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International Education Program

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Travel Reminder

Yes. Please complete and submit the CSM international student travel survey, then come to the CSM International Education Program office with your passport and current I-20 to get a travel signature at least fifteen days before you leave the U.S.
A travel signature on your I-20 is not required to depart the U.S. For those who have a signature signed within the last 6 months or so, we’d ask you to review the date it was signed first. If you have a signature that will still be valid upon your re-entry (each signature is valid for 1 year), you do not need a new signature. If you are going to transfer to a 4-year university or another community college at the end of the fall semester, please contact the new school to inquire about getting your new I-20. If you are not returning to CSM to resume coursework, we will not provide you with a new travel signature on your I-20 at this time.
According to the most recent update published on March 26, 2020 by the The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, schools now can provide electronic I-20 travel signatures to students via email. If you do need a new travel signature, we ask you to first complete the CSM international student travel survey A staff member will contact you in the following business day after your travel signature request is received.

Please make sure to have ALL of the following F-1 travel documents before returning to the U.S. Make sure to carry documents with you in carry-on luggage, NOT in your checked baggage! You need access to your visa documents at all times including on a transit flight.

  • Passport (must be valid at least 6 months beyond your re-entry date)
  • F-1 visa (must be valid when re-entering the U.S.)
  • SEVIS Form I-20 (must have a program end date beyond your re-entry date on page 1 of your I-20--see sample below and must have a valid travel signature on page 2 of your I-20--see sample below)

I-20 page 1I-20 page 2

It is also recommended to review the re-entry requirements and prepare the following supporting documents when re-entering the U.S.

  • Your SMCCD class schedule and academic transcripts (you may print out from your WebSMART account)
  • I-901 Fee payment receipt (you may print out from this website)
  • Your financial support documents provided by the sponsor whose name is listed on your I-20

Given the current U.S. immigration climate, you should be prepared for the possibility of increased scrutiny at the U.S. port of entry and/or inspection of your phone or social media. Please be aware that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers may question your purpose for entering the U.S., your planned activities in the U.S., and/or information about your academic program.

  • If you are questioned, you should remain calm and answer the questions honestly and succinctly. What NOT to say: Jokes about terrorism or anything that is in violation of breaking U.S. laws including drugs, alcohol and gun ownership.
  • Preparing Your Electronic Devices: CBP Officers may also ask questions about your electronic devices or inspect them. This may include all of your social media accounts. For tips on how to prepare your devices, read this article published by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Finally, we also ask you to keep a close contact with the Center for Global Engagement when planning your travel schedule to return to the U.S. Please make sure to email once you determine the date of your return to the U.S. We will make sure to provide you with the most up-to-date information to ensure your safe return.

For additional questions and concerns, please contact Manasi Devdhar-Mane, Program Manager by email at

Current Student FAQs

How can I report changes on I-20?

You will need to let us know of the changes you would like on your I-20 (ie. major change, address change, financial support change, etc.). Please find, fill out, and submit the appropriate form located on the forms page.

Can I extend my I-20 that is expiring soon if I’m not done with my studies?

You can extend your I-20 in your last semester of your program if you require more time to complete your studies. We ask that you complete it 6 weeks prior to the end date of your I-20 so you know that you have plenty of time on your I-20. Step 1 of the extension process is to fill out the extension form located on the forms page.

Although College of San Mateo does not offer on-campus housing or dormitories or guardianship services, there are many housing options for our students to choose from. It is important to secure your housing before or shortly after you arrive. Please visit the Homestay Program page for more information.

Option 1: Homestay

San Mateo Colleges of Silicon Valley is proud to offer a homestay placement service for our international students. Our homestays are safe, affordable and quality housing accommodations with a local host family. You will find the application on the Housing page.

Option 2: Rent an apartment or room

You will find more information about short term housing and apartments on the Other Housing Resources page.

Tips on renting a room or apartment

When looking for housing, you may be asked for financial information. Because you will have no financial history in the U.S., you should bring a current bank statement and a letter from your sponsor showing funds that cover about 6 months of rent.

Still have questions? Email us at or call us at (650) 358-6856.

International students are eligible to work on campus. On-campus employment does not require authorization because F-1 regulations allow students to work on campus. Students are only allowed to work up to 20 hours a week during the semester, but may work more than 20 hours during semester breaks. Please note that international students are not eligible for positions that are funded by “Work-Study” which are positions funded by the U.S. government. 

If it is your first time working in the U.S. you must notify International Education Programs as soon as you receive the offer so we can support you in completing paperwork to work.

* During the summer semester in order to have a campus job, students must have a minimum of 6 units.

At the beginning of the semester students can go directly to the departments and ask if they have any openings. Here are some departments you might want to check with:

  • Bookstore
  • Cafeteria
  • Coffee shop

The application process usually includes a resume and a letter of recommendation from a faculty or staff member. Most departments also interview candidates. Some jobs like tutoring require good academic standing with a GPA of 3.0 or above.

Another way to learn about job openings is to pay attention to posters, flyers, emails, and let your friends or classmates know that you are looking for an on-campus job.

Am I able to drop classes?

