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
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.
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)].
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.
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 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 (GA_CISS@bentley.edu) can also help you with questions about how academic policies or violations may affect your visa status.
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 GA_CISS@bentley.edu for further information about the process. Do not drop below full time without pre-authorization from the CISS.
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.
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 GA_CISS@bentley.edu for assistance.
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:
Schedule an appointment with Academic Services to confirm your academic plan.
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 GA_CISS@bentley.edu . 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.
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 GA_CISS@bentley.edu.
The following documents are required to enter the US in F-1/ J-1 status while studying at Bentley:
- Passport, valid for at least 6 months into the future
- Valid F-1/J-1 visa*
- Most recent I-20/DS2019, signed for travel on page 2 within the last 12 months
*Citizens of Canada or the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda do not need an F-1 visa stamp; admission is granted based on the student’s valid I-20.
Before you step away from the immigration official at the port-of-entry:
- Check the entry stamp in your passport — be sure that the officer has written F1/DS in the stamp. This is the official record of your entry into the US; this information is also recorded in the US Customs and Border Protection database as your I-94 information. You can check your I-94 information online here.
- Make sure that your I-20/DS2019 and passport have been returned to you. A paper I-94 card may be issued if you enter the US via a land border.
If, when presenting yourself at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) desk, the officer is not able to verify your immigration status or if you do not have all of the requisite 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 significant delays in your travel. 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). It may be helpful to write down the phone number of the CISS (781) 891-2829 and the names of several CISS advisors to provide to the officer in case requested. They may also contact Bentley Police is (781) 891-2201, who will notify the CISS that an immigration officer is requesting further information.
If you have forgotten to bring your I-20 or if it has not been signed for travel within the past year, 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 an I-515A, you must make an appointment to meet with a CISS advisor immediately. If you receive an I-515A and fail to obtain a new I-20 and submit it to the U.S. government, it could result in the termination of your immigration status.
Please also check our main page for information about COVID-19 related travel and testing requirements.
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 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.
Enrollment Verification Letter (to confirm your student status)
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
Documents that support the intent to return home include evidence of a job, property, business ownership, immediate family members who remain back home, or any strong ties to their home country. Copies of the return airline ticket or reservation will also be helpful.
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.
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.
Leave of Absence Procedure
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 GA_CISS@bentley.edu 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 GA_CISS@bentley.edu:
- 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.
If you decide to transfer to another SEVP-certified school either during your studies or after completion of studies, you will need to contact the CISS to arrange for a transfer of your SEVIS record. You should provide the CISS with your admissions letter from your new school, as well as a SEVIS transfer form from your new school (if applicable). Your new program must begin within five months, and all studies and Bentley-sponsored work authorization must end upon transfer release. Please contact GA_CISS@bentley.edu for further instructions on how to transfer your SEVIS record to another institution.
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
550 Arsenal Street
(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
Take the completed application and the following documents to the RMV:
- 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.
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 Edmunds.com. 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