Information for International Student coming to Theatre of Arts


To ease the transition of attending schools in a new country, Theatre of Arts’ International Student Advisor (ISA) is here to help you along the way. The ISA is also the school’s Designated School Official (DSO) and will be the person to issue and update the Form I-20. Your ISA will help you with any questions you have during the student visa process, help you find academic assistance, and confidential counseling services.  Theatre of Arts will also have an orientation for the international students, to introduce the school and answer any questions that you may have.


Checklist for new U.S. (F-1 visa) international students


Upon acceptance to Theatre of Arts, as a new international student you are required to complete a number if important steps, including:


  • After receiving your Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility)
  • Review the personal and program information on page one of your I-20 to ensure accuracy.
  • Email your advisor to confirm receipt of your I-20. Report any necessary changes to your advisor immediately to obtain a corrected form.
  • Complete your I-20 by printing your name, and signing and dating the form on the bottom of page 1.
  • Read the rules and regulations on page two of your I-20 carefully, as you are responsible for understanding the regulations you agree to when signing the I-20 and entering the U.S. as an F-1 student.


  • Provide Payment for Your SEVIS I-901 Fee within 30 Days of Obtaining the I-20
  • Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee by mail or online. Refer to the SEVIS I-90 fee instruction, located in the I-20 package.
  • Find your SEVIS ID number on page one in the upper right-hand corner of your I-20.


  • Apply for the F-1 Student Visa
  • Contact the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in your home country for information on how to apply for an F-1 student visa. Allow sufficient time to receive your visa, as it could take more than a month to process.  Policies vary according to each embassy/ consulate, as some will accept your visa application at anytime, while others require you to schedule an appointment in advance.
  • Apply for an F-1 student visa if you are from a country that is participating in the visa waiver program. DO NOT try to enter the U.S. under the Visa Waiver or existing visa.
  • Email your advisor when you have received your F-1 Student Visa.


  • Make Your Travel Arrangements
  • Book you flight to the airport closest to our campus (LAX), upon receipt of your F-1 Student Visa. You MAY NOT enter the U.S. more than 30 days before the start date of your program listed on the I-20.


  • Notify your ISA of Your Arrival
  • Send your advisor an email confirming the date and time of your arrival.
  • Your ISA will provide you with additional information about checking in and registering with the school.
Immigration Information


You are responsible for following the guidelines set by your F-1 immigration status. Immigration rules and regulations change frequently, so it’s important that students stay in touch with their ISAs and review U.S. government websites regularly.


SEVIS, Form I-20, and the F-1 Student Visa


The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is the interface through which schools communicate with the Department of Homeland Security information relating to prospective and current international students.  Upon receipt of your application and supporting documents, the ISA will create a SEVIS record for you.  Once you have been admitted and met all other qualifications, the ISA will use SEVIS to prepare and generate a Form I-20, the Certificate of Eligibility.  The I-20 evidences your eligibility to be granted F-1 Student Visa Status and must be used to apply for your visa.


The I-20 evidences that you have met both the school’s and the government’s qualifications to be enrolled in the school and issued an F-1 Student Visa.  However, discretion to issue the visa always lies with the Embassy or Consulate.   Once you have received your I-20, you must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee and receive proof of payment before arranging for your appointment for a visa interview.  If you have applied to multiple schools and received more than one I-20, be sure to use the SEVIS ID number from the school you will attend when paying the I-901 fee.  Payment for the SEVIS I-901 may be submitted online at Refer to the FAQ on the SEVIS I-901 fee (, if you wish to pay through another method.


Once you have pad the I-901 fee, you may proceed to make your appointment for a visa interview at the Embassy or Consulate closest to you.  You can locate the closest consular section by  At the Embassy or Consulate, you will typically be required to present an I-20, a current passport (at least 6 months after your proposed date of entry into the United States, one 2 x 2 photograph along with a completed application set for a nonimmigrant visa (DS-156, DS-158 and DS-157 if you are a male applicant age between 16 to 45 years old), proof of sufficient funds for the duration of planned study, and proof of SEVIS I-901 fee payment.  Each office has its own variations on these requirements, so be sure to carefully review their website for all requirements.


