Frequently Asked Questions
Find answers below for your questions about arriving in the US, traveling while you’re here, maintaining F-1 compliance and more.
Arrival and travel
What do I do if travel restrictions keep me from entering the US?
Our office is attentive to all changes to immigration policy that affect RISD students. We will send an email in the event of any changes that impact you, so pay attention to your RISD inbox.
Travel restrictions may change without warning. For up-to-date travel and visa information, you should visit the website of your home country’s US embassy.
If you are flying to another country and have questions about entry restrictions, either contact your airline or the government of the country to which you’re traveling.
What do I do if I’m detained in secondary inspection?
If you are detained in secondary inspection, the Customs and Border Protection officer detaining you will ask questions beyond what they would if just going through customs. Answer all questions truthfully.
If you encounter further issues while detained, you can call our office at 401 277-4957 during normal business hours (8:30 am–4:30 pm eastern). If traveling outside ISSA business hours, call Public Safety at 401 454-6376. They will know how to reach an international student advisor.
How often do I need a new travel signature?
Travel signatures are valid for one year and cover multiple trips. You only need one when traveling internationally—you do not need to “renew” it otherwise.
Do I need a new travel signature if I’m traveling outside the US soon?
The travel signature you provided on the second page of your current I-20 is valid for one year for multiple entries into the US. If it will be older than one year by your return date, you need to complete an I-20 update form in order to obtain a new travel signature from our office.
If you are an alum currently in the US on optional practical training (OPT) or STEM OPT, your travel signature is valid for only six months. To request a new signature, you must complete the applicable OPT update form or STEM OPT reporting form.
Leaves and deferrals
For how long am I allowed a leave of absence?
You may apply for a leave of absence for a period of up to one year (with an exception available for active military service leaves).
You must return to RISD at the end of your leave or to extend it for up to one additional year.
How do I ask for a leave of absence?
You start the leave of absence process by completing the leave of absence form online. International students must also submit a leave of absence implications for F-1 international students form to our office.
Once all relevant offices approve your leave and it is processed by the registrar, we will terminate your SEVIS record. This will invalidate your Form I-20.
Please review RISD’s leave of absence policy for more information.
What will happen to my Form I-20 document?
If you take a leave of absence, your Form I-20 (SEVIS record) will be terminated. When you return to RISD, you will be issued a new Form I-20.
Your Form I-20 (SEVIS Record) will be terminated and you will be issued a new one when you get reinstated to return to RISD.
Please review RISD’s reinstatement process for more details.
Do I need to apply for a new visa if I take a leave?
To find out if you need a new visa, or if your unexpired visa will remain valid, we recommend you contact your US embassy or consulate.
What is the request deadline?
You may submit a leave of absence form prior to the start of the semester and up to the course withdrawal deadline.
What are my financial obligations in order to retain my RISD student status?
I am a new student. If I cannot obtain a visa or travel to the US, how do I defer my admission?
If you are a first-year student, you may defer your admission for one year, pending approval of the Admissions Office. Deferrals run through the entire academic year—you may not begin your studies in the spring semester.
To request a deferral, you must first submit your nonrefundable enrollment deposit. After you do so, you should access your applicant portal and follow the prompts for deferring admission.
Transfer students cannot request deferred admission except in very rare circumstances.
Please visit the admissions deferral FAQ for more information.
How long will it take to get my I-20 after I’m accepted to attend RISD?
You first need to pay your deposit and reserve your space among the incoming class. Following that, please allow for processing time before receiving your I-20 electronically from the Admissions Office.
If you have questions about the status of your I-20, please contact the Admissions Office.
When can I arrive to begin my program of study?
If coming to RISD will be your first time entering the US, review your I-20 for your program start date and earliest admission date. Your earliest admission date for entry into the US is 30 days before your program start date.
What is my I-94 record?
Your I-94 is a record of your arrival into the US. It is generated by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
CBP assigns a specific number to your I-94 record, which includes your:
- full legal name
- date of birth
- passport number
- country of issuance
- US entry status; this should always be noted as “F-1”
- status expiration date; this should always be noted as “D/S” (duration of status)
Check your I-94 record every time you enter the US to confirm that your arrival status was accurately recorded. This should always be noted as "F-1, D/S." If your I-94 record lists something other than “F-1, D/S”, please email our office.
You can check your I-94 record online via the Department of Homeland Security.
What should I do if my passport is due to expire soon?
To keep your F-1 status, you must maintain a valid passport. If your passport expires while in the US, you are in violation of your F-1 immigration status.
You must renew your passport either in your home country or in the US. To renew in while in the US, work with your country of citizenship’s embassy or consulate.
What if my visa has expired or will expire soon?
The visa stamp in your passport is an entry document. It only needs to be valid when you enter the US.
If your I-20 is still valid, you do not need to do anything if your visa stamp expires while you are in the US. However, a valid visa is required for every time you enter the country, so if you are traveling internationally, make time while outside the US to apply for and obtain a new F-1 visa.
Do I need a new I-20 if I change my major?
Am I allowed to drop a class?
Yes, you may drop a class as long as you remain enrolled full-time for at least 12 credits. If dropping a class will drop you below 12 credits for the semester, you must contact our office beforehand for authorization.
To speak to an advisor, sign up for our drop-in advising hours.
Where how do I get a copy of my transcript?
How do I obtain certification of enrollment?
Do I need to file taxes?
Yes, it is our understanding that international students are required to file taxes in the US even if you have no income. Our office offers international students a discount code for Sprintax, a tax-filing platform.
The software is generally available in February, and we email current students and students on OPT with information on how to register and use our discount codes. For more information about Federal taxes, visit irs.gov and for State of Rhode Island tax information visit tax.ri.gov.
How do I make changes to my meal plan?
How do I obtain a Social Security Number?
To apply for a Social Security Number (SSN), you must first receive a US job offer. See our SSN application overview for more information.
What can I do if I don’t want to carry my passport with me for identification?
If you’re concerned about the risks of losing your passport, you can apply for a Rhode Island State Identification Card or a Rhode Island driver’s license. To apply, you must make an appointment with the Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Before you apply, please review the required documents for completing your application.