Academic difficulty

We all know that F-1 students are required to maintain a minimum of 12 credits.  Sometimes this can be difficult when a student is having difficulty with a class.  However it is important not to give up and withdraw from the class.   Even if a withdrawal is recommended you should speak with an international student advisor bofore withdrawing.  Professors are not familiar with F-1 regulations and may mean well but provide advise which is not best for the student.

There is also help if a student is having difficulty.  Many international students are reluctant to approach a professor for help.  But, professors in the U.S. expect students to ask for help and generally will be willing to provide some assistance.  NOVA also offers a tutoring center with free tutors.  Don’t be shy about asking for a tutor.

Finally if a student fails a class they may take it again.

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International Student Advisors Change

Shanon Bobb has left the International Student Office at the Alexandria campus ISO.  She has been a great advisor adn we are sorry to see her go.

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Travel during Spring Break

March 5-9 will be Spring Break for NOVA students and faculty.  During Spring Break many students enjoy the opportunity to travel within and outside the United States.  If you will be leaving the U.S. it is important to have your immigration documents in order when you return to the U.S.   To reenter the U.S. you will need:

1.      Passport valid for at least 6 months in the future

2.      Valid I-20 recently signed on page 3 by an International Student Advisor

           I-20 forms will be signed by the International Student Advisors on campus.  You should allow 10 days to have  the I-20 signed.    I-20 forms may also be signed in OISS, but it will also take 10 days.   Please plan ahead and ask to have your I-20 signed as soon as possible.

3.       Valid F-1 visa

Students traveling to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean islands might not need a valid visa to return.  For more informaton on returning without a visa, contact your International Student Advisor




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Scholarships for International Students

Scholarships for international students are available, but it requires time and research.  For more information see:



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Optional Practical Training (OPT) Info Sessions

Alexandria Campus

Friday                 February 24              11:00 am and 3:00 pm              AA 195A

Tuesday              February 28              3:00  pm and 6:00 pm              AA 195A

Register for the Alexandira information sessions by sending an e-mail to


Annandale Campus

Monday             March 5                       5:00 pm                                            CA 317

Monday             March 19                     5:00 pm                                           CA 317

Register for the Annandale information sessions by sending an e-mail to


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Completing Math Requirements

To graduate with an associate degree from NOVA every student must complete at least one math class.  To determine if a student is ready for the required math class it is necessary to take the Math Placement Test.

Many students procrastinate about taking the Math Placement Test.  When they take the test they discover that they have additional math classes which they must take before taking the required math classes.  Some students delay so long that it makes a problem with the I-20.  There isn’t enough time on the I-20 or students have to take classes which are not required to be full time while taking the math classes.

Take the Math Placement Test now to see where you are.  If your score is low and you think you can improve, the test may be taken again after one semester.    If the score is accurate, start taking developmental math classes now. 

Don’t let math prevent you from graduating from NOVA on time.

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Obtaining Driver License or Social Security Number

The following information was provided by Student Exchange Visitor Prpgram. 

One of the first things a new F, M or J nonimmigrant typically wants to do after entering the

United States is get a driver’s license or, where appropriate, an SSN.  Like many things, however,

correct timing is everything. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program wants all F, M or J

nonimmigrants eligible for a driver’s license or an SSN to have the easiest experience possible.

Following these six simple tips makes the process go much smoother and saves a lot of time in

the end:

1.       Wait 10 days after you arrive in the United States. You may want to apply for a  driver’s license or SSN right away, but be patient. The 10-day wait allows time for all the  government databases to update with your arrival information.

2.     Know what you are applying for and if you are eligible. While you are waiting, talk  with your school’s designated school official (DSO) or sponsor’s responsible officer  (RO) or alternate responsible officer (ARO) to learn more about your state’s driving rules and regulations. If you want an SSN, have your DSO or RO/ARO confirm that you are  eligible before you apply.

3.     Make sure your record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is up-to-date and in  Active status. SEVIS is the database that contains  information for all F, M and J nonimmigrants in the United States. A DSO manages an F or M nonimmigrant’s SEVIS record. An RO/ARO manages an exchange visitor’s SEVIS record. The DSO or RO/ARO (whichever applies to you) must place your record in Active  status when you report to the school or program. Talk with your DSO or RO/ARO  before you apply for a license or SSN to make sure your record is Active in SEVIS. If your record is not Active when you apply, your application will be rejected.

