What you need to know about F and J regulations and cultural adjustment

Studying as an international student or exchange visitor in the U.S. is an exciting opportunity but can also bring many challenges and demands. Our office is here to assist you with the challenges that you face and to help you succeed during your program at Regis University. We are also here to advise you on specific immigration regulations that you must follow in order to maintain your legal status while you are in the U.S. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about regulatory information or maintaining your status.

Immigration documents

You are responsible for keeping a personal file of all of your immigration documents.  This provides a history of your time in the United States, and you will need these documents if you were to ever file for a new immigration status or any kind of immigration benefit (H-1B visa, permanent residency, etc.). 

Passport

A passport is a legal document that establishes your citizenship and legal identity.  Your passport must be valid at all times while you are in the U.S.  In addition, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months into the future upon your entry into the U.S.  If you need to renew your passport, then you must do so in your home country or at your embassy in the United States. 

Form I-20

The I-20 is your Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.  This legal document is issued by an academic school or English Language School that is SEVP-approved to admit foreign students to attend school.  This form is used to apply for your F-1 visa and must be presented at the U.S. port of entry every time you arrive in the U.S. to continue classes. 

The information on the I-20 must be kept up-to-date at all times.  If your major changes, financial information changes, work authorization changes, and so forth, then you must contact the DSO immediately to make the necessary changes on your I-20.  The I-20 is only valid during the program start and end dates on the form. 

F-1 visa

Your F-1 visa stamp is placed inside your passport.  Visas are issued by the U.S. Department of State and are issued for the purpose of engaging in the activity that is associated with the visa type.  Your F-1 visa must be valid upon your entry into the U.S. but can expire while you are in the U.S. as long as you have a valid I-20.  You must renew your F-1 at the U.S. embassy in your home country before you can gain re-entry into the U.S. to continue studying.  If you bring dependents with you (spouse and/or children), then they will be issued an F-2 visa, and the same rules apply when they enter the U.S. in that status.

I-94 arrival/departure record

The I-94 document is issued at the port of entry every time you enter the U.S.  You will be given an admission record number, which is the record that entails your date of entry, class of admission, and admit until date.  As a student entering in F-1 status, your I-94 record will have an admit until date of D/S, or duration of status.  This means that you can remain in the U.S. in F-1 status as long as you are maintaining status and your I-20 is valid.  Your passport will be stamped at the port of entry indicating the admit until date D/S.  Be sure that D/S is indicated on both your I-94 and the stamp in your passport every time you enter the U.S. in F-1 status.  Your I-94 document can be downloaded online at the U.S. Customs & Border Protection site.   

   

Maintaining status

You are required to understand and follow United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations. Regis University’s DSO is required to report information to the USCIS through the Student Exchange and Visitor Information Systems (SEVIS). There are important regulations that you must follow in order to maintain your visa status. You are ultimately responsible for your lawful status while you are in the U.S. on your F-1 visa.

SEVIS  

SEVIS is the Student Exchange and Visitor Information System web-based software used by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State to monitor SEVP-certified schools and F, M, and J nonimmigrants during their stay in the U.S.  The DSO at Regis University is responsible for maintaining SEVIS and ensuring that all student records are complete and accurate.  Your enrollment status, address, employment, academic program, etc. are reported and kept up-to-date in SEVIS during the duration of your program at Regis University.

Maintaining F-1 student status

1.     Attend the school listed on your I-20

Regis University has issued your I-20, and thus, you must only attend classes at Regis University.  If concurrent enrollment at another school is necessary, then you must contact the DSO prior to registering for classes there.

2.     Keep the information on your I-20 up-to-date

The information on your I-20 must be current at all times.  This information includes changes in academic program, financials, work authorization, and I-20 expiration date.  You must also keep all I-20s that Regis University issues to you.

3.     Make academic progress

You must continue to make academic progress every semester.  You must earn satisfactory grades for all of your courses.  Failure to make academic progress will result in academic probation and possibly academic suspension from Regis University.

4.     Report address changes  

You are required to report address changes to the DSO within 10 days of moving.

5.     Must attend class full-time, Exceptions to full-time enrollment  

You must attend class full-time every semester.  Undergraduate student must attend 12 credit hours per semester.  Graduate students must attend 6 credit hours per semester.  In addition, only one online course per semester counts towards your full-time registration.  Regis University has 3 semesters per year (spring, summer, and fall), and each semester is 16 weeks long.  

Classes that you audit or receive a W grade (withdrawal) do not count towards your full-time enrollment status.  Classes that you receive failing grades in, such as D or F, do count towards your full-time enrollment but may result in academic probation or suspension.

  • Exceptions to full-time enrollment

Annual vacation: You are eligible for an annual semester break after you have attended two consecutive semesters of full-time study. Regis University does not have an official summer break. You may be required to attend full-time during the semester. Those attending the traditional Regis College day program are the only students approved for summer vacation.

Medical illness/academic reason: If you cannot attend full-time, then you must receive authorization from the DSO to attend less than full-time. A Reduced Course Load (RCL) must be warranted by the USCIS and authorized by the DSO. RCLs are only approved under certain circumstances such as a medical condition or initial difficulty with the English language. You may only have a maximum of 12 months of RCL authorization.

Final semester: If you are in your last semester of class and have fewer credits to complete than full-time enrollment, then you are allowed to attend less than full-time. 

6. Must not work unless authorized

You are not authorized to work unless you receive approval from the DSO.  You must receive employment authorization before you can begin working

Employment

Employment is both a privilege and benefit while you attend on your F-1 visa. You must receive employment authorization before you begin working. Unauthorized employment is a serious violation of your F-1 visa and will cause your I-20 to be terminated. Employment regulations are strictly enforced by the USCIS and can only be authorized per USCIS immigration regulations. Failure to receive proper work authorization prior to working will result in violation of your visa status. Do not start working until you have consulted the DSO.

Off-campus employment opportunities include Curricular Practical Training, Optional Practical Training, STEM extension Optional Practical Training, and Severe Economic Hardship. All off-campus employment requires approval by the DSO or USCIS and must be authorized on your I-20 prior to your first day of work.

F-2 dependents are not eligible to work in the U.S.

On-campus employment

You are eligible to work on-campus if you are maintaining your visa status and making academic progress towards your degree program. On-campus employment is defined as employment on the school’s premises or at a location off-campus but treated as on-campus. On-campus work is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session and more than 20 hours per week during school breaks. For F-1 students, this work does not need to be authorized on your I-20 or by the DSO as this work is incidental to F-1 status.

Applying for your social security number

If you have never worked in the US, then you must apply for a social security number (SSN) before you can be paid. In order to apply for your SSN, you must first be hired for a job. Contact the DSO once you have been hired for additional SSN instructions and required work authorization if applicable (CPT or OPT). You must take the following documents to a local Social Security Office to apply for your SSN: official hire letter from your supervisor, letter from the DSO, passport, visa, I-94, and I-20.  There are four local Social Security Offices in the Denver metro area. You can go to any local Social Security Office to apply for your SSN.

