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Current International Students and Scholars

To remain lawfully in the United States during your studies, you must adhere to the regulations that govern F-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors and scholars; see guidelines below. Although we strive to provide the most up-to-date information, the Department of Homeland Security considers it your responsibility to ensure that you do not do anything that violates the terms of your status. The United States government will not accept ignorance of the law for any violation.

General F-1 Requirements

Full Course of Study

Federal regulations require you to register for and complete a full course of study each fall and spring semester at Bentley. Dropping below full-time without prior authorization by CISS is a violation of your F-1 status. A full-time undergraduate student must take at least 12 credits each semester. A full-time graduate student must take at least nine credits each semester. If you are in your final semester, you may be permitted to take less than a full-time course load, depending on the number of classes you have left to complete degree requirements.

Hybrid and Online Course Policy

Undergraduate Students:

While temporary changes were made to course modalities during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bentley University has announced that all undergraduate courses will be taught in-person beginning fall 2022. Undergraduate courses will not be available in a hybrid modality. Accordingly, all international undergraduate students will be expected to attend in-person classes on Bentley's campus. When and if offered, international undergraduate students can count only one 100% online /hybrid course towards their full course of study requirement [8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G)].

Graduate Students:

While temporary changes were made to course modalities and online study requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bentley University has resumed normal operations. While courses will continue to be offered in a hybrid format, all international graduate students will be expected to attend most classes in-person. This means that you can take your course load fully in-person OR, if you choose to do so, only one of your courses (3 credits) towards your full time requirement may be taken fully online [8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G)].

You must attend the majority of your class sessions for your remaining courses in-person. We recommend that students track their in-person attendance in hybrid courses. Students can do so by asking their professors to sign an Attendance Verification Form.


Internships/CPT and Online Study Policy

For students enrolled in internships with Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization, the accompanying internship course can be counted as an “in-person” course provided that the place of employment is within 100 miles of Bentley University (otherwise, the course will count as a distance education course and will satisfy the one course per semester limit for F-1 students). Internships taken during a student’s last semester must be accompanied by other required “in person” course work. In other words, an internship/CPT opportunity at Bentley can never be the only course taken in a final semester. For more information about CPT, please see the "Employment" tab at the top of this website.

Attendance and Course Registration Policies

Attendance policies are determined by Academic Services. Please see the Academic Catalog for detailed information on attendance policies at Bentley. Attendance policy violations or failure to register in courses on time may have serious consequences for your F-1 visa status.  If you have any questions about the attendance policy, course registration timeline, or other questions, contact Academic Services. The Center for International Students & Scholars ( can also help you with questions about how academic policies or violations may affect your visa status.

Dropping Below Full Time

International students are required to maintain a full course load (12 credits for undergraduate students and 9 credits for graduate students) during the academic year in order to comply with visa-related regulations. There are a few exceptions to this regulatory requirement.

  • Final Semester: If you are in your final semester and taking all of your final courses needed to graduate, you are automatically eligible to take only the classes needed, even if you will be under the 12 or 9 credit requirement as mentioned above. However, you must make sure your program end date listed on page 1 of your form I-20 reflects that it is your final semester so that the CISS is aware that you are automatically authorized. If you need to make a change to your I-20 end date to reflect this, see the below section on Graduating Late/Early.
  • Pre-Authorized Reduced Course Loads (RCLs) for Academic or Medical Reasons: In rare circumstances, students who are not in their final semester are authorized to drop below full time.  To reduce your course load below full-time status, you must request authorization in advance from our office. An RCL can only be authorized on a semester basis.  You must resume a full course of study in the semester immediately following your permitted period of reduced course load. RCLs may be issued for the following reasons: Illness or medical condition; Initial difficulty with the English language or reading requirements; Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods; Improper course-level placement; or temporary Special Student Relief for nationals of certain countries. Please contact for further information about the process. Do not drop below full time without pre-authorization from the CISS.
Incomplete Courses

You must complete all work and receive a final grade for any incomplete courses by the end of your final semester of study. If your graduation/degree completion date changes for any reason, you must contact the CISS to amend your I-20 or DS-2019 form to reflect this change. Please refer to the below section on Graduating Late/Early.

