Current International Students Got questions? We have answers!


Visa Documents and Requirements

1. How do I maintain my student visa status?

As an international student, it is absolutely critical that you fully understand the terms and conditions of your visa. Failure to comply with visa regulations may lead to termination of your visa and/or lead to major issues later on if you seek to change your visa status (e.g. to a work visa after graduation). Fortunately, the US government has created constantly updated websites that help to explain the terms and conditions of your visa which you can reference throughout your student career. In addition, you are strongly encouraged to contact your Designated School Official ( if you have any questions. Your DSO will assist you in maintaining your visa status.

If you are an F-1 visa student, you should understand the following sections of the Study in the States website:

Prepare for my Arrival:
Apply for Student Visa
Gather Your Documents
Address the Form I-515A

Maintain my Student Status
Know the Rules for F-1 Students
Enroll in a Full Course of Study
Transfer as an F-1 Student

Know about F Student Benefits
Learn about Employment Rules
Check Your SAVE Case Status
Change your Immigration Status

If you are a J-1 visa student, you should understand the common questions on the Department of State's J-1 visa website

A brief summary of the reporting requirements for both F and J student visa holders is listed below: 

• Enroll in a full course of study at the beginning of every session (excluding authorized break periods) 
• Consult with their DSO before dropping below a full course of study for any reason 
• Report address changes to their DSO within 10 days of the change 
• Report any change in sources of financial support to their DSO 
• Seek the approval of the DSO/USCIS before engaging in employment or practical training 
• Report any changes in program of study to their DSO 
• Report any change in academic status to their DSO
• Notify their DSO prior to traveling outside the United States 
• Notify their DSO upon applying for change of nonimmigrant status 
• Notify their DSO upon approval of an adjustment of status to an immigrant
• Consult with their DSO to extend their program
• Notify their DSO if they intend to transfer 
• Notify their DSO about changes in dependent status

2. What documents do I need to bring when I am traveling and what is a travel signature?

When traveling inside the U.S., you should copies of original passport, and I-20 or DS-2019.

When traveling outside the U.S., you should carry your passport, student visa, and I-20 or DS-2019 with a valid travel signature (more about travel signatures below). If you are entering the U.S. for the first time, you should also carry your SEVIS Fee Receipt and letter of admission from W&L. If you have any trouble entering the U.S. you may call Hunter Swanson's mobile number at (540) 550-4270.   

Your I-20 or DS-2019 has a section for a travel signature that approves travel outside the U.S. Each signature is valid for one year.  If you plan to travel outside the U.S. and your I-20 or DS-2019 has not been signed within the past 10 months, please contact Hunter Swanson ( to obtain an updated signature.

3. What is SEVIS and the SEVIS fee?

SEVIS is the acronym for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, which is used by the U.S. government to track student visa records. Payment of the SEVIS fee is required to obtain a student visa and funds the system. W&L pays the SEVIS fee on behalf of students. Be sure to keep the record of your SEVIS fee payment, and keep it with you when you enter the U.S. for the first time. 

4. What is an I-20 or DS-2019 and should I keep my old I-20's or DS-2019's?

The I-20 and DS-2019 documents are certificates of eligibility that demonstrate sponsorship from Washington and Lee University. These documents are extremely important and necessary for traveling both inside and outside the U.S., obtaining work authorization, and obtaining a visa. You may stay in the U.S. with an expired visa as long as your I-20 or DS-2019 is valid. If you lose your I-20 or DS-2019, please contact Hunter Swanson at immediately to obtain a replacement. 

Yes, you may need to submit them for future visa applications.

5. What is an I-94 travel record and how do I obtain it?

An I-94 travel record provides evidence that you entered the U.S. legally on a certain date. You will need the I-94 to apply for work authorization, obtain a Driver's License, and for other purposes. You can access your I-94 travel record at this website.

6. How do I obtain a student visa?

Once you complete the Student Information Form, I will mail the documents you need to obtain your visa with instructions within 3 weeks. Visa wait times can be long, so please schedule your visa appointment immediately upon receiving the documents.

7. How do I renew my visa?

If you need to renew your student visa, you will need to schedule a visa appointment (like you did to obtain your initial visa) and bring the following documents to your visa renewal appointment:

Valid Passport (which is not due to expire for at least 6 months)

Copies of all your I-20s or DS-2019s

Enrollment Verification 

Financial documents which provide proof of sufficient funds as specified on your I-20 (these can be bank statements, your financial aid award letter, etc.) 