Off-campus employment opportunities

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

CPT is temporary work authorization before you finish your degree. CPT employment must be directly related to your major of study. To be eligible for CPT, you must have completed two semesters of full-time study at Regis University, be in good academic standing, and be in valid F-1 status. CPT is authorized by the DSO and must be authorized on your I-20 before you begin working. CPT is authorized on a semester-basis and must be renewed thereafter if you wish to continue working.

CPT is available for part-time work (20 hours per week or less) or for full-time work (more than 20 hours per week). You are eligible for unlimited part-time CPT during your degree; however, if you are authorized for 12 months or more of full-time CPT, then you will lose your eligibility for OPT work authorization.

  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)

OPT is temporary work authorization after you finish your degree. OPT employment must be directly related to your major of study. To be eligible for OPT, you must have completed one full academic year at Regis University, be in valid F-1 status, have completed all coursework for your degree or be in your final semester, and applied for graduation. 

USCIS approves OPT employment authorization. You may apply for OPT no more than 90 days before your last course ends but no more than 60 days after your last class ends. OPT is limited to 12 months and can only be applied for once per degree level.

  • STEM Extension Optional Practical Training (OPT)

If you earned a qualifying STEM degree (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics), you may apply for the 24-month STEM Extension OPT. The qualifying degree must be listed on the STEM Designated Degree Program List, and the matching CIP code must be found on your I-20. In addition, you must have a job offer for paid employment of at least 20 hours per week, and the employer must be registered with E-Verify.

  • Severe Economic Hardship Employment

Unforeseen circumstances can occur that may leave you without financial funding for your education in the U.S. If this happens, you may apply for work authorization due to Severe Economic Hardship. Severe Economic Hardship Employment is work authorization off-campus but is not required to be in your field of study. To be eligible to apply, you must have completed two semesters of full-time study at Regis University, be in good academic standing, and be in valid F-1 status. Severe Economic Hardship Employment is limited to 20 hours per week while you are attending class full-time and can be increased to 40 hours per week when you are not in class.

Travel

Before you travel outside of the U.S., you must obtain a travel signature on your I-20 from the DSO. Travel signatures are usually valid for 1 year, but it is recommended to get a new signature from the DSO every semester. In addition to carrying your I-20 with a valid signature, immigration also requires you to hand-carry the following documents to the port-of-entry (POE) upon your re-entry into the U.S.:

  • Passport: must be valid for 6 months beyond your entry date into the U.S.
  • F-1 visa: must be valid on your entry date into the U.S. and allow for multiple entries.
    • If you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands (with the exception of Cuba) for less than 30 days, then you may exercise Automatic Visa Revalidation if you possess an expired visa.

It is also highly recommended to also hand-carry these documents:

  • Current financial documentation: must show the amount of funds as listed on your I-20
  • I-901 SEVIS receipt: if you do not have the original receipt, you may print it online at the SEVIS payment site.
  • Enrollment verification/transcript: you may request an enrollment verification or transcript from the Office of Academic Records & Registration.

It is also your responsibility to notify professors if you need to travel because of an emergency.  You must receive approval from your professor(s) to be absent from class.

If you are traveling during OPT authorization, in addition to the required documents, you must also carry:

  • OPT EAD card
  • Employment letter: your employer must write a letter giving you permission to travel. The letter must be on company letter head and state your name and F-1 OPT status, your date of hire, and the number of hours you are working per week. The employer should state the dates that they are approving you for travel.

Reentering the U.S. after an absence of 5 months

If you leave the U.S. for more than 5 months, then you will require an initial I-20 in order to re-enter the U.S. This also includes paying a new SEVIS fee and possibly obtaining a new F-1 visa. All F-1 benefits, such as CPT and OPT, will be reset to coincide with the new program start date on your new I-20.  

Completion and extension of degree program

After completing the last course for your degree, you have a grace period that may allow you to apply for work authorization, leave the U.S., transfer to a new school, or start a new degree program at Regis University. You are not allowed to work during your grace period. The grace period only allows you to prepare for one of the allowable options for your visa or to travel the U.S. as a tourist while finalizing your departure plans. Failure to act accordingly before your grace period ends will result in your I-20 deactivating and possible accrual of unlawful presence if you remain in the U.S.

You do not have a grace period if you choose to end your full-time studies prior to completing your degree program. Your I-20 will be terminated, and you will need to leave the U.S. immediately. Talk to the DSO if you cannot or wish not to complete your degree program.

F-1 student grace period

You have a 60 day grace period to do one of the following options:

  1. Apply for OPT:  You may apply for OPT 90 days before the end of your last class or no later than 60 days after your last course.  Upon completion of your OPT, you have a 60 day grace period to leave the U.S., transfer, or being a new degree at Regis University.
  2. Leave the U.S.:  Make plans ahead of time to finalize any last minute details that you must finish in the U.S. before you return home.  This may include closing bank accounts, ending rental agreements, selling your car and/or furniture, and so forth.
  3. Transfer to another school to start a new degree program:  You must be granted admission and have your I-20 transferred to the new school no later than the 60th day of your grace period.
  4. Start a new degree program at Regis University:  You must be accepted to a new degree program at Regis and be granted a change of education level in SEVIS no later than the 60th day of your grace period.

Extension of stay

You are required to complete your academic program on or before the program end date on your I-20.  If you are unable to do so, then you must apply for an I-20 extension.  The USCIS sets specific guidelines to approve an extension of stay.  You must apply for an extension of stay before the end date on your I-20.  Extensions cannot be approved after that date.  In addition, you must have continually maintained your visa status and be making satisfactory progress towards your degree. Not all extensions are approved. 

An extension is only approved if it meets one of the compelling reasons for the delay as outlined by the USCIS.  These reasons include documented medical illness, change of major or specialization, or the addition of a second major or specialization.  You must also show proof of financial funding for the duration of the extension.  

Transferring your I-20

You are allowed to transfer to another school during your academic program or when you graduate from Regis University. You must meet all necessary requirements prior to transferring out. If you are transferring in to Regis, then you must meet all admission requirements prior to transferring your SEVIS record to Regis.

F-1 transfer-in

In addition to meeting all admission requirements, you must also:

  • Start class at Regis at the next possible start date.
  • Transfer within 60 days of completing your last class at your previous school.
  • Be in valid F-1 status. If you are not in valid F-1 status, then you will need to leave the U.S. and re-enter with an initial I-20. Reinstatement is only requested if you meet all reinstatement requirements.

If you are traveling outside of the U.S. before you begin your degree program at Regis, then you must have a transfer I-20 issued by Regis in order to re-enter the U.S. Please contact the DSO if you will be traveling outside of the U.S. after attending your previous school but before starting your program at Regis.

