Maintaining Status

As an F-1 or J-1 international student, you are responsible for learning, understanding, and complying with all laws and regulations set forth by the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Department of State, respectively. Violation of these laws can seriously affect your immigration status and academic career.

Read the information pertaining to F-1 or J-1 immigration status carefully. International Student Services (ISS) will assist you in maintaining your immigration status, but ultimately the responsibility lies with you to be aware of and comply with immigration law. You should always contact us with any questions or concerns you have and reply promptly to any requests from the ISS office. Often, we alert students to potential problems with their status, but we can only help if students respond in a timely manner.

The main points to be aware of regarding your immigration status are:

  • You must maintain a full course of study and seek permission from ISS before dropping classes or withdrawing.
  • You should not work without permission from ISS.
  • You must keep your immigration documents up to date.
  • You should check your Widener email regularly for information from the ISS office.

There are also a few other important pieces of information that both F-1 and J-1 international students should know:

Social Security Numbers

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will issue a social security number for employment purposes only. If you have problems in establishing a bank account, renting an apartment or opening a cell phone account, contact ISS. We can help you find other ways to satisfy the requirement with the agency requesting the number.

Driver’s License and State ID

If you plan to drive in the US but will be in the US for less than 1 year, you should obtain an International Driving Permit before you leave your home country. If you will be in the US for more than 1 year, you should get a driver’s license in the state in which you live. The requirements for each state can vary, but generally you will need your immigration documents, proof(s) of residence, and a social security card or denial letter. Pennsylvania also requires a physical health exam. The requirements for a state ID are the same, except for the physical exam.

In addition to the documents above, you will need to take a written test and a road test in order to drive in the US Review the Pennsylvania Driver’s Manual or the manual for the state in which you live, before sitting for the exam.

Keep in mind that there are many rules around driving and owning a car, including the requirements to register your car and purchase car insurance, which can be very expensive. In other countries, these rules may be ignored or not exist at all; in the US there are severe fines for violating these rules. Americans buy insurance and register their cars; you should too.

Inviting Friends or Family

Many students wish to invite friends and family for a short visit to the United States. The B-2 visitor visa is a good choice for visits of 6 months or fewer in duration or for family members who do not qualify for an F-2 or J-2 dependent visa (such as parents, siblings, cousins, etc.).


All students will be required to complete the 8843 form each year. Students who work in the US will be required to file federal, state and usually local tax forms as well. Taxes are filed in April for the previous year. ISS will provide information on taxes starting in February. Failing to file your taxes, especially if you worked, can have serious consequences. Make sure to file on time. Widener partners with Sprintax to help international students who work in the U.S. file their taxes.