Back to Top
Events Calendar
Loading Events...
View full calendar

International Student Advising

Young musicians come to the Curtis Institute of Music from twenty countries around the world to study with its acclaimed faculty. Today nearly 40 percent of the students enrolled at Curtis are from abroad.

The Curtis Institute of Music highly values a diverse international student body. As has been the school's policy since 1924, Curtis welcomes all applicants regardless of geographic origin, religious background, race, socio-economic level, gender, or sexual orientation.

Laurel Grady, associate dean of student life and international student affairs, is your international student advisor and provides international students advice and counsel on matters related to non-immigrant study in the U.S., English language acquisition, and American customs and culture.  

F1 students regularly receive comprehensive information on travel advisories, curricular practical training (CPT), optional practical training (OPT), employment eligibility, regulations, and more. Laurel Grady meets with all international students regularly and is always available to assist students so that they remain compliant with all non-immigrant requirements mandated by the U.S. Department of State. 

Additional information that can help students remain in compliance with U.S. Department of Homeland Security rules and regulations throughout the international student process is available through Study in the States. Language translations are available on the site.



There are several steps to apply for a visa. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply. Please consult the instructions available on the embassy or consulate website where you intend to apply.

Complete the Online Visa Application

Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 – Learn more about completing the DS-160. You must: 1) complete the online visa application and 2) print the application form confirmation page to bring to your interview. You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. Your photo must be in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements.

Schedule an Interview

While interviews are generally not required for applicants of certain ages, consular officers have the discretion to require an interview of any applicant, regardless of age.

You must schedule an appointment for your visa interview, generally, at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where you live. You may schedule your interview at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate, but be aware that it may be difficult to qualify for a visa outside of your place of permanent residence.

Wait times for interview appointments vary by location, season, and visa category, so you should apply for your visa early. Review the interview wait time for the location where you will apply.

New Students: F-1 visas can be issued up to 120 days in advance of your course of study start date. However, you will not be allowed to enter the United States in F-1 status earlier than 30 days before your start date.

Continuing Students: You may renew your visa at any time, as long as you have maintained student status and your SEVIS records are current. You may enter the United States at any time before your classes start.

Prepare for Your Interview

Fees Pay the non-refundable visa application fee, if you are required to pay it before your interview. When your visa is approved, you may also pay a visa issuance fee, if applicable to your nationality.

Review the instructions available on the website of the embassy or consulate where you will apply to learn more about fee amount and payment.

Gather Required Documentation

Gather and prepare the following required documents before your visa interview:

  • Passport valid for travel to the United States - Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States. 
  • Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page
  • Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before your interview
  • Photo: You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. If the photo upload fails, you must bring one printed photo in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements.
  • Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1): Curtis will send you a SEVIS-generated Form I-20 once we have entered your information in the SEVIS database. You and Laurel Grady must sign the Form I-20. All students must be registered in the Student and Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS). Each person receives an individual Form I-20.

Additional Documentation May Be Required

Review the instructions for how to apply for a visa on the website of the embassy or consulate where you will apply. Additional documents may be requested to establish that you are qualified. For example, additional requested documents may include evidence of:

  • Your academic preparation, such as transcripts, diplomas, degrees, or certificates from schools you attended
  • Standardized test scores required by your U.S. school
  • Your intent to depart the United States upon completion of the course of study
  • How you will pay all educational, living and travel costs

Helpful Resources

Get to know the city of Philadelphia at View this helpful resource in Chinese, Korean, Russian, and other languages as well.

To locate or contact U.S. embassies and consulates in your country, visit U.S. Department of State.

For information on what to expect upon arrival to the U.S. visit U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement.

Recommendations for international students studying in the U.S. (translations included) can be found at Adjusting to American Culture

English Language Practice Online

Employment, Travel, and the Form I-20

Employment of international students is strictly regulated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Paid performances (“gigs”) are considered employment by DHS, even if they are paid in cash or referred by Curtis staff or faculty. All outside employment of international students must be authorized by the international student advisor prior to being contracted. To seek this authorization, complete a release request, obtain all necessary signatures including that of the dean of faculty and students, and present it to the international student advisor. International students who engage in unauthorized employment are out of status and subject to apprehension and deportation by the enforcement division of DHS.

If you wish to leave the United States temporarily before completing your course of study, you must take a valid I-20 form and several other documents with you in order to be readmitted to the United States. If you change address or change status, you must notify the international student advisor. Please be careful: Failure to comply with DHS regulations can result in extreme penalties.

Eligibility Requirements for F-1 Students Obtaining a Pennsylvania State Driver's License

International students who have never had a driver's license from any state in the United States must provide the following when visiting the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDot, nearest location 801 Arch Street).

  • Documents: Passport, visa, and I-94 confirmation (it does not matter if the visa in your passport has expired.)
  • Valid I-20: F-1 students’ I-20 must have at least eleven months (preferably 12 months or more) left before the completion date in Program of Study section. Students on Optional Practical Training (OPT) must present the EAD, and are not eligible to apply for a license before the start date on the EAD.
  • Proof of residing in Pennsylvania: Two documents showing where you live. Preferred documents include leases, housing contracts; utility bills; local bank statement; and W-2 tax forms. However, when students don't have two of these, the Driver's License Office has been willing to accept other documents, such as a letter from Laurel Grady.
  • Social Security Card: You should take your actual card. PennDot will not accept a photocopy of your card.

Social Security Card and your Social Security Number (SSN)

The Social Security system was established in 1935 and provides public assistance to the disabled, unemployed, and retired. Social Security benefits are supported by taxes collected from people currently employed. Although international students are usually exempt from paying Social Security taxes, you must apply for a Social Security number (SSN) if you are employed in the United States. In order to work in the United States, every eligible international student needs a Social Security number (SSN). If you do not know if you are eligible to work, please speak with Laurel Grady. 

International students having authorization to work in the United States may apply for an SSN. In addition, any F1 student who wishes to apply for a driver's license in Pennsylvania should read Steps to Getting a Driver's License

Academic Excellence and Academic Integrity

A requirement of F-1 status is that the student must be making normal progress in the course of study. Critical to such progress is adhering to the Academic Honesty Policy. All students are expected to complete their work with the highest degree of academic integrity. If you are new to the U.S. it is important that you understand the course policies and expectations, grading system, and course calendar. Equally, you must have a cultural understanding of the American classroom, interaction with instructors, and the meaning of academic integrity. For help and better understanding of plagiarism international students are encouraged to speak with Laurel Grady, associate dean of student life and international student affairs.

International students can access a variety of excellent resources and learn more about preventing plagiarism at Understanding and Preventing Plagiarism and on the Curtis Library web page on Citation and Copyright.