Grace Periods

Visa-specific regulations allow for F-1 students to remain in the U.S. for as long as 60 days following completion of your program/ I-20 end date. J-1 students, in contrast, have a 30 day grace period. You can use this grace period to make travel plans to depart the U.S., pack your items and take care of final items prior to departure, or to travel within the U.S. You are not permitted to leave the U.S. and re-enter the country in F-1/J-1 status during your grace period.

If you have arranged for a transfer of your F-1/J-1 record, have applied for OPT, or applied for a change of status, you are not subject to the grace period limit, and are eligible to remain in the U.S. pending transfer or your application result.

The grace period is not available to students who do not complete their program of study due to suspension or withdrawal. Please contact for assistance.

Graduating Late / Early

If you are completing degree requirements before or after the program end date listed on page 1 of your form I-20, please follow the below steps to request a modification to your program end date. There are several steps that you must complete before using the online form:

Step 1:

Schedule an appointment with Academic Services to confirm your academic plan.

Step 2:

If you need your I-20 end date EXTENDED past the date currently listed:

• Have your Academic Advisor fill out the Academic Services Certification Form. Keep a copy of this form to upload in Step 3.

• Obtain proof of extended financial ability (bank statement/ certification). If you are extending your program for a semester, obtain a bank statement or certification and, if necessary, a sponsor support document showing ability to pay for a semester of tuition and living expenses. If you are extending your program for a year (or more), please provide bank statements and, if necessary, a sponsor support document showing ability to pay for an academic year (two semesters) of tuition and living expenses. If you have questions about dollar amounts and adequate proof of funding, please contact . Keep copies of these documents to upload in Step 3.

If you will be graduating before your current I-20 program end date, and need your I-20 SHORTENED:

Apply for Program Completion in Workday to notify Bentley’s Registrar of your plans.

Step 3:

Once you have completed steps 1 and 2, fill out this web form to request an I-20 modification from CISS

Employment Authorization

On-Campus Employment: F-1 & J-1 students may work up to 20 hours per week on campus while school is in session, and full time during major school breaks.

Off-Campus Employment: Off-campus employment during or after studies requires pre-authorization in the form of Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 students, and Academic Training (AT) for J-1 students. There are specific rules regarding when and how you can apply for these types of authorizations. The CISS offers information sessions on these types of work authorizations throughout the academic year. Please see the "Employment" tab at the top of this page for recordings of information sessions, and detailed information about eligibility and processes.

Working off-campus without prior authorization is a violation of your immigration status and could result in termination of your visa status, bars against re-entering the U.S., and serious consequences for future visa applications.

J-1 Exchange Students and Visiting Scholars

The primary purpose of the J-1 visa is an exchange relationship between the visitors' home country and the United States. The Form DS-2019 is the principal document that verifies your legal status within the United States. The form contains a machine-readable section that will be used for visa applications at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad and while entering or exiting the United States.

J-1 Exchange Visitors at Bentley include exchange students (studying for a semester or academic year based on an exchange agreement between Bentley and your home university), degree-seeking students (studying in the U.S. for the entirety of their degree), and J-1 scholars (including short and long-term research scholars and post-doctoral fellows).

The J-1 visa differs from the F-1 student visa with regard to its purpose and eligibility criteria. If you have questions about status maintenance, J-1 work authorization, health insurance requirements, departmental sponsorship for incoming scholars, or other visa-related questions, please contact 


Travel Requirements

If you plan to travel outside of the U.S. while you are a student at Bentley University and re-enter the U.S. in student status, you will need to present the following documents to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer:

  1. Passport (valid for at least 6 months into the future)
  2. Valid F-1/J-1 visa*    
  3. Most recent Form I-20/DS2019 (with a valid travel signature)

*Citizens of Canada or the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda do not need an F-1/J-1 visa to enter the U.S.  Admission to the U.S. in valid status is granted at the port of entry based on the student’s valid immigration document.

If you forgot to bring your Form I-20/DS-2019 or you do not have a valid travel signature, you may be issued a Form I-515A "Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor" which allows temporary admission to the U.S. for up to 30 days.  If you receive a Form I-515A, you must make an appointment to meet with a CISS Advisor immediately upon your arrival. If you receive a Form I-515A and fail to obtain a new Form I-20/DS-2019 and submit it to the U.S. government, it could result in the termination of your immigration status. 

If the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer is not able to verify your immigration status or if you do not have all of the required immigration documents, you may be sent to "secondary inspection."  You will be directed to a room where you will need to wait to speak with a CBP officer who will probe more deeply in to your case.  

