International Students at Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University (GCU) has grown with Phoenix to become one of the nation's premier private universities. For more than 60 years, GCU has welcomed diverse cultures, encouraging our students to share their unique perspectives and evolve into global citizens. International students have described our university as a home away from home and an enjoyable place to learn.

GCU's international students have a vibrant presence across our campus locations. Representatives from our International Students Office and GCU university counselors guide new students through the visa process. We are authorized under federal law to enroll nonimmigrant alien students. See some of our students' native countries below.

  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • Cameroon
  • Japan
  • Kenya
  • Serbia
  • Sierra Leone
  • Uganda
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New Student Orientation

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International students must check in with the International Students Office upon arrival on campus. If you come at a time when the office is closed, come back the following day of business.

Please bring the following items:

  • Passport containing F-1 visa
  • I-94 Arrival/Departure obtained online here
  • I-20

We will copy the documents for your file and give you useful information about the next steps to take for getting acclimated to the campus.

Driver's License

If you plan to drive a motor vehicle while at GCU, you may need to obtain a driver's license. If you do not already hold a driver's license in another state of the U.S., you may be asked to take a vision, written and driving exam. If you purchase a car in Arizona, you will need to register it here and have an Arizona driver's license to obtain car insurance, which is mandatory. Get more details about obtaining a driver's license.

The nearest Motor Vehicle Department location is:

Phoenix West
4005 N. 51st Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85031

Never drive a car in the U.S. without a valid driver's license or car insurance. It is against the law.

Arizona state law requires you to show at least two forms of identification; one must include your photo. These documents should be in English. Recommended documents include:

  • Unexpired passport containing F-1 visa
  • I-94 Arrival/departure record, available online
  • I-20
  • School ID card

Health Information


To ensure health and wellness across our university, GCU requires that international students provide immunization verification. You must have two measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines, or documented evidence of immunization against or immunity to measles, mumps and rubella, before being allowed to register for classes.

You must provide a doctor's statement, a blood titer showing immunity or a copy of a health department card as proof of immunization. If no proof of prior immunization is available, then two MMR's no less than 30 days apart are required. The immunization records should be submitted to the Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic on campus.

International students often find it more convenient and less expensive to have these vaccines administered before departing for the U.S.

Health Insurance

All international students are required to carry health insurance through GCU. Insurance may not be waived and will be added automatically to your student account for payment. GCU partners with UnitedHealth to provide health insurance for international students. Access your student health insurance details and print your health insurance card.

Health and Wellness Center

The Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic serves students, faculty and staff on GCU's main campus. In addition to providing basic health care services, the clinic also offers a Health Shop on campus.

U.S. Taxation for International Students

As an International Student

  • If you resided in the United States in the previous year for at least one day, you are required to submit IRS form 8843.
  • If you earned income in the United States in the previous year, you may be required to submit federal and state income tax forms by the April 15 deadline. See IRS Information for Foreign Students and AZ Dept. of Revenue - Individual Income Tax.
  • "Income" is not limited to wages paid to you in cash, but may also include the portion of your scholarship, fellowship or assistantship that is applied to your housing and/or meal expenses. The portion applied to your tuition fees, books and supplies is generally not considered income.
  • The terms "resident" and "nonresident" are frequently used. Note that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the IRS use the terms differently. When filing taxes, use the IRS definitions for "resident" and "nonresident" to determine your tax status.
  • The United States and your country may have a tax treaty. Tax treaties may allow residents of foreign countries to be taxed at a reduced rate or to be exempt from U.S. income taxes.
  • F-2 dependents (spouse and/or unmarried children of a F-1 student), regardless of age, are expected to file the IRS form 8843 annually in the U.S., even if they have no income from a U.S. source.
  • Grand Canyon University is dedicated to providing high-quality service to our Canadian students. Please be advised that the student is responsible for determining their eligibility for Canadian Tax Credits. Certain Grand Canyon University courses and programs may not meet certain requirements for tax credits, including but not limited to the minimum week and continuous enrollment requirements. For more information on Canadian Tax Credits, please contact The Revenue Canada Agency or visit

Your Options

  • Hire a tax preparer: Either locally or in your home country. The person should be familiar with filing IRS forms that relate to F-1 students.
  • Use a software program designed for F-1 students (non-immigrants).
  • Seek out free help from the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

Here is a list of common forms used by international students. The IRS (or equivalent state agency) publishes instructions to accompany each form. It is possible that you may need to file more than one of the forms listed below. It is also possible that you may need to file other tax forms not listed here depending on their individual circumstance.