F-1 transfer-out

You must notify the DSO if you have been granted acceptance to another school. Transfer-out procedures must be done in a timely manner to avoid your I-20 deactivating. You have 60 days from the end of your last course or the end of your OPT to transfer to another school. To transfer out, you must:

  • Provide the DSO with an acceptance letter to the new school. Conditional acceptance letters do not qualify you to transfer.
  • Request that the DSO complete the new school’s SEVIS Transfer form, if applicable.
  • Have all outstanding fees and fines paid in-full on your student account.
  • If you are a Regis College student, then you must also complete the Total Withdrawal form if you are transferring prior to finishing your degree program at Regis.

Change of education level

After completion of your degree program at Regis University, you may pursue another degree at Regis. You must meet all admission requirements and be accepted to a new degree program in a timely manner in order to continue maintaining your visa status.

F-1 student matriculation

You may move from one educational level to a higher educational upon completion of your degree program. Immigration also allows you to move to a lower education level or to seek a degree at the same education level that you just completed. You must be accepted to the new degree program within your 60 day grace period.  If you complete a second degree at the same educational level, you will not be eligible for OPT a second time.

Dependents

We welcome your dependents to join you in the U.S. while you attend school and complete your program requirements. Dependents remain in-status as long as the primary F-1 visa holder continues to maintain their status; however, dependents are also restricted to the regulations of their F-2 visa. If your F-2 child will be turning 21 while you are in the U.S. completing your program of study, then your child will need to do a change-of-status to another visa type prior to turning 21.

Studying on a dependent visa

  • F-2 visa: Spouses and children may attend school. Children may study at the elementary and secondary level full-time (K-12).  Spouses and children may study at the undergraduate college level less than full-time at an SEVP certified school. Full-time study is only allowed when the study is strictly recreational or avocational in nature. An F-2 dependent who wants to study at the college level full-time must file for a change-of-status to F-1 prior to attending school full-time.

Working on a dependent visa

  • F-2 visa: Under no circumstances is work allowed on an F-2 visa.

Health insurance for your dependent(s)

  • F-2 visa: It is highly recommended that you have health insurance coverage for your dependent(s).  You may be able to add your dependent(s) under your primary health insurance policy, or you may have them apply for health insurance on their own.

Immigration documents

You are responsible for keeping a personal file of all of your immigration documents. This provides a history of your time in the United States, and you will need these documents if you were to ever file for a new immigration status or any kind of immigration benefit (H-1B visa, permanent residency, etc.).

Passport

A passport is a legal document that establishes your citizenship and legal identity.  Your passport must be valid at all times while you are in the U.S.  In addition, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months into the future upon your entry into the U.S.  If you need to renew your passport, then you must do so in your home country or at your embassy in the United States.

Form DS-2019

The DS-2019 is your Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status.  This legal document is issued by a program sponsor approved by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) to host exchange visitors.  This form is used to apply for your J-1 visa and must be presented at the U.S. port of entry every time you arrive in the U.S. to participate in your exchange program. 
The information on the DS-2019 must be kept up-to-date at all times.  If your major changes, financial information changes, category of participation changes, your site of activity changes, and so forth, then you must contact the RO immediately to make the necessary changes on your DS-2019.  The DS-2019 is only valid during the period from and to dates on the form. 

J-1 visa
Your J-1 visa stamp is placed inside your passport.  Visas are issued by the U.S. Department of State and are issued for the purpose of engaging in the activity that is associated with the visa type.  Your J-1 visa must be valid upon your entry into the U.S. but does not to remain valid while you are in the U.S. as long as you have a valid DS-2019.  You must renew your J-1 visa at the U.S. embassy in your home country before you can gain re-entry into the U.S. to continue studying.  If you bring dependents with you (spouse and/or children), then they will be issued a J-2 visa, and the same rules apply when they enter the U.S. in that status.

I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
The I-94 document is issued at the port of entry every time you enter the U.S.  You will be given an admission record number, which is the record that entails your date of entry, class of admission, and admit until date.  As an exchange visitor entering in J-1 status, your I-94 record will have an admit until date of D/S, or duration of status.  This means that you can remain in the U.S. in J-1 status as long as you are maintaining status and your DS-2019 is valid.  Your passport will be stamped at the port of entry indicating the admit until date D/S.  Be sure that D/S is indicated on both your I-94 and the stamp in your passport every time you enter the U.S. in J-1 status.  Your I-94 document can be downloaded online at the US Customs & Border Protection site.   

Maintaining status

You are required to understand and follow United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Department of State (DOS) regulations. Regis University’s RO is required to report information to the USCIS and DOS through the Student Exchange and Visitor Information Systems (SEVIS). There are important regulations that you must follow in order to maintain your visa status. You are ultimately responsible for your lawful status while you are in the U.S. on your J-1 visa.

SEVIS  

SEVIS is the Student Exchange and Visitor Information System web-based software used by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State to monitor SEVP-certified schools and F, M, and J nonimmigrants during their stay in the U.S.  The RO at Regis University is responsible for maintaining SEVIS and ensuring that all exchange visitor records are complete and accurate.  Your enrollment status, address, employment, academic program, etc. are reported and kept up-to-date in SEVIS during the duration of your program at Regis University.

Maintaining J-1 student status

1. Engage in authorized activities
You must only engage in the appropriate activities that are defined by the category on your DS-2019.  This means that students must attend class full-time, scholars must perform research, and professors must teach.

2. Keep the information on your DS-2019 up-to-date
The information on your DS-2019 must be current at all times.  This information includes changes in academic program, financials, work authorization, DS-2019 end date, and site of activity.  You must also keep all DS-2019s that Regis University issues to you.

3. Report address changes  
You are required to report address changes to the RO within 10 days of moving.

4. Must comply with J-1 health insurance regulations
You must have health insurance that meets the minimum requirements for J-1 visa holders as outlined by the U.S. Department of State.  You must have health insurance, including evacuation and repatriation, during the duration of your program.

5. Exchange visitors here as students must attend class full-time
You must attend class full-time every semester.  Undergraduate student must attend 12 credit hours per semester.  Graduate students must attend 6 credit hours per semester.  Online courses do not count towards your full-time registration.  Regis University has 3 semesters per year (spring, summer, and fall), and each semester is 16 weeks long.

Classes that you audit or receive a W grade (withdrawal) do not count towards your full-time enrollment status.  Classes that you receive failing grades in, such as D or F, do count towards your full-time enrollment but may result in academic probation or suspension.

If you are in the U.S. studying through a study abroad program, you must consult with your home institution or study abroad organization to determine if you must attend more than the 12 credit minimum requirement.  Your organization may require you to attend at least 15 credit hours to meet the program requirements of your study abroad program. 

    Exceptions to full-time enrollment
  • Annual vacation: You are eligible for an annual semester break after you have attended two consecutive semesters of full-time study.  Regis University does not have an official summer break.  You may be required to attend full-time during the semester.  Those attending the traditional Regis College day program are the only students approved for summer vacation.
  • Medical illness/academic reason: If you cannot attend full-time, then you must receive authorization from the RO to attend less than full-time.  Written documentation for a medical illness or compelling academic reason must be presented to the RO to approve a reduced course load.
  • Final semester: If you are in your last semester of class and have fewer credits to complete than full-time enrollment, then you are allowed to attend less than full-time. 
6. Must not work unless authorized
You are not authorized to work unless you receive approval from the RO.  You must receive employment authorization before you can begin working. 