Once your application has been approved, you will be issued an F-1 Student Visa in your passport.  This document evidences your eligibility to be admitted to the United States and must be presented along with your I-20 at the Port of Entry into the United States.  Once you have been admitted to the United States, you will be issued a Form I-94 Card (arrival/departure record) that will indicate you have been admitted in F-1 status for “D/S”, or the duration of stay.  At this point, you will be in F-1 status and subject to all the requirements and regulations of that status.


Maintaining Your F-1 Student Visa Status


There are many federal regulations that students in F-1 status must follow to maintain valid F-1 visa status. In addition to visiting the websites listed below, keeping in regular contact with your ISA and informing him or her of any changes is the best way to ensure you maintain your F-1 Student Visa Status.  Carefully review these materials by visiting  Some of the most important rules to follow are discussed below.


Upon Arrival


  • Enter the United States no more than 30 days before your program of study begins.
  • Immediately contact your International Student Advisor (ISA) when you enter the United States. When you arrive at school, you need to contact your ISA again, no later than the program start date listed on your Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.
  •   Attend and pass all your classes. If school is too difficult, speak with your ISA immediately.
  •  If you believe that you will be unable to complete your program by the end date listed on your  Form I-20,  talk with your ISA about requesting a possible program extension.
  •  You must take a full course of study each term; if you cannot study full-time, contact your ISA immediately.
  • Do not drop a class without speaking first with your ISA.


Do not work without authorization. An F or M student may work only when authorized by the DSO to do so.


If you want to work in the United States, talk with your ISA about your options. Your ISA may authorize certain work; other employment may require your ISA’s recommendation and authorization from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


The U.S. government takes working illegally very seriously.

If your ISA knows you are working without permission, your ISA must report it through SEVIS and your record can be terminated. That means that you will have to leave the United States immediately, and you may not be allowed to return.  Note that unauthorized employment precludes an F-1 visa holder from reinstatement if he or she otherwise falls out of status.



OPT must relate to your major or course of study, and although you can apply for 12 months of OPT at each education level, you must have your EAD card before you begin working.

In order to obtain your EAD, your DSO needs to provide you with a new Form I-20 indicating your DSO’s recommendation for employment, and you must submit a Form I-765 to USCIS. Your EAD card will come from USCIS.


Remember, in all cases, if you choose to work without authorization, you will be forced to leave the United States immediately. You may not be able to re-enter the United States at a later date.



Information for International Student coming to Theatre of Arts


To ease the transition of attending schools in a new country, Theatre of Arts’ International Student Advisor (ISA) is here to help you along the way. The ISA is also the school’s Designated School Official (DSO) and will be the person to issue and update the Form I-20. Your ISA will help you with any questions you have during the student visa process, help you find academic assistance, and confidential counseling services.  Theatre of Arts will also have an orientation for the international students, to introduce the school and answer any questions that you may have.

Upon Program Completion


Take action to maintain legal status after completing your program of study.

Once you complete your program of study and any authorized period of practical training, you may wish to learn about doing one of the following:

  •  Transfer to another school
  • Change your education level (e.g. bachelor’s to master’s)
  • Apply to change status to another visa status (e.g. H-1B-temporary worker; O-extraordinary ability in science, art or business; P-athlete)


You have 60 days after completion of your program (the program end date on your Form I-20) to transfer to another school, change your education level, or apply to change to another status, or leave the United States.

Talk with your ISA first!


Your ISA should be the first person you talk with if you have any questions regarding the legal requirements of your stay in the United States.

Your ISA can assist in answering your questions or help you find someone who can help.


Talk with your ISA if you are planning to do any of the following:


  • Change your, program, or degree level
  • Change your education level
  • Transfer to a new school or take a leave of absence
  • Take a break from school
  • Travel outside the United States
  • Move to a new address
  • Request a program extension



Your spouse and/or minor child (unmarried and under 21 years old) are your dependents and may legally accompany you to the United States or join you in the United States while you study. They must apply for either an F-2 visa if you have an F-1 visa or an M-2 visa if you have an M-1 visa.

