on the part of a student. However, no matter what the cause, it is the responsibility of the student to maintain their legal status.

  12. Complete an I-20 transfer whenever you change schools.  An I-20 transfer (not the same as transferring academic credit) must be completed within 30 days of the beginning of classes of the first semester at the new school.  An I-20 transfer is not complete until the ISO Advisor notifies the Student & Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) that you have enrolled in classes.

  13. Never work off-campus unless you have current authorization from the International Student Office and an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

    If you work even one day before or after your authorization, you may be in danger of being removed from the U.S. 

  14. On-campus work does not require specific authorization, but you must maintain your full-time student status to be authorized.  On-campus work is limited to 20 hours or less per week.

Remember, that you are responsible for maintaining and complying with your lawful status. We strongly encourage you to ask questions and keep yourself informed through the following websites:

May I work while attending school and how do I find a job?

Option 1: On-Campus Employment

F-1 students may engage in on-campus employment as long as it is limited to part-time (20 hours or less per week). Work is limited to employers who are located on campus and provide direct services to students.

WARNING: Although no specific authorization for on-campus employment is required, you must remember that on-campus employment is contingent on maintaining your full-time student status. For example, if you drop below full-time hours without authorization from our office, your permission to work on-campus is immediately canceled. If you continue to work you are violating U.S. law and may be legally removed from the U.S.

Option 2: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) – Internship

Curricular Practical Training is temporary employment authorization directly related to an F-1 student’s academic program where the work done counts towards course credit.  The work must be required for the degree program or earning credit for the degree program. Curricular Practical Training is only available to F-1 visa students who are and have been lawfully enrolled as a full-time student for at least nine consecutive months and are currently in status.  CPT can be authorized for part-time employment (20 hours a week or less) or full-time employment (more than 20 hours a week).  You may apply for CPT by obtaining an application from your International Student Advisor at CCH.

WARNING: Students who accumulate one year or more of full-time CPT are not eligible for Optional Practical Training (a separate program), which is usually authorized after the completion of a degree program.

Option 3: Optional Practical Training (OPT) - Pre-Completion or Post-Completion

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is available to F-1 students who are currently in legal status and have been for at least one academic year (nine consecutive months). 

OPT allows you to work up to 12 months anywhere in the U.S. in a field related to your major and does not require proof of employment. Only one 12-month period of time is granted during your entire academic career as an F-1 student in the U.S. 

  • Applications for OPT can be submitted 120 days before completion of your studies.  Since the application process may take up to 90 days and employment cannot begin until you have received an Employment Authorization Card, we recommend that you apply early. If you are applying for Post-Completion OPT make an appointment to see your ISO Advisor during at the start of your last quarter in attendance.
  • Whatever time period is authorized by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) cannot be changed or retrieved once the start date has taken effect, even if you do not use your OPT. 

What do I need to do in order to travel?

OBTAIN TRAVEL SIGNATURES from an International Student Advisor before leaving and re-entering the U.S. It is not necessary if you are returning home permanently. 

Basic requirements for an F-1 student to reenter the United States after traveling abroad on pleasure or personal business:

  • A SEVIS Form I-20, endorsed for travel and signed by your DSO (International Student Advisor at CCH)
  • You have been out of the United States for less than five months
  • A current passport valid for at least six months after the date of your travels
  • A valid, current visa
  • Financial information showing proof of necessary funds to cover tuition and living expenses

What if my F-1 student visa has expired? 

You can stay in the United States on an expired F-1 visa as long as you maintain your student status. However, if you are returning home or traveling to a country where automatic revalidation does not apply, you must have a valid visa to return to the United States.

Ensure that you have all the documentation you need for your visa application and allow sufficient time for processing a new visa. The documentation you may need for a new visa includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • A SEVIS Form I-20 endorsed for travel and signed by your DSO and your original Form I-20 (see your DSO before you travel)
  • Original evidence showing proof of necessary funds to cover tuition and living expenses
  • Evidence showing your intention to return to your home country upon program completion, including evidence of compelling social and economic ties to your home country
  • If you have applied for or had optional practical training (OPT) approved, bring a copy of your Form I-20 endorsed for OPT and your Employment Authorization Document (EAD), if one has been issued

The Department of State recommends that you apply for a visa in your home country. For more information about visa applications visit the Department of State website at

May I take a leave of absence from college?

The Five-Month Rule (Leave of absence from an academic program for less than five months):

Any student holding an F1 student visa who is considering a leave should must meet with a Columbia College Hollywood ISO Advisor prior to applying for the leave.

A student who has been on a leave of absence for less than 5 months may re-enter the U.S. with the same I-20 and is not required to pay the SEVIS fee. 

The following documents are required to re-enter:

  • I-20 with a current travel signature on page 3
  • Valid F-1 visa in your passport
  • Valid passport

Leave of absence from academic program for more than five months:

  • Student will be required to obtain a new I-20 with a new SEVIS number when the leave of absence exceeds five months.
  • Leave of absences lasting more than five months require that the current SEVIS record be terminated.
  • The current I-20 is no longer valid and will be retained for record keeping only.

Students who do not return to the college at the end of an approved leave of absence are considered to have withdrawn from the college. While on leave of absence, F-1 students may not remain in the U.S. It is a violation of status. The only exception to this rule is due to medical conditions which must be documented by a U.S. medical doctor.

How do I get a social security card?

Social Security numbers are generally assigned to people who are authorized to work in the United States. Social Security numbers are used to report your wages to the government.  Due to changes in federal regulations, you must have a valid offer of employment in order to be eligible for a US Social Security number.  Please refer to the employment opportunities above.

You do not need a Social Security number to open a bank account, apply for a California driver’s license, or complete an IRS tax form.

To apply for a social security card you must:

  • Inform the International Student Office of your request for a Social Security Card 
  • Have a valid offer of employment
  • Download and fill out an application at the following link: Application for a Social Security Card (SS-5)
  • Present the following documents in person to your local Social Security Office:
    • Valid passport
    • I-94 Card
    • I-20
    • A letter from the Columbia College Hollywood ISO Advisor verifying your employment eligibility

For more F-1 Student and Social Security information, visit the Social Security web-site at

For your nearest Social Security Office:

Toll-Free 1-800-772-1213
TTY 1-800-325-0778

How do I get a California driver’s license?

As an F-1 student, you must apply for a California driver’s license if you plan to drive a car.  Please note that a valid driver’s license from your home country is acceptable only if you are on a temporary visitor/tourist status. If you do not have a Social Security Number, you must present your legal presence documents (I-20 or DS-2019, passport & I-94) as well as a signature on the application form that you are not eligible for a Social Security Number. 

Be prepared to fill out a DL 44 form on location at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You will also be required to give a thumb print, have your picture taken, pass a vision test, and pass a written exam on rules and regulations of the road.  The California Driver’s Handbook is available in the following languages: Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Russian, Tagalog and Vietnamese.  Appointments are recommended online or by phone to avoid a lengthy wait.

Local DMV Office
14920 Vanowen Street
Van Nuys, CA
(800) 777-0133