Questions and answers for international students regarding arrival at Towson University, work in the US, travel, and other topics.
I have been accepted to Towson University. How can I check to see if my I-20 is ready?
We recommend that you email our office at : isso AT_TOWSON to check if your I-20 is ready rather than telephoning. Please be sure to include your Towson University ID number in any communication with our office.
What is the SEVIS fee (I-901) and do I need to pay for it?
The SEVIS fee is a U.S. Government fee that supports the operation of the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). In order to pay the SEVIS fee you will need to have your SEVIS ID Number and Towson University’s school code. Both are printed on your I-20 or DS-2019 form. You will also need to have Towson University’s school code to pay your SEVIS. TU’s school code is for F-1 status and for J-1 status. Read more about the SEVIS fee.
I applied for my visa and was denied. Can you help me in any way?
Obtaining a visa to come study in the U.S. can be challenging, but we ask you not to be discouraged. Many students try more than once to get a visa, and many are successful in their subsequent attempts. If you receive a denial, you should request a letter in writing from the consulate prior to leaving.
In most cases, prospective students are denied a visa due to failure to demonstrate intent to return to their home county to the satisfaction of the consulate. Consular officers assume that all non-immigrant applicants intend to immigrate and the burden of proof falls to the applicant. Therefore, you must prove beyond doubt that you have strong ties to your home country and intend to return upon the completion of your studies. Unfortunately, the ISSO cannot do anything to help in this regard, as we cannot certify your future plans or intentions. We recommend that you try again to get your visa, and that you provide as much documentation as possible to prove your intention to return to your home country once you complete your studies at Towson University. Anything that you can provide that shows continuing family, educational, vocational, or related ties to your home country will be helpful. For example, if you have any evidence of a job that you will be returning to once you complete your studies, or anything that demonstrates family ties such as ownership of land, relatives who live and work there, you should definitely provide it for your interview. And of course any and all proof of adequate financial funding for your studies in the US is always critical.
I am studying at another university in the U.S. as an F-1 student. Do I need to get
a new I-20 to come study at Towson University?
If you are attending another school in the U.S. but are planning to begin studies at Towson, you must complete a Transfer Eligibility Certificate (TEC) and submit it to the ISSO by fax at 410-704-6040; by e-mail atisso AT_TOWSON; or by regular mail at: International Student & Scholar Office; 8000 York Road; Towson, MD 21252. Your current school will need to release your SEVIS record to Towson University. The TEC is required even if you have already graduated from your U.S. institution and are in the U.S. on OPT.
I’m transferring to Towson University. How long does it take to get my transfer I-20?
The ISSO cannot process your I-20 form until we receive and review your admission documents, including your financial documents, and have access to your SEVIS record. You should discuss your transfer release date and travel plans with your current international student advisor when submitting the transfer form to them.
Classes are starting soon. Am I allowed to come to the U.S. on a B-1/B-2 “Prospective
Student” visa and start studying?
Casual, short-term, part-time classes that are not the primary purpose of your stay in the U.S., such as a single English language or crafts course, are allowed. Full-time study, or study that is focused toward a degree or vocational objective, is not permitted. Such study is a violation of B status and may be reason to deny an F-1 status application. Individuals who enter on a "visa-waiver" are prohibited from study of any kind.
The best option for those with a B visa is to return to their home country and apply there for an F-1 visa. More information about visa application requirements and procedures is available from the U.S. Department of State.
Although unlikely, you may be able to change status from B-1/B-2 to F-1 in the U.S. if the expiration date of your B status is less than 30 days before the start of the semester. If the expiration date of your B status is more than 30 days before the start of the semester you cannot apply for a Change of Status from B-2 (or B-1) to F-1. Check the hand-written or stamped expiration date on your Form I-94 (small white card placed in your passport by the US Customs & Border Protection [USCBP] officer when you entered the U.S. or that you printed yourself from cbp.gov/i94 ) or lower section of your I-797 to determine the expiration of your B-1 or B-2 status.