In some cases, this may cause delays in your travel plans.  If you are delayed, remain calm, do not panic, and answer any questions to the best of your ability. Remember to be respectful when speaking to the officer(s). Sometimes, the officer will request to speak with a Designated School Official/DSO (a CISS staff member). They may also contact Bentley Police is (781) 891-2201, who will notify the CISS that an immigration officer is requesting further information.

Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record

Form I-94 is the Arrival/Departure Record created by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) upon a nonimmigrant visitor's entry to the U.S. It is important to check your Form I-94 after you enter the U.S. to ensure that you have entered the U.S. in the correct immigration status. You can check your I-94 information online here.

Travel Signatures

If you plan to travel outside of the U.S. and re-enter in F-1 or J-1 student status, you must have a valid travel signature on  your Form I-20/Form DS-2019. The travel signature is located on page 2 of the Form I-20 and in the lower left corner of the Form DS-2019.

  • For F-1 current students, each travel signature is valid for 12 months
  • For F-1 students on OPT/STEM OPT, each travel signature is valid for 6 months
  • For J-1 students, each travel signature is valid for the time period noted on the form.

There are two ways that you can obtain a travel signature:

  • In-Person at CISS: You can bring your most recent Form I-20 printed out and signed to CISS to request a travel signature.  CISS is located in the Student Center Suite 310, and is open Monday - Friday, 8:30am - 4:30pm. During the summer months CISS is open Monday - Thursday, 8:00am - 5:30pm. 
  • Submit a Request Form: If you are unable to come to campus, we can issue you a new form with a travel signature.  You can do this by submitting a Request for New Form I-20/DS-2019 .  A new form with a travel signature will be prepared and sent to you by email.  Once you receive the new form you must review it, print it out and sign it.  Remember top keep copies of all of your previous forms  and to use your most recent form for travel and any applications. 

If you need a travel signature we recommend that you come to CISS for a signature or request a new form with a travel signature at least 1-2 weeks prior to your travel date.  Please keep in mind that CISS is closed during major holiday breaks. 

If You Forgot to Get Your Form Signed: If your forgot to get your form signed, or if your travel plans do not allow enough time for you to receive a travel signature from CISS before you leave the U.S. , you can submit a request form to receive a new form with a travel signature electronically. 

If you try to re-enter the U.S. without a valid travel signature, a Customs and Border Protection officer at the Port of Entry (airport or land border) may issue you a Form I-515A. You may also proactively request this form. This form allows you temporary admission to the U.S. for 30 days, during which time you must send updated documentation to USCIS to extend your status. On rare occasions, you may be denied entry to the U.S. While this is not common, it is important that you understand this risk.

Immigration-Related Emergencies:  There may be rare circumstances when you need immediate immigration assistance. These circumstances may include loss of your passport or other important immigration documents, a visit by a government official at home or on campus, detention at a U.S. port of entry, or threat of deportation or removal. 

If you are detained, you should refrain from signing any documents and request to call Bentley University. Bentley’s campus police is open 24 hours per day, seven days per week, year-round, and will contact a CISS Advisor if any immigration-related emergencies are reported.

Michael A. Callahan Police Station
Emergency Line: 781.891.3131
Business Phone: 781.891.2201

Please note that forgetting to have your form signed for travel is not considered an immigration emergency. 

Duration of Status & Visa Renewal

F-1 & J-1 students are admitted to the U.S. for "duration of status." This means that you are permitted to remain in the U.S. in your current status as long as you hold a valid I-20 or DS-2019, and are otherwise following the regulations and meeting the requirements of your program.

If you maintain F-1/J-1 student status and have a valid I-20 or DS-2019, you may remain in the United States after your F-1/J-1 visa has expired. However, if you are returning home or traveling to a country where automatic visa re-validation does not occur (i.e. Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island) you must renew your visa in order to re-enter the United States. Visit the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website to learn more about how to apply for a visa. The process for applying for visa renewal is similar to when your first obtained your visa. An interview may or may not be required depending on your consular post. Requirements for visa renewal are consulate-specific, but generally you will need to fill out a DS-160 application form, provide accompanying documentation and fees, and present them to the consular post for review. We recommend obtaining an enrollment verification or status letter from the Registrar's office to prove your continued enrollment, an updated I-20 or DS-2019 with a travel signature from the CISS, as well as updated financial documents to prove ability to continue to pay tuition and living expenses.