7. Know if you are subject to 212(e)
Your J-1 visa and DS-2019 will indicate if you are subject to the 212(e) home residency requirement.  One of the following notations will be indicated on your J-1 visa “BEARER IS SUBJECT TO SECTION 212(e).  TWO YEAR RULE DOES APPLY (Name of country)” or “BEARER IS NOT SUBJECT TO SECTION 212(e).  TWO YEAR RULE DOES NOT APPLY (Name of country)”. 

If you are subject, then you will need to return to your home country and fulfill the 2-year homestay requirement before you are able to receive immigration benefits in the U.S.  Those subject to 212(e) are not eligible 1) to apply for an immigrant visa or permanent residency; 2) for an H, L, or K visa; 3) to change to any nonimmigrant visa status in the U.S. except for A, G, and U statuses.

There are 3 grounds that can make you subject to 212(e):  1) your sponsorship was funded by the U.S. government or your home government; 2) your program of study is on the Exchange Visitor Skills List; 3) you are receiving “graduate medical education or training”.

Employment

Employment is both a privilege and benefit while you attend on your J-1 visa. You must receive employment authorization before you begin working. Unauthorized employment is a serious violation of your J-1 visa and will cause your DS-2019 to be terminated.
Employment regulations are strictly enforced by the DOS and can only be authorized per DOS immigration regulations. Failure to receive proper work authorization prior to working will result in violation of your visa status. Do not start working until you have consulted the RO.
J-2 dependents are eligible to work in the U.S. with USCIS authorization (please see the section on Dependents for more information).

On-campus employment
You are eligible to work on-campus if you are maintaining your visa status and making academic progress towards your degree program.  On-campus employment is defined as employment on the school’s premises or at a location off-campus but treated as on-campus.  On-campus work is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session and more than 20 hours per week during school breaks.  The RO must authorize on-campus work on your DS-2019 before you begin working.  You must provide written work authorization from the department that is hiring you.

Applying for your social security number
If you have never worked in the U.S., then you must apply for a social security number (SSN) before you can be paid.  In order to apply for your SSN, you must first be hired for a job.  Contact the RO once you have been hired for additional SSN instructions and required work authorization if applicable (Academic Training).  You must take the following documents to a local Social Security Office to apply for your SSN:  official hire letter from your supervisor, letter from the RO, passport, visa, I-94, and DS-2019.  There are four local Social Security Offices in the Denver metro area.  You can go to any local Social Security Office to apply for your SSN.

Off-campus employment opportunity
Off-campus employment opportunities include Academic Training.  Off-campus employment requires approval by the RO and must be authorized on your DS-2019 prior to your first day of work.

  • Academic Training (AT)
AT is temporary work authorization during or after you finish your degree.  AT employment must be directly related to your major of study.  To be eligible for AT, you must be in good academic standing, be in valid J-1 status, and receive written approval from the RO.  AT is authorized by the RO and must be authorized on your DS-2019 before you begin working. 
Post-graduation AT must be approved prior to the program end date on your DS-2019.  It is also limited to a total duration of 18 months or the period of your full course of study, whichever is shorter.  All AT is counted as full-time and is deducted against the maximum participation training that you qualify for, regardless if it is actually full-time or part-time work.

Travel

Before you travel outside of the U.S., you obtain a travel signature on your DS-2019 from the RO. Travel signatures are usually valid for 1 year, but it is recommended to get a new signature from the RO every semester. In addition to carrying your DS-2019 with a valid signature, immigration also requires you to hand-carry the following documents to the port-of-entry (POE) upon your re-entry into the U.S.:

  • Passport:  must be valid for 6 months beyond your entry date into the U.S.
  • J-1 visa:  must be valid on your entry date into the U.S. and allow for multiple entries.
    • If you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands (with the exception of Cuba) for less than 30 days, then you may exercise Automatic Visa Revalidation if you possess an expired visa.

It is also highly recommended to also hand-carry these documents:
  • Current financial documentation:  must show the amount of funds as listed on your DS-2019
  • I-901 SEVIS receipt:  if you do not have the original receipt, you may print it online at the SEVIS payment site.
  • Enrollment verification/transcript:  you may request an enrollment verification or transcript from the Office of Academic Records & Registration.

Completion and extension of approved program

After completing your program, you have a grace period that may allow you to work (Academic Training), leave the U.S., transfer to a new program sponsor, or start a new degree program at Regis University. You are not allowed to work during your grace period. The grace period only allows you to prepare for one of the allowable options for your visa or to travel the U.S. as a tourist while finalizing your departure plans. Failure to act accordingly before your grace period ends will result in your DS-2019 deactivating and possible accrual of unlawful presence if you remain in the U.S.
You do not have a grace period if you choose to end your full-time studies prior to completing your degree program.  Your DS-2019 will be terminated, and you will need to leave the U.S. immediately.  Talk to the RO if you cannot or wish not to complete your degree program. 
As a J-1 visa holder, you only have a 30 day grace period.  If you choose to transfer to another program sponsor or begin a new degree program at Regis University, then you must do so prior to the end date on your DS-2019.
Extension of stay
You are required to complete your academic program on or before the program end date on your DS-2019.  If you are unable to do so, then you must apply for an extension.  The DOS sets specific guidelines to approve an extension of stay.  An extension is allowed if it is within the maximum duration of participation of your program category.  Documentation must also be provided to the RO as evidence of the necessity of the program extension.  You must apply for an extension of stay before the end date on your DS-2019.  Extensions cannot be approved after that date.  In addition, you must have continually maintained your visa status and be making satisfactory progress towards your degree. Not all extensions are approved.  

Transferring your DS-2019

All J-1 transfers must be completed prior to the end date on your DS-2019 and must fall within the allowable maximum duration of your program category. This applies to both transferring-in to Regis and transferring-out to another program sponsor. In addition, a transfer is only valid if you are transferring to complete the objective for which you were initially admitted. You cannot transfer to a different objective or a different category.
When transferring-in to Regis, you must meet all admission requirements or employment requirements prior to your SEVIS record being transferred.  Your program begin date at Regis will be the day that your DS-2019 is transferred in.  There is no grace period between your programs. 
When transferring-out from Regis, you must provide evidence of your acceptance from the program sponsor that you will be transferring to.  The transfer-out process in SEVIS must take place the day before the end date on your DS-2019.  Your program begin date at your new sponsor happens immediately; there is no grace period.

Change of education level

After completion of your degree program at Regis University, you may pursue another degree at Regis. You must meet all admission requirements and be accepted to a new degree program in a timely manner in order to continue maintaining your visa status.
You may move from one educational level to a higher educational level if you continue studying as a full-time student.  This includes moving from a Bachelor’s to a Master’s degree, Master’s to a Doctorate degree, or Bachelor’s to a Doctorate degree at Regis.  You must provide proof of acceptance to a higher educational level prior to the end date on your DS-2019

Dependents

We welcome your dependents to join you in the U.S. while you attend school and complete your program requirements. Dependents remain in-status as long as the primary J-1 visa holder continues to maintain their status; however, dependents are also restricted to the regulations of their J-2 visa. If your J-2 child will be turning 21 while you are in the U.S. completing your program, then your child will need to do a change-of-status to another visa type prior to turning 21.