Be prepared to answer questions regarding your plans for returning home after you complete your progam in the U.S.  Please note that you are allowed to remain in the U.S. with an expired visa as long as your I-20 or DS-2019 is valid. However, you will always need a valid visa to re-enter the US after traveling abroad. 

8. Do I need to file taxes?

Yes, every international student must file a tax return every year, regardless of employment status. The deadline to file a tax return is mid-April. The CIE purchases code for a tax prep software program for all international students to use and provides instructions for filing both the US Federal tax return and the State of Virginia tax return. 

The CIE will help you obtain the documents you need and guide you through the process using the International Student Tax Guide.

9. What is academic probation and what happens if I am put on academic probation?

Students are placed on academic probation whenever their term GPA, or cumulative GPA, falls below 2.0. If this happens to you, you will have one term to change your status by earning a term and cumulative GPA above 2.0. The automatic rule provides for an automatic suspension if you fail to move off of probation. Because student visa regulations require that international students must be enrolled full-time, an academic suspension will also result in a termination of your student visa. However, if you apply for and receive reinstatement, you will have the opportunity to regain your student visa status and return to W&L. 

10. What happens if I need to take a leave of absence? 

Students who wish to leave the University temporarily for academic, medical, religious or military-service reasons, may request a Leave of Absence for a specified period of time by petitioning the Committee on the Automatic Rule and Reinstatement. International students may sometimes remain in the U.S. for a medical leave of absence. The effect of a leave of absence on your visa status is explained in detail on the Study in the States website

Life on Campus and in Lexington 

1. What is the Honor System?

Washington and Lee University's honor system is an all-encompassing system of trust that is an important aspect of student life. A central implication is that students will not lie, cheat, or steal. 

2. How can I get involved with student organizations?

There are over 100 student organizations and many activities to choose from. The Student Activities office can help you identify organizations that fit your interests. International students may be particulary interested in the following student organizations: SAIL, and PAACE. There will also be a student activities fair during o-week (Orientation Week).

3. What is Greek life?

Greek life may be an unfamiliar concept to many international students, but it makes a significant impact on the social life of Washington and Lee University students, as more than half of the student body will join a Greek organization before graduation. Some international students choose to join a Greek organization, while others do not and remain an "indepedent." The perspectives of several international students on Greek life at Washington and Lee are listed below. The Greek Life website maintained by Student Affairs has lots of information including frequently asked questions, fee information, a list of all Greek organizations active on campus, and more.

International Student Responses:

Navid Haider '21

Why did you join a fraternity?

To meet new people who share similar interest and to experience a unique dimension of college life.

What are the pros and cons of being part of an organization?

Pros- Strengthens your relationship with your brothers, Great food, You make bonds that will last a lifetime

Cons- Sometimes time consuming, especially during freshman winter term (new member education). Often you cannot dedicate enough time to friends who are not in the same fraternity.

Do you think you have benefited from being part of your organization? How so?

Great networking opportunities, Being acclimatized into American college life because you can learn a lot from being in a fraternity.

What advice would you give an incoming international first-year students when it comes to rushing?

Don’t feel pressured to join a fraternity just because everyone around you is joining one. On the flip side, don’t completely disregard the idea of joining a fraternity. Try exploring and if the culture fits you go ahead and join one. But your life in WnL will be wonderful regardless you join Greek Life or not . 

Tanpreet Hunjan '19

Why did you join a sorority?

To be more involved on campus and meet new people who I may not have met otherwise.

What are the pros and cons of being part of an organization?

Pros: Great Philanthropy events, fun Mixers with other organizations on campus allowing you to meet new people. and strengthens bonds with your friends.

Cons: Financial obligation, mandatory time commitments

Do you think you have benefited from being part of your organization? How so?

Improved time management skills and working with others on a regular basis. Breeds a sense of pride when participating in some events.

What advice would you give an incoming international first-year students when it comes to rushing?

Be relaxed about the process. Get to know the members of the organizations and find out where you genuinely want to be in regards to a group who aligns with your beliefs and values.

Bridget Zhang '21

Why did you decide to be an independent?

After participating in several Greek recruitment events, I realized Greek Life is not for me, especially because there will be a lot of time commitments to your sorority or fraternity. Though joining Greek Life is a good opportunity to meet new people, it is not the only way you can get involved on campus. A lot of activities and student organizations are open to everyone which are a great way to meet people who share the same interests with you. 

What are the pros and cons of being part of being an independent?

Pros: As an independent, you have more time and space to yourself. You are free to allocate your time to things you are really passionate about. And there are no financial obligations.

Cons: being independent can limit your social network to some extent as there are some exclusive parties only for people in Greek Life.

