What is a DSO?
DSO stands for Designated School Official. A DSO is responsible for reporting and updating the information to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) about each F-1 student’s situation.
How do I enroll in class?
How many classes do I need?
International F1 students must take a minimum of 12 credit hours every fall and spring semester. Of the 12 credit hours, 9 must be face-to-face, and only 1 class or 3 credit hours may be online. Another acceptable option is 8 credit hours face-to-face and only 1 online class of 4 credit hours. (Hybrid classes count as face-to-face classes).
F1 students may enjoy a summer break from school unless it is their first semester in the U.S., then they must take 9 credit hours. Of the 9 credit hours, 6 must be face-to-face, and only 1 class or 3 credit hours may be online. (Hybrid classes count as face-to-face classes). Students will be eligible to have the following summer off.
What is considered a face-to-face, hybrid or online course?
Face-to-Face or Traditional
A physical class presence is required. Instruction is carried out in the classroom or lab as appropriate, via face-to-face instruction.
Hybrid courses meet half the time in a traditional face-to-face classroom environment and deliver the remainder of the course presentation, interaction, activities and exercises through various electronic means. A course with 50% face-to-face instruction and 50% electronic instruction is considered face-to-face.
Online or Distance Education
An online course has more than 51% of instruction online. Some exams or labs may be required to be completed in person and/or proctored. Courses that require only a physical presence for the final examination is considered an online/distance education class.
As a reminder, no more than the equivalent of one class or 3 credits per semester may be counted toward the full course of study requirement if the class is taken online or through distance education.
Can I enroll in a certificate program?
F-1 international students are not eligible for certificate programs that are fewer than 15 semester credit hours or take less than one year to complete.
How much is tuition?
Tuition varies depending on how many Semester Credit Hours you are taking and your residency. Generally, International F1 Students MUST take a minimum of 12SCH per fall and spring semesters and will pay out-of-state tuition.
F1 students must pay tuition per credit hour + health insurance
Example of the expenses listed on the Form I-20 (for 1 year or 24 credit hours).
|Tuition and Fees||$ 7,500 (includes health insurance $2,044 )|
|Living Expenses||$ 13,880|
|Other: Books and Supplies||$ 1,600|
|*Expenses for Dependents||$ 4,400.00 (each)|
- See the Tuition Calculator for your tuition per credit cost.
How do I pay for tuition and fees?
Once you have arrived in the United States and check-in, you will be given instructions on how to enroll in your classes.
After enrolling in your classes, you should pay your tuition before midnight that same day to avoid being dropped out of your courses.
Please note, you must enroll in your classes before you can pay for tuition because tuition is based on the number of SCH you will be taking plus the international F1 insurance.
For a step by step process for paying tuition and fees:
Houston Community College has partnered with Flywire to offer students an innovative and streamlined way to make international tuition payments. Through Flywire, students can pay with their home currency (in most cases), and payments are posted more quickly. Students are notified via email when payment is received
How will I get my I-20? Electronic Signatures and Transmission of the Form I-20
Once the office receives all of your uploaded documents, you should wait for at least 10 business days for processing. This time will vary depending on when the application is submitted and how many applicants there are at that time. Applications are processed in the order they are received.
Once the I-20 is processed, the Designated School Official will sign it electronically and will email it to the e-mail address provided on the I-20 application. If you decide to change your e-mail address, please make the update via your student account.
On Nov. 1, 2021, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) published SEVP Policy Guidance, which establishes the procedures for the use of electronic signatures and transmission of the Form I-20. All US embassies abroad are aware and comply with the electronic signature policy.
Upon receipt of the electronically transmitted Form I-20, you should print a copy to present at any required visa interview and upon arrival at a U.S. ort of entry.
How do I pay SEVIS Fee I-901 after I get my I-20?
A prospective F-1 student with a country of citizenship or country of birth of Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria or Gambia must pay by money order, Western Union Quick Pay or certified check drawn from a U.S. bank.
All other prospective F students also have the option to make a credit card payment on FMJfee.com.
- SEVP will accept third party payments, meaning someone else can pay your I-901 SEVIS Fee using the same method of payment. For students from Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria or Gambia who cannot pay the fee by credit card, third party payers are also restricted from paying the fee by credit card.
- Visit SEVP's website for instructions on how to complete the Western Union Quick Pay/Quick Collect form.
- You can access the PDF version of the SEVIS Form I-901 on SEVP's website. Print and mail in your paper SEVIS Form I-901 with your check or money order, according to the instructions on the form.
- For detailed instructions or for assistance on how to make an I-901 SEVIS Fee payment, call the SEVP Response Center at 703-603-3400.
F-1 Status, Insurance,Work, SSN, Driver's License
If I lose my F-1 status, what do I need to do?
