Global Education

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Advising and Support for Enrolled International Students

The Office of Global Education provides a number of services to international students, including assistance on adjustment to the United States and college life, and understanding and complying with federal immigration regulations. The Office also coordinates special activities for international students. Global Rhythms, the campus international club sponsors a variety of activities and service projects.


If you are enrolling at Viterbo for the first time, you are required to participate in an orientation program held four to five days before the beginning of classes. You will be notified of the date for orientation when you receive your acceptance letter and I-20. The orientation is filled with activities which introduce the student to the campus and surrounding community. It includes placement testing, campus tours, academic advising, discussion on a wide range of topics, and a variety of social activities. It is extremely important that you arrive in time to attend the orientation.


Information and an application for on-campus housing will be sent to you along with your admission letter. First-year Viterbo students are required to live on campus. It is the best way to meet people, make friends, and know what is happening on the campus. There is both dormitory and apartment style housing, the difference being that the apartments have a kitchen and bathroom. Cafeteria meal service is also available, and students living on campus must take a meal plan. There is no married student housing on campus.

Health Care and Insurance

To protect yourself against the high cost of medical care in the U.S., Viterbo requires you to show proof of comprehensive medical insurance.  Comprehensive medical insurance is for treatment by physicians and hospitals as a result of an accident or serious illness. You can either buy the insurance offered through Viterbo or contact a private agency. Health insurance coverage in the U.S. can be quite expensive, and you need to review policy options carefully so that you know what things are covered, and which are not. You must show proof of insurance before you will be allowed to confirm your registration for classes.

In addition, the student health form giving evidence of your physical health and updated immunization record is required to be submitted on arrival or before.

How to Obtain a Social Security Card

International students can only work on campus with 20 hours per week when school is in session and 40 hours per week when school is not in session.
The following are the documents and procedures to obtain a Social Security Card.

  • A job offer letter from the department that offers the job.
  • A letter from Global Education Office verifying student status and nature of the campus employment.
  • I-20 form, passport.

Then, the student should bring the documents to the following office to file for the application.

Social Security Administration in La Crosse 
Address: 210 7th St S, La Crosse, WI 54601
Phone: 866-770-2345
Hours: Monday–Friday 9 a.m.–3:30 p.m.

Leave of Absence 

F-1 students wishing to take a personal / academic Leave of Absence must file all necessary paperwork with the appropriate university office and with Global Education Office.  If the personal / academic Leave of Absence is approved, the student is required to leave the United States and remain outside the U.S. for the duration of the entire academic semester.

Since F-1 status is based on presence within the U.S., students approved for a Leave of Absence will have their SEVIS immigration record terminated.  Depending on the amount of time the SEVIS record is in terminated status, Global Education Office may be able to request that Immigration change the record back to active for re-entry into the U.S.

If the student’s record is in terminated status for less than five months, Global Education Office may be able to make the request to change the record back to active.  If the student’s SEVIS record is terminated for more than five months, the record must remain in terminated status.  Global Education Office will assist with processing a new I-20 for re-entry to the U.S. at the appropriate time (see Leave of Absence form for details on applying for a new I-20). Once the new I-20 is used to enter the country, the “F-1 time-clock” will begin anew and students will be ineligible for some F-1 benefits, such as CPT and OPT, until after completion of two additional semesters of study.  The student may only re-enter the U.S. in the 30 days prior to the new program start date indicated on the newly issued I-20. 

Students should contact their local consulate to see if they need to obtain a new F-1 Visa in order to reenter the U.S.  Upon return to the U.S. the student must provide copies of the I-94 card, I-20 and any other relevant documents (new F-1 visa if applicable) to Global Education Office.