Family and Friends Visiting in the U.S.

Family members and friends who are planning to visit you in the U.S. for a period of less than 6 months should apply for a tourist visa (B1/B2 visa). Applicants must apply for a B-1/B-2 visa from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. For more information on how to apply for a visa, please visit the U.S. Department of State website.

Bentley University cannot assist with the tourist visa process, but below are some helpful documents that you can provide to your loved one as they prepare to apply for the visa to come visit you.

To request an Enrollment Verification, visit the Registrar's website.

Bank Statement/Other Documentation

Visa applicants may be asked to provide proof of sufficient funds to support themselves while visiting the U.S. This could be a letter verifying employment or a bank statement. You may also need to submit Form I-134 Affidavit of Support if you will be funding your relative. 

Proof of Intent to Return Home 

Support Letter (from you)

Invitation letters are not required for tourist visas. However, you may choose to write a statement in support of your friend or family member's plan to visit you. Your letter may specify: the duration of the visitor's planned stay in the United States and the purpose of the visit (for example, if the visa applicant is traveling to the U.S. to attend your commencement ceremonies). Please note that the CISS does not issue invitation letters, and according to guidance from the Department of State, invitation letters are not necessary for issuing visitor visas. If you choose to provide one anyway, you may download the CISS Invitation Letter template for help.

Commencement Information (for graduating students)

Please visit Bentley's commencement website for further information about dates and details.


Scam Advisory

Occasionally, international students are targeted by people who pretend to be government officials (Internal Revenue Service, ICE, police officers) or who ask for bank or personal details in order to obtain money or personally-identifying information. “Scammers” may even have the technology to make their Caller ID or email address appear legitimate on your computer or cellular device. Please note that the government will never call you or email you asking for fees, Social Security Numbers, or other information from you. It is best to not answer any calls that are not familiar to you. If you do answer and suspect it might be a scam, hang up immediately.

Please see below for a detailed scam advisory and resources from the CISS. 

Scam Advisory

Leave of Absence

Leaves of Absence (taking time away from your studies) have implications for your visa status, require you to leave the U.S., and may re-start the one year eligibility requirement for F-1 work authorization.  Please see here for further information about taking or returning from a Leave of Absence. You should also email for information about how your leave will affect your visa status.

International students returning from Leaves of Absence may only be readmitted at the start of a fall or spring semester. Prior to the semester you decide to resume studies at Bentley, you will need to be officially readmitted by following the above-linked process.

Once you have received notice that you been officially approved to be readmitted, you will need to send to

  • Copies of updated sponsor letters and/or bank statements showing ability to pay for the re-admit year
  • A copy of your passport biographical page
  • Information about your SEVIS release date (only if studying at another U.S. institution during your leave from Bentley).

CISS will then create a new I-20/DS-2019 for you, which you may need to use to obtain a new F-1 or J-1 visa, depending on your particular circumstances.

Transferring from Bentley University

If you are an international student in F-1 status and have been accepted to another U.S. school, you may be eligible to transfer your Student and Exchange Visitor Immigration System (SEVIS) record to the new school. Once your SEVIS record has been released from Bentley University the new school will be able to create a new Form I-20 for you. 

SEVIS Record Transfer Eligibility
To be eligible for a SEVIS record transfer you must:

  • Be maintaining status as:
    • An actively enrolled student at Bentley
    • A student on OPT/STEM OPT
    • A student within your 60-day grace period post-graduation or on OPT/STEM OPT
  • Be otherwise maintaining status by adhering to the rules and regulations of your F-1 status.
  • Be formally admitted to a new degree program at a SEVP-certified school that begins within 5 months of the end date listed on your Bentley Form I-20 or, in the case of OPT/STEM OPT, the date of your transfer.

If you have not yet graduated from Bentley and are taking a leave of absence or finishing your degree at another school, you must also complete a Leave of Absence/Withdrawal form to notify the university of your plans. 

You will not be eligible for a SEVIS record transfer if:

  • Your new program does not have a program start date within 5 months of your previous program end date or, in the case of OPT/STEM OPT, your transfer release date.
  • At the time of your new program start, you will have spent more than 5 months outside of the U.S.*
  • You are on OPT/STEM OPT but have accumulated 90 days (+60 for STEM OPT) of unemployment.
    *Over five months spent outside of the U.S. (non-study abroad) invalidates your Form I-20 and requires that you obtain a new Form I-20 and F-1 visa for re-entry to the U.S.

