Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions concerning International Student Affairs are listed below.


Is it permissible to enroll in school while in B-1/B-2 status?

No, it is not. The regulations, at 8 CFR 214.2(b)(7), specifically prohibit a course of study in the United States while in B-1 or B-2 status. To find more information on eligibility to enroll while on B1/B2 Visa, please visit Special Instructions for B-1/B-2 Visitors Who Want to Enroll in School (opens new window).

When am I eligible to request Optical Practical Training (OPT)?

F-1 students must have been in attendance for one full academic year to be eligible for OPT. Also, they can only work 20 hours a week while classes are in session and 40 hours in the summer. A student cannot begin employment until the start date on the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) arrives. The OPT start date will be the date asked for on the Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status or the date United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved the OPT, whichever is later. For standard post-completion OPT, the student cannot request a start date that is more than 60 days after the student's completion date-since it would not be granted by USCIS. Also, all post-completion OPT must be completed no later than 14 months after the student's program end date.

Once Optical Practical Training (OPT) is approved, now what?

  • OPT is granted for full-time employment regardless of part or full-time employment.
  • Once you secure employment, visit International Student Affairs to obtain/complete a OPT Report as soon as possible. The employment information must be entered into your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record.
  • You may apply for one 12 month period of OPT at the completion of each academic level obtained (e.g. 12-months of OPT at the undergraduate level, Masters, and PhD). Any student who applied and was approved for OPT at one academic level may not apply for a second period of OPT at the same level; you also cannot cancel your application. Any pre-completion OPT is deducted from the 12-months of post-completion OPT.
  • Once you send your OPT application materials to USCIS, you cannot change the requested dates. While on OPT, you many not pursue a new course of study, unless you are a PhD student and are in the "all but dissertation" stage. If you transfer to another university or college, your OPT work authorization will end on the day your SEVIS record is transferred.
  • You will have a 60-day grace period from the date your OPT expires to leave the U.S., apply for a change of status, or transfer your Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status to another school.
  • Once USCIS has approved your OPT, you will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card that lists the dates of the OPT period and shows your picture. You cannot begin working until you receive the EAD card and start date on it has passed.
  • For additional information, please visit I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (opens new window).

What is a community college, and how does it differ from a university?

A community college serves several purposes:

  • For students seeking a Bachelor's degree, it is the most economical way to complete the first two years of the degree and transfer to a university of their choice.
  • Southwest offers lower tuition rates, smaller classes, and more personalized instruction.
  • Southwest provides skilled workforce training for those who seek to upgrade their skills to enhance preparedness for economic opportunity.
  • Southwest also provide excellent English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at lower cost tuition than most private schools and universities.

Do I have to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) test before I can be admitted to Southwest?

Yes, if your native language is something other than English, a TOEFL test is required.

Is an international student eligible to work?

Yes, you can work up to 20 hours on campus, if you are in good academic standing. Special permission to work off campus must be granted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and your Designated School Official (DSO). After 12 hours in your major field of study you are eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and in your last semester you may apply for Optical Practical Training (OPT). Please see the DSO for further info on these programs.

When does school start, and when should I physically be in town?

At Southwest, you can start school three times a year; in January, in May, or in late August. We recommend that you be in Memphis two weeks prior to starting school, so you can get settled in before classes begin.

How many classes must I take?

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires international students take at least 12 semester hours, which is a full-time course of study, each fall and spring semester. Normally, four classes constitute 12 semester hours.

Do you have student clubs or organizations?

Yes we do! We have numerous student clubs and organizations for you to choose from. They are ethnically, academically, and socially diverse. This is a great way to make new friends and learn about college student activities.

Do I need health insurance?

Yes, Southwest requires international students to purchase Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) Health Insurance. International Student Health Insurance (opens new window) information, current costs, and sign-up is available from International Student Affairs.

Are International Students and Scholars required to file taxes?

Yes, for additional information visit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Foreign Students and Scholars (opens new window) website.

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