Basic Guidelines and Information


Life in the United States - Other

International Student Handbook

The International Student Handbook  is a comprehensive guide for incoming international students. It provides information about immigration regulations as well as procedures and the COA culture and community. 

 F-1 Immigration Regulations

As a non-immigrant temporary visitor on an F-1 visa, you are expected to follow specific guidelines while in the United States and report when required to the International Office at your school.  Below are outlined various tips and regulations to help you do so.

Clearing U.S. Immigration

When you arrive in the U.S. you will go through immigration inspection.  You will need to present the following items to a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official:

  • a valid passport
  • a visa document (I-20 for F-1 status)
  • A receipt from the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee, especially if it is your initial crossing with your F-1 visa.
  • a valid U.S. visa. (Canadian students do not need the visa stamp in the passport. However, you will need evidence of funding - See Differences for Canadian Students
  • Before you depart the customs area.  Look at your passport before you leave the immigration check point. Make sure you have the small ink entry stamp (see sample). If you do not have a stamp, request that the CPB officer give you a stamp. You may need to go to the Differed Inspection section of the airport.

  • As soon as you have access to a computer please look-up your I-94 record to make sure it is accurate, and print, or save a copy on your device.
Differences for Canadian Students

There can be immigration and travel differences in regulations if you are a Canadian student in the U.S. on an F-1 Student Visa.  When entering the U.S. initially on an F-1 visa from Canada, you will not need to apply to the U.S. Embassy for the official visa stamp, but are placed on F-1 visa status when issued the I-20 document. 

Please keep in mind that if you are entering the U.S. through a land border from Canada, you will need to make it clear you are coming in on an F-1 visa.  It is less common for Canadians to enter the U.S. on an F-1 visa and therefore Border Officials can sometimes assume you are entering as a tourist unless you specify.  Insist on getting your passport stamped with the entry stamp.  This can become complicated if you are crossing to Canada for less than a week or 72 hours.  Speak with the Coordinator of International Student Services if you have questions on specifics.

When entering the U.S, bring with you:

  • Canadian Passport
    Effective December 31, 2007, a passport is required for ALL entries to the U.S., including land borders.
  • Form I-20
    COA will mail you your I-20.  The I-20 is your F-1 student immigration document.  It has been produced by SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) and is an acknowledgment that your record is in the SEVIS system.
  • SEVIS Fee Receipt
    All new students coming in F-1 status must pay a $350 SEVIS fee prior to entering the U.S.  COA pays all incoming international student’s SEVIS fees and mails you your receipt along with your I-20.  You will also receive a duplicate receipt sent to you by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  • Evidence of Funding
    Your financial documentation must be reflective of what is noted on your I-20 in section 8.  Acceptable forms of financial certification include, your financial award letter, if you are on scholarship and/or a recent bank or investment statement as demonstration of personal funds.

You may enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the start date on your I-20 form.


 Address Change

Change of Address form
Form is due within 10 days of moving to a new physical address. 

 Off-Campus Study Forms

Proposal to Study Off-Campus form (form #1)
Due by the end of registration the term prior to your intended study off-campus period.*
Off-Campus Study Application (form #2)
Due prior to your study off-campus.

*Please note that for study away in the Fall Term, Form #1 is due by July 1st,
  not the end of registration in Spring Term

COA International Student Break Work Form

How Do I Get Approved For Work Over Winter or Spring Break?  Flow Chart.

Break Work Form
Please use this form in order to apply for hours to work on-campus during the Winter and Spring Breaks.  This work is outside of your work-study award and comes from a separate budget. 

Working in the US

As a non-immigrant temporary visitor on an F-1 visa, you have limited options for working in the United States.  You can work on approved CPT, OPT, or work for your sponsoring institution, which is the College of the Atlantic.  Working for the sponsoring institution includes workstudy, but can also be work during breaks, provided the money you are paid with comes from the sponsoring institution. The only other options for valid F-1 Student visa work in the U.S. are:

  • Employment with an International Organization

  • Economic Hardship Employment

In order to work in the U.S. on an F-1 visa, you must possess a Social Security Number.  To apply for this, you must bring the following information with you to the Social Security Administration in Bangor, Maine. 