SEVIS Record Transfer Procedures
To request a transfer of your SEVIS record you must complete a “SEVIS Record Transfer Form.” You will need to provide the following information and documents:

  • A copy of your official acceptance letter from your new school
  • The SEVIS school code for your new school
  • An exact SEVIS record release date (at least 5 days from the date that you submit the form)
  • A SEVIS transfer validation form from the new school (if applicable)

Choosing Your SEVIS Record Release Date
In choosing your SEVIS record release date you should consider:

  • Travel Plans: If you plan to travel after your SEVIS record release date, you must have the new Form I-20 from your new school to re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status. Your Bentley Form I-20 will no longer be valid.
  • Work Authorization: If you have been authorized for employment while at Bentley, your employment authorization will end on your transfer release date. Any Curricular (CPT), Optional Practical Training (OPT), or STEM OPT granted while at Bentley will be canceled.
  • Grace Periods: If you are in your 60-day grace period following graduation or completion of OPT/STEM OPT, your SEVIS record release date must be within the 60-day period. If you are withdrawing or taking a leave of absence from Bentley, you must have your SEVIS record released immediately (within a maximum of 15 days). Failure to transfer your SEVIS record in a timely manner may result in violating your F-1 status and/or ineligibility to transfer.

Please note that once your transfer release date has passed Bentley CISS will no longer have access to your SEVIS record and your Bentley Form I-20 will be deactivated. If you have questions about your SEVIS record or need to be issued a new I-20, you will need to contact the school that has received your transferred SEVIS record.

Applying for a Drivers License and Buying a Car

You may be permitted to use your international driver’s license in the US. Please reference the Drivers Manual of the Massachusetts RMV for specific information about your ability to use your license here in Massachusetts. Alternately, you may wish to consider obtaining a Massachusetts (MA) Driver’s License to drive in the state. You must have an I-20 or DS-2019 with a minimum duration of 12 months in order to apply for a driver's license.

You can apply online or find the application on the MassDOT RMV website. You may also visit the Registry of Motorvehicles (RMV) in-person:

Registry of Motor Vehicles – Watertown, MA
Watertown Mall        
550 Arsenal Street
Watertown, MA        
(857) 368-8000 or (800) 858-3926   

If you do not have a Social Security Number you must obtain a "Denial Letter". A "Denial Letter" can be obtained by visiting any Social Security Office with your passport, I-94 card and I-20 (or DS-2019) and submitting an application. A representative should issue your "Denial Letter" immediately. You must apply for a driver's license within 10 days of receiving this letter. The closest Social Security Office is located at:

135 Beaver Street, Suite 120
Waltham, Massachusetts 02452
(800) 772-1213

Take the completed application and the following documents to the RMV:

  • Passport
  • I-20 or DS-2019
  • I-94 Arrival Departure document (you can print it from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website). 
  • Social Security card or denial letter
  • Proof of Residence Address (e.g., utility bill or bank statement received in the mail with your address printed on it). If you live on campus the Residence Life Office can issue you a letter stating your address.

Document Checklist

RMV Tips for Success

The purchase and maintenance of a car in Massachusetts can be quite expensive. In addition to the cost of the car, you are required to pay insurance, as well as sales and excise taxes. Used cars are sold through dealers and privately through the classified section of newspapers. One great online source for car reviews and average prices is We recommend that you have used cars examined by a mechanic before you buy it, and ensure that you receive a certificate of ownership along with the bill of sale. A good way to decrease the price of insurance is to bring a letter of recommendation from your insurance back home. There are some insurance companies that will even give you a discount if you provide them with a transcript of good grades. 

Available parking can also be scarce and/or expensive, depending on where you live. In order to be able to park your car at Bentley, you will need parking sticker from University Police. For more information, call the Bentley Card Office (781) 781-2292. 

Filing Taxes in the U.S.

Each year, U.S. citizens and non-citizens alike are required to file taxes, generally due April 15th for the previous tax year. While the CISS does not give tax advice nor aid in tax preparation, we do offer resources each year, including access codes to tax preparation software, to help you prepare to file.

Refer to this general information and commons questions about filing taxes as an international student: Tax Information for International Students