You may need to leave the United States to re-establish student status by re-entering the country with a new I-20 or by filing a reinstatement request with the Department of Homeland Security. For more information, please refer to the Reinstatement instructions of the ISP website here.
If I do not finish my studies by the completion date on the SEVIS Form I-20, what do I do to stay in school and finish my degree program?
You will have to contact your assigned Academic advisor to provide Completion Verification Form that indicates the estimated new date of program completion. Based on this document, your Designated School Offical (DSO) to extend your I-20 completion date. You MUST do this at least 45 days before the completion date.
- see Extend I-20
Do I need insurance?
Yes. All students holding an F‐1 Visa will be automatically enrolled and charged for the Houston Community College endorsed International Student and Accident & Sickness Insurance Program. Information about the insurance benefits, cost, enrollment and claims can be found on https://hccs.myahpcare.com/
Can I apply for a waiver of the health insurance fee?
A waiver of the health insurance fee may be requested online from the insurance company (click on “Waive Online”) with proof of acceptable alternate insurance as follows:
Acceptable Alternate Health Insurance Plans:
- A government or scholarship sponsored plan that meets Houston Community College’s waiver criteria
- A job‐based employer health insurance plan (or covered as a dependent under a job‐based employer health insurance plan).
Note: individual policies (Example: Plans offered online to individuals) are not considered acceptable alternate health and will not be accepted.
Can an international student work?
International students may work up to 19.5 hours a week on campus, if you are in good academic standing. For special permission to work off campus CPT or OPT must be granted. For more information see F-1 Employment under Current Student Resources section.
How can I find a job on-campus?
Students may create and application on the Careers@HCC website at https://www.hccs.edu/careers/
- when filling out the online application, you may enter your HCC ID number (without the W) in place of a social security number.
- you have reply "Yes" on the question Are you eligible for employment?
- you have to reply "No" on the question Are you seeking sponsorship?
- F-1 students are eligible for Part-time employment only (unless on OPT)
On-campus jobs are limited and it is at the student's advantage to appear in person when applying for a job, thus, the ISP also strongly encourages students to create a resume and go to each campus and each department at each campus to apply for a job in person.
Also - please see the guidelines for On-Campus Employment:
How to apply for a Texas Driver's License?
In order to receive or renew a Texas Driver’s License or Texas Identification card (ID), you will need to present the following documents in person at a Department of Public Safety (DPS) office.
- Your SEVIS I-20 Form with the port of entry stamp
- I-94 (if you do not have an I-94, you may print it at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov)
- Visa and passport
- 3 documents that show proof of residency in Texas for at least 30 days (such as electric bill, bank statement, cable bill with your name and address. If your name does not appear on your bills, your roommate may accompany you the Department of Public Safety (DPS) with proof of their residency and sign an affidavit form stating you live with them.)
For more information please visit the DPS website: Department of Public Safety Website
Please note, that NEW Students, Transfer Students, Change of Education Level Students, Change of Status Students - you will not show up in the DPS system until you have been registered in SEVIS - which will occur after the beginning of second-start of your first semester at HCC. To see when second-start is, visit the HCC Calendar.
Do I need a Social Security Number for non-employment purposes?
A Social Security Number (SSN) is a unique, permanent identification number used for income tax reporting.
You do not need a Social Security Number to:
- open a bank account
- obtain a cell phone
- rent an apartment
- obtain a Driver’s License or ID card
- use in any other non-tax related purposes
Who is Eligible for Social Security Number (SSN)?
In order to be eligible to apply for a Social Security Number you have to have an employment offer or an Employment Authorization Card.
Payment and Scholarship Information
How do I pay for my tuition if I am on scholarship?
Steps for Payment through a Private or Third Party Scholarship:
Private Scholarships for college students are offered each year by a variety of companies and non-profit organizations.
The following steps are required for Private Scholarships:
- The donor will need to send the scholarship check to:
Houston Community College
ATTN: Head Cashier
3100 Main St., 11th Floor
Houston, Texas 77002
- Included with the check should be a cover letter with the following information:
- the recipient’s name
- student ID number
- P number or social security number (if applicable)
- award period
- any restrictions Please Note: Restrictions may include a number of required course load; whether the scholarship covers books in addition to tuition and fees; the student is allowed to receive a balance check for the unused portion of the funds.
*If the donor does not send the check to the head cashier, the processing of your scholarship will be delayed. Checks for private scholarships should NOT be sent to the Houston Community College Scholarship Foundation or to your local Houston Community College Campus.
Scholarships from the following agencies are considered third-party scholarships. In this case, the sponsor is under contract with HCC.
- Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission
- Ambassade De La Republique Gabonaise
- Embassy of Qatar
The following steps are required for Third Party Scholarships:
The student must bring, in person, a printed copy of the final letter of commitment from their sponsor to any one of the Houston Community College cashiers every semester and each time they add a class or the student charges increase. Classes will be dropped when the letter of commitment is not updated in the student account even though the charges may remain.
IT IS THE STUDENT’S RESPONSIBILITY TO KEEP THE LETTER OF COMMITMENT UPDATED BY SUBMITTING THE NEWEST VERSION EACH TERM AND EACH TIME THE STUDENT’S CHARGES INCREASE.
You will have a hold placed on your student account when your scholarship is not paid per your student account information. The hold will block college services including enrollment and transcripts. It is always the student’s responsibility to understand the rules of your scholarship. Please remember SACM enforces their payment policy for online courses.
Online classes for SACM students:
Special note to students who are sponsored by the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission (SACM):
The SACM requires students interested in taking online classes to first obtain approval from their academic advisor at the Mission before enrolling in these classes. Once you have identified the online class of interest, please take the following steps:
- Immediately contact your academic advisor at the SACM with the name of the course and its number.
- Obtain approval in writing.
- Enroll in the class only after approval has been granted by SACM
Please Note: The Office of International Student Services is not responsible for submitting scholarship letters to the cashier’s department. It is the students’ responsibility as you are not properly enrolled without completing all payment paperwork.
*Students with scholarships from Venezuela CADIVI must contact the Bursar’s office every term to obtain the payment instruction letter. The letters will be mailed or emailed to the student.
Are there local scholarships or Financial Aid for F-1 students?
1. F-1 Students do not qualify for Financial Aid, however, through the HCC Foundation there are several scholarships available to you.
- The Computer Science Technology Scholarship
- The Society of Iranian American Women for Education Scholarship
- The Southwest Intensive English Program Endowed Scholarship
- The Northeast College Scholarship.
By completing a single scholarship application, an HCC student can apply for all of the different scholarships offered through the HCC Foundation to help pay for his or her tuition, fees and books.
Please visit the HCC scholarship website at www.hccsfoundation.org for more information and how to apply.
2. CHANCELLOR'S SCHOLARSHIPS
Designed to encourage very high performing students to finish their degree at HCC. $300 will be awarded per semester to students with a 4.0 cumulative GPA who have 30 or more semester credit hours recorded at HCC. If the student receives other aid, he/she must also maintain satisfactory academic progress. The student can retain this scholarship as long as the cumulative GPA remains at 4.0.
Can my sponsor pay HCC directly from their home country?
Yes, tuition and fees can be paid directly by the sponsor through their local bank together with Flywire services.
When enrolling in your courses, select "other" for the payment method and follow the steps outlined in the International Payment Tutorial (Flywire)
Upon completing the steps, you will print out the bank and routing information and send it to your sponsor to take to their bank in their country.
What is the Flywire International payment option?
HCC has contracted with Flywire to provide international students an alternative method for paying student bills. This payment option allows you to pay your student account balance in the currency of your choice and provides a simple and reliable way of initiating payments electronically.
How to make a payment - also refer to the downloadable step by step tutorial with pictures: International Payment Tutorial (Flywire)
Is orientation mandatory for international students?
Yes, all international students must participate in orientation.
See International Check-in and Orientation for more information
When I arrive in Houston, where do I need to report my arrival?
When does school start, and when should I physically be in town?
Each semester has a different start date. Refer to the HCC calendar (link at the very top of the page) for thie next semester start date.
DHS requires that all intial I-20 students (new students) enter the United States within the the 30 days prior to the start date on their SEVIS Form I-20, however, The OISS&SA suggests that students do not wait until the last day to enter so that they may beging the process of getting enrolled inclasses.
You must report your entry into the United States at the Office of International Students & Study Abroad at 3100 Main St. Houston, Texas 77022 prior to registration.
Refer to the check-in event at hccs.edu/iss-checkin for when to report to the OISS&SA.
Will I be able to come back to the U.S. if I travel for Spring break or later this summer?
As of today, it is impossible to predict if any further restrictions will be put in place by the U.S. In addition to the restriction for foreign nationals who have visited China or Iran in the past 14 days, effective as March 13, 2020 all foreign nationals who were physically within the Schengen Area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland) during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the U.S. may not enter the U.S. for 30 days as announced in the Presidential Proclamation on Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Cotonavirus.
If you are currently outside the U.S. or plan to travel outside the U.S., we recommend that you continue to monitor travel updates by CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), HCC website and submit Student Travel Form. Check if you have valid travel endorsement signature on your SEVIS I-20.
In case HCC switches to online instructions, how will it affect my immigration status?