  • Social Security Card Application (provided in International Student Orientation Packet)
  • Passport (and visa)
  • I-20 Document
  • Statement of Claimant or Other Person Form (also provided in International Student Orientation Packet)
  • Copies of I-20, passport ID page, F-1 visa

Please note you cannot apply for your Social Security Number until you have been registered in the SEVIS system for at least 10 days.  At the beginning of each academic year, the COA International Student Services Office takes all first-year international students to Bangor in a group to apply for their SSN.  These numbers can take from 2 weeks to 8 weeks to arrive in the mail.  You cannot be paid for working in the U.S. until you have your SSN. 

 Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is for F-1 students studying in the U.S. to gain off-campus employment experience as part of a student’s curriculum. At COA, CPT is authorized when the employment fulfills a student’s internship requirement for credit or non-credit.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

For F-1 students studying in the US, Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows students (either pre- or post-graduation) to legally work in the United States in your degree concentration for up to twelve months. 

Health Insurance and Coverage in the United States

Health Insurance in the United States can be complicated and confusing. COA requires all international students to have health insurance. Medical expenses are very high in this country and having medical insurance will be very helpful in case you become seriously ill or need specialized care. International students are subscribed automatically to the COA policy for students. 

It is recommended that for minor health concerns, you visit the on-campus Health Center to avoid co-pays and other possible bills.  Please keep in mind, however, that if the Health Center does certain tests, such as blood tests, this can be billed to your insurance and it is possible you will have a bill to pay.  If concerned about coverage of any kind, please contact the Director of Health and Wellness.

General Information about Health Insurance and Health Care in the United States - Video

COA Health Center - COA has on-campus nurses that are in the Health Center They have office hours 3 days (20 hours per week) and provides a variety of free services to students, including std screening and counseling, and physical and gynecological exams (by appointment). If you are sick, they are the first people you should see, provided you can wait until they have campus office hours. If the matter is urgent and you need to see someone on a day that the nurse is not on-campus, you should call one of the health centers located in town to set up an appointment with a doctor or physician’s assistant.

Aspects about U.S. health care that you might not have encountered in your home country:

- Co-pays, which are a base payment when at the doctor’s office or Emergency room.  Often around $15 or $20 dollars
- Prescriptions from a doctor necessary for basic drugs like antibiotics
- Health Insurance is provided by private companies, not the government
- Varying levels of coverage based on the Insurance Plan one has
- Dental coverage and Eye (ophthalmology) Coverage are not included in the general medical coverage, but are separate plans
- Billing and claims are sometimes complicated and take several months to process

Dental Coverage - The International Students & Scholars Blanket Injury and Sickness Insurance Plan does not provide for preventative or emergency dental care, except as the direct result of an accident. If dental care is affordable in your home country, we suggest that you visit the dentist before you arrive as dental care is very expensive in the US without insurance. Delta Dental offers students a fairly inexpensive dental plan they may purchase at an additional cost to their normal COA health insurance (around $30 monthly).

Mental Health Options at COA - On-campus counselors hold office hours during the week, and each 45 minute session costs a student $10. In the United States it is relatively common and very culturally acceptable to seek out professional counseling if you are dealing with feelings of depression, anxiety or need extra support or guidance in whatever issues you might be dealing with.  Please feel free to speak with anyone in Student Life about issues you are encountering and whether they think it would be helpful to see a counselor.  You can also speak with Student Life if you would like to see a counselor but the $10 fee is a financial burden for you. 

 COA Student Health Insurance Plan

Taxes in the U.S.

Information on Filing Federal and State Taxes for Non-Immigrant Aliens.

Getting a Driver’s License in Maine

How to apply for a License while on non-immigrant status, Driving in the U.S., and Car Insurance information.

Surviving the Maine Winter
Graduation and Completion of F-1 Status  (Coming Soon)
  • Finishing your time at COA
  • Options for students post-graduation
  • Grace-Period rules
Employment in the US for F-1 Students after Graduation (Coming Soon)

Staying in the US after graduation - Employment and options

Resume, Cover letters, and Interviews in the US - an overview