Student FAQs

FAQ for Students

Below you will find answers to frequently asked questions. If you cannot find the answer here, you can call the office (713-348-6095) or send an email (oiss@rice.edu) for general questions. For more specific inquiries, please schedule an appointment with an OISS advisor.

Prospective Students

How do I apply to Rice University?

Undergraduates wanting to apply to Rice should visit the Admissions webpage. If you still have specific questions that cannot be found on the page above, please feel free to contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office at admi@rice.edu.

Graduate students applying to Rice will apply directly with the academic department of interest. Since each department is in charge of handling its own admissions, requirements, and deadlines, please send your questions directly to the department to which you wish to apply. A list of our graduate departments and their contact information may be found at: http://graduate.rice.edu/programsofstudy. As a general standard, Rice University does not offer conditional admission and proof of English proficiency is required for entry into Rice’s graduate programs.

Admitted Students

When will I receive my I-20?

We begin working on your immigration documents as soon as your student record has been created. At that point you will be able to upload all the necessary documents through your secure OISS Portal account, where you can also track the progress of your I-20 processing. Between the months of April and June our office is handling a very high volume of admissions paperwork and our goal is to get I-20s out as quickly as possible. For more information, please see the OISS Portal Info Page.

Where can I learn more about my orientation program?

We have multiple orientation programs for students who start their program in the fall semester. I-PREP is for undergraduate students and undergraduate exchange students. Graduate International Orientation (GIO) is for all graduate students, except for MBAs who have their own International Immersion Week. To learn about the details of each program, please see the Orientation webpage.

What are the health insurance options for students?

Health insurance is an important and detailed subject for international students. You may learn about different options on our Health Insurance webpage, and we also have a dedicated Health Insurance FAQ.

I have a valid F-1 visa from a previous U.S. school. Can I use it with my Rice I-20 to enter the U.S.?

If you transferred your SEVIS record to Rice and the SEVIS number on your visa is still accurate, then yes, you can still use the visa with your new I-20 from Rice. If your visa was issued for another SEVIS number, we recommend contacting the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country for confirmation and guidance. Please note that it your entry to the U.S. is granted at the discretion of the CBP officer at the port of entry, and OISS can never guarantee it.

Current Students

Why do I have to report my address and how can I do it?

All international students must report a change of address within 10 days of change by updating a valid local address as the place of residence while in the U.S. Failure to do so can result in serious consequences, including the termination of a visa status. Update your local address in the Mailing Address field in ESTHER. If you do not have a Mailing Address field to update, please email registrar@rice.edu for assistance in creating one.

**If you are on a visa type other than F-1 or J-1, please also complete and submit the USCIS Form AR-11.

How do I request an appointment with an OISS advisor?

You can either call us at 713-348-6095 or you can make an appointment by emailing oiss@rice.edu. Click here for some tips on things that may not require an appointment, and keep in mind that during the semesters we also have walk-in advising available for F-1 students on Tuesdays, 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. If you choose to schedule the appointment by email, please be sure to include the following:

  1. Your Full legal name
  2. Dates & times you are available
  3. Contact information - phone number
  4. Preferred OISS advisor (that you have spoken to or met with previously, if applicable)
  5. Reason for appointment

What are my employment options as a student?

Students on F-1 status have various employment options, such as on-campus employment, CPT, and OPT. Details about these options can be found on the Employment webpage. Students may also learn about these options at our CPT/OPT workshops - see our Event Calendar for upcoming dates.

How do I get a Social Security Number (SSN)?

Students must meet certain eligibility requirements in order to apply for a SSN. The full details and procedures can be found on the SSN webpage.

Who can help me with my taxes?

Unfortunately, we do not have any tax experts in OISS, as taxes in the U.S. is a very specialized field. However, OISS has a variety of resources to assist our international students in filing their taxes. We offer a software license, GTP, that will help guide students through the process, an annual tax workshop in the spring, and a variety of other resources. Please see the Taxes webpage for full details.

I am an F-1 student who is planning to travel abroad (outside the U.S.). What documents do I need?

Students traveling outside the U.S. need to be sure to have all their documents in order, including:

  1. I-20 with a valid travel endorsement (should ideally be from the current semester)
  2. Passport with at least 6 months validity left
  3. Valid visa stamp

For additional guidance from the Department of Homeland Security, click here. Please note OISS cannot advise on immigration regulations of other countries. To learn what documentation you need to enter another country, please visit that country's embassy or consulate. Please also be sure to update OISS with any new visa stamp or I-94 upon re-entry to the U.S. For more information, please see our Travel webpage.

