ISSO Frequently Asked Questions


What is an F student?
  • If you would like to study as a full-time student in the United States, you will generally need a student visa. The nonimmigrant visa category for a person wishing to study in the United States is commonly known as the F visa.
  • The F-1 Visa (Academic Student) allows you to enter the United States as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program. You must be enrolled in a program or course of study that culminates in a degree, diploma, or certificate and your school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students.
What is an I-20?
  • All F students that study in the United States need a Form I-20, named “Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status.” Once accepted into a school such as Cooper, international students will need to submit a request for an I-20 from their designated school official (DSO).  You must also obtain a Form I-20 for any eligible dependents you plan to bring to the United States with you. Financial documentation that provides proof of support is required to obtain an I-20.
What is a DSO?
  • The U.S. Government calls university staff members that can update SEVIS and issue I-20’s “DSOs or PDSOs,” which stands for “Designated School Official” or “Primary Designated School Official.” DSOs can answer your questions and guide you through the process of studying in the United States. All SEVP‑certified schools are required to have DSOs that are certified to communicate with SEVP, update your student record, and have the knowledge to help you maintain your student status by providing advice, or helping you fill out important Government documents.
How do I request my I-20?
When will my I-20 arrive? 
  • The usual process for an I-20 request is 2-3 weeks after all completed documents have been submitted and verified. If you have any questions about your I-20 please contact
I have not received my I-20 from Cooper. What do I do?
  • Read the instructions and the page Obtaining your I-20. If you have submitted all the required information and still don’t have an I-20, please contact us at The usual process for an I-20 request is 2-3 weeks after all completed documents have been submitted and verified.
I have a visa interview with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, but I don’t have my I-20 yet. What should I do? Will I still get the visa?
  • You can schedule your Visa Appointment as soon as you receive your emailed I-20 which has your SEVIS number listed. You must have your I-20 with you when you attend the interview appointment.  For all U.S. visa questions please visit
I have not been able to get a visa appointment?
  • Please regularly check the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you wish to apply for your visa. Appointments may open up depending on the public health situation. You can also find the visa appointment wait times here.
I attended an International High school abroad do I have to take an English Language Exam?
  • If you have attended 3 years of an American or International High school where English is the primary language of instruction, contact to request a waiver. You might be asked to take the DET English proficiency exam. That can be done online with results available within 48 hours. For further information on English Language proficiency requirements please visit:
I have been studying at another U.S. school and need to transfer my SEVIS record to Cooper. What do I do?
What is an "International Student transfer"? I am enrolled as a student at another college or university and my visa is being processed as a "transfer"?
  • Students who are currently studying in F-1 status at another school in the U.S., no matter what degree level, need to have their SEVIS record “transferred” to Cooper Union. This is because only one school at a time is allowed access to a student’s SEVIS record. For The Cooper Union to issue a new I-20 for you, the current school of attendance must transfer a student’s SEVIS record to The Cooper Union. The Cooper Union’s DSO is the only one that can do that transfer for you. For further information contact

Entering the U.S.

When can I enter the U.S.?
  • Students may enter the U.S. in the “INITIAL” F-1 status (as a new international student, not a SEVIS transfer student) up to 30 days before the program start date provided on the I-20.  The earliest date to enter the U.S. is always printed on the I-20 document.

When can I enter the U.S.

May I Enter before the 30-day window? (Not Recommended!)
  • Entering the U.S. earlier than the 30-day window before your program start date is not recommended.  Customs and Border officers will NOT accept an I-20 and matching F-1 visas before the 30 days unless:
    • Students who are transferring their SEVIS record from another school such as a high school or community college and received a “transfer pending” I-20, may enter the U.S. any time before the I-20 start date.
  • Students that show a valid tourist visa are permitted to enter under the Visa Waiver Program. However, this student will be required to exit and re-enter the U.S. again using the F-1 visa and I-20 to “activate” F-1status before the start of their program date.
Am I allowed multiple Exits and Re-entry to the U.S. during the 30-day Window (Not Recommended!)
  • Making multiple trips in and out of the U.S. during the 30-day arrival window is not recommended. Students who try this often find that reentry at the U.S. border is very difficult. Customs and Border (CBP) officials expect new students who just arrived to be on campus attending orientation and starting classes. When a new student leaves the country and tries to reenter, CBP officials may ask many questions about class enrollment, the orientation schedule, and why you are not on campus.
What documents do I need to show to enter the U.S.?
  • Students should have the following documents in their carry-on bags.
    Do not put these travel documents in checked suitcases:
    • Passport (valid for at least 6 months into the future)
    • F-1 (Canadian citizens exempt)
    • SEVIS Form I-20 (F-1) signed by your DSO and you
    • SEVIS fee receipt
    • Supporting financial documentation (most students use the same documents submitted for their visa application)
    • Cooper’s letter of acceptance and financial aid document
  • It is also recommended to review the website for up-to-date information on travel to the U.S. and visa information

