Welcome!

The International Student Office is here to help you succeed.

We understand as an international student you have more to worry about than your domestic counterparts. Our primary goal is to ensure you maintain your immigration status.

The International Student Office staff serve as Designated School Officials (DSO) for F-1 students or Responsible Officer (ROs) for J-1 students. The DSO/RO is your primary source for information on immigration rules and regulations. DSOs/ROs keep your record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) up-to-date, which is mandatory under U.S. federal law. To do this, we require your help.

Please contact the International Office if:  

  • Extend or change your program or degree
  • Intend to transfer to a new school
  • Drop below full-time enrollment
  • Need your I-20/DS2019 signed for travel
  • Move to a new address
  • Change your phone number
  • Want to start an internship, practicum, or apprenticehip

Below are the most common information international students ask for. If you cannot find what you are looking for, please don't hesitate to contact us.

You can reach us at internationaloffice@dts.edu, or 214-887-5369, or visit the 1st floor of Stearns Hall

Dr. George Hillman

Vice President of Student Life
ghillman@dts.edu

Keighty Patton

International Student Advisor (Dallas)
kpatton@dts.edu

Julia Pannone

International Student Advisor (Houston)
jpannone@dts.edu

Dr. Carisa Ash

J-1 Student Advisor
cash@dts.edu

You will want to become very familiar with the Department of Homeland Security Study in the States website. Study in the States offers free government resources that explain the rules and regulations governing the international student process in the United States.

Study in the States clearly explains the student visa process, enhances coordination among government agencies, and keeps international students and the U.S. academic community better informed about pertinent rules and regulations.  

Maintaining Your Visa Status

Your immigration status is just that – your responsibility. Take ownership of this important responsibility.

It is important for you understand your responsibilities as an international student on a non-immigrant visa. Upon initial arrival to campus, you must check-in with the International Student Office (located on the first floor of Stearns Hall) so we may register your Form I-20 and activate your immigration record.

Here are a few other basic requirements to maintain your immigration status:

It is important you keep proper documentation of your immigration status.

Here are the documents you should always have on-hand:

  • Form I-20 – This is your certificate of eligibility and the most important document in terms of your immigration status. Make sure to sign in blue ink on Page 1. You should keep ALL old versions for your records, but only use the most recent. Also remember to get your DSO to sign Page 2 for travel outside the U.S. every year.
  • Visa – This is the stamp in your passport. It serves as an entry document only, meaning it can be expired if you are in the U.S. and plan to remain so. However, if you travel outside of the U.S. with an expired visa you will need to get it renewed in order to re-enter. If your visa expires and you intend to travel, see the International Student Office for visa renewal information.
  • I-94 Entry/Departure Records – Created by Customs & Border Protection (CBP) when you enter or depart the U.S., the I-94 is official documentation of your immigration status. You can access your I-94 record online. Make sure it lists your correct visa status upon initial entry into the country. If “D/S” is listed on your record, that means you are allowed to remain in the U.S. for “duration of status,” i.e. until your current program end date as long as you maintain active immigration status. 

It is your responsibility to monitor expiration dates on your immigration documents. Take note of the program end date listed on your Form I-20 or Form and the expiration date listed on your visa and set calendar reminders. Ask the International Student Office staff how to renew or extend your documents before the expiration date, or you will go out of status.

You are required to be enrolled full time (9 credit hours per fall and spring semester) during the academic year.

Exceptions to the full-time enrollment rule may be granted for the following reasons:

  • Final Semester – You have less than 9 credit hours in your final semester and have less than 9 credit hours remaining on your degree plan. Make sure to work with your Academic Advisor and the International Student Office.
  • Severe Medical Situation – Requires specific documentation from licensed medical professional stating you cannot maintain full course load. You need to work directly with the International Student Office on this specific situation.
  • Limited Academic Reasons Your First Semester Only – There are a few academic situations (during in the first semester) where you may qualify for a reduced course load. The International Student Office will evaluate your situation to see if you qualify.

All of the above require advanced approval from the International Student Office. If you need to drop below full time, schedule an appointment with us to discuss your options.

Do not begin any type of employment — job, internship, volunteer work or otherwise — without first checking with the International Student Office and receiving proper authorization. Violating this rule will jeopardize your ability to legally stay in the U.S. and continue your studies. 

See additional information below under On-Campus Employment or CPT or OPT.

F-1 students have a 60-day grace period to depart the U.S. upon program completion and J-1 students have a 30-day grace period.

Other options to extend your stay include but are not limited to:

  • F-1 Students: Apply for Authorized Post-Completion OPT work authorization
  • Transfer to another school/program
  • Change your education level (e.g. master level to doctoral level)
  • Apply to change to another visa status

Plan ahead and contact the International Student if you wish to pursue any of these options.

Visa Status Violations

With immigration, it is important to remember many decisions are outside of our control as a seminary. If a DSO learns you have violated your immigration status in any way, he our she must take appropriate action, which may include the termination of your Form I-20.