I am a J-1 student who is planning to travel abroad (outside the U.S.). What documents do I need?

Students traveling outside the U.S. need to be sure to have all their documents in order, including:

  1. DS-2019 with a valid travel endorsement (should ideally be from the current semester)
  2. Passport with at least 6 months validity left
  3. Valid visa stamp

Please note that OISS cannot advise on immigration regulations of other countries. To learn what documentation you need to enter another country, please visit that country's embassy or consulate. Please also be sure to update OISS with any new visa stamp or I-94 upon re-entry to the U.S. For more information, please see our Travel webpage.

I left the U.S. for travel and forgot to get a travel signature on my documents, what should I do?

If you forgot to get a travel endorsement on your I-20 or DS-2019, it is best to request one before you return. If you have time to mail your document back to OISS, we can sign it and return it to you by mail. OISS may also reprint a new document for you and mail it to you. Please see https://oiss.rice.edu/getdocs for more information on how you can receive your new document.

I am planning to travel around the U.S. domestically, what documents do I need?

When traveling around the U.S., you should carry your original immigration documents with you, including your I-20 or DS-2019, passport, visa, and I-94.

How do I request a letter of support from OISS (visa renewal, enrollment letter, invitation letter, etc.)?

Please complete our online request form for the letter of support that you need. Please allow 2 business days for processing. If you need a more complex letter than those available through our online request, please contact OISS to schedule an appointment with an advisor.

Will I get a new I-20 if I change my major or program level?

Yes, any change to information indicated on your I-20 will require an updated I-20. Information that is submitted via the Registrar will automatically trigger an update to your immigration documents. You will be contacted to come pick-up your new document once SEVIS has processed the change.

I need to drop to part-time status; do I need to do anything with OISS?

Yes, F-1 and J-1 students are required to get approval from OISS prior to dropping below hours. Please complete the Request for Reduced Course Load (RCL) form and submit to OISS. After an OISS advisor reviews your petition and it is approved, you will also need to seek the additional approval of the Dean of Undergraduates for undergraduate students or Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) for graduate students. Please note that F-1 and J-1 students may only drop to part-time for very specific reasons, so not all petitions may be approved.

F-1 Students & OPT

To learn more about OPT, we encourage students to attend a CPT/OPT Workshop, which are held throughout the semester, and read the OPT Tutorial online. If you still have questions, please contact OISS to schedule an appointment with an advisor to discuss your specific case.

What is the procedure to request OPT?

To request OPT, please complete the required forms as indicated on the OPT handout, submit your complete packet to OISS at http://bit.ly/optrequest, and meet with an OISS advisor.

What do I need to know about traveling while on OPT?

Traveling while on OPT carries a little more risk, so be sure to have all the required documentation. This includes:

  1. Valid I-20 with a travel endorsement from the last 6 months
  2. Valid passport with at least 6 months validity upon return to the U.S.
  3. Valid visa stamp
  4. EAD card
  5. Proof of employment (recommended)

Additional details regarding travel while on OPT can be found on the Department of Homeland Security's website.

I am on OPT and need to travel outside the U.S., but I am not in Houston. How do I get a travel signature?

If you need a travel endorsement and you cannot come to OISS, you may mail your I-20 to our office. We will be happy to verify your status, sign your documents, and mail them back to you. Please see https://oiss.rice.edu/getdocs for more information on how you can receive your document(s).

I am on OPT and need to apply for a SSN, what is the procedure?

To learn about the SSN application procedure, please see our SSN webpage. Students on OPT will need to present their immigration documents, along with their EAD to the Social Security Administration office to apply for a SSN.

How do I update my OPT status (employment, address, etc.)?

Students on OPT are still on Rice's F-1 visa program. As such, you are required to continue reporting any change of address or any employment to Rice, so that we may update your SEVIS record. To learn more, please visit the Students on OPT webpage. Please also be sure to provide OISS with a copy of your EAD card when you receive it. You may submit it online at http://bit.ly/oissdocs.

How do I apply for STEM OPT extension?

If you would like to apply for STEM OPT or to determine your eligibility for STEM OPT, please read and complete the forms found on our STEM OPT Info webpage. You will need to make an appointment with an OISS advisor to complete the process, and the application must be submitted to USCIS prior to the expiration of your current OPT.

My employer has applied for an H-1B for me. How do I apply for a cap-gap extension?

The Cap Gap extension is automatic for students whose H-1B applications are pending or approved before the annual October 1st H-1B start date. It does not require a new I-20, but one may be requested if needed to prove ongoing work authorization to an employer. To make this request, please visit https://bit.ly/ineedcapgap.