Beginning at Cooper

Do I have to attend the Orientation(s)?
  • Yes, the Cooper Union Orientation is a mandatory program for all new and transfer students. Fall dates will be posted in the Spring and emailed to all new students. During orientation, you will learn about degree requirements, meet your classmates, The Cooper Union faculty and staff, and learn about campus. This is your opportunity to ask any questions you may have before the semester starts. For further information about orientation please contact
  • International Orientation is a separate session with a mandatory Check-in that must be made with your DSO. The ISSO advisor will send you all the information before your arrival in the U.S. Our ISSO orientation will prepare you for the cultural transition and provide you with very important information on how to maintain your immigration status while you’re in the U.S. You must bring your passport and provide your local N.Y. address and phone number during this session.  
How can I pay tuition and how much is tuition?
  • For questions regarding your tuition bill, please contact the Office of Student Accounts at International Students (who do not hold U.S. citizenship or permanent residency) are responsible for an additional non-refundable international student fee of $1,005 per semester. The fee will be charged once you are registered for classes and is due with your tuition bill. 
As an F-1 student, do I need to have health insurance from Cooper? Can I use the insurance I have in my home country? Where do I go to see a doctor or find more information about medical issues and health?
  • All F-1 students must have medical insurance before arriving in the U.S. Cooper provides health insurance for all students through Wellfleet. Learn more on our Cooper Union Health Insurance webpage. 
How can I obtain a document to prove I'm a student at Cooper Union?

Working while at Cooper

Can an F-1 student work or have a paid internship while studying at Cooper? Where can I learn more about the F-1 employment regulations and options?
  • It is possible to be employed on campus for less than 20 hours per week. Off-campus employment is only allowed with prior authorization from either your DSO or USCIS. Review the F-1 employment options for more information about employment eligibility and be on the lookout for organized ISSO employment workshops available at Cooper Union throughout the year.
How do I get a social security number or driver’s license so I can work on or off-campus?
  • Talk with your DSO about working and training in the United States. Your DSO will provide important information and required documents that are needed to qualify for a social security number or driver’s license. Click here for the Social Security Checklist.
How can I learn more about the F-1 regulations?
  • The ISSO will provide information sessions throughout the year. Make sure to check your Cooper email for all Campus notices and emails from your DSO or go to: and view our ISSO website.
How can I open a bank account as an international student?
  • It is not advisable to walk around New York with a large amount of cash. You may wish to open a bank account before entering the United States. Check with a bank in your home country about the easiest way to transfer sums of money in U.S. dollars from home.  Paying for large expenses may take several days to clear U.S. banks.
  • Students often open an account at one of the banks near Cooper Union, after completing their mandatory ISSO check-in. A social security number is not required for an F-1 student to open a bank account, but you will need proof of identification and immigration status in the U.S.
  • Required Items to open a bank account: 
    • Passport
    • Current I-20
    • Most Current I-94 printed from this link
  • Additional Items that might be requested:
  • If you have any problems opening an account, contact ISSO at for more information. ISSO will provide more information about opening a bank account during our mandatory orientation/check-in session.
  • Here is a list of banks with branches near The Cooper Union that will open accounts for international students: Chase at 26 Astor Place, Citibank at Broadway & Astor, 749 Broadway, Wells Fargo at Broadway & 10TH, 781 Broadway.

Visiting International Students

I am a visiting international student.  What do I need to know?
  • Visiting international students will receive their student handbook by e-mail, and an orientation meeting will be scheduled within the first two weeks of classes. For Engineering exchange students please contact Beth Slack in the Engineering Deans’ Office at and for Art exchange please contact Frances Green at
  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.