Please contact an ISSO advisor at isso AT_TOWSON if you are uncertain whether your plans would be acceptable under immigration regulations.
I’m in the U.S. on a temporary non-immigrant visa (e.g. H-4) and have been accepted to a TU degree seeking program. Do I need an F-1 student visa?
Individuals may enroll in school under a variety of immigration statuses. If you have questions about whether you are eligible to enroll in a degree seeking program with your current visa status, please email the ISSO at:isso AT_TOWSON
If you are interested in F-1 status because you would like to obtain Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT) employment authorization, please note that you will need to be in F-1 status for at least one academic year before you will be eligible.
Please also note that the acceptable timing of a Change of Status to F-1 application is complex. You must be able to legally maintain your current non-immigrant status up until (or beyond) 30 days before the start date on the Form I-20. The Change of Status request may be submitted to Immigration up to 120 days before the start date on your I-20.
Are there financial aid opportunities for international students?
Unfortunately, funding is quite limited for international students in the United States. However, following is a list of web sites with information and web-based searches for scholarships and financial aid. Most were created specifically for international students.
• Federal Aid
• International Education Financial Aid (IEFA)
• The Scholarship Page
• International Student Loan
• American Association of University Women
How do I get from the airport/train station to TU?
Students arriving from the Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) can use the following transportation options to arrive at Towson University:
SuperShuttle: First passenger: $33, each additional passenger: $12
Light Rail to Timonium, MD and then a taxi: Light rail: $1.60 Taxi: $15-20
**Students should note that the Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) is the most convenient and cost efficient airport for arriving at Towson. Transportation to and from any other airport in the area is extremely expensive and hard to find**
Students arriving from the Penn Station train station can use these options:
MTA 11 Towson Bus: $1.60
Baltimore Collegetown Shuttle - *Please note that this service is free for students only after they have obtained their Towson University OneCard (ID).
I just arrived in Towson. Do I need to do anything with your office?
Information about orientation activities can be found on the Enrolled International Students To-Do List.
Also, please be aware that ALL students must attend a special ISSO workshop about F-1 immigration regulation during the first week of classes. For more information about the time and location of this workshop, as well as information about how to sign up, please contact the ISSO via email atisso AT_TOWSON or via phone at 410-704-2421
Where can I live?
There are a number of on and off-campus housing options for students. Undergraduate students are able to live on campus in a variety of residential styles and learning communities. International students often live in the Global Village which is a residential learning community located in Residence Tower with both international and domestic students. The features of Global Village include the following:
• Opportunity to make friends with people from around the world
• Only dormitory on campus that is open all year round
• Special programming
• Full kitchen available
• Fully furnished rooms
• Specially trained staff to support the needs of the residents
ELC students and graduate student are not eligible to live-one campus and should explore off-campus housing options
Where can I park on campus?
Visitors are able to park in the following Visitor Lots which can all be found on the TU Campus Map
• Towsontown Garage Ground Level entrance ramp
• West Village Garage Ground Level
• Administration Building Front Lot
• Lot 11 Outside of the Union Garage
• Lot 12 Center for the Arts
• Glen Garage Ground Level
• Towson Center lots 13, 19, 20 & 21, pay stations are located at lots 13 & 21.
• Lot 2 Stephens Hall - Restricted to guest with a department code or handicap plates/placard.
• Lot 17 - visitors and department guests with handicap plate/placard
• Department guest code spaces are available in all visitor lots.
Parking Permits can be purchased for students that live on campus or students that commute. The type of permit you purchase determines where you are able to park on campus. More information can be found on the Parking & Transportation Services website.
Where can I get a bank account?
There are several banks in the Towson area where you can start a bank account. Located directly on campus on the first floor of the University Union is PNC Bank which is available for students. You will need a passport in order to open up a bank account. You do not need a social security number.
