All students with an Initial I-20 or DS-2019 are required by law to complete SEVIS registration with Immigration Services.
During SEVIS Registration, Immigration Services will review your immigration documents to determine that you are in F-1 or J-1 status.
This action allows us to change your SEVIS record from Initial to Active, allowing you to commence your studies in F-1 or J-1 status.
Here are some things to know about SEVIS Registration:
- At VCU, SEVIS Registration is conducted by Immigration Services.
- SEVIS Registration is electronic (by email) only. Please do not visit Immigration Services’ in person for this activity.
- Immigration Services will proactively contact you when it is time to complete SEVIS Registration.
- SEVIS Registration does not occur on just one day. It is a “rolling” process that you can complete over an open period consisting of several days at the start of the Fall and Spring semesters.
- Immigration Services will provide clear, simple instructions for completing the process online.
- Do not proactively contact Immigration Services about SEVIS Registration. We will contact you first at an appropriate time.
- At the end of the SEVIS Registration process, you will receive an updated I-20 or DS-2019 from Immigration Services reflecting SEVIS registration.
Failure to complete the SEVIS Registration as directed by Immigration Services can lead to SEVIS termination—which is the equivalent to losing your F-1 or J-1 status.
Resuming F-1 or J-1 status is complicated and costly for you.
For information about Spring 2024 International Student Orientation, please send an email to GEO Immigration Services at GEOIS@vcu.edu
Virginia is rich in natural beauty with the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah Mountains in the west and southwest and coastal regions along the Atlantic Ocean in the east.
To the north is Washington, DC and the sprawling suburbs of the city.
Washington, DC is legally separate from Virginia but, due to its size and global significance, it functions as the largest urban area in Virginia.
Richmond is the capital of Virginia and is located about 100 miles (166 km) south of Washington, DC.
The Richmond metropolitan area includes the City of Richmond and the surrounding Counties of Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico, and Powhatan.
To obtain a VCU identification (ID) card, please contact Campus Card Services.
VCU’s campus is two distinct but adjacent campuses in central Richmond:
- Monroe Park Campus (MPC)
- MCV Campus
It is possible to walk between the two campuses but most students who need to travel between MPC and the MCV Campus do so by VCU or Richmond bus.
VCU has an extensive system of bus and shuttle service on and between the MPC and MCV Campus.
On-campus parking, meaning parking options that are owned and operated by VCU:
None of VCU’s parking is free even for employees and students. If you park in any VCU parking facility, expect to pay a fee.
Off-campus parking, meaning parking options that are owned and operated by the City of Richmond:
Off-campus parking near VCU is mostly metered parking. There is almost no free parking available on Richmond city streets near VCU.
Compared with cities like New York City; Washington, DC; and Chicago, Richmond’s public transportation system is limited but efficient.
The U.S. does not have a national driver’s license system.
Instead, each state and territory issues its own driver’s licenses. Each state and jurisdiction has its own licensing procedures.
For information about obtaining a Virginia driver’s license, please contact the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
You will need to show two kinds of documents to the DMV:
- Documents confirming your U.S. immigration status. Passport with an F-1 visa stamp in it, unexpired I-20, and I-94 record.
- Documents confirming that you reside in Virginia. Example: Property lease; water, gas, or electric bill; bank statement showing a Virginia address; etc.
For details about applying for a Virginia driver’s license, please contact the DMV.
- You do NOT need to have a Social Security Number (SSN) in order to obtain a Virginia driver’s license.
- You do NOT need permission or a letter from anyone at VCU, including Immigration Services, in order to obtain a Virginia driver’s license.
The U.S. does not have a national bank.
All banks in the U.S., including banks named Bank of America and U.S. Bank, are private companies.
The banks are regulated by the U.S. government and insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Company (FDIC) against losses, but the banks make their own rules about opening accounts, charging fees, paying interest, etc.
As an international student, scholar, or employee, you may wish to open an account at a larger U.S. bank that is accustomed to international transactions.
Two of the largest banks in the Richmond area are:
These banks are two of the largest banks in the U.S. and they have many branches and ATMS in the Richmond area and near VCU’s campus.
To open an account, simply contact the bank of your choice.
You do NOT need a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to open a bank account in the U.S.
If the bank asks you for an SSN or ITIN and you do not have one, ask them to use an alternative number for their records (for example: your passport number or an internally generated number).
While not as expensive to live in as New York or Los Angeles, Richmond is not an inexpensive place to live.
The cost of living in Richmond may be dramatically higher than the cost of living in your home country.
You need to keep this in mind now and throughout your time in the U.S.
One way to be mindful of the cost of living in Richmond is to create an annual budget for yourself.
GEO’s estimate of the current cost of living appears on your VCU I-20. The cost of living estimate includes:
- Books and Supplies
- Medical Insurance
Please note that the I-20 estimated cost of living is the minimum estimate. It does not include the cost of entertainment, new clothing, or transportation to and from Richmond or transportation (car, bus, parking, etc.) in Richmond, or the cost of living associated with having a spouse or children living with you in the U.S.
Depending on your personal choices in housing, food, transportation, etc., your annual expenses could easily be much higher than the I-20 estimated cost.
Promised scholarships and stipends may not be immediately available to you upon arrival. In some cases, the funds may not be available to you for several weeks after you arrive at VCU.
Few, if any, stipends are paid all at once. Most stipends are paid out as monthly payments to you. This means you need to have access to funds of your own immediately upon your arrival at VCU.
This means you need to have access to funds of your own immediately upon your arrival at VCU.
