International Students: Attending Pomona College

Pomona College is pleased to welcome 12 percent of its students from countries outside of the United States. The Pomona College International Student Services Office is here to assist and advise you on matters relating to your visa and your immigration status and benefits while enrolled in your academic program.

To make your transition to college life in the U.S. easier, all new students are matched with a mentor from the International Student Mentoring Program (ISMP). ISMP is a Pomona College student-led mentoring program that pairs new international students with returning international students. Talking to your ISMP mentor is a great way to get all those little questions answered to help you adjust to this new environment.

For more information on attending college in the United States, visit the U.S. Department of State Study and Exchange website (or Education USA), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Study in the States website. For more detailed information about attendance at Pomona College or one of the other Claremont Colleges, contact the Pomona College International Student Advisor.


How do I get an F-1 student visa?

After being admitted to Pomona College, and providing some additional documents, you will receive an I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, from the College with instructions as to how to apply for the F-1 visa at the nearest U.S. Embassy or consulate.

When will I get my I-20 and how soon should I apply for my visa?

I-20's are typically emailed in April. Admitted students can apply for the F-1 visa once they have their I-20.

What is SEVIS and what is the SEVIS fee?

SEVIS is the acronym of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, the immigration database used to track students and scholars during their stay in the United States. The SEVIS fee, also called the I-901 fee, is the fee mandated by the U.S. government to fund and maintain the database. You will need to present a SEVIS fee receipt when applying for the F-1 visa. You will receive instructions about paying the fee when your international student advisor emails you your I-20. Do not pay until you get this email.

Is the SEVIS fee the same as the visa fee?

No. The SEVIS fee is paid to the Department of Homeland Security to fund the SEVIS database. Students generally pay this fee only once, unless they have been absent from the U.S. for more than five months during their course of study or are applying for reinstatement of student status after a violation of status. The "visa" fee is paid to the U.S. Department of State to fund the processing of visas. Both fees have to be paid before you can apply for the visa.  Each student is responsible for paying their own SEVIS fee.  Information about visa fees can be found on U.S. consulate websites.

F-1 Visa, M-1 Visa, J-1 Visa, I-20, I-94, F-1 Status — What does all this mean?

The F-1 student visa is for non-immigrant students enrolled in academic and/or language courses at any academic level. The M-1 visa is for students enrolled in a vocational program. A J-1 visa is for visiting scholars and many others coming to the U.S. for temporary purposes. Students enrolling at Pomona College receive an I-20 to apply for the F-1 visa. (If you need information on a J-1 visa for language residents, research scholars, consultants, professors, etc. please visit our Oldenborg Center website.)

Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status) is a U.S. government document issued to you by Pomona College after you are admitted. The I-20 allows you to pay the I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System fee (I-901 fee) and apply for the F-1 visa. Students must have a valid I-20 during the entire length of their program of study and during any subsequent periods of Practical Training following their academic program.

The I-94, Admission and Departure Record, is issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to individuals entering United States to document the individual’s period of stay, required date of departure and their status while in the U.S.

Upon entering the U.S., every visitor is classified in accordance with the type of visa used for entry and the purpose of their visit. Students coming to the U.S. on an F-1 visa are granted F-1 status upon entry. Students must comply with F-1 regulations while in the U.S. to maintain legal status and be eligible for all the benefits available to F-1 students.

If I enroll at Pomona College, must I take a full course load?

Yes, while an F-1 student, you must maintain full-time enrollment each regular academic term. At schools that use either semester hours or quarter hours, bachelor level students must be enrolled in a minimum of 12 credit hours per term, but 15 hours per semester is normal enrollment. At schools like Pomona College, which use a course credit system a minimum of three full course credits is required, but four full course credits is normal full-time enrollment.

If you are unable to maintain full-time enrollment, discuss your concerns with your academic advisor and the International Student Advisor.

Will I be able to work while going to school?

All F-1 students who are in valid F-1 status are allowed to work up to 20 hours/week on campus. No official work permission is required. You may work full-time on-campus during official college breaks. Please note, Pomona College limits on campus employment to 12 hours during the school year.

To work off campus requires authorization from the International Student Advisor and/or the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In most cases, off-campus employment must be related to your field of study, and can only take place after one academic year (two semesters) of full time enrollment. See International Student Employment in the U.S.

Do I need to have a U.S. Social Security Number while I am going to school in the U.S.?

You do not need to have a Social Security Number to attend school, but you will need to get one if you are offered employment. See International Student Employment in the U.S. Your international student advisor will go over this at orientation.

What happens after I graduate?

Your I-20 will have an end date showing the date you are expected to complete your academic program. After that date, you can remain in the U.S. no more than 60 days. If you need additional time to complete your degree at Pomona, contact the ISA for information BEFORE the end date on your I-20.

See Optional Practical Training for information on working in the U.S. after graduation. If you plan to enroll at another U.S. school the next semester after leaving Pomona, contact the ISA for information on transferring your SEVIS record to the new school.

I'm a U.S. citizen but grew up abroad. Does Pomona consider me an international student?

While you may not face some of the paperwork hurdles that a citizen of another country may face, Pomona College does consider you an international student in terms of the support we offer you. You will receive an ISMP (International Student Mentorship Program) mentor and be invited to international student orientation.