Do you think you have benefited from remaining an independent? How so?

Yes. I had more time to study, do extracurricular activities, and get involved with local community through volunteering.

What advice would you give an incoming international first-year students when it comes to rushing?

Greek Life is a huge part of W&L, but don’t feel obligated to join Greek Life just because other people are doing it.  Your college experience is not determined by whether you are Greek or not. 

Muskaan Soni '19

Why did you join a sorority?

It was a place to find more women who can inspire you and help you grow.

What are the pros and cons of being part of an organization?

Pros: Food is great and your sisters will love you no matter what.

Cons: It is a little time consuming to got to chapter every week.

Do you think you have benefited from being part of your organization? How so?

It has given me great networking opportunities and to bond with people outside of the classroom.

What advice would you give an incoming international first-year students when it comes to rushing?

Do not do it just because everyone else is doing it. Think through, read about it and then decide to rush or not to rush. it is completely all right if you are an independent and you will still have a great college experience.

Alan Liu '20

Why did you decide to be an independent?

When I first came to W&L, I did consider to rush a fraternity. But as my freshmen year progressed, I realized that Greek life was not for me. First of all, I did not enjoy Greek Life’s social scenes and I would sometime feel uncomfortable when I was partying. Secondly, I did not realize other obligations that came with rushing a Fraternity. I was not willing to spent the majority of my spare time doing pledgeship duties and I was also not willing to pay a lot of money to the Fraternity so they could host parties, formals, and etc. Lastly, most of my friends at W&L did not choose to rush and I did not feel the need for rushing.

What are the pros and cons of being an independent?

Pros: For me, there are three pros. First, I have a lot more free time to focus on my studies, job searches, and test preparations. Second, I can save a lot of money by not joining a fraternity. Joining a Fraternity is expensive, regardless of whether you have scholarship or not. Lastly, I have more time to explore other campus activities and events. For example, the outing club, tennis club, and etc.

Cons: You might not meet as many people at W&L and you will not have the experience of going out of your comfort zone and networking with strangers (networking is a very important skills later into your college career). By joining a Fraternity, you will have ample amount of opportunities to meet and connect with other students.

What advice would you give an incoming international first-year students when it comes to rushing?

Do not feel pressured. Although 80% of the total student population is in either a Fraternity or a Sorority, it is perfectly fine for you to choose to be independent. It does not mean socially dead if you chose to be an independent, there are countless activities for independent students. Follow your heart and do not be pressured to rush a Fraternity. 

Rajwol Joshi '18

Why did you join a fraternity?

I joined a fraternity because it gave me the opportunity to expand my social circle and allowed me go get close with people I probably would not have got to now on my own.

What are the pros and cons of being part of an organization?

Pros: You always have people to hang out with and you make friends for life. There is always something going on, which makes college more fun.

Cons: You mostly hang out with the same people and sometimes it gets monotone. It costs more and it takes up a lot of your time.

Do you think you have benefited from being part of your organization? How so?

In addition to making new and good friends, I think I have grown from more engaging in lunchtime debates with brothers who have differing perspectives than I do. It has also forced me to be more social and to get out of my comfort zone.

What advice would you give an incoming international first-year students when it comes to rushing?

Do not feel forced to do anything. Greek life here can be quite a culture shock but it is a big part of W&L so I would recommend not dismissing it completely. Get to know as many organizations as you can (this should not be too difficult since they will probably be the first one to reach out to you) and take your time to choose the best fit for you.

Julia Mayol '19

Why did you join a sorority?

I joined a sorority because I thought it would be a great way of meeting new people, expanding my social circle, and having a real experience of what it's like to be in one.   

What are the pros and cons of being part of an organization?  

Pros: Meet new people. If you are interested in philanthropy, being in a sorority will allow to take part in many events. Cons: There are not many cons, the main one is the mandatory time commitment.   

Do you think you have benefited from being part of your organization? How so?  

Absolutely. For me it was a unique experience. Sororities do not exist in Argentina and I loved having the chance to experience one. I also met some of my best friends and became closer with those who were my friends before joining the sorority.   

What advice would you give an incoming international first-year students when it comes to rushing?  

Rush can be a bit overwhelming, so just relax and enjoy meeting new. Do not feel pressured to do it but keep in mind that this is also part of studying abroad and part of being immersed in the American culture. 

4. What is the Student Health Center?

The Student Health Center is located on campus and provides medical care to students 24 hours a day, 7 days a week while classes are in session. Most services are free to students. Healthcare in the U.S. can be expensive, so it is a good idea in non-emergency situations, to go to the Student Health Center first.  