Common termination reasons include:

  • Failure to register initial I-20
  • Failure to request program extension before program end date
  • Failure to maintain active full-time enrollment
  • Failure to make “satisfactory academic progress”
  • Working without authorization
  • Being arrested for violation of any local, state, or federal law

If you go “out of status,” inform the International Student Office staff immediately to discuss your options for regaining status. We will do everything we can to support you, but please help us by always reading and responding to emails!

Most issues can be resolved with your cooperation.

Travel Documents

International students are permitted to travel outside the US as long as the student has the appropriate documents and has received travel signatures from a DSO. Please have the following documents when planning to leave the US. Remember,  DO NOT LEAVE THE US WITHOUT THIS SIGNATURE!

You must have a valid passport at all times when studying in the US. As a general rule, passports should have at least six months of validity when traveling internationally. Most countries will not permit a traveler to enter their country unless the passport is set to expire at least six months after the final day of travel. 

These are forms from the university listing the program details.  You must have your I-20 each time you enter the US.

Please don’t forget the I-20 should be re-signed by the International Student Office staff each year for international travel. DO NOT LEAVE THE US WITHOUT THIS SIGNATURE! If your I-20 is not signed, you may not be permitted to re-enter the US. 

If you requested OPT, but have not received approval from the USCIS, travel is not recommended. Leaving the US during this period may cause you to forfeit your OPT request.  

The visa is the travel document required to enter the US.  Even if the visa expires while you are in the US, this is not a problem and does not mean you are out of status.  The visa is only used to enter the US. However, we recommend that you keep a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after your program end date.

If your visa has expired and you plan to travel outside the US, you will need to get a new visa before entering the US. This can be done from your home country by having a visa interview. Please check with the local consulate in your home country to determine what you need to do to receive a new visa.

If your visa is expired and you plan to visit a country other than your home country, please contact the international office. 

The I-94 is the record you have entered the US.  In addition, it lists the immigration status and confirms you may stay in the US until you finish your program.

  • Please visit https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/recent-search to access your I-94
  • If you are having issues accessing your I-94, please make sure you are typing your name exactly as it appears on your visa.  At times, CBP accidentally transposes the passport number and the visa foil number.  You may need to type in the visa foil number in place of the passport number.

Each time you re-enter the US, please bring a printed copy of your most recent I-94 stamp to the international office. 

Employment

All international students are eligible for a total of 20 hours per week of on-campus employment during the fall and spring semester.  If you have multiple on-campus jobs (such as grading for multiple professors), you must make sure your total hours from both jobs combined cannot exceed 20 hours per week.

International students may work additional hours during official school breaks such as

  • Reading Week
  • Thanksgiving Week
  • Christmas Break (between semesters)
  • Spring Break
  • Summer Session

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

For more information about CPT, please follow the link below. CPT requests must be submitted the semester before the student intends to begin CPT

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

For more information about OPT, please follow the link below. OPT paperwork can be submitted 90 days prior to your program end date or 30 days after you program end date

Social Security

In order to be employed as an international student, you must be in valid status, eligible for the type of employment you are seeking, in possession of a Social Security number.  Obtaining the Social Security number requires the following:

  • Letter of employment in hand
  • Letter of employment eligibility from International Office
  • I-94 Proof of legal admission to the US
  • I-20 or DS 2019 Certificate of Eligibility
  • Valid passport
  • Valid visa

Housing and Relocation Services at DTS

For students who are living in on campus housing or are planning to live in on campus housing, you will work directly with the Housing Office with housing matters. To learn more about housing, please visit the Housing and Relocation Website. 

Student Health Insurance

The US Health Care and Insurance system is unlike any other in the world. Understanding it can be difficult for US Citizens. To help you better understand the US Healthcare System, please view the link below. If you are interested in learning more about the DTS Heath Insurance policy or to enroll in health care, visit the DTS Student Health Insurance Website

Filing US Taxes

All international students and their families are required to file US Taxes. Taxes are due on April 15th each year. To learn more about filing taxes, please follow this link. 

Avoiding Scams

There is an increasing number of phone and email scams affecting international students.  The Department Homeland Security has seen an uptick in housing and rental scams where international students transfer money before they start their program to a fraudulent realtor or landlord, scamming the victims out of hundreds if not thousands of dollars.  Other reported scams involve phone calls from alleged government representatives demanding personal information and money with threats of deportation from the United States.

Never give personal information by phone or email to someone you do not know.

Please refer to the links below for helpful resources to educate yourself on protecting your identity and information.

J-1 students: If you are the victim of a scam, please report the incident to Dr. Carisa Ash immediately. DTS is required to report such information to the United States government for J-1 visa students.

Driving in the US

The process of getting a driver’s license in the US can be a little complicated and knowing the rules of the road can too. Below are some links that should help you through the process of getting a licenses and driving in the US. 

Public transportation in Dallas is limited. Many of our international students need cars to get around Dallas and buying a car may be different in the US. We are creating a recourse to help you through this process

Grocery Stores Near DTS

There are many grocery stores near DTS. To locate these, please click on the link. If you are seeking other shops near DTS, please contact the International Office. We would love to help you as much as possible. 

Working with an Immigration Attorney

Dallas Theological Seminary does not give legal advise to international students on matters of immigration. However, NAFSA (Association of International Educators) offers guidelines for working with an immigration attorney.

Frequently Asked Questions