Do you have questions related to your status as an F-1 student?

Check out the answers to the questions below.  If you can’t find the information you’re looking for, contact your DSO at any time.

What’s a DSO? How can I contact my DSO?

To learn more about the job of a Designated School Official, known as a DSO, check this out.

The DSOs on the Winona campus who can help you with your questions:

Becky Vogel,, Heights #104, (507)457-1778
Vicki McDonald,, Heights #103, (507)457-6996

Important Documents


The US government expects you to keep your passport valid at all times. Check the expiration date on your passport. If you have less than six months remaining on the passport, you should request an extension. If needed by your embassy, your DSO will provide, at your request, a letter to affirm your student status. If your US visa is still valid and you are being issued a new passport, you should request the return of your expired passport. By keeping the passports together, the valid visa can be used for reentry to the United States. Otherwise you will need to apply for a new visa the next time you leave the country.


This is a stamp or seal placed in your passport by a US Consular officer abroad. The visa notes the purpose of your visit, the last date you can enter the United States, and how many entries you will be allowed. The visa is a permit to enter the United States. The visa does not indicate how long you will be permitted to stay and a visa does not have to be valid in order to remain in the United States. A visa can be obtained ONLY at US Consulates outside the United States. Do not lose your visa!


Keep your I-20 with your passport at all times. You will need your I-20 when traveling. If you are traveling out of the country, your I-20 must be signed – see your DSO. Keep all of your past I-20s.


Some students may have a small white card issued by the immigration officer at the port-of-entry and stapled to the passport. It confirms that you were lawfully admitted to the US. The I-94 shows how long you are permitted to stay in the United States. For F and J visa holders, “D/S” is noted instead of a specific date on the right hand corner. “D/S” stands for “duration of status” and operates in conjunction with the I-20 or DS-2019. This means you are permitted to stay as long as you are maintaining your status as a student. Other visa holders will have a specific date in the right-hand corner. To remain past this time, you must file for an extension before the expiration date. Be sure not to confuse the I-94 with your visa. Students may now obtain the I-94 online.

Health Records

Make sure you have records of your health history, including immunizations. This will be used to complete the Student Health Form which is provided in the admissions packet.

Health Insurance

Do I need health insurance?
Yes, all international students need health insurance.

Why do I need health insurance?
Health care in the United States is EXTREMELY expensive. For example, one ambulance trip can cost you $1000. You are responsible for all medical costs incurred.

But I already have insurance in my country!
You need health insurance that will cover you for care in the USA. If you are not sure, check your policy.

What is the cost?
Remember, the more you pay generally means better coverage. The lowest level of coverage can cost as little as $35 USD per month. We recommend purchasing 12 months of coverage at a time.

Where can I buy health insurance?
You can search online. Here are some recommendations:

Print a receipt that shows:

  1. Start and end dates of your health insurance coverage.
  2. The categories of coverage (catastrophic, emergency, repatriation, etc.)
  3. The maximum $ amounts of coverage.

I bought health insurance, now what?

  1. Submit a copy of proof of health insurance (receipt or insurance card) to International Center and Wellness Center.
  2. Carry your insurance card with you.
  3. Before you go to a hospital or clinic, call your insurance provider to see that the doctor is in your insurance’s “network.”
Check-In Documents

All students (new and returning) must bring the following documents to the International Center the first week of the semester:

  1. Check-in form
  2. Current I­-20
  3. Current I-94 Arrival/Departure form
  4. F­-1 visa stamp in passport
  5. Copy of Saint Mary’s ID card
  6. Copy of class schedule
  7. Copy of health insurance provider plan
Can I do an internship? What’s Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?

If you are interested in registering for an internship, you need to know about Curricular Practical Training (CPT).   Read through this document and then set up an appointment with your DSO.

Can I work in the U.S. after my graduation? What’s Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

You may be eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), an opportunity that allows you to gain hands-on experience in your major field of study after your graduation.  Check out the following documents:

What’s a STEM OPT Extension?

Eligible F-1 students who graduated with a degree in a STEM program and are participating in a regular post-completion OPT, have the option to apply for a 24-month STEM OPT extension.  This 24-month extension is in addition to your 12-months on OPT.

Find more information about STEM OPT:


How can I maintain my student status?


Register for classes as a full-time student – minimum 12 credits

  • Attend class every day
  • Do your homework
  • Make progress
  • Do not get in trouble with the university or police
  • Working on campus is limited to 20 hours per week (food service only)
  • Working off campus requires CPT or OPT – see your DSO for more information

Register for classes as a full-time student – minimum  6 credits

  • Attend class every day
  • Do your homework
  • Make progress
  • Do not get in trouble with the university or police
  • Working on campus in Winona is limited to 20 hours per week
  • Working off campus requires CPT or OPT – see your DSO for more information