7 BIGGEST Mistakes International Students in the U.S. Make and How to Avoid Them


In this article, you will find out the 7 massive mistakes international students in the US make and what you can do to avoid them. So whether you are on an F1 visa or J1 visa, you should make it a point not to fall into any of these 7 traps.

7 Mistakes International Students in the U.S. Make and How to Avoid Them

  1. Not seeking financial assistance from your University whenever you’re going through a financial hardship.

As an international student, if you ever experience any kind of economic hardship during your stay in the US, such as the loss of a family member who provides financial support for your US education, or you incur a very high medical bill.

Or let’s say, for example, there’s some economic downturns going on in your home country where the currency is severely devalued relative to the dollar, then you want to make sure to seek financial assistance from the University.

International students in the US who are experiencing any form of financial hardship that’s out of their control can reach out to the international office and apply for what’s called a severe economic hardship program.

The University’s International Office will actually grant you work authorization, which you can use to work off campus. And in some cases you can actually be given a tuition assistance in the form of a scholarship or grant.

Something else you can do is to reach out to your school’s financial aid office and request a deferment payment plan for your tuition.

This tuition deferment payment plan would at least allow you to pay your tuition install-mentally over the course of the semester, and in some cases, you might actually be allowed to register for courses before paying your tuition in full.

As an international student facing any kind of economic hardship, the last thing you want to do is to be ideal while you wait to rectify your situation. If you don’t do this, then you risk getting dropped from classes and as an international incident, you are required to enroll full-time during a long semester in order to maintain your status.

  1. Forgetting to obtain a travel signature or endorsement from your school’s international office before you travel outside of the US.

This may not be a big deal if you realize early enough after leaving the States that you forgot to obtain a travel signature.

In this case, you can always reach out to your school’s international office and have them mail you form I-20 with a travel signature before you try to reenter the US. But what happens if you realize that you fail to obtain a travel signature at the point you’re trying to reenter the US? If this is the case, then you really increase the risk of getting denied entry into the US on your F1 visa.

So definitely make it part of your travel checklist every time you want to depart the US to obtain a travel signature from your school’s international office.

  1. Using your international passport as your only form of identification in the States.

Always carrying your international passport in the back pocket, you may end up losing your international passport. What you should do within the first few weeks in the US is to obtain a state identification card and use this as your primary identification documents. This way, you can safely leave your international passport at home.

If you lose your international passport, not only would you have to deal with the burden of going to your country’s embassy in the US and obtaining a replacement, but you would also have to travel back to your home country to apply for a new US visa, as US visas are never granted within the US.

  1. Failing to inform your school’s international office of a change in your residential address or a change in your employment, if you’re an OPT. This is strictly US regulation.

Anytime there’s a change in your address, you are required to report that change to your school’s international office within ten calendar days. The same is also true for international students who are participating in optional practical training (OPT).

If there is any change in your employment during your OPT, you are required to report that change to your school’s international office within ten calendar days.

  1. Remaining idle, if you happen to be unemployed while on OPT.

In the unfortunate circumstance that you happen to be unemployed while on OPT, what you want to do is to seek employment in the form of an unpaid internship or a volunteer opportunity.

  1. Not applying for your F1 post completion OPT on time.

Many F1 students make this a much bigger deal than it should be. Some F1 students think that it’s best to wait to get a job offer before they apply for their OPT, but this cannot be further from the truth.

Regardless of whether you have a job offer or not, it’s best to apply for your OPT as early as possible. This is because sometimes it can take as long as six months to obtain your OPT/EAD card from USCIS, and the last place you want to be as an international student in a competitive job market is to have a job offer but not be able to work simply because you haven’t received your EAD card yet.

Some employers may not be willing to wait for you to get your EAD card and might received a job offer.

  1. The worst mistake you can ever make as an international student and that’s engaging in unauthorized work.

During the course of your studies as an F1 international student, you can only work off campus if you have received CPT authorization or pre-completion opt authorization. And in the case of a J1 international student, you can only work off campus if you’ve received pre-completion academic training.

Any other form of off campus work that doesn’t fall into any of these three categories is considered unauthorized work and is ground for you violating your F1 or J1 status, and if your school’s international office finds out that you’ve worked off campus without obtaining any form of authorization, they will immediately terminate your F1 or J1 status, and you will be required to leave the US to obtain a new I-20 or DS 2019 before you can reenter the US.

That concludes for the 7 (seven) biggest mistake international students on F1 or J1 visas make in the US and what you can do to avoid them.

DISCLAIMER: This article/blog post and content is designed for general information only and is NOT legal advice. The information presented in this article should not be construed to be formal legal advice. If you need legal advice, you may contact a licensed attorney.