  • Form 8843: Statement of Exempt Individuals and Individuals with a Medical Condition. This form is filed to verify nonresident alien tax status. It is the minimum form that should generally be filed and should be attached to any of the tax forms listed below if applicable. Otherwise, it should be filed separately.
  • Form 1040NR-EZ: U.S. Income Tax Return for Certain Nonresident Aliens with No Dependents
  • Form 1040NR: U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return (longer version of form 1040NR-EZ)
  • Arizona Form 140NR: Nonresident Personal Income Tax Return

Consult a tax professional or access the IRS website and instruction booklets (see links below) for questions related to which forms apply to you.

IRS Publications and other resources:

  • IRS Publication 519: U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens
  • IRS Publication 901: U.S. Tax Treaties
  • Form 1040NR Instructions
  • AZ Form 1040NR Instructions


Practical Training

Practical Training (PT) is a benefit available to F-1 students who have been lawfully enrolled in a Department of Homeland Security approved academic institution. Students who have been granted PT may accept employment in the U.S. to work in their field of study in order to enhance and put into practice what they have learned in the classroom. There are two types of PT available - Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT). Requirements and limitations vary for each type of PT.

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Students may be authorized for CPT to engage in for-credit training programs that are an integral, but not necessarily required, part of an established curriculum. To be eligible, students must:

  • Have an internship that is approved by the college in which they are studying
  • Have full-time student status for at least one academic year (2 consecutive semesters)
  • Be enrolled in an internship course (# of credits specified by the college)
  • Be in legal F-1 immigration status at the time they request CPT
  • Provide the ISO with letters of approval from the Director of Internships and from employer listing job duties

Authorization to work on CPT is given by the DSO in the International Students Office. Once CPT has been approved and a new I-20 issued with the work authorization noted, students may begin working. Students must not work until I-20 with CPT authorization has been issued.

Students taking more than 12 months of full-time CPT are not eligible for OPT. Students who have taken less than 12 months may be eligible for the full 12 months of post-completion OPT. Participation in part-time CPT will not affect eligibility for optional practical training.

Students may be authorized to work in the U.S. for up to 12 months in paid professional-level employment that is directly related to their degree program (a very limited number of degree programs allow for longer OPT periods, see the ISO). It is not necessary to have a job to apply for OPT and while on OPT students may change jobs without penalty or without having to reapply for work authorization.

To be eligible for OPT, students must:

  • Have full-time student status for at least one academic year (2 consecutive semesters
  • Have legal F-1 Status at the time they request for OPT
  • Be in good academic standing
  • File application up to 90 days BEFORE or up to 60 days AFTER the completion of study

Please note: Authorization to work on OPT is granted by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), based on the recommendation of the DSO in the ISO. Obtaining the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card, proof of authorization to work in the US, from USCIS takes approximately 90-120 days from the time the application is received in the USCIS office. Therefore, it is recommended that students apply early in the semester before completion of study.

Students on practical training may leave the country and reenter while on OPT after being employed. To reenter the country after a trip abroad, students must present to the Customs and Border Protection inspector at the port of entry a valid passport, a valid F-1 visa stamp, I-20 validated by the DSO's signatures within the last 6 months, a valid EAD card, and a letter of employment.

Travel for International Students

Please always check with the International Students Office before you plan your travel abroad.

As each person's individual circumstances differ, here are the general guidelines. This information may not be all you need to determine whether it is appropriate to travel or whether you will be readmitted to the U.S. Be sure to contact the Designated School Official (DSO) in the International Students Office (ISO). Please remember that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the Port of Entry (POE) decides whether or not a person is admissible to the U.S. This decision is based upon the facts and circumstances presented at the time you apply to enter, therefore, it is important to know your situation and carry the proper documentation.

While you are on the campus, you do not need to carry your passport, I-94 or I-20 with you. Be sure you have them safely stored. If you leave campus, you need to have your documents with you at all times.

You should carry your passport, I-94 card and I-20 with you in case you are asked for proof of your identity from authorities.

The same holds true as above, carry your passport, I-94 and I-20.

