Information for Current International Students

https://www.cbp.gov/We are here to connect you with the resources you need. If you do not find the information you are looking for on this webpage, contact an international student advisor by calling (616) 234-3420.

Academic Advising

If you are a new student, you must meet with an academic counselor to enroll in classes.

During an academic counseling appointment, we can help you:

  • Clarify academic goals.
  • Understand course placement.
  • Plan class schedules.
  • Explore majors.
  • Understand how to meet course prerequisites.
  • Understand transfer requirements.

The Career and Counseling Center is located on the third floor of the Student Center. Call (616) 234-3900 to make an appointment with one of our international students advisors, Katie Hughes or Patrick Kamau.

We strongly encourage you to meet with an academic counselor at least once each semester to help keep your academic plan on track and select the best courses to fulfill degree, certificate or transfer requirements.

Our trained counselors support students through many types of counseling, including counseling for personal and confidential support.

 

Academic Support and Tutoring

The Academic Support Center offers many services to help you achieve your academic and personal goals. In addition to several tutoring options, our on-campus tutoring labs offer subject-specific guidance and computer use.

Tutorial assistance is a great option if you are:

  • Struggling with course material.
  • Preparing for an upcoming test or exam.
  • Wanting to improve your grades.

Tutoring is free to all students. We offer:

Applying for a Michigan Driver’s License

If you plan to drive in the U.S., you are required by law to obtain and carry a valid driver’s license

If you have a temporary legal presence, you may be issued a limited-term driver's license, valid only as long as you are authorized to remain in the country.

In order to get a Michigan driver's license, you must pass a:

  • Written test.
  • Road sign test.
  • Vision test.
  • Driving test.

A list of the required documents, as well as the application can be found on the Michigan Secretary of State website.

The Written, Road Sign and Vision Tests

These tests can be taken at any Michigan Secretary of State Office, available in a number of different languages.

Prepare for the written test and road sign test by studying What Every Driver Must Know.

Required Identification and Documents for tests:

  • Evidence that you have a valid Social Security number or Letter of ineligibility.
    • If you are not eligible for a Social Security number, you can request a Letter of Ineligibility from the Social Security Office. You will receive the letter right away; you will not have to make a second trip to the Social Security office.
  • Passport.
  • Paper or print-out of electronic Form I-94.
  • Proof of Michigan address.
    • Two documents showing your Michigan address are required. Refer to the Proof of Michigan Residency section for a list for acceptable documents. You can use an unofficial transcript printed by the Office of the Registrar as one of the two documents.
  • Your I-20.
  • Permit fee: $25.00 paid with cash, check or money order.

The Road Test

After you pass the written test and receive a temporary instruction permit, you are required to wait for a 30-day practice period before taking the road test; however, if you have in your possession a driver's license from your country, the 30-day practice period will be waived. Your license must be translated into English by a translation service unless your name, date of birth, country of issue, issue date, type of license and expiration date are listed in English.

Prepare for the road test by practicing and studying the Road Skills Test Study Guide.

Choose a company authorized to give the road skills test. These are private companies and may charge different fees.

Other Road Test Requirements

You must have a passport, valid registration and proof of insurance for the vehicle to be used in the road test. The vehicle must also be in good mechanical condition.

Applying for a Social Security Number

A Social Security number (SSN) is generally assigned to people who are authorized to work in the United States. You may also need a SSN if you are applying for auto insurance or a bank account. It is used by the U.S. government for tracking and income tax purposes.

Social Security will not assign you a number just to enroll in college or school. 

You must be in the U.S. for at least 10 working days before applying for an SSN.

To Apply

  1. Complete an application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5).
  2. Gather original supporting documents including:
    • Your current signed I-20.
    • Your passport with visa inside.
    • Your I-94 record, printed from www.cbp.gov/I94.
    • Letter from international advisor verifying immigration status and enrollment.
    • A job offer letter from an office on campus of which you will be employed (obtain this from GRCC Student Employment Services). This letter must:
      • Identify you by full name.
      • Confirm your current student status at GRCC.
      • Identify your employer and the type of work you will be doing.
      • List your employment start date and number of hours you will be working.
      • Provide your supervisor’s name and contact information.
  3. Take your completed application and supporting documents to the Grand Rapids Social Security Office:
    3045 Knapp St. NE
    Grand Rapids, MI 49503
    (616) 742-2373
    Toll Free 1-800-772-1213

In general, people who have F-1 status and are working legally in the U.S. are not required to pay into the Social Security fund (FICA). If you are legally employed in the U.S. and have an F-1 visa, you should make sure your employer is not withholding social security from your check.

Letter of Ineligibility

If you do not have a job and therefore cannot get an SSN, a Social Security “ineligibility letter” may be used whenever you are asked for your SSN, allowing you to provide other proof of your identity and legal presence in the U.S.

To obtain a letter of ineligibility go to the Social Security Administration Office with the required documentation:

  • Passport (including visa).
  • I-94 record, in passport or printed from online.
  • I-20 (F-1 & F-2 students/dependents).
  • GRCC Student ID card.
  • Michigan Driver’s License or ID Card (if you have one).

