Visa and Immigration Regulations

This section is only a summary of Visa and Immigration Regulations. If you are enrolled at CalArts more detailed information is available at CalArts HUB.

Maintaining Your Visa Status

The International Student Office will provide each student with an I-20 form (Certificate of Eligibility) which you must submit to the U.S. Consular Office abroad in your application for a student visa. In addition, you may be required to offer proof of financial support for your stay in the United States. You will receive an F-1 visa which indicates you have your financial obligations covered by either personal or outside private sources. While on-campus employment is permitted for international students, off-campus employment is restricted during a student’s first year and requires special authorization from USCIS thereafter. All F-1 and J-1 international students must follow the below set of immigration regulations as outlined by the U.S. government in order to maintain their international student status:

  • Full Course of Study International students must be registered for a full course of study during each fall and spring semesters. Spring semester includes winter session. 
    • BFA students - 12 units
    • MFA Art, Dance, Music, MA in A&P first year - 12 units
    • MFA Film/Video, Theatre, Critical Studies - 9 units
    • DMA Music - 10 units
    • MA in A&P second year - 6 units
  • Online/Remote Courses Limitation: F-1 and J-1 visa students may only take only ONE online (remote) course per semester (up to 3 units), to count toward their full-time enrollment
  • Maintaining Valid Immigration Documents
    • I-20 or DS-2019: International students must be aware of the program completion date on their I-20 or DS-2019. If students cannot complete their degree by the program completion date on their I-20 or DS-2019, students must request a program extension before the expiration date on the I-20 or DS-2019. Students who do not file a program extension in a timely manner will be considered out of status.
    • I-94 Arrival/Departure Record: When you enter the U.S., you will be issued an electronic I-94 arrival/departure record containing your admission number. Visit the I-94 retrieval site and input your biographical, passport and entry information. Be sure to print or save a copy of your most recent I-94. A new record is generated each time you enter the country and you will be unable to access previous records once you re-enter the U.S. Double check that your I-94 properly reflects your "Class of Admission" (either F-1 or J-1) and "Admit Until Date" (D/S).
    • Passport: Students should keep their passport valid at all times . If the passport will expire soon, student must renew it in the US through the embassy or consulate of their home country.
    • Visa: Make sure that your visa is valid before you depart the U.S. If it is expired, you will need to get a new visa from an overseas U.S. Embassy or Consulate before returning to the U.S. If a visa is expired, a student is allowed to remain in the U.S., as long as his/her I-20 or DS2019 is still valid and the I-94 arrival/departure record shows the correct immigration status. Even if you transfer from another school to CalArts, if your visa is still valid you can use the visa to reenter the U.S.
  • Maintaining Good Standing Academically
    If you are having any problems with your coursework and are unable to maintain passing grades, please see the International Student Advisor and your Mentor to discuss your situation and possible solutions.
  • Update International Office of Changes of Local Address
    Students who change their local address must report the change to the Office of International Students and Programs in the ISP Portal within 10 days of moving.
  • Do Not Engage in Unlawful Employment
    (See Employment section below)

Grace Periods: F-1 students who complete an academic program or Optional Practical Training have a 60-day grace period and J-1 visa holders who complete an academic program or Academic Training have a 30-day grace period.

F-1/J-1 visa holders who have received prior authorization to withdraw from classes have 15 days after the withdrawal date to depart the U.S.. Students who withdraw from classes without prior authorization are not eligible for a grace period.


While the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations provide a variety of opportunities for F-1 international students to be employed during their time in F-1 student status, working without proper authorization is a serious violation of the F-1 student status. 

On-Campus Employment: On-campus employment is limited to 20 hours a week when school is in session during Fall and Spring semesters and 40 hours a week during summer vacation. Students must have applied for an SSN before starting work. 

Off-Campus Employment: Off-campus employment is restricted during a student’s first year and requires special authorization from USCIS thereafter. The types of employment authorizations available to F-1 visa holders are as follows:

  • Employment based on severe economic hardship
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)
  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

If you are a student at CalArts you can find more detailed information at CalArts HUB under International Students.

Traveling as an International Student

Passport Validity

Please be sure that your passport remains valid while you are in the United States. Contact your home county's Consul General or Embassy to renew your passport 6 months before the expiration date.

Canadian and Bermudian Citizens are exempt from the general requirement to have a U.S. student visa.

Required Documents for Re-Entry

In order to re-enter the U.S. after a temporary absence (less than 5 months), students must carry the following documents:

  1. Valid Passport (valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of the re-entry to the U.S.)
  2. Valid F-1/J-1 visa in passport (except students from Canada/Bermuda)
  3. I-20/DS-2019 with a valid travel signature  (signatures are valid for 12 months)
Optional Documents to Carry:
  1. Financial support documents
  2. Enrollment Verification Letter from the Registrar's Office
  3. Copy of transcript and/or proof of course registration
Travel Outside the United States and Re-entering with Expired Visa

If you need a new visa in your passport for re-entry into the United States, you will need to follow the same procedures you followed when you secured your first visa, with some small exceptions. Check the website of the U.S. Consulate where you will be applying for specific rules and the most current application procedures.

It is possible to get a new visa at a U.S. Consulate that is not in your home country. Be aware that you are applying as a "third-country national" when you do this. There may be additional items that you need to present to the Consular Officer and it usually takes longer. It is generally simpler to apply in your home country.

There are some instances where you can get a visa renewal without another interview. Check the website of the U.S. Consulate where you will apply to see if you are eligible. The U.S. Department of State is gradually expanding the number of consulates where this is available, so be sure you have current information.

Before you leave:

  • Schedule an appointment with the U.S. Consulate/Embassy where you will apply for your visa. You will need to complete the visa application Form DS-160.
  • Review the consulate/embassy website for guidance about what materials you will need to provide at your visa appointment.
  • Be sure to inform the Office of International Students and Programs about your travel plans.
  • If you are a student, request an enrollment verification letter and a transcript from the Registrar's Office.
Emergency Travel

We are aware that life is complex and people run into situations where they need to travel unexpectedly.

Immigration regulations require that you have a valid travel signature (less than 12 months old) from your international advisor if you are in F or J status. Please make sure to contact us if you are an F-1 student when you encounter this situation. If you are a J-1 student please contact your Responsible Officer or Alternative Responsible Officer.

F-1 Students on OPT

F-1 Students on OPT must carry the following documents:

  1. Valid Passport (valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of the re-entry to the U.S.)
  2. Valid F-1 student visa in passport (except students from Canada/Bermuda)
  3. OPT (approved) I-20 with a valid travel endorsement from Office of International Students and Programs (signatures are valid for 6 months)
  4. Valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card
  5. Proof of current employment or offer letter