You may drop a class or classes if you continue to maintain your status. Maintaining your status means that you are continuing to enroll in full-time status and following the rules below:

  • Minimum 12 units each semester
  • Minimum 6 units at CSM
  • Minimum 9 units of classes coded as in person or hybrid
  • No more than 2 campuses (CSM & Skyline, or CSM & Cañada)

You may want to check WebSchedule to see if you will get a refund or if you are within the “W” deadline.

How can I reduce my course load?

There are only a few reasons why you can request a Reduced Course Load (RCL).

  1. Complete course of study in current semester
    Required: SEP from a counselor that shows you will complete your studies in the current semester.
  2. Illness or Medical Condition
    Required: Letter/Note signed by U.S. doctor recommending RCL
  3. Concurrent enrollment at a school outside the San Mateo Community College District
    Required: Proof of registration at the school and when the semester is complete the grades
  4. Academic Difficulty (can only be used for first semester students, but it will be a very rare case to get this option)
    Required: SEP and letter with reason for struggle

The RCL form should be submitted at the beginning of the semester, or as soon as possible.

Why do I need to see an academic counselor?

It is important to see an academic counselor so you can be on track to complete your degree or transfer requirements. An academic counselor helps with academic advising and SEP (Student Education Plan). A SEP will help with figuring out sequence of courses, major class, and transfer plans. By having an updated SEP it also helps in getting priority registration. We recommend that you meet with a counselor at least once each semester.

I want to take a course at another college? How can I do that?

This process is called concurrent enrollment. Yes, you are allowed to take courses at another institution but you do need a letter from us to verify that you are in good standing at CSM and you are requesting to take a specific course. You will only be allowed to take that specific course at the other institution. If you are taking classes at Skyline or Cañada you are already at two campuses and will not be authorized for another institution. Please fill out the letter request on the forms page.

These are different ways for you to work in the U.S.

CPT (Curricular Practical Training) is defined as employment which is an integral part of an established curriculum, including: “alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.” You should pursue CPT if you wish to accept employment off-campus. A CPT employment must be part of Cooperative Education that requires you to enroll in either COOP 670 or COOP 672. Both COOP 670 and COOP 672 count towards your full-time enrollment.

OPT (Optional Practical Training) is a temporary off-campus employment authorization within a student’s field of study granted by USCIS. Qualified F-1 students may apply for either pre-completion OPT or post-completion OPT.  At the time of applying for OPT, students are not required to have an employment offer or enroll in internship credits. However, OPT is only granted for up to 12 months and only a maximum duration of 90-day unemployment is permitted. The job will have to be related to the major that is listed on your I-20.

In order for students to qualify for a post-completion OPT students must be receiving an Associates degree from CSM in the semester they are applying for post-completion OPT.

Students should work closely with our office to make sure that CPT/OPT applications are completed in a timely manner.

You may change your major on WebSMART but in order to change your major on your I-20 (which you are required to do), you will need to meet with a counselor and submit a change of major form located on the forms page.
If you have any change of status that gets approved and you would like to change your visa status, please send us your approval paperwork and we will work on cancelling your I-20. You will need to work with Admissions & Records to get your student record changed to residency status by showing your approval.

How to fulfill the IGETC area 6 Second Language requirement with my high school transcript?

As long as you have taken at least 2 years of another language in high school, you can turn in a copy of your high school transcript which shows that you took a language other than English to Admissions & Records and let them know it’s for IGETC area 6. Make sure to put your G number, and name on it and let them know it’s to satisfy your area 6 for IGETC.

How do I get my IGETC certification?

You’ll first need to check and make sure you have been IGETC certified by downloading your unofficial transcript in WebSMART. If you do not see your IGETC certification you’ll need to meet with an academic counselor. Once you’ve confirmed your IGETC certification, use WebSMART to request an official transcript by selecting “Mail Transcript and IGETC” under the Delivery Method.
Yes, if you complete your program early, you may end your I-20 early. Please make sure to let the international office know if you are planning to complete your program prior to your I-20 end date. This will allow the office to complete your I-20 record.
Please go to the Honors Project Program Requirements page to view the application process.
Yes, we do. For UCs it is called Transfer Admission Guarantees (TAGS). Please visit the UC Transfer admission planner for more information. Please meet with your academic counselor to get more information about TAGS. For a full list of schools that we have transfer agreements with, please view our transfer list.

When you have been admitted to the school that you want to transfer to, please work on filling out the transfer out request form. You must transfer within 60 days of your I-20 end date or within 60 days of completing the program.

CSM will not send your transcript automatically to the university. You will need to go onto WebSMART to request an official transcript and send it to the university of your choice.
Yes. Please see the Study Abroad Program’s website for more information.
You can find resources for scholarships on the CSM Scholarships website.

A list of current active clubs, meeting times, and contact information can be found on the College of San Mateo’s Student Clubs & Organizations website.

Our student government is made up of a student senate and several boards. The student senate is the recognized voice of the student body and is comprised of a President, Vice President, Finance Director, Senators, and other appointed positions. The ASCSM boards include the Programming Board, Advocacy Board, Cultural Awareness Board, Inter Club Council (ICC), and the Public Relations Board.

Elections for our student senate are held in the spring semester for the following year. Board applications are online and accepted anytime during the spring and fall semesters. Please find more information about joining student government by visiting the Associated Students of College of San Mateo (ASCSM) website.

For all other questions regarding student life at College of San Mateo, please refer to the Student Life website.