Things You Need to Know
Use these links to jump to a specific topic.
In order to apply for a Pennsylvania Driver's license or State ID, you must:
- Have an active SEVIS account (you can check this on the iStart home page).
- Your SEVIS record is active once you have successfully completed Mandatory Immigration Check-In and continue to maintain your F-1 status.
In order to return to the United States from traveling overseas, you MUST have a valid travel signature on your I-20. Travel signatures are valid for 1 year from the time that your I-20 is signed, as long as your visa status is still active.
Follow these steps to receive a travel signature on your I-20:
- Complete the eForm via iStart called “Travel Signature.”
- When you submit the form, it will be reviewed in 2-3 business days. You will then receive a follow-up (more information or a correction is needed), approval, or denial email. YOU MUST BE CHECKING YOUR PSU EMAIL!
- You must be enrolled full-time for the current semester (unless you have prior approval from ISSA to drop below) and have no registration holds on your LionPath account.
- You also must have a Home (home country) and Local (Erie) address, and phone numbers including your Mobile (U.S.) and Home (# in your home country) in Account Management.
- If approved, you must show or print that email and bring this with your I-20 and photo ID to the International Student Services office in Reed Union Building to be signed by your Designated School Official (DSO).
It is your responsibility to always keep your permanent address (in your home country) and your local address (in the U.S.) current at all times! You can change your address through Account Management. Also, remember to change your local address with any companies that might send you mail (health insurance, magazines, bills, etc.) and change your address on your Driver's License. We also encourage you to select paperless billing options whenever possible for things like car insurance and bank statements so that when you move or leave for the summer, you don't miss important mailings.
Here is a website that helps to explain common insurance terms, which can be quite confusing at first.
The United Healthcare insurance policy is mandatory for international students who are located inside the U.S. This year's spring/summer cost is $1,584. The cost for the health insurance will be added automatically to your semester bill* and can be paid together with your tuition, fees, and housing. You will enroll in the health insurance through your LionPATH account after enrolling in classes. To see more information about the health insurance requirement, please visit the University Health Services website.
Here is a link to the details about the United Healthcare policy, including the annual deductible, in-network and out of network coverage, and other important information. There have been some changes made to the policy and coverage during this COVID-19 pandemic, so please review the changes here.
To determine whether you should visit a primary care doctor (such as our on-campus health facility) or an Urgent Care facility or Emergency Room, you can visit this website to look at the conditions that each kind of facility can treat. You should print your health insurance card out and keep it in your wallet at all times in case of an emergency or to present at a doctor's appointment.
If students have an approved waiver, they will not be billed. If students do not submit a waiver by the established semester deadline, they will be automatically enrolled in Penn State SHIP and will be responsible for the premium charge on their student account. Do not purchase an alternate policy until you know that the policy meets ALL of the waiver standards completely. Contact the company that you are considering using to give them the waiver standards for them to confirm this. To see more information about the health insurance requirement as well as the waiver standards, please visit the University Health Services website.
College can be tough...for anyone! But add on top of that the challenge of moving across the world away from your family and friends and the food that you're used to, and it can be very stressful! Odds are, a lot of your friends may have had those same thoughts and feelings, too. Thankfully, the University provides private and free ways to talk about issues like homesickness, stress related to classes or relationships, or anything else on your mind with licensed professionals who are trained to help you process and work through problems.
Personal Counseling Office
If you prefer to talk to someone in person, please visit the Personal Counseling office in 212 Erie Hall. The services are free and confidential, and they have both male and female counselors who can schedule appointments to talk with you. You can call them at 814-898-6504.
If you would feel more comfortable chatting with a counselor online, please check out HealthiestYou, which is offered for free through the United Healthcare Student Insurance policy. To get started, download the HealthiestYou app or visit the HealthiestYou website.
The BEAM (Behrend ESL Alliance of Mentors) Program offers an opportunity for students who are learning English and would like extra practice to be paired up with a native or high-level English speaker in a mentor/mentee relationship to learn from each other. The mentor shares:
- Their own experiences learning the English language.
- Practices or techniques which helped them become more skilled in the English language.
- Pronunciation, idioms, slang, expressions, and other characteristics of the language.
- Cultural facts and anecdotes from their countries of origin.
For more information about the program, visit the BEAM website.
Career Resources for International Students
This career website has been assembled by our Career Services center specifically for international students to help them in their search for job opportunities.
Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical Training
If you are an F1 student, you have the option of working in the United States by engaging in practical training during your program or after it ends. Practical training can provide valuable work experience by sharpening and adding to the skills you are learning in school. There are two common types of practical training available for F-1 students: curricular practical training (CPT) and optional practical training (OPT).
- CPT is training that is an integral part of an established curriculum and is available to F-1 students who have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one academic year.
- Training must be in your field of study and a required part of your program. If the opportunity is not required, but is an important part of your program, it must be credit-bearing.
- You can work on CPT either full-time or part-time; full-time CPT, if not required of your program, is only authorized during vacation periods.
- Students who accumulate 12 months of full-time CPT are ineligible for OPT, but part-time CPT is fine and will not stop you from pursuing OPT.
- Please visit the ISSA website for application and authorization procedures regarding CPT.
- You cannot begin CPT employment until ISSA authorizes the training and you are issued a new Form I-20; you also may not work beyond the authorized dates on your I-20.
- Post-Completion OPT is the most common type of OPT and begins after students complete their degrees.
- OPT employment must relate to your field of study.
- Students may apply for 12 months of OPT at each education level (i.e. you may have 12 months of OPT at the bachelor’s level and another 12 months of OPT at the master’s level).
- You are eligible to apply 90 days prior to your program end date (for undergraduate students this is based on graduation) and no later than 60 days after your program end date.
- You must request a new I-20 with the OPT recommendation through iStart. There is a portion of the eForm your adviser will need to complete as well. For more information about completing the OPT eForm and the application process visit ISSA's website.
- After you obtain the OPT recommendation I-20, you also must file a Form I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization,” with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and pay a filing fee ($410).
- If approved for OPT, USCIS will send you an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card). You may not begin working until you receive the EAD card and only within your authorized dates of employment.
- We encourage you to attend any workshops offered on campus to learn more about the OPT process.
Please contact the International Student Services office for more information and specifics on how to apply for CPT or OPT.
You are allowed to work on campus part-time (up to 20 hours per week) during the semester and full-time during academic breaks and in the summer.
Here is a list of current on-campus job opportunities. You can work any student jobs that are not marked as Work-Study only.
The employment process is as follows:
- Apply for the on-campus job that interests you. You may be required to submit a resume/cover letter and participate in a brief interview.
- Once hired, request an offer of employment letter on letterhead that includes your name, job description, employment start date, Penn State Employment Identification Number (EIN), which is 24-6000376, employer/supervisor contact information, and employer's original signature.
- Request the ISSA Social Security letter in iStart and upload the employer letter. You will be notified via email when this letter is ready to collect from the International Student Services office in Reed Union Building.
- Apply for a Social Security Number (SSN). Follow these instructions to learn what documents you need to bring along with your completed Social Security Application.
- You will receive your SSN card in the mail within two weeks. Take this to your hiring department for further instructions and assistance with completing the Employment Eligibility Verification (I-9) and W-4 paperwork.