Frequently asked Optional Practice Training (OPT) Questions

  • What is OPT?
    It means Optional Practical Training. It is work experience in the student’s field of study, usually performed off-campus.
  • How long is OPT?
    Twelve (12) months full time. This is Standard OPT and can be extended by an additional seventeen (17) months of the field of study in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics. This is known as the STEM OPT. See the STEM Degree
  • Can I work on OPT before I complete the degree?
    Yes. Any “pre-completion” OPT work experience undertaken before the degree completion is deducted from the twelve (12) months standard. Part-time OPT (less than 20 hours per week) is deducted at one half the rate of full-time OPT. For example two (2) months of part-time OPT is one (1) month of full-time OPT.
  • When can I apply for the twelve (12) months OPT?
    Up to ninety (90) days before degree completion or sixty (60) days after degree completion. Please visit this website.
  • How much does it cost to apply for the standard twelve (12) months and STEM Extension Seventeen (17) Months OPT?
    Appropriate fee payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  • How do I apply for twelve (12) months Standard OPT?
    You attend a mandatory OPT workshop, submit the required documents to the OIS and mail all required documents to the USCIS.
  • How long does it take for the USCIS to approve?
    Two (2) to three (3) months after the application is receipted.
  • Can it be denied?
  • Can I work while waiting for the USCIS’s approval?
    No. You can work once the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) has been received and from the start date on the EAD.
  • Can I work after receiving the OPT Approval Notice, I-766, but before the EAD arrives?
  • What if I lose the EAD, can I receive another one?
    Another card can be issued by the USCIS. You must file the Form I-765 with the appropriate fee payable to the US Department of Homeland Security. The Form I-765 can be found
  • My employment dates on the EAD are different than the dates on the OPT I-20, which are correct?
    The dates on the EAD.
  • What kind of work can I do on 12 months OPT? You may:
    • Volunteer
    • Be employed as a consultant
    • Be employed as a salaried worker
    • Be self-employed. See the Global Education Office if considering this option.

  • What kind of work can I do on the 17 months STEM OPT? You may:
    • Be employed as a consultant
    • Be employed as a salaried worker
    • Be self-employed. See the Global Education Office if considering this option.
    • All companies must be E-verified.You cannot volunteer.

  • Can I travel while awaiting OPT approval and during the standard, twelve (12) months OPT or Seventeen (17) months OPT period?
    Meet with the Global Education Office for information.
  • If my degree is not a STEM major, can I still seek the STEM OPT?
  • How do I know whether my degree is a STEM degree?
    Go to
  • Can I seek the CAP GAP if my standard, twelve (12) months OPT or Seventeen (17) Months STEM OPT is expiring before October 1?
    Yes. Once the H-1B petition is correctly filed with USCIS and a receipt (Notice of Action, I-797A) issued, a CAP GAP I-20 can be issued by OIS. We will need either the H-1B receipt or H-1B approval notice to be sent to the Global Education Office.
  • Can I travel outside of North American while awaiting H-1B approval?
    No. If you do travel, you cannot return in F-1 status. You must seek an H-1B visa at the US Consulate in your country. You can return in H-1B status within ten (10) days of the H-1B start date of October 1.
  • Can I work for a non E-verify employer on twelve (12) months standard OPT?
  • Can I work for a non E-verify employer on seventeen (17) months STEM OPT?
  • Can both non E-verify and E-verify employers apply for H-1B?
  • Can a student change employers when the STEM extension application is pending with U.S. CIS? (New or Revised)
    Yes. However, if the STEM extension period has started, the employer must also be an E-verify employer. The student must report the change in employment to his or her DSO. The DSO must update the student's employer information in SEVIS and the student should submit an amended Form I-765 to the appropriate USCIS Service Center, providing the new employer's E-Verify number and a copy of the USCIS receipt notice for the first Form I-765. A brief letter explaining the submission should also be included. There is no fee associated with submitting the amended Form I-765.
  • How many days of unemployment am I allowed during the standard, twelve (12) months and seventeen (17) months STEM?
    90 days for the 12 months OPT. 120 days for the combination of both the 12 months and 17 months OPTs.
  • What happens if I am not employed for more than 90 days on the 12 months OPT or more than 120 days on the 17 months STEM OPT?
    (Note: while on OPT your F-1 status depends on you being employed). The Global Education Office advises that if you are not employed for 90 or more days while on 12 months OPT, or 120 days while on 17 months STEM OPT, you leave the U.S. and return to your country. You are not maintaining F-1 status, and the U.S. Government policy advises that future immigration benefits may be denied to a student who has been unemployed for more than the allowed days while on OPT
  • What is "CAP-GAP?"
    Current regulations allow certain students with pending or approved H-1B petitions to remain in F-1 status during the period of time when an F-1 student's status and work authorization would otherwise expire through the start date of their approved H-1B employment period. This is referred to as filling the "CAP-GAP," meaning it provides a way of filling the "gap" between the end of working in F-1 status and the beginning of H-1B status that might otherwise occur if F-1 status is not extended for qualified students
  • How do I get a CAP-GAP I-20?
    If your employer files for H-1B in a proper manner including an application for a change in status while you are currently in the standard OPT or 17 months STEM OPT period and you have a receipt of the filing, CAP GAP will apply. In this case, you remain in F-1 status and can continue to work prior to October 1, the H-1B start date.
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