How do I get a Towson University ID?
Your official Towson University ID card is called the OneCard. The OneCard provides access to many university services: library privileges at Cook Library, use of the university's athletic facilities, free or reduced-priced tickets at Towson University cultural and athletic events, access to recreational facilities and a free e-mail account through the Office of Technology Services. In addition, if you live on campus it provides access to your residence hall and dining meal points.
You can obtain your OneCard at Auxiliary Services located across from the University Store, on the 1st floor of the University Union. Read more about the OneCard.
How can I get a driver’s license or non-driver photo ID card?
If you do not have a valid international driver’s license, you will first need to be issued a Learner’s Permit. If you have a valid international driver’s license issued in your home country and you are a new Maryland resident, you MUST be issued a Maryland Driver’s License within 60 days if you wish to drive in Maryland.
If you do not already have a driver’s license from your home country, you must first complete a Maryland approved driver education course of no less than 30 hours of classroom instruction and 6 hours of behind-the-wheel driver training. After completing this course, you will receive a certificate. You must then pass a written test and obtain a learner’s permit. If you are 18 or older, you must also complete a three-hour drug and alcohol course. For questions regarding applying for a driver’s license for the first time, including fees and locations of local driver’s education schools, contact the Motor Vehicle Administration for more information.
To obtain a Maryland driver’s license, you must be at least 16-years-old. You do not need a social security number to get a driver’s license. As long as you have the following valid, up-to-date documents, you do not need to schedule an appointment. However, we recommend that you visit the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) website and complete the S.A.V.E. Verification Request Form found there before going to the MVA.
Upon completion of this form, a MVA official will contact you within two (2) business days with the verification results and information to continue the process. If you experience any difficulties with the form, or do not receive a response within 2 days, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once you have received a response from the MVA, you may bring the following documents to the Motor Vehicle Administration office nearest you:
• a Social Security card or a letter from U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA-L676) stating you are ineligible for a Social Security number
• your passport
• your Form I-94 card
• your current Form I-20 (and any previous I-20s you may have)
• your driver’s license from your country or international license, if you have one
• proof of your Maryland address—for example, mail which shows your address, such as a telephone bill, electric bill, credit card bill, or a copy of your lease, etc. You can also order stamps from the U.S. post office and use that as proof of residence once you receive the stamps in the mail.
• another form of identification with your signature on it (for example, a picture ID, cancelled check, credit card)
All documents must be in the same name as your immigration documents. Do not use nicknames for leases, utility bills, or other billing statements.
At the Motor Vehicle Administration, you will take a 20-question, multiple choice, written test in order for you obtain a Learner’s Permit. The written test is available in various languages. A vision test, a road/driving test, and a three-hour drug & alcohol class is needed as well. You must provide your own car/test vehicle to be used during the road test.
You can get more information about drivers licenses for international students and scholars from the MVA. Driving manuals are available at the MVA office or online. You can also obtain a non-driver photo ID card from the Maryland MVA. A non-driver photo ID may be helpful as proof of identity for renting an apartment, gaining entry to certain venues or applying for credit.
How do I register for classes?
If you are a new graduate student, please contact your Program Advisor regarding how you should register for classes. If you are an undergraduate student, you may be pre-registered for some courses and you will complete your course registration in person at the International Admissions TU Cares orientation program the week before classes start.
All continuing Towson University students register for classes online or in person at the Office of the Registrar located in Enrollment Services Center, Room 223. Exact instructions on how to register online are available from the Registrar's office. You can call the Office of the Registrar at 410-704-2701 or e-mail theregistration AT_TOWSON
How much is tuition? How do I pay for it?
Through the Bursar's office website, you can view tuition and fees for each semester . All payments are made online through an ebill system.
What about health insurance?