If need arises, HCC may be able to accommodate all our F-1 students with switching to online classes, based on received guidance from the Department of Homeland Security that allows students to continue this semester’s courses online without jeopardizing their immigration status. This means that F-1 students will have to continue to be enrolled full-time and be making normal progress toward their degree. Further instructions will be provided if such decision is made.
Will I be able to contact my DSO or my international academic advisor in case of campus closure?
ISP team is prepared to continue advising and providing all services for our current students (Change of Educational Level, OPT, CPT, Reduced Course Load, etc.) remotely. We will utilize Webex meetings and webinars. Information will be provided via email and published on ISP website.
I am a prospective student. I received my I-20 for summer 2020 semester, but I am concern to travel amidst current COVID 19 situation. Can I defer my I-20 for the Fall 2020 instead?
ISP is waiving the defer application fee for all students with issued I-20s for the summer semester who whish to change their initial attendance at HCC for Fall 2020. For more information, visit Defer Attendance Application.
Is the TOEFL required for admission to HCC?
No, you do not have to take the TOEFL to be admitted to HCC; however, international students planning to enroll in an academic program must demonstrate English Language proficiency. This can be accomplished by a counselor’s recommendation to take an appropriate test which will be given to new students at check-in
How can I demonstrate English language proficiency?
International students planning to enroll in academic programs must demonstrate English language proficiency*. This can be accomplished by taking one of the following exams: TOEFL, IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEIC, Duolingo or ACCUPLACER (ESL) or an approved TSI test. Scores on the exams should be dated within the past two years and must meet state and institutional requirements for placement into college-level classes. Students who do not meet these requirements will be required to enroll in the Intensive English Program or Academic English-as-a-Second-Language.
More information see:
What is the Accuplacer ESL test?
A variety of assessment instruments are used to determine placement into programs and courses at HCC. One of the instruments we use to determine English proficiency for non-native speakers is the Accuplacer ESL (English as a Second Language), a computerized test that assesses reading, writing and grammar and is used for placement purposes. Information for Accuplacer ESL testing will be given to those who need it when they attend check-in.
Can CLEP scores be used to satisfy full time enrollment?
No, CLEP scores cannot be used to satisfy full time enrollment. However, you can receive credits for a CLEP score so that you will not have to take that class. But the CLEP class you get credit for cannot count towards the 12SCH full-time enrollment for any of the semesters.
CLEP Score reports should be mailed to:
Houston Community College District
Office of Student Records
PO Box 667517
Houston, Texas 77266
College School Code 0929
What is the Texas Success Initiative (TSI)?
The State of Texas and Houston Community College requires that all students must be tested to determine readiness to enroll in college-level courses. This requirement is referred to as the Texas Success Initiative (TSI). A major emphasis of TSI is to ensure that all students be tested to determine if they are “college ready” in reading, writing and mathematics. Testing is mandatory and must be completed prior to one’s first enrollment at HCC, unless it is determined that the student has been waived or exempted from TSI requirement. See your college counselor for more information.
Can I take classes without completing English as a Second Language?
All students must provide proof of English proficiency in order to take academic level classes. If you do not have proof of English proficiency, HCC will test you to determine your level of English proficiency. Students who place into Level 1 - Level 4 ESL must complete the ESL courses before they will be given permission to enroll in academic courses
To learn more about what tests and scores are accepted as proof of English proficiency, please refer to the Test and Foreign Credentials page.
International Transfer Students
What is a transfer student?
A transfer student is any F-1 student who is currently enrolled at another US college, university, high school or ESL school and plans to pursue a certificate or degree at HCC. Transfer students are required to submit their admissions applications to the Office of International Student Services & Study Abroad.
For the steps to apply as an International Transfer Student, please refer to Admissions for International Students
Are there transfer limitations?
Students who intend to transfer to baccalaureate degree programs (university) upon completion of their HCC Associates degree should be aware of possible limitations on lower-division course work. Universities will generally not accept more than 66 semester credit hours of lower division academic credit towards the baccalaureate degree.
Students are advised to discuss their transfer plans early on with an academic advisor at HCC and at the school to which they wish to transfer so as to ensure they are taking the correct courses in preparation for their transfer.
What is concurrent enrollment?
There are two types of Concurrent Students:
- An international student with an I-20 from another college or university wishing to concurrently enroll at HCC must submit written permission from that college or university.
- Refer to the concurrent enrollment section of Admissions for International Students
- Refer to the concurrent enrollment section of Admissions for International Students
- An international student at HCC who cannot find one or two classes for the semester to complete the 12 SCH requirement for full time status may consult with a DSO at the OISS&SA to receive a concurrent letter for permission to take these extra credits at another institution to help maintain their status for that semester.
- Please visit your DSO immediately if you are having trouble finding 12 SCH for the semester.