Students who travel abroad must show proper documentation to reenter the U.S. They must not have been gone from the U.S. for more than 5 months for the subsequent guidelines. At the port of entry, you must present the following:

  • Valid passport with expiration date at least 6 months from the date of entry
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp in passport
  • I-20 that has been endorsed by the DSO in the ISO within the last 6 months (technically a signature is valid for one year, but many agents at the port of entry prefer to see the endorsement from the school more frequently)
  • Other recommended documents: Financial documents showing that you have the funds to pay for your educational and living expenses while here, recent transcripts, receipt from I-901 SEVIS fee payment, and a letter from the ISO verifying you are a student at GCU

Exceptions: Exceptions to the travel documentation above apply to travel to Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands with the exception of Cuba. If you plan to travel to one of these locations for fewer than 30 days, retain your I-94 card. Even if your visa is expired, you may still be readmitted based on an automatic revalidation of your visa.

If you need a validating signature for you I-20, please bring it to the ISO several days before your planned departure for processing.

Obtaining an F-1 Visa

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Students looking to attend school in the United States must obtain an F-1 visa prior to coming to the United States. The information below outlines what you will need to know in order to obtain an F-1 visa. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of State website.

When your acceptance for admission to Grand Canyon University (GCU) is complete, you will receive an I-20 form and letter of acceptance. Follow these steps to apply for an F-1 visa:

  • Complete the SEVIS I-901 form and pay the fee The fee must be paid at least 3 business days before you apply for visa.
  • Make an appointment with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate
  • Find the nearest U.S. Consulate. Download the appropriate forms you will be asked to complete (like DS-160).
  • Arrange for an appointment as soon as possible. You may apply 120 days before the program start date, but you will not be able to enter the U.S. until 30 days before the program begins.
  • Prepare for visa interview.

Remember, the F-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa. This means you will need to provide proof that you do not intend to immigrate to the U.S. and plan to return to your country. The interview will be very brief, so be organized and express your educational plans in a complete but concise manner.

A. Organize papers

  • Application for F-1 visa (see website of the consulate you will visit)
  • Unexpired passport
  • I-20
  • Letter of Admission
  • Receipt of I-901 SEVIS fee payment
  • Proof of financial support
  • Proof of ties to home country
  • Academic records (for example, if you are pursuing a graduate program, have your bachelor's degree diploma and transcripts)

B. Have a plan
Prepare a cover sheet for your application, expressing your plans for U.S. study with short sentences in a bulleted format. Also describe your career goals for returning to your country.

C. Learn about GCU 
You will likely be asked why you chose our university and how we suit your educational and career plans.

  • Let us know when you receive your visa

Canadian students
Canadian students are not required to apply for an F-1 visa stamp, but will apply for F-1 status at the port of entry. Take the same documentation listed above.

Important: If you are denied an F-1 visa, do not enter the U.S. on a tourist or business (B-1/B-2) visa. It is illegal to attend college full-time through this type of visa. Let us know as soon as possible so we may advise you.

Form I-901 and SEVIS Fee

Prior to applying for an F-1 visa and for initial entry to the U.S., students must complete Form I-901 and pay the $200 Student and Exchange Visitors Information System (SEVIS) fee to cover the cost of administration and maintenance of the system. See form.

Preparing for the F-1 Visa Interview

In order to successfully apply for an F-1 student visa, applicants must prove to the consular official the following:

  • The sole (not just "primary") purpose of travel is to pursue a full-time program of study.
  • The ability and intention to be a full-time student in the United States. Applicants must prove that they have been unconditionally accepted to our university's accredited academic program by providing an I-20 form issued from us and a letter of acceptance. Applicants should also prove that they have the skills and background necessary to complete the program with documents such as diplomas, transcripts, listing courses they have taken and grades received and TOEFL score reports, if applicable.
  • There is adequate funding to cover all tuition, living expenses, books and insurance. Applicants must prove that they have enough funding for tuition, living expenses, books and health insurance. If a scholarship has been awarded, the applicant should provide the letter issued from the school. If personal funds will be used, there must be adequate funding for the entire course of study. If personal funds will be used, there must be adequate funding for the entire course of study. If a family member or some other person is supplying the funding an affidavit of support should be included.
  • Sufficiently strong social, economic and other ties to compel departure from the U.S. upon completion of the program of studies. Applicants must prove that they intend to return to their home country after the completion of their course of study in the United States.