Border Entry

U.S. Customs will require you to present your I-20 and financial documentation as you re-enter. Be prepared to provide any previous I-20 documents as well.

United States VISIT is a new system that gathers digital photos and fingerprints at the Consulate or Port of Entry. Allow sufficient time between flight connections for customs, immigration and entering data at the United States VISIT site.

If your current entry visa stamp will be valid at the time you re-enter the U.S., you will not need to visit the U.S. Consulate.

For re-entry you will need:

  • A valid I-20 that reflects your current academic program and future completion of studies date.
  • A signature for re-entry by the international student advisor on your I-20 (to make a request for a re-entry signature, present your I-20 to the international student advisor at least one week before departure).
    • The re-entry signature is valid only for six months and must be renewed if it has expired or will expire soon.
  • If your entry visa stamp was issued for a school other than GRCC, be prepared to present documentary evidence of your finances to the USCIS when you re-enter.

If you are currently pursuing OPT and plan to re-enter the U.S., you will need:

  • A valid I-20 that has been signed for re-entry within the last six months.
  • Your passport with valid entry via stamp, unless you are re-entering from Canada or Mexico (see previous).
  • The OPT card (your EAD).

Caution: If you are in OPT and need a new entry visa stamp, be aware that your visa request may be denied. Consulates do not like to issue new visas for OPT.
 

Contact Information Form

You are required to submit an updated contact information form each semester. We will send the form via email for you to fill out and return. This form is a SEVIS requirement.

If you move and/or experience a change of address at any point, you must notify the international student advisor within 10 days so that the SEVIS database can be updated.

If you do not submit this form and/or notify an advisor of a change of address, there will be a hold placed on your account which will prevent you from enrolling in future semesters.

Curricular Practical Training/Optional Practical Training

You may participate in two types of practical training: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT).

These practical trainings allow you to work off campus in a job related to your field of study. Your international student advisor will help you complete the paperwork needed for either type of training.

Curricular Practical Training

CPT allows you to participate in an internship experience.

Eligibility

  • You may only participate if you have completed one full academic year (9 months), and have not completed your academic program.
  • CPT must be a required, integral part of your academic program or degree.

CPT is available:

  • Part-time (20 hours or less).
  • Full-time (40 hours or less) training.
    • If you participate in 12 months of full-time CPT, you are not eligible for post-completion practical training. 

Applying for CPT

Talk to your admissions advisor and academic counselor. A copy of a job offer letter (indicating start and end date, location of internship and number of hours per week) is required in order to complete the CPT request and receive an updated I-20 with CPT employment authorization.

Optional Practical Training

OPT provides hands-on work experience complementary to your academic program.

Eligibility

  • You must have completed one full academic year (9 months) as an F-1 student or completed your program of study.
  • Employment must be off campus and in your field of study.

While in OPT, you are still considered to be an F-1 student at GRCC even though you may be working elsewhere in the U.S.

OPT is available:

  • Part-time (20 hours per week or less) prior to the completion of your academic program.
  • Full-time after completion of your academic program (file for OPT 90 days before completing your academic program).

Applying for OPT

The filing fee for OPT is $410 USD. You should file your request for OPT work authorization up to 90 days before your academic program end-date and no later than 60 days after your program end-date.

After you have submitted your OPT application, you should not leave the U.S. until you receive your OPT card. If you do, your application is no longer valid and you must reapply. You may travel while in OPT, but must have a signed I-20, valid passport, F-1 visa, I-94 and job offer to re-enter the U.S.

As an OPT student, you are eligible to take classes at anywhere in the U.S. as long as you are also working. If you have concluded your OPT status and are pursuing another degree (transferring to another school), you must contact the GRCC international student advisor so that your SEVIS record may be transferred. All students on OPT are required to complete tax forms.

OPT Approval Process

  • Designated school official (DSO) recommends OPT in SEVIS.
  • Student files I-765 application for an employment authorization document (EAD) with USCIS Lockbox Facility. OPT applications usually take 90 days to process, but 120 days is allotted.

Work can begin only after receiving the EAD issued by USCIS, and on or after the start date on the EAD. All GRCC international students in OPT should report to their international student advisor for the following information:

  • Receipt of EAD card.
  • Confirmed OPT start and end dates.
  • Change in address or employer and supervisor information.
  • Any interruption of employment, etc.

You must obtain employment 90 days after your OPT start date (the date chosen for your I-20). You may not accumulate more than 90 days of unemployment during OPT.

Declaration of Academic Program

If you would like to change your academic program, you must:

  1. Meet with your academic (program) advisor to learn about the additional courses you will need to take.
  2. Create an Academic Plan to map out the courses and number of semesters you will need to complete this program of study.
  3. Have your advisor verify your expected graduation date on this sheet.
  4. Submit a copy of your Academic Plan to an international advisor in the Admissions Office.

Allow 1-2 weeks to process your new I-20. An international advisor will change your SEVIS record to reflect this change as well as program dates if necessary.
 

Health Insurance

Proof of health insurance is required every semester. If you do not provide proof of health insurance, you will not be able to enroll in future semesters.

