While attending COA as an international student, there are both college policies and US government regulations that you need to follow. The International Student Services office helps you navigate these guidelines while making successful progress toward your degree. 

International Student Handbooks

The pre-arrival guide for incoming international students outlines the visa process, immigration rules, travel, and more. These materials are sent with your I-20 and other documents in the spring or early summer.  International Student Handbook  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.  Below are outlined various tips and regulations to help you maintain your F-1 status.

Scholarship Requirements

International students are expected to follow College of the Atlantic policies found in the student handbook. Specific requirements for particular scholarships should also be noted.

Clearing U.S. Customs

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 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
  • A receipt from the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee, also referred to as I-901 fee, especially if it is your initial crossing with your F-1 visa.
  • You may be asked for information about the College, what you are studying, or about the classes you are enrolled in.
  • Before you depart the customs area. Look at your passport before you leave the immigration check point. You may see that you have the small ink entry stamp (see sample) marked F-1. If it the marking is other than F-1, please speak to the officer. Many ports of entry no longer use physical stamps,  your entry is recorded electronically. 

  • 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. The International Student Services office requests a copy. If the I-94 does not reflect your most recent entry date or has another visa type listed, you must correct this with CBP.
Differences for Canadian Students

For Canadian students 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.  Request 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
  • SEVIS Fee Receipt/I-901
  • 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 aid award letter, if you are on scholarship and/or a recent bank or investment statement as demonstration of personal funds.
Address Change

F-1 students are required to report their physical address within 10 days of moving to the Designated School Official (coordinator of international student services) to maintain their SEVIS record. Email or drop off this  Change of Address form.

Off-Campus Study 

Students sometimes engage in study abroad, residencies, internships, or senior projects away of College of the Atlantic. To help facilitate and document this process, please set an advising meeting with Dianne Clendaniel. International Student Services office requires documentation of the approval for your study away.

Proposal to Study Off-Campus
This checklist is intended to help you plan for studies away from campus.
Due by the end of registration the term prior to your intended study off-campus period.*
Off-Campus Study Application
Due prior to your study off-campus, this information is needed to maintain your SEVIS registration.   

Working in the US

As a non-immigrant temporary visitor on an F-1 visa, you have some options for working in the United States.  You can work on for College of the Atlantic, through work study or additional work during breaks. Work outside of COA requires authorized Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT). All students are awarded work study as part of their financial aid package.  The only other options for valid F-1 Student visa work in the U.S. are Employment with an International Organizations and Economic Hardship Employment. Any other work in the US will jeopardize your student status.

Social Security Number

In order to be paid by College of the Atlantic, you must possess a Social Security number.  To apply for this, you will bring the following information with you to the Social Security Administration in Bangor, Maine. The International Student Services Office takes all first-year international students to Bangor to apply for their SSN at the start of the term. It can take from 2 weeks to 6 weeks for Social Security cards to arrive in the mail. 

  • Social Security Card Application (provided during International Student Orientation)
  • Passport (and visa)
  • I-20 Document
  • Supporting letters of enrollment and employment (provided by International Student Services)
  • Copies of I-20, passport ID page, F-1 visa
COA International Student Work Over Breaks 

During winter and spring breaks, some employment opportunities, primarily with our Buildings and Grounds Department, are available. Students must apply for these positions through an application sent from the International Student Services office.

Some departments at College of the Atlantic hire student employees during the summer. Students can apply directly to supervisors for these opportunities.  

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a benefit 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. An updated I-20 with work authorization is required before beginning an internship.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows F-1 students (either pre- or post-graduation) to legally work in the United States in your field of study for up to twelve months. The International Student Services office assists seniors in the post-completion OPT application process. 

Health Care and Insurance in the United States

Your well-being is of primary importance to us. There are on-campus and off-campus health care facilities to aid you if you need care. The Student Life staff can assist you in finding the resources you need.

COA Health Center 
The on-campus Health Center is open about 20 hours per week and staffed by nurses who provide 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. You may need to pay for some tests done via the Health Center.

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.

Health Insurance
COA requires all international students to enroll in the COA Student Health Insurance Plan. This insurance can be helpful in case you become ill, as medical expenses can be quite high for specialized care. International students are subscribed automatically to the COA policy for students. If concerned about your coverage or health care, please contact the Director of Health and Wellness, Barbara Conry .
We suggest watching this video which provides has an overview about the health care system in the US from an international student perspective.

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. 

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. 
- Prescriptions from a doctor necessary for basic drugs like antibiotics
- Health Insurance is provided by private companies, not the government
- Dental coverage and eye (ophthalmology) coverage are not included in the general medical coverage, but are separate plans
- Billing and claims sometimes take several months to process 

Taxes in the U.S.

Each year, students must file taxes to both the US federal  and Maine state revenue services. The College provides access to software to complete the tax forms. 

Thriving in the Maine Winter

Whether it is your first experience with snow or you are an avid Nordic skier, you can enjoy the changing seasons in Maine. Warm layers, exploring the outdoors, fireside conversations, or a good book can make winter days enjoyable.  

Getting a Driver’s License in Maine

Some students are interested in driving while in school. Here is some information on how to apply for a license while on non-immigrant status, driving in the U.S., and car insurance.

Graduation and Completion of F-1 Status  

Following graduation, F-1 students have a 60-day grace period to stay in the US. Prior to this or during this time, students can apply for OPT, transfer their SEVIS record to graduate school, or use the time to stay and visit within the US. 

The International Student Services Office can support your plans and transitions whether you are seeking conversations about the challenges of shifting cultures, assistance applying for OPT, information about school transfers. Workshops are offered in the final year on these topics and our office is open for advising sessions.