5. Can I stay on campus during class breaks?

Yes, you may stay in your residence hall during Thanksgiving, Freburary, and Spring breaks. However, the residence halls will close during Winter, and Summer Break, so start making plans for this early. There are also housing avaiable during the summer if a student is staying on campus doing internships or research.You may discuss your options with Hunter Swanson. The Residential Life office posts a list of important residence hall dates

6. What resources are available to assist me academically?

There are many resources to help you succeed academically that are available to all students. 

7. How do I obtain a Driver's License or Identification Card?

International students may obtain a Virginia Driver's License or Identification Card by following the requirements of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (VA DMV). The CIE has created a guide to assist international students obtain a Virginia Driver's License or Identification Card. Please note that there are websites that purport to provide official advice on this issue, but may actually steal your personal information. The URL for all official State of Virginia websites ends in .gov. 

8. What are the transportation options for getting to and from Lexington?

There are many options for traveling to and from Lexington, including taxis, shuttles, and a daily bus service. 

9. What should I do in an emergency?

The number to report an emergency situation in the U.S. is 911. In the event of an emergency, you can also call the W&L Public Safety dispatch number that is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition, you are strongly encouraged to download the W&L LiveSafe app and make sure your phone number is current in the General Alerts notification system

10. How do I open a bank account? 

During international student orientation, your mentors will take you to Cornerstone Bank to open a bank account. You will need to bring your passport, I-20 form, and student ID. Make sure to complete your appilication before leaving and bring at least $50 in cash to make an initial deposit. Cornerstone Bank has been friendly to W&L students, but if you would like to work with national bank, you also have the option of Wells Fargo bank.

11. How can a relative obtain a visa to visit me at W&L?

If you have a relative who is not a US citizen, who lives abroad, and who is hoping to visit you in the US for graduation, Parents and Family Weekend, or any other reason, your relative may need to obtain a visitor visa. The CIE has created a guide for inviting relatives to campus

Jobs, Internships, and Volunteering in the U.S.

1. How can I get a job on campus?

If you received a financial aid award that included a Work-Study position budget, please follow the instructions emailed to you from the Financial Aid Office to accept your Work-Study Award after your admission to W&L. You will need to accept your award before you can apply for Work-Study positions. The Financial Aid Office will accept a scanned copy of your Signature Authorization Form emailed to I encourage you to apply for positions early in order to secure your preferred assignment. As an international student, you are not eligible to work off-campus, so please do not apply for jobs that are located off-campus. If you were not offered Work-Study as part of your financial aid package but still want to work, you will learn more about the process at International Student Orientation. 

2. Can I get a job off-campus?

International students are not authorized to work off-campus unless approved for Practical Training. You can refer to the Career and Professional Development (CaPD) international students page for more website for futher information about how to find internship and job oppurtunities in the U.S. Information about both types of Practical Training (Curricular Practical Training) and (Optional Practical Training) are provided below in the FAQ. 

3. What is Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) allows F-1 visa students to participate in paid or unpaid internship experiences that are directly related to the student's major and must either be for academic credit or a major requirement. All declared students at W&L are eligible for CPT. The Practical Training guide provides an overview of CPT and how to obtain CPT authorization for both undergraduate and law students. 

4. What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows F-1 visa students to work for 12 months in the U.S. in a job or internship experience related to your major. You may choose to use this time immediately after graduation. In addition, STEM majors may qualify for a 24 month extension of OPT. The CIE has created a complete Overview of Optional Practical Training (pdf) for your reference, which includes a list of all STEM OPT eligible majors at W&L. 

5. How many hours per week can I work?

For on-campus jobs, your F-1 visa allows you to work part-time (up to 20 hours per week) while classes are in session and full-time (40 hours per week) while on official university breaks (e.g. fall break, winter break, summer break, etc.). For off-campus job, you may work part-time or full-time while on CPT or OPT. 

6. What resources are available to help me find jobs and internships in the U.S.?

The Career and Professional Development (CaPD) office provides career development advising to international students. CaPD provides employment guides and a alumni contact information especially created for international students - Search Handshake's Resource library for "Resources for International Students." In addition, CaPD and the CIE partner to present programs, including, International Student Career Day (which is offered every year).

7. What is the difference between employment, volunteering, and unpaid internships? 

Even if you aren't being paid for an internship or other activity you may be considered an employee according to U.S. government labor and immigration laws. This is very important to understand, because international students must receive authorization to work off-campus. Working off-campus without employment authorization is a violation of your visa status. The CIE and CaPD offices collaborated to create a guide to help you understand these important distinctions.