Your international admissions advisor will share a list of health insurance providers specifically for F-1 students. You may select a provider of your choosing, purchase the health insurance and then provide documentation indicating proof of coverage.

Medical care costs in the U.S. are extremely expensive and in the event of an emergency, accident or illness, it is extremely beneficial to be covered. Please carry documentation of health coverage with you at all times.

Housing

We do not provide on-campus housing for students; however, we can provide a list of housing options other GRCC students have used and more information on finding and leasing off-campus housing.

After you find an apartment online that interests you, contact the company or landlord listed for more information and be sure to ask:

  • Which units are available?
  • May I set up a time to see the apartment in person?
  • When can I move in?
  • Where can I park or where is the closest bus stop?
  • What is the cost per month? Is there a security deposit I will need to pay up front?
  • Are utilities (heat, water, electricity, trash, etc.) included in the monthly rent?

Considerations before renting an apartment or house:

  • Roommates
    • Off-campus housing rates vary widely and you can expect to pay $500-$800 for a 1-bedroom unit and $600-$1,000 for a 2-bedroom or larger unit. Roommates.com is a helpful resource to find roommates in the greater Grand Rapids area.
  • Transportation
    • Making your way to campus can be a challenge if you do not own a car of your own. Be sure to check the location of the closest bus stop, if needed, and factor in travel time to campus.
  • Furnishings
    • If you do not already have these items, this will be an added expense for you. Be sure to budget and plan for how you might deliver furniture to your new apartment.
  • Monthly Rent
    • Plan your budget accordingly and do not forget to factor in costs for utilities (internet access, heating/cooling, water, electricity, natural gas and garbage collection). Also plan ahead for parking and fuel expenses.

Rental Leases

When you are approved for renting a house or apartment, you will be asked to sign a lease. A lease is a document that outlines the responsibilities of the apartment or house owner and tenants.

It is a legally binding document that courts generally uphold in legal proceedings, so it is important for you to know the exact terms of the lease agreement before you sign it.

To learn more about renting in the U.S., visit www.usa.gov/housing.

I-20 Program Date Extension

If you are unable to finish your degree requirements before the program end date on your I-20, you must apply for a program extension with an international student advisor at least 30 days before the I-20 expires.

You will be required to meet with an academic counselor and develop an academic plan worksheet that indicates which remaining courses you must complete before transferring or completing degree requirements. A copy of this worksheet must be turned into the international advisor to be granted the I-20 extension.

My Degree Path

My Degree Path is a web-based tool designed to help students stay on a clear path to graduation. It enables you and your advisor to review your coursework and evaluate which degree requirements have been completed and which remain to be completed.

My Degree Path will:

  • Provide real-time advice, 24/7.
  • Outline a path to graduation for a specific GRCC program.
  • Allow for the creation of a semester-by-semester degree plan.
  • Provide self-service capabilities.
  • Allow you to explore other GRCC programs.
  • Allows direct access to multiple related services and advice
  • Help counselors or advisors minimize errors.

You can log into your Online Center to access My Degree Path.

Obtaining Your Transcript

Official and unofficial GRCC transcripts are available from the Student Records Office.There is no charge for either type of transcript.

Official transcripts are for college or university transfers, job applications, scholarships, etc. Official transcripts are usually sent directly to institutions.

Unofficial transcripts are for students who wish to see which classes they have taken, their grade point average (GPA), how many credits have been earned, etc.

Requesting a Transcript

Use one of the following methods:

  • Visit your Online Center. Processing time is next business day.

    • If you need assistance obtaining your student ID number to log in to the Online Center, call the Enrollment Center (616) 234-3300.

  • Fax, mail, or scan and email the Official Transcript Request Form to the address/number listed on the bottom of the form. Processing time is five business days.

  • Visit the Student Records Office. Processing time is five business days.

Credit transferred in from other institutions will be posted to the GRCC transcript after five business days. A viewable transcript is available in your Online Center.

Note: Please allow additional time for the U.S. Postal Service and receiving institution's processing time.

On-Campus Employment

Your are eligible for on-campus employment for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and up to 28 hours per week during school vacation and holidays.

Please note that you are eligible for student assistant positions only.

Steps to apply for a job on campus:

  1. Consider your current class schedule and availability for work.
  2. Browse current student employment job openings on Blackboard. Under “My Organizations," select “Student Employment Services," then the "Jobs" icon.
  3. Carefully read the job descriptions to make sure you fit the hiring criteria.
  4. Complete the On-Campus Student Employment Application.
  5. Visit Student Employment Services in Room 103 of the Main Building to turn in your application.
  6. Prepare a resume and cover letter for the job opening. Student Employment Services can help prepare resumes, cover letters or provide help searching for jobs
  7. Follow up on your application by visiting the office to which you are applying and asking to speak to the supervisor to inquire on the status of your application. Be sure to dress professionally and call ahead to be sure the supervisor will be there for you to meet.
  8. If you are offered employment, ask for a job offer letter that you can take to the local Social Security Office to get your Social Security Card (required for work in the U.S.).