Make sure that your International Student Advisor (ISA) knows that you would like to bring your dependents with you. When you inform the ISA that your dependents will be accompanying you to the United States, the ISA will then issue a Form I-20 for each of your dependents that they can use to apply for their respective visas.

Many schools also have a separate form you need to fill out in order to obtain a Form I-20 for your dependents. Before you apply for an F-2 or M-2 visa for your spouse or child, you should understand the visa limitations on your dependents.


F-2 and M-2 dependents

  •  Are in legal immigration status as long as you maintain status, throughout your program of study and any authorized period of OPT after completion
  • May depart and re-enter the United States with proper documentation
  • May not work
  • Are not eligible for Social Security numbers (SSNs)
  •  May study full-time in a primary or secondary school, if under the age of 21
  • May not earn or work toward a degree or certification, if over the age of 21; F-2 spouses may take recreational or a vocational courses, e.g., wine appreciation.
  • May file for a change of status (via Form I-539, “Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status”) to F-1 or M-1 status if the adult dependent wants to study full-time.
  • Should obtain an updated Form I-20 from the DSO if any information about you changes


Social Security Number
Social Security Number (SSN)
The primary purpose of a SSN is to identify participants in the federal government’s social security program, affording disability and retirement benefits to workers and their families.  Social security numbers are often required to obtain other benefits, such as a driver’s license, bank accounts, credit cards, etc.
In order for an F-1 student to be eligible for a SSN, one of the following must be applicable:
  • A signed I-20 for Curricular Practical Training is in the possession of the student.
  • The USCIS has issued the student an Employment Authorization Document/EAD.
  • The student has a job offer or is currently employed under on-campus employment authorization


Applying for a SSN


Why do I need a Social Security Number?

In order to work in the United States, every eligible F and M student needs a Social Security Number (SSN). If you do not know if you are eligible to work, please speak with your ISA.


Am I able to apply for an SSN?

F and M students who have authorization to work in the United States may apply for an SSN. In addition, any F or M student who wishes to apply for a driver’s license (in a state requiring an SSN before getting a license) may apply for an SSN.

Many states require that you or your dependent have an SSN or have already applied for one before you apply for a driver’s license. If you or your dependents are not eligible to work, but want to apply for a driver’s license, you must first apply for an SSN at the local Social Security office and receive a Form SSA-L676, “Refusal to Process SSN Application.”


Talk with your ISA about working in the United States

Your ISA will share important information regarding the regulations and requirements for F and M students. This step is very important!


Ensure you are in Active status in SEVIS

Your SEVIS record must be in Active status for at least two days before applying for an SSN. If you have a record in any other status, you will not have success in applying for an SSN.


Wait 10 days after arriving in the United States before applying for an SSN

Wait at least 10 calendar days from your date of entry into the United States to apply for an SSN. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program to verify your immigration status information against records contained in the Department of Homeland Security databases, including those housed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Since the verification relies on the original data source, you must allow time for your arrival information to update in all government systems.

Visit your local Social Security Administration (SSA) Office.

You can file your application for an SSN card in person at any Social Security Administration office. Be prepared to provide your original documents to prove your age, identity and, work-authorized immigration status. All evidence of immigration status and work authorization must be unexpired.
Health Insurance Coverage
Requirements for Health Insurance Coverage
While F and M students and their dependants are not required to have U.S. medical or travel insurance in order to qualify for a visa, some schools may require students to have medical insurance.  Please check with your ISA before applying for your F-1 visa to determine whether insurance is required.  Assurance that a student would be able to afford any health care expenses in the United States could certainly help a student overcome public charge and unauthorized employment concerns.  Health care costs in the United States can be very expensive.  For this reason, we strongly recommend that all international students carry health insurance while in the U.S., regardless of whether it is minimally required by the school.