GEO estimates that you will need access to at least $5,000 (U.S. dollars) for your immediate expenses upon arrival. This amount would cover such costs as:
- Temporary housing
- Security deposit on a semester or school housing
- First month’s rent
- Incidental expenses
Do not carry $5000 in cash (paper money) to the U.S.!
For one thing, CBP tends to be suspicious of individuals arriving in the U.S. carrying large amounts of cash—especially U.S. currency.
Beyond that, the U.S. is an increasingly cashless economy. Most Americans do not carry large amounts of cash on them at any time.
You will rarely, if ever, pay for anything substantial in cash. Americans do not buy homes, rent apartments, buy cars, or pay for college in cash.
GEO recommends carrying up to $1,000 (U.S. dollars) in cash (paper money) and having the rest available to you through a credit or debit card that you can use in the U.S.
If you arrive in the U.S. without access to the recommended $5,000 minimum available at least via a debit or credit card, you could easily find yourself scrambling for resources—not an ideal way to start your VCU experience.
International banks in Richmond can exchange foreign currency for U.S. dollars but it may take 2-3 business days to do so.
For information about international banks in Richmond, please see “Banking” above.
Emergency Living Expense Funds
VCU does not have any “emergency” living expense funds or loans available for domestic or international students.
VCU Student Financial Services (SFS) is the office responsible for charging and receiving all university bills and payments.
GEO cannot answer any questions about your VCU bills or when and how to pay them.
Please direct all questions or concerns about your VCU bills to SFS.
Tuition and fees, plus charges for on-campus housing, on-campus dining plans, and VCU-sponsored health insurance are due at the start of each semester.
All VCU billing is via e-bills sent to your VCU email address. You will not receive a paper VCU bill in the regular mail.
You can view your VCU account and pay your VCU bills online: Go to SFS and click Billing and Payments.
Your physical safety is an important component of your academic success! To ensure that you remain as safe as possible, please review the following links:
VCU Police Stay Safe Mobile App (for 24/7 updates about safety situations)
VCU RamsWay (a patrolled route that connects key locations on the VCU campus)
RamSafe (after-hours campus bus and shuttle services)
If you are on an F-1 or J-1 student visa, it is your duty to understand the limited employment authorization options available to you—before you start looking for a job or start working.
Unauthorized employment, even unintentional, can result in the immediate loss of your F-1 or J-1 status.
View information about your F-1 and J-1 student visa employment authorization options.
Finding a Job at VCU
All of VCU’s jobs, including student jobs, are listed on a central VCU website. View a list of current available jobs at VCU.
Many jobs that are available to students are funded by a U.S. government program called Work/Study. Note that students with F-1 or J-1 visas are not eligible for jobs funded by Work/Study.
All workers in the U.S. are required to complete the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification process within 3 business days of their first day of work.
Here are some things to know about the I-9 process:
- The I-9 process is required of all workers in the U.S., including U.S. citizen workers.
- During the I-9 process, you will show your HR manager that you are authorized to be employed in the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status.
- At VCU, the I-9 process is a Human Resources (HR) process, not an Immigration Services process.
- If you get a job at VCU, your HR manager (not Immigration Services) will explain the I-9 process to you.
- HR Compliance has asked Immigration Services not to provide any guidance or support for the I-9 process unless they (HR Compliance) specifically ask for it.
- For information about the documents you can show for the I-9 process, you must contact the HR manager in your hiring department.
If you will be legally employed (work for pay) in the U.S. you must have a Social Security Number.
International students are legally required to file a report of their income every year with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a unit of the U.S. Department of the Treasury—even if you made no money in the U.S. (you need to report that, too).
Here are some things to know about reporting your earnings to the IRS:
- Reporting your income to the IRS is referred to as “filing your taxes”.
- Filing your taxes does not always mean that you will be required to pay any tax. You may be required to pay tax—or not! But neither you nor the IRS know for sure if you are required to pay tax unless you file your taxes.
- In some cases, you may be due a tax refund from the IRS. But, again, neither you nor the IRS would know for sure if you are owed a refund unless you file your taxes.
- Failure to file taxes or to pay taxes (if owed) can have a negative impact on your immigration status.
Many students find VCU’s size and scale inspiring—but it can also be a little intimidating, especially to new students.
The easiest way to engage with VCU is to get involved in a student organization.
In addition, GEO offers a number of engagement opportunities specifically for international students:
Phi Beta Delta (Honor Society)
Cultural diversity is a fact of American life. VCU is committed to building a diverse, inclusive community in which people of all cultural backgrounds and life experiences are supported and valued.
VCU’s many diversity resources include:
For information about family life and support at VCU, please visit the VCU Families website.
A scam is any deceptive attempt to take your money, belongings, or identity. Scams targeting international students are not uncommon. You need to be aware of the kinds of scams—and how to safely avoid them.
Scammers (people who operate a scam) sometimes present themselves as U.S. government officials from such departments as:
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or any of its agencies, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
- Department of the Treasury or any of its agencies, such as the IRS.
- Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or any of its agencies, such as the Social Security Administration (SSA).
U.S. government departments and agencies do NOT…
Call, text, or send an email asking for sensitive information or payments of any kind including gift cards. No U.S. government agency accepts gift cards as a form of payment.
Threaten you with immigration problems, canceled visas, or removal (deportation).
Threaten to review your tax filings.
If you receive calls, texts, or emails of this sort, simply hang up or delete the text of the email.
Do not respond to voicemails, texts, or emails of this sort.