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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I know if I am considered an international student?

A: You are considered an “international” or “non-immigrant” applicant if you need a visa to reside and study in the United States. These are typically applicants with F, J, and B status.  If you are a US citizen, permanent resident, refugee, undocumented, AB540, H1B, or any other visa category you will not be considered an international applicant even if you currently reside outside of the US.

Q: What TOEFL score does Cabrillo College require for admission?

A: Cabrillo only requires a score of 480 on the paper based TOEFL, 157 on the computer based TOEFL, or 54 on the internet based TOEFL.  Our ETS school code is 4084. In addition, Cabrillo College has TOEFL articulation agreements with some of the local Intensive English Language Programs which allow students to transfer to Cabrillo without the TOEFL score requirement.  Please contact ELS for programs in Santa Cruz and MIIS for programs in Monterey.

Q: What is a Visa?

A: A visa represents permission from the Department of State for the bearer to enter the United States in a particular visa category. Those who wish to come to the US as students or scholars, and have been issued the Form SEVIS I-20 or SEVIS DS-2019 by an educational institution or sponsor are eligible for the F-1 visa or J-1 visa. Once a visa is issued, it appears in one page of the passport, it is machine readable and many times includes photo of the bearer. The visa has a period of validity that the bearer should be aware of and indicates the number of times that it can be used, either “multiple” (M) or a limited number such as “1” or “2.”

There are two categories of US visas: immigrant and nonimmigrant. Immigrant visas are for people who intend to live permanently in the US.  Nonimmigrant visas are for people with permanent residence outside the US but who wish to be in the US on a temporary basis – for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study. More information on student visas can be found at:

Q: How do I get a Visa and how early should I apply for one?

A: Since visa requirements and processing times are not the same in every country you should contact the US Embassy in your home country. The following link will help you find the closest Embassy or Consulate to you: (if you do not reside in your home country at the moment, you can still apply for American Visa at the nearest American Embassy or Consulate). Visa wait times for interview appointments and visa processing time information for each US Embassy or Consulate worldwide is available on our website at You may apply for your F-1 student visa up to 120 days before your program start date.

Q: What is an I-20 Form?

A: The I-20 is a very important document and you must have a valid and active I-20 while you are in the US as an F-1 student.. This form allows you to apply for a visa and to enter and re-enter the US.  It also shows what, where and when you are studying and it must be current at all times. Cabrillo is required to report any changes you make to your study program, your name, or your address to the US Department of Homeland Security through the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) system.  The I-20 is one of your most important immigration documents while in the US and is updated every semester.

Q: After Cabrillo College has received all my application documents when will I receive my I-20 form?

A: You will receive your I-20 from by mail within 2-3 weeks.  Please let us know if you would like us to send it by express courier mail. After you receive the I-20, you will need to pay your SEVIS fee and schedule your visa interview at the US Embassy or Consulate.

Q: When can I register for my classes?

A: For fall semester, registration begins in mid to late May and for spring semester, registration begins in mid December.  You should enroll in as many classes as you can before your arrival through WebAdvisor.  Please note that you will not be able to enroll in any courses requiring English or Math assessment, until you arrive on campus and take the assessment test.

Q: When should I arrive in Aptos?

A: New students have to take the English and Math assessment test and attend the orientation for new students, so we recommend that you arrive 3-4 weeks before the start of the semester. You may enter the US up to 30 days before the start of your program, which is listed on your I-20 form.

Q: I am transferring to Cabrillo College. If I leave the US during my break, which school's I-20 should I use when I come back to the US?

A: If you go to another country during your break, you have to use the I-20 from Cabrillo College when you come back to the US.  Remember to tell us if you will be travelling outside of the country so that you can take your new Cabrillo I-20 with you.

Q: Can I throw away my I-20 from my former school?

A: No, don't throw away any I-20s you have. You have to keep all I-20s from every school you have attended as a permanent record of your immigration status in the US. Sometimes, the USCIS will ask you to show your old I-20, so please staple all I-20s together and keep them with your passport.

Q: What happens if my F-1 visa expires while I am still studying in the US?

A: The visa stamp in you passport is an "entry permit" only, so you need not be concerned if it expires once you have already entered the US.  However, if you plan to travel out of the US and re-enter, you will need to go to the US Consulate (preferably in your home country) and apply for a new F-1 visa. You will need to provide proof of sufficient funding to cover your tuition and living expenses and a signed SEVIS I-20 showing that you have maintained your F-1 status. An official transcript and proof of your close ties to your home country are also recommended. The US Embassy is not obliged to issue you a new visa.

Q: Can I work in the US with an F-1 student visa?

A: You are eligible to work on your college campus up to 19.5 hours per week during Fall and Spring semester and 39.5 hours during Summer semester. You will also be eligible to apply for OPT (Optional Practical Training), which is permission to work in your field of study for up to one year after you finish your degree at Cabrillo College and you've been in F-1 status for at least nine months.

Q: What exactly is OPT?

A: Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment authorization that gives F-1 students an opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience off campus. Authorization for optional practical training is granted by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If you are interested in OPT, you will need to speak with the International Student Advisor and apply 90 days before your OPT start date.

Q: How can I know my rights as an international student in the USA?

A: While we cannot offer legal advice, we can provide information for you to make informed decisions. Please see our Immigration Regulations page and scroll down to the section titled "Know Your Rights" for more information.


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