Studying on a dependent visa

Spouses and children may attend school either full-time or part-time.  There are no regulatory restrictions on studying.

Working on a dependent visa

Dependents are eligible to apply to the USCIS for off-campus work authorization, as long as the employment is not for the purpose of supporting the J-1.  Dependents cannot start working until the USCIS approves the employment application and the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is received by the J-2 dependent.  Employment authorization is granted for the duration of the J-1’s program of study, and the J-2 dependent must apply for an EAD renewal if the J-1s program is extended in a timely manner.

Health insurance for your dependent(s)

Dependents are required to have health insurance coverage as outlined by the U.S. Department of State.  

Located next to the Rocky Mountains and 5,280 feet above sea-level, Denver is known as the Mile High City. Receiving 300 days of sunshine a year, Denver has a flourishing cultural scene and a playground of natural beauty. No matter what the season, summer or winter, Denver, and the state of Colorado, has something to offer everyone.   

Climate & weather

Denver’s residents live comfortably year-round in an arid climate. The average summer high is 86 degrees, and the humidity is relatively low. During the winter, the average daily temperature is 45 degrees; however, be prepared for colder days throughout the winter months! Contrary to what many people think, snow does not stay around long during the winter, and the sun is usually shining the day after a snowfall.

Altitude sickness

At a mile above sea-level, the air is thinner and dryer. There is also 17 percent less oxygen than at sea-level. The elevation can cause altitude sickness, which is experienced by many people upon their initial arrival to Denver. Symptoms of altitude sickness include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, and light-headedness. The thinner and dryer air can also cause dry eyes and skin. There are easy ways to prevent altitude sickness: 

1. Drink lots of water – drink twice as much as you would at sea-level 
2. Take it slow – upon your arrival in Denver, take it easy and avoid strenuous activities until you are adjusted to the change in elevation 
3. Eat right – foods high in carbohydrates and potassium will absorb more oxygen, give you more energy and replenish your electrolytes 
4. Minimize alcohol – the effects of alcohol are stronger at high elevations. Take it slow when you first arrive! 
5. Dress in layers and be ready for the sun – the sun is more intense in Denver and can feel warmer here during the daytime. Be sure that you have sunscreen and sunglasses, even in the winter. In the chilly mornings and evenings, you may need an extra layer to keep warm.

Getting around

Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) is your source for getting around Denver by public transportation.  Whether by car, by bus, on foot, or by bicycle, Denver provides a multitude of ways to get around our bustling city.

  • Airport Rail – RTD’s A Line gets you to/from Union Station to the Denver International Airport. The ride takes about 37 minutes and includes other stops along the way.  Luggage towers are available in the train, but passengers must haul their own luggage. The current one-way fee is $9. 
  • Light Rail – RTD’s Light Rail is a quick and easy way to get around Denver’s metro area.  This rail system connects downtown Denver to the southern, western, and eastern metro areas, and it continues to expand in growth.  The Light Rail system is divided into 4 fare zones, with prices depending upon how many zones you travel through.
  • Bus – City buses and commuter buses cover a wide expanse of the Denver metro area.  Detailed maps and bus schedules can be found on the RTD website.  Bus passes can be purchased for a slightly more cost effective way to ride.  Otherwise, be sure that you carry exact change for bus fares; bus drivers do not have or give change.  
  • Bicycle – Proud to be one of the fittest cities in the U.S., you will see a plethora of bike riders in the Denver metro area.   Over 100 miles of dedicated bike trails interconnect around the metro area.  In addition, many streets have bike lanes.  A map of Denver city and county bike trails is here.  To view Denver metro area bike trails outside of the city and county of Denver, visit Denver suburb websites (i.e. Arvada, Westminster, Aurora, etc.).  B-Cycle is Denver’s automated bike sharing system with over 700 bikes that are available for check-out at 88 stations.  Bikes can be rented for as little as 30 minutes to 24 hours.  And as always, be sure to follow biking etiquette and rules.  

Safety & crime prevention

Safety and crime prevention requires effort for the entire local community. Please do your part to secure your safety and the safety of others. This includes locking you home, your car, your bicycle, and staying in possession of your belongings at all times. Be alert and look out for others as well.

The nationwide number for reporting an emergency is 9-1-1. You can call this number from anywhere in the U.S. free of charge. No country code or area code is needed; just dial 9-1-1. When you call, wait for the dispatcher to answer. Be prepared to give your exact location to the dispatcher and tell them your immediate emergency and what help is needed. This number is for life-threatening emergencies only. 
While you are on Regis University campus, contact Campus Safety for any non-emergencies by calling 303.458.4122.

Medical care

Regis University requires all international students to have health insurance while going to school. Likewise, it is highly recommend to have adequate health insurance to alleviate high costs of medical care in the U.S. Be sure to also carry your health insurance card with you at all times. Regis University Student Health Services can see and treat those students who have purchased the school’s health care policy. Regis Neighborhood Health is available for community members and those who do not qualify for the school’s health care policy.  

There are numerous hospitals and urgent care clinics in the Denver metro area. If you are not in a life-threatening situation, then it is recommended that you first see your general physician during regular business hours or an urgent care clinic (usually with extended regular business hours and weekend hours). Emergency room visits at hospitals should only be used in case of a life-threatening emergency.

It is wise to know where your nearest hospital or urgent care facility is located. Know that some hospitals may have a religious/faith affiliation, but hospitals generally serve members of all faiths and religion. Search for Denver metro hospitals and urgent care facilities using these links:

Mail services

There are various courier services that can be used to mail letters and ship items locally, nationally, and internationally. Mail and courier services are generally opened and out for delivery Monday-Saturday. Full-service locations offer counter service and supplies needed for shipping items. Drop boxes are also available to send items that are already packaged with pre-paid postage.

  • U.S. Postal Service (USPS):  Full-service counters, shipping supplies, drop boxes, airmail services, and assistance for your U.S. change-of-address
  • UPS:  Full-service stores, drop boxes, express shipping (including internationally), shipping supplies, printing
  • FedEx:  Full-service stores, drop boxes, express shipping (including internationally), shipping supplies, printing, copy and print
  • DHL:  Authorized shipping locations, express shipping (including internationally)

Colorado driver’s license

If you plan to drive a motor vehicle while you are in Colorado, then you must have a valid Colorado license to drive.  You may drive with your driver’s license from your home country or another U.S. state for 90 days, but then you are required to apply for a Colorado driver’s license.  Colorado has reciprocal agreements with Canada, France, Germany, Republic of South Korea, and Taiwan.  If you have a driver’s license from one of these countries, then you do not need to apply for a Colorado driver’s license.  If you do not want to apply for a driver’s license, then you may apply for a Colorado Identification card instead.  