4.    Check your forms. Check all your forms to make sure your information is correct. This is data integrity. Data integrity is very important because if you have different information on different forms, it will cause delays. Specifically, check your Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record,” for handwritten information. If the information on your Form I-94 is different than on your passport or Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” or Form DS-2019, “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status,” please see the  DMV Fact Sheet for more information.

5.   Wait two days after your DSO or RO/ARO activates your record in SEVIS. After  your DSO or RO/ARO activates your record in SEVIS, you should wait at least two  federal business days before you apply for a driver’s license or SSN. This gives all the  databases time to update with your new information.

6.    Bring all your paperwork. When you go to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) – the common name for a state government office that issues driver’s licenses – or to the Social Security office, remember to bring all your paperwork. For most states, the paperwork includes these documents:

  Form I-20 or Form DS-2019

  Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record”

  Passport (with visa, if applicable)

  Proof of legal presence or residence (ask your DSO or RO/ARO what your state requires) For an SSN, you must also bring a letter of employment and an endorsed Form I-20 (for  F students). Exchange visitors should consult with their RO/ARO first to make sure the  Social Security Administration requires a letter of employment for the J category.

These six tips should help you get your driver’s license or SSN without having any major  problems. If you are interested in specific details about F-2, M-2 or J-2 dependents, please see  page 8 of the  DMV Fact Sheet. Always talk with your DSO or RO/ARO before you try to apply.

Your DSO or RO/ARO may have more information about your particular state. Safe travels!

Learn More  Driving in the United States

Obtaining a Social Security Number (SSN)

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Best Wishes for the Holidays

On behalf of all the International Student advisors at NOVA I want to wish wish you “Happy Holiday”.  I hope you have a save and enjoyable break.

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Extension of Academic I-20

A student’s I-20 expires when he/she completes the associate degree program or on the program ending date listed on the I-20, whichever is earlier. The program ending date is printed on the I-20 in item 5. For example, if the program ending date is 12/31/2012 and all the requirements for the degree are completed in December 2011, the I-20 will expire in December 2011.

 On the other hand, if the program ending date on the I-20 is 12/31/2011 and the requirements for the associate degree have not been completed by that date, the I-20 must be extended before December 31, 2011.  On January 1, 2012 the record cannot be extended.

 According to F-1 regulations, an international student advisor can only extend the I-20 for specific reasons.  These reasons include delays due to:


  • Sufficient time was not given on the initial I-20
  • Authorization for less than a full course of study (medical or academic)
  • Temporary absence for the U.S. (student was outside the U.S. for one or more semesters)


These reasons do not include delays due to:


  • Procrastination about taking Math Placement test
  • Procrastination in taking ESL courses
  • Failing courses
  • Repeating a course for a higher grade
  • Taking courses which might be transferred, but are not required for the associate degree
  • Taking other courses for personal interest, but are not required for the associate degree


If you are not sure whether or not you qualify for an extension of the I-20, you need to discuss this with an international student advisor.

 In order to extend your I-20 you will need to provide a new F-1 Financial Statement (attached) and recent bank statements showing sufficient funds to complete your program.  You will need to take these documents to the international student advisor on your campus.

 If you questions, you need to contact the international student advisor on your campus  as soon as possible.

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Extension of ESL I-20

If the program ending date on your I-20 is 12/31/2011 and you wish to continue your ESL studies at NOVA  you must extend your I-20.  For information about extending your I-20, you need to meet with an international student advisor on your campus as soon as possible.  On January 1, 2012, the I-20 will expire and cannot be extended.

 How do you find the I-20  ending date?  Your program ending date is printed on your I-20 in item 5.  In the example below from an I-20, the program ending date is 12/31/2011. 

 5.         The students named above has been accepted for a full course of study at this school, majoring in Second Language Learning (NEW).

            The student is expected to report to the school no later than 01/01/2010 and complete studies not later than 12/31/2011.

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