All international students are required to have health insurance. All F and J students are automatically enrolled in the University’s health insurance plan. If you have your own health insurance and do not want the Towson University plan, you must fill out an online waiver application form and bring it with a copy of your health insurance plan in English to the Health Center (Monday – Friday, 8 am – 5 pm). Your own health coverage must be comparable to TU’s coverage. Please remember that if you have your own health coverage that you must apply for a new waiver each semester.
What dining plans are offered on campus?
Dining Services provides information about dining options for students .There are a variety of options for on and off-campus students with varying academic and eating schedules.
How can I get involved on campus?
There are over 200 student organizations at Towson University. We have everything from cultural groups to sports clubs to dance crews to get involved with! Take a look at all of your options at Involved@TU
As an undergraduate student, you can also participate in a special mentoring program for students through SAGE –Students Achieve Goals through Education . By becoming involved in SAGE, you will receive a mentor who will help you pursue your academic and personal goals while sharing cultural backgrounds and interests.
Where can I find the academic dates for the semester?
Towson University posts an academic calendar for each semester on the Registrar's website.
Am I allowed to work?
F-1 and J-1 full-time students are allowed to work on-campus, for any Towson University department or office, on a part-time basis (up to 20 hours per week) during the school year and full-time during school vacation periods. Off-campus employment requires special permission and usually can be done only after the first academic year (9 months) of full-time study at Towson University.
Where can I find information about on-campus and off-campus jobs?
You can search for on-campus jobs using the Career Center’s Handshake web portal .
Also, speak to your department or academic advisor about possible job openings.
In addition, the Career Center has a new job search database, "Going Global." Access "Going Global" for 600,000 worldwide job/internship postings, 35 country career guides, searchable H1B Plus database and MORE! The link to "Going Global" can be found on the Career Center's home page.
How do I get a Social Security number (SSN)?
F-1 students are permitted to apply for a Social Security Number provided they have an on-campus job offer. A Social Security Number is intended for individuals who will work in the United States and cannot be issued simply for identification purposes. For more details about getting a SSN if you have an on-campus job offer, please check the Employment for International Students and Scholars section of the ISSO website.
Can I work as a volunteer?
While volunteering can be a great experience, you need to be careful that the experience is truly considered volunteer work. In order to be a “volunteer” you cannot accept any type of payment or compensation for your work. That means that you cannot be paid money for your work and you also cannot work in exchange for housing, food, transportation or clothing. Nor can you accept things like parking passes, free meals etc.
Unpaid internships are acceptable in most situations if:
The company or organization offers unpaid internship positions on a regular basis.
• The internship activities are not the same as those of a regular, paid employee.
• The services are entirely voluntary or solely for internship credit, with no promise of advancement or future employment relationship.
• The activities are predominantly for the student’s benefit.
• Remember, an unpaid internship is only acceptable if no form of compensation is provided – e.g. stipend, parking pass, lunch, etc. Please note that if you have applied for OPT, have secured a job and are waiting for your work authorization, you cannot volunteer for the company until your work authorization arrives.
Can I travel to Canada or Mexico if my visa is expired? Will I need an entry visa
Most students/scholars may travel as a tourist to Canada (and Mexico and the islands near the U.S. except for Cuba) and return to the U.S. with an expired U.S. entry visa, as long as the time abroad is less than 30 days. This is a convenient benefit, called “automatic visa revalidation.” However, any student/scholar who applies for a U.S. visa in Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands is no longer eligible for the “automatic revalidation” benefit. Please come to the ISSO and pick up the handout entitled “Visas and Travel” for more information.
Canada requires citizens of specific countries to have a Canadian entry visa. Citizenship and Immigration Canada has more information regarding countries and territories whose citizens require visas in order to enter Canada as visitors.
My family will visit me here while I'm studying/ to see me graduate. Can the ISSO
provide an invitation letter?
The ISSO provides letters to all Towson University students who want to invite a relative from overseas to visit them and/or attend graduation. Please submit the online request for an invitation letter.