In order to legally drive in the United States, you must apply for a Colorado Driver’s License.  If the license that you are currently holding is from another country, then you will need to take a written driver’s test and drive skills test.  When you go to the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to apply for your license, you will need to provide the required identification documents (passport, F/J visa, I-94, I-20, proof of Colorado address, and out-of-state driver’s license, if applicable).

Colorado ID card

If you do not plan to drive, then you may apply for a Colorado Identification card.  It is recommended that you apply for this card because it useful in administrative matters, social matters, and it can be used in place of your immigration documents in many situations.  You are not permitted to drive with a Colorado Identification card.  You cannot have both a driver’s license and an identification card.  

Where to apply

Whether you are applying for a Colorado Driver’s License or Colorado Identification Card, you must apply in-person at a state driver license office.   You do not need to make an appointment unless you are needing to take a driving test.  You have the option to setup an appointment for the written test as well, but scheduling an appointment is not necessary.  You may schedule appointments for the driving test or written test here.

Owning a car in Colorado

Driving is the simplest and quickest way to get around the Denver metro area, and it also has its advantages when you want to travel out-of-town or out-of-state; however, owning a car also requires major responsibly and costs.  Before you decide to purchase a car, consider the major cost of buying a vehicle, vehicle registration, car maintenance and repairs, insurance costs, and the safety of yourself and others.  It is recommended that you start by reading the Colorado Driver Handbook to familiarize yourself with U.S. and Colorado driving laws.

Buying a car

Buying a car is a major purchase, unlike other purchases that you will make while you reside in the U.S.  You cannot return a car if you do not like it, so be sure that you research your options and test-drive a vehicle before buying it.  Brand new cars at major auto lots will be more expensive to buy but require less involvement with maintenance.  Used cars, whether at large auto lots or smaller auto lots, will be cheaper to buy but may require more maintenance work.  It is acceptable and common to barter with car salesmen when purchasing a car.  Here are some sources for buying cars and checking the value of used cars:


Auto insurance
Auto insurance is required for all car owners in the state of Colorado.  Auto insurance protects you against accident, injury, or death, whether or not you are at fault for an auto accident.  There are different auto insurance coverages that you can have, but it is ideal to have a comprehensive auto insurance policy.  Once auto insurance is purchased, you must keep proof of it in your car at all times.  There are a number of auto insurance providers in the Denver metro area:

Vehicle Registration After you purchase a car, you have 60 days to register it at the county that you currently reside.  Vehicle registration requirements are listed here. If you are moving to Colorado from another state, then you will need to register your vehicle in the county that you reside within 90 days of moving to Colorado. The same list of registration requirements are necessary.   

Opening a bank account

Opening a bank account is extremely useful so you can have immediate access to monetary funds for tuition and personal expenses. When opening a bank account, be sure that you know and understand the type of account (i.e. savings, free checking, etc.), any fees or minimum balances that are required, interest rates, services charged, etc. You might also inquire if your bank account comes with a debit card so you can withdraw funds at any time at an ATM. 

Be sure that you take your immigration documents with you and SSN, if you have one. Some banks do not require you to have a SSN when opening a bank account while others may require it. There are many banks that can be found in multiple states across the United States, and some banks that may be local to Colorado only. If you plan to travel extensively or perhaps move to another state after your complete your degree at Regis University, then you should consider the locality of the bank that you choose.         

Large-scale banks: 


Cell phone

Cellular/mobile service is the most effective means of communication, including phone, texting, and data services. Some service plans may require that you sign a contract for one or two years. These providers may also require you to provide a SSN when signing up for a plan. Or, you may also get a pre-paid cell phone without having to sign a contract. It is best to do your research before you choose which cell phone provider you will sign with or pre-paid provider you want; be sure to check the services that is included, such as unlimited texting, data usage limitations, voicemail, etc. If you already have a cell phone from your home country, and it is compatible in the United States, then you may just need to buy a SIM card so your phone works with U.S. cell towers. You may need to do your research to see if the cost is more feasible to do this or get a new cell phone and plan while you reside in the U.S.
Major cell phone providers with contract plans:

Pre-paid cell phone providers:

Faith & worship

Denver welcomes people of all faiths and beliefs and offers many places of worship in the metro area. There are a number of organized religious affiliations in the Denver area. This list includes, but is not limited to:

Entertainment & attractions

From sporting events to concerts, outdoor recreation to museums, Denver has entertainment options to fit anyone’s personal taste. The Denver tourism site is a great source for things to do in and around the Denver metro area. The Colorado tourism site offers information and things to do in every corner of our beautiful state. 

Hometown sports

Denver is home to a variety of national sport teams including American football, soccer, and ice hockey.  Denver locals proudly support their hometown teams, and experiencing a national sporting event should not be missed.

  • Denver Broncos:  The Denver Broncos is a National Football League (NFL) team.  The Broncos were proud winners of Superbowl 50 in 2015, which is the largest annual sport event in the U.S.  The Denver Broncos play at Sports Authority stadium, and their season runs from September through January.
  • Denver Nuggets:  The Denver Nuggets is a professional basketball team part of the National Basketball Association (NBA).   The team plays at the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver, and their season runs October through April.
  • Colorado Rockies:  Coors Field is home to the Colorado Rockies Major League Baseball (MLB) team.  Located a mile high, Coors Field is the most exciting ballpark in the major leagues, and a baseball really does travel a bit farther here than in other ballparks.  The Colorado Rockies season runs from April through September.
  • Colorado Avalanche:  Known to locals as the Avs, the Colorado Avalanche is a National Hockey League (NHL).  Previous Stanley Cup winners, the Colorado Avalanche makes their home in the Pepsi Center.  Their season runs from October through April.
  • Colorado Rapids:  The Colorado Rapids is a Major League Soccer (MLS) team.  The team plays at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, a suburb of Denver. Their season runs April through October.
  • Colorado Mammoth:  Also making Pepsi Center their home, the Colorado Mammoth is a Major League Lacrosse (MLL) team.  Their season runs January through April. 


