International students in front of the fountain

Office of International Programs
and Development

5000 Abbey Way SE
Old Main Room 430
Lacey, WA 98503
Phone: 360-438-4504
Fax: 360-438-4359
Hours: M-F, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. PST

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FAQ - Frequently asked questions

Working in the United States

Am I allowed to work while I am in the United States?

Students may work in positions on-campus only, unless they are authorized for OPT or CPT. Students must also continue to maintain full-time student status, so it is suggested that students not work more than 20 hours per week (except during summer vacation). Students interested in employment must also first obtain a Social Security number in order to get paid for their work.

How do I get a Social Security number?

Students who would like a social security number must fill out an SS-5 Form and bring the completed form, along with a written offer of employment, current I-20, visa, and passport to the nearest Social Security Administration (SSA) office. Address and directions to the Olympia SSA office are available.

What is OPT? CPT?

Optional practical training (OPT) is an option for international students to gain practical on-the-job experience by being employed in jobs related to their field of study after completing at least one year of studies in the U.S.

Curricular practical training (CPT) is for students whose curriculum (or program of study) requires them to be employed or partake in an internship in which they would receive payment.

Can I work off-campus as an intern?

Yes, but only if you are authorized for CPT. Please check with the International student advisor and admissions counselor before engaging in any sort of internship or employment.

What is the difference between OPT and CPT?

  • CPT is generally reserved for students who are required by their program to engage in an internship or work-study.
  • OPT is available to all students who have completed at least one full academic year and are still in good student status.

How soon can I apply for OPT?

Students can apply as early as 90 days before the date of their requested OPT start date. Most students choose to take OPT after they have completed their studies, so a good rule of thumb is 90 days before graduation.

How long does OPT last?

Once a student has been authorized for OPT, they are allowed a maximum of 12 months on OPT with no more than 90 days total unemployment. Students in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics field may choose to extend their OPT period by an additional 17 months as STEM OPT.

Who is eligible for STEM OPT?

Only students in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics field of study are eligible for the STEM OPT extension.

On-campus contacts

Who do I contact if I have questions about on-campus housing?

Please contact the office of Housing and Residence Life at 360-412-6163.

Something in my room is broken. What do I do?

If you find something in your room is broken or malfunctioning, contact housing as soon as possible. You can also fill out a facilities work order form online to let facilities know there is something in your room that needs to be repaired.

I feel ill…should I go to the hospital?

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may want to check in at the on-campus student health center or one of many local clinics before you go to the hospital. It is not recommended that students experiencing cold, flu, or allergy symptoms check in to the hospital.

Transportation and travel

How do I obtain a driver’s license?

Students can apply for a driver’s license after they have arrived in the US and have found a place to live. More information can be found on the Washington State Department of Licensing website.

I want to arrive more than 30 days before my start date. Is that okay?

No. Immigration regulations prohibit students arriving in the U.S. more than 30 days before the program start date indicated on their I-20.

What forms of public transportation are available?

Intercity Transit provides an excellent public bus system with transfers available to Pierce Transit and King County Metro for travel to Tacoma and Seattle respectively. You can find schedules and more on Intercity Transit’s website.

I want to travel to Canada or another country during a semester break. What do I need to do?

Please stop by and check in with the International student advisor and admissions counselor before you leave the country. In addition to endorsing the third page of your I-20, it is helpful that we are informed of your travel plans. Also, some countries may require you to obtain a tourist visa before you visit. Always check the entry requirements of the country you are entering before you travel.

What about traveling to another state or city within the U.S.?

Please check in with the International student advisor and admissions counselor before you travel and ensure you have all kinds of supporting documents with you at all times to verify you are legally in the country if an issue arises. These documents include:

  • Passport
  • I-20
  • Copy of current transcript
  • Letter of student verification from ISS or your academic advisor

My family or friends want to come visit me from my home country. What do I need from the Office of International Programs and Development to make that happen?

You will need to get an official letter of invitation which will provide your home country the information they will need to allow them to come visit you. Please fill out the letter of invitation form which will alert our office that you need a letter of invitation.


How can I pay tuition?

Accepted methods of tuition payments are as follows:

  • Money order
  • Personal check
  • Cashier’s check
  • Credit card (2.5% convenience fee)
  • Online payment via Self-Service (Visa or American Express credit cards only)

When is tuition due?

Tuition and all fees are due before the first day of class. If you are having trouble paying your account or need more time before you can pay, please notify the office of student accounts immediately.

Health insurance

Can I use my own health insurance or must I use the school’s?

If you have your own full health insurance coverage and do not want Saint Martin’s University to cover you, please bring proof of coverage to the International student advisor and admissions counselor.

Important: If proof of coverage is not received within the first four weeks of classes each semester, it will be assumed that you wish to be covered by the University’s insurance.

Visas and immunizations

I don’t think I will be able to complete my degree before my I-20 end date. What do I do?

Please schedule an appointment with the International student advisor and admissions counselor as soon as possible about the possibility of a program extension. You can find more out about the program extension process.

My visa is about to expire, but I still have time left on my program. What do I do?

As long as your I-20 has not expired and you remain a full-time student making significant progress in your studies, you are still legally allowed to remain in the U.S. even if your visa has expired. If you are planning to leave the country and return in the near future, you will need to renew your visa before you can re-enter the country. For more information about this process, please schedule an appointment with the International student advisor and admissions counselor

How can I renew my visa?

Students can renew their visas by returning to their home country and scheduling a new visa interview with their nearest US embassy or consulate. If you are planning to renew your visa in the near future, it is recommended that you fill out a visa renewal request form to request a letter of support from the International student advisor and admissions counselor.

Can I go to Canada to renew my visa?

While in the past, students have sometimes been able to renew their visas in Canada, it is strongly not recommended.

Can I get my vaccinations/immunization tests in the US instead of my home country before I travel?

Only some procedures can be done once you arrive. It is strongly recommended that students receive all immunization procedures in their home country before travelling.

I completed my immunization procedures in my home country, but I forgot to bring my documents with me. Do I need to get tested/shots again?

Yes. If you have forgotten your proof of immunization and have no way of retrieving it (faxed/mailed from family at home, etc.), then you will have to be tested or receive vaccination shots again.

Frequently used forms