10 Points to Remember in Preparation for the Interview

  • Ties to home country: Under U.S. law, all applicants for nonimmigrant visas are viewed as intending immigrants until they can convince the consular officer that they are not. Therefore, you must be able to show that you have more compelling reasons to return to your home country than stay in the U.S. "Ties" to your home country are the things that bind you to your hometown, homeland, or current place of residence such as job, family, property, financial prospects that you own or will inherit, investments, etc. An interviewing officer may ask a prospective student about these and long-term plans and career prospects in your home.
  • English: Expect the interview to be conducted in English and not in your native language. If you are coming for the American Language Program (Intensive English), be prepared to explain how the program will help you when you return to your country.
  • Speak for yourself: Do not take parents or family members with you to the interview - the consular officer wants to interview you, not your family. You may make a negative impression if you cannot speak on your own behalf.
  • Know the program and how it fits your career plans: Learn as much as you can about the college's program and be able to explain how studying in the United States, and at GCU in particular, will benefit you in your future career when you return home.
  • Be concise: Consular offices are under time pressure to give quick interviews because of the volume of applicants. What you say first and the initial impression you create will be critical to your success. Answers to questions should be kept simple and to the point. You may want to have your plan typed on a page with bulleted points.
  • Supplemental documentation: It should be clear at a glance to the consular officer which written documents you have and what they represent, so have the documents neatly organized. Avoid lengthy written explanations that cannot be quickly read or evaluated. Keep in mind most interviews last only 2-3 minutes.
  • Not all countries are equal: Applicants from countries suffering economic problems or countries from which many students have remained in the United States as immigrants will have more difficulty getting visas. Be aware of your country's status, and be prepared to answer questions about job opportunities at home after your study in the United States.
  • Employment: Your main purpose in coming to the U.S. should be to study, not for the chance to work before or after graduation. While some students do work off-campus during their studies, such employment is incidental to their main purpose of completing their U.S. education, and is done only with special permission. Be prepared to articulate your plan to return home at the end of the program. If your spouse is also applying for an accompanying F-2 visa, be aware that F-2 dependents CANNOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, be employed in the United States. Volunteer work and attending school part-time, however, are permitted activities.
  • Dependents remaining at home: If your spouse and children are remaining behind in your country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves in your absence, especially if you are their primary source of income. If the consular officer gains the impression that you will have to remit money from the United States to support them, your student visa application will almost certainly be denied. If they decide to join you later, it is helpful if they apply at the same consular post where you applied for your visa.
  • Maintain a positive attitude: Do not argue with the consular officer. If you are denied a student visa, ask the officer for a list of documents they would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal, and try to get the reason you were denied in writing.

F-1 Visa

Apply for this document to attend college within the United States.


Maintaining Status

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It's important for students to maintain legal immigration status while in the US. Violations can result in serious consequences including deportation. Here are some items that are necessary to maintain legal immigration status while in the US (rewrite without CTA)

SEVIS Reporting

Report to the International Students Office (ISO) as soon as possible after your arrival. We must update your record in SEVIS within 30 days after your program start date.

Pursue Full Course of Study

Students are required to be registered full time during the Fall and Spring semesters. Only one online class may be counted toward full-time enrollment. The minimum number of credits to be considered full time is:

  • Undergraduate student 12 credits
  • Graduate student 16 credits for the Academic Year

Completing Program of Study

Make normal progress toward your degree and complete program before the Program End Date shown on the I-20. The length of time for your program should allow you sufficient time to complete your degree, however, if more time is needed, please request an Extension of Stay before your Program End Date.

Change of Address

After you are here, you are required to report a change of residence within 10 days of your move. Contact the staff in the ISO so we can update your SEVIS record.

Authorization to Work

International students may find they wish to work while in the US. There are some allowances for it, but it should be noted that there are limitations. Students should be careful to comply with all regulations as working illegally is considered a very serious offense. Be sure to check with the staff in the International Students Office before accepting or beginning ANY type of employment.

Immigration Documents

Know your immigration documents and KEEP THEM VALID AT ALL TIMES


Generally, you are required to a valid passport at least six months into the future.

F-1 Visa

The visa allows you to apply for entry to the US at the port of entry. It shows the immigration status, the number of times you may enter the US (single, double, or multiple entry) and the last day on which you can enter the country. It is not illegal to be in the US with an expired VISA. Once you are within the borders of the US, if your visa has expired, it is necessary to obtain a new visa only if you leave and want to re-enter the US.

Form I-20

The I-20 authorizes you to attend Grand Canyon University (GCU). Be sure to read page 3 of the I-20 thoroughly and sign and date at the bottom of page 1 if you haven't done so already.

Form I-94 Arrival and Departure Record

Form I-94 is available at the Customs and Border Protection website.

Safeguarding Immigration Documents

Do not lose or destroy ANY documents you receive from the US government or school officials. You should keep all documents issued to you in a safe and accessible place, in the event you need to show them to the authorities


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