Denver area attractions
  • Denver Nature & Science Museum:  Permanent exhibits and rotating exhibits allow visitors to explore science, history, health, and more.  A variety of fun and educational shows play at the IMAX Planetarium. 
  • Denver Art Museum:  A broad range of art collections are displayed at the Denver Art Museum (DAM).  From architecture to paintings and photography, the DAM hosts one of the largest art collections west of Chicago.  
  • Denver Botanic Gardens:  With two metro locations, the Denver Botanic Gardens is not just home to living plant collections but also to sculpture art and summer concerts.  Visit the main location on York Street, or travel south of Denver to the Chatfield location, a local favorite for its corn maze and pumpkin festival in the fall.
  • Denver Zoo:  Over 4,000 animals make their home at the Denver Zoo.  The Denver Zoo is committed to animal care, and the Zoo also hosts a variety of special events throughout the year.
  • Denver Aquarium:  The Aquarium is home to numerous marine animals and a dining complex.
  • Butterfly Pavilion:  Located 15 minutes north of Denver in Westminster, the Butterfly Pavilion is a unique invertebrate habitat.  You can walk among 1,600 butterflies or hold Rosie the tarantula! 
  • Colorado History Museum:  Step back into time and learn about the history of Colorado.  With permanent and rotating exhibits, learn Colorado’s story from the past to the present.  The museum also offers special talks and tours.
  • Hudson Gardens:  Littleton’s very own botanical garden is located a few minutes south of Denver.  In addition to their beautiful gardens, they also host a summer concert series and other fun events throughout the year.
  • Elitch Gardens Theme Park:  Roller coasters, a water park, and all of those amusement park goodies will give you a thrilling experience and a full day of fun!
  • Red Rocks Amphitheatre & Park:  Whether you live in the Denver metro area or are just passing through the Denver area, locals and visitors alike rate this as a top attraction in the Denver area.  Located just west of Denver in Morrison, Red Rocks is an outdoor amphitheatre that has seen famous musicians play live concerts and still hosts numerous concerts today.  Be sure to also visit the Colorado Music Hall of Fame and the trading post for Colorado souvenirs.  For outdoor lovers, the Red Rocks Park area has great hiking trails and views. 
  • Water World:  One of the top 10 water parks in the U.S., Water World is an outdoor water park located a few miles north of Denver in Federal Heights.     
  • United States Mint Facility:  Take a free tour and learn how U.S. currency is produced.  The U.S. Mint in Denver is only one of two facilities in the U.S. where you can see coin manufacturing processes (the other location is in Philadelphia). 
  • Hammond’s Candies Factory Tour:  A local favorite of candy-lovers, visit Hammond’s free factory tour and learn how candy is made.
  • Coors Brewery:  Learn about traditional beer brewing in the one of the largest breweries in the U.S.


Outdoor recreation
Denver and Colorado are best-known for the outdoor activities that are offered around the state.  Denver is a perfect location for a day trip or weekend trip to some of the country’s best skiing, hiking, white water rafting, slick rock cycling, and much more.

  • Colorado’s National Parks and Monuments:  Sand dunes, dinosaurs, cliff dwellings, and alpine peaks are just a few of the attractions you’ll find in our state’s national parks and monuments.  Check for free days, and be ready to be left in awe at some of the best beauty and history that the state has to offer.
  • Colorado State Parks:  Hiking, biking, camping, and much more are offered at state parks. 
  • Jefferson County Open Space Parks:  Closer to Denver are the Jeffco Open Space Parks.  The foothills west of the city are the closest and quickest access to free outdoor hiking and biking.
Attending a school outside of your home country may bring you feelings of excitement and opportunity but may also having you feel overwhelmed and stressed. It is important to understand this new culture that you are experiencing and what to expect in this culture. Because the U.S. culture is different from what you are familiar with, it is helpful to understand this new way of life so you can be comfortable and engage in a unique cultural experience.

Culture shock

Being a stranger in a new place comes with its own set of challenges.  Your initial feelings of excitement may change to feelings of discomfort and insecurity.  What you are experiencing is normal.  Culture shock is the experience that one has when moving to a new and unfamiliar culture.  Though every person adapts to a new culture at his or her own pace, every person faces some degree of culture shock.  In fact, many people experience reverse cultural shock when they return to their home country.  Culture shock is not a bad thing and often leads a person to be more curious about their new culture and the culture they come from. 

Culture shock consists of four stages that individuals may experience:

  1. Honeymoon:  Upon your initial arrival into a new culture, you are excited and optimistic.  These feelings are known as the honeymoon stage of culture shock.  You look for differences between your home culture and the new culture that you are in, but you embrace the change and welcome your positive, new environment. 
  2. Crisis:  Soon you realize that the freshness of this new culture has worn off, and now you focus on the differences between here and your culture back home.  You feel homesick and start searching for friends.  You may also feel that people in this new culture are not friendly and are unwilling to help you. 
  3. Adjustment:  The longer you are immersed in this new culture, the more you begin to understand the values and logic of it.  You become more comfortable and may even prefer certain things about this new culture over your culture back home.  As the emotional stress of cultural adjustment wears off, you are able to experience the joy of this new culture and even laugh about it at times.
  4. Adaptation:  You now feel that this new culture is another home for you.  You are able to function in your day-to-day life to your full potential.  You develop a social network and are open to new things and ideas.  This new culture helps you to have a global perspective on the world but also allows you to hold on to your own cultural traditions from home.
Symptoms of culture shock
  • Stress, anxiety, depression
  • Loneliness
  • Homesick
  • Poor eating habits and sleep habits
  • Feeling irritable, sad, resentment, mad
  • Feelings of failure and loss of confidence
  • Hostility towards this new country and culture
How to cope with culture shock
  • Keep in touch with home:  Call your family regularly.  Make sure that you have things that remind you of home (photos, personal items, food, etc.).  Watch or read the news from your home country.
  • Take care of yourself:  Get plenty of rest, exercise, and eat well. 
  • Talk to someone:  Look for friends in your same degree program or those who have the same interests as you.  Do not isolate yourself.  Talk with the Office of Global Education.  Stay in touch with your friends back home. 
  • Understand that this is normal:  Know and understand the process of culture shock.  Be patient.  Be open to new ideas.  Be flexible.  Expect things to be different and unfamiliar.  Try not to understand or make sense of everything immediately. 
Adjusting to College in a New Country
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American culture

The American culture may be very different from the culture that you have been familiar with in your home country. Understanding what Americans value and believe will help you transition into the U.S. culture easier and keep you from getting overly frustrated with this new way of American life.

  • Independence & Individuality:  Americans value both their independence and individuality.  Americans believe that they are separate individuals who make their own decisions in life.  You may experience Americans being open about their personal beliefs and feelings, which may be discouraged in other cultures.  Americans believe that they have the right to be free to express their own opinions. 
  • Equality:  Americans believe that “all men are created equally” as stated in the Declaration of Independence.  This means that all people are to be treated equally and fairly and that no one is superior to anyone else.
  • Informality & Directness:  Americans do not typically address others formally.  No matter your age or social standing, Americans are informal in how they speak or greet others, which may be very different from other cultures.  In the same way, Americans may be very direct when dealing with others.  If you have a problem, Americans expect you to be direct and open about the issue so it can be resolved. 
  • Privacy:  Americans respect their privacy and personal space.  In public, Americans do not like it when others are too close to them, as this is an invasion of personal space.  In the same way, Americans believe that they need time to themselves and to have personal thoughts that they do not share with anyone else.
  • Time:  Americans value time and punctuality.  You should arrive on time for an appointment or an event.  To arrive late is considered rude and disrespectful.  If you cannot be on time, then it is expected that you notify the person to let them know that you will not be on time or that you must reschedule.  
  • Competition & Achievement:  Americans believe that being competitive and high-achievers will reward them.  Working hard in school, having good relationships with your professors, and building a good resume will reward you with a good job.  The American work ethic is also like this – hard work pays off.  Money is materialistic to Americans, which other cultures may criticize. 
  • Personal hygiene:  Americans value being clean.  Body odor is extremely unpleasant and too much cologne or perfume is also highly bothersome.  Be sure that you bathe frequently and brush your teeth daily.
There are also a number of manners that Americans value and are to be respected, especially in public:
  • Do not talk loud or yell.
  • Do not spit.
  • Do not belch.  Do control flatulence.
  • Cover your mouth when coughing.  Cover your nose when sneezing.  Americans find it very rude to spread germs, especially if you are sick.
  • Do not pick your nose.
  • Always wear underarm deodorant.  Use colognes and perfumes sparingly.
  • Do not whistle, stare, or make obscene comments towards women.  This is known as sexual harassment.  Sexual harassment can also be directed towards men, which is also not acceptable in America. 
  • Do not expect to smoke anywhere and everywhere.  America has strict rules about where and when you can smoke.  Pay attention to posted no smoking signs.
  • Do not make racial comments ever.
Drugs & alcohol
Abusing drugs and alcohol laws in the U.S. can be a serious offense and lead to punishment.  In addition, your visa may be revoked or cancelled if you are arrested, found with illegal drugs and substances, or driving under the influence (DUI). The use, sale, distribution, or acquisition of illegal drugs is not permitted in the U.S.  Illegal drugs include, but are not limited to, cocaine, heroin, marijuana*, amphetamines, and methamphetamines.  
Alcohol is limited to individuals who are at least 21 years of age.  

Tobacco purchases are limited to individuals who are at least 18 years of age
*Though marijuana is legal in 8 U.S. states including Colorado, marijuana is an illegal substance under U.S. federal law.  The use of marijuana is a federal offense against your visa.

Negotiating/bartering

The American culture does not practice or respond to negotiating and bartering to obtain goods and services.  If you are not willing to pay the price that is marked on the item, then you should leave and shop at another store.  The retailer or store clerk will not reduce their price or barter with customers.  The only instance that it may be acceptable to negotiate a price is when you are buying a car.  

Tipping etiquette
When dining out at restaurants with table service, it is common American etiquette to tip your waiter/waitress.  The common gratuity is 15-20% but not less than 10%.  Gratuity is not included on your bill unless you dine with a large group of people, typically 8 or more.  In this case, a gratuity amount (at least 10%) is automatically added to your bill.

It is not common, nor expected, to tip at fast food restaurants or places where you order your food at a counter and seat yourself.  If you order food that is delivered to your residence, then a tip is usually expected by the driver.  Likewise, a delivery fee is automatically charged to your bill.

U.S. holidays & observances
The U.S. has a number of official holidays for federal employees.  On these holidays, many federal and state businesses are closed.  Some private businesses may also close as well.  If the official holiday falls on a weekend, then the holiday is observed on a week day, and most businesses will close on that day instead.
  • New Year’s Day (January 1)
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (3rd Monday in January)
  • President’s Day (3rd Monday in February)
  • Memorial Day (last Monday in May)
  • Independence Day (July 4)
  • Labor Day (first Monday in September)
  • Columbus Day (2nd Monday in October)
  • Veteran’s Day (November 11)
  • Thanksgiving Day (last Thursday in November)
  • Christmas Day (December 25)
There are also many holidays and events that are also celebrated but are not recognized as federal holidays. These include, but are not limited to, Valentine’s Day (February 14), St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), and Halloween (October 31). Many religious or ethnic groups also celebrate holidays and events but are not recognized as federal holidays. These include, but are not limited to, Easter Sunday, High Holy Days, Ramadan, and Diwali.

Social life

Social life in the U.S. may be very different from social life in your home country. Americans love to socialize and may have large social networks, including relationships with family, co-workers, peers, and neighbors. Social networks include both males and females and not always on an intimate level. In addition to understanding relationships in the U.S., it is also helpful to understand gender roles and discrimination/sexual harassment.

Building relationships with Americans

Being new to the U.S. and American culture, you may be fearful of finding friends and developing relationships at first. You may even fear a language barrier with English-speaking American students. Developing friendships while you are in the U.S. will not only enhance your experience here, but it will also help you establish a support network and a home away from your home country. Here are some suggestions about starting friendships in the U.S.:


  • Be patient: American students may not understand your culture, and you may not understand their culture, so remind yourself that it takes time to make new friendships. 
  • Don’t be pushy: Americans who think that you are trying too hard to be friends with them are likely turned-off from having a friendship with you. This is the American culture. Americans also want an equal amount of effort put forth by both persons in the friendship; if you are not putting effort into the friendship, then your American friend won’t either.
  • Ways of communicating: Americans love texting, emailing, and social media. Because internet access is readily available nearly everywhere in America, these tend to be the preferred means of communication. Instead of always texting or being online, be sure that you get out and meet others to fully experience social life in America. 
  • Spend time away from others from your culture or home country:  Even though it can be most comfortable to be around others who are from your home country, you may need to spend time away from them so you can reach out to American students. 
  • Keep trying:  Be persistent but not pushy.  Prepare yourself to be disappointed sometimes. Seek out Americans who are relaxed and at leisure – sitting in the cafeteria, for example – rather than those who look busy and are in a rush. Listen to what other Americans are talking about and take note of what they do not talk about. Think about a list of topics to talk about so you are ready to have a conversation.
  • Take the initiative: Reach out to U.S. students first.  Learn about others who are in your same degree program. Find out what activities U.S. students like to be part of and join these. Join student organizations and clubs. Find others who have the same interests as you.  Volunteer at organizations.
  • Know yourself:  Know yourself and your culture. Be prepared to talk about you because Americans are interested in understanding where you are from and how that makes you who you are!     

Gender roles in America 
Gender roles are learned behaviors that are based on cultural and social norms. These roles regulate the acceptable and appropriate behaviors for being masculine and feminine in a society. Gender roles are not universal. In America, gender roles have changed over the years and are now less defined as specifically masculine or feminine. Women and men both work full-time, and it is also common for women to be in positions of authority. Both men and women are educated and share duties at home and/or with children.     

Sexual orientation
The American culture recognizes the diversity of sexual orientation.  The acronym to include people of all sexual orientations (with the exception of heterosexuality) is LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer/questioning, intersex, asexuality, and all others that are not included in these letters).  Same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 U.S. states.  Even though many equality laws extend to same-sex couples, they, and other members of LGBTQIA+, still face challenges in America.        

Discrimination/sexual harassment
The U.S. has laws against discrimination and sexual harassment. If you ever feel that you are being discriminated on the basis of race, color, age, sex, religion, country of origin, pregnancy, disability, or any other legal protected status, then contact our office immediately. Discrimination is not to be tolerated. 

Sexual harassment is also a violation of U.S. law. Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual attention, including but not limited to, verbal or physical conduct, promises in return for sexual favors, explicit visual materials, sexual teasing and joking, or degrading comments. Sexual harassment can occur between opposite- and same-sex members. If you feel that you are being sexually harassed, contact our office immediately. Regis University also has a strict policy on nondiscrimination and sexual harassment.