Admissions and Aid / Graduate Degree Programs /

Graduate International Students

General Policy

International applicants are strongly encouraged to submit their applications at least six months prior to the term in which they intend to enroll. Prospective students who plan to begin a graduate degree program must submit all application materials (including transcripts, declaration of financial support, etc.) at least 90 days before the planned date of arrival in order to allow time for the student to receive the visa application papers. Under extenuating circumstances, an extension may be granted. Please contact the Admissions Office for further details.

International students on F visas are required to maintain valid immigration status throughout their stay at GCU in order to remain in good standing with the university.

International Application Requirements

Great Commission University welcomes inquiries from international students who wish to pursue a degree program at GCU. In addition to the normal admission requirements, an international student must comply with the following:

1. An applicant’s admission material must be received 90 days prior to the term in which they intend to enroll.

2. An international student for any master program must have completed a bachelor’s degree from either a U.S. post secondary institution or the equivalent degree from a foreign institution.

3. All foreign language documents must be accompanied by an official translation into English.

English Requirements for International Applicants

Great Commission University requires English language proficiency on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or Great Commission University Language Studies Proficiency Test (GCULSPT) for international students whose English is not considered as their native language or dominant language in their home. International students can prove English language proficiency by meeting one of the following conditions:

1) A minimum TOEFL iBT total score of 80, or

2) A minimum TOEFL CBT score of 213, or

3) A minimum TOEFL PBT score of 550, or

4) A minimum IELTS score of 6.5, or

5) A minimum GCULSPT score of 80, plus a minimum of 17 in GCULSPT Writing and a minimum of 16 in GCULSPT Speaking, or

6) The student is from a country where English is the official language, or

7) The student received an undergraduate or graduate degree from an English-speaking college or university.

NOTE: Great Commission University’s code for submitting TOEFL score is 4218

If an applicant recently earned a baccalaureate degree from a recognized institution where English was the language of instruction, he or she may submit a written request to the Admissions Committee explaining why he or she should be excused from taking the TOEFL, IELTS or other valid standard tests. The Admissions Committee will make the final decision on whether or not the applicant is excused from taking a language exam.

Students who demonstrate they are not prepared for a postsecondary education in their program are required to make up this deficiency prior to their continuation of study.

If a student receives a substandard score in English proficiency, he or she may be eligible to receive English language support, and may also be placed on academic probation in order to determine if performance is satisfactory for continued study.

Conditions For Issuing Form I-20

  • Great Commission University is authorized to issue the Form I-20 documentation, allowing students to achieve the F-1 student visa status. Please be aware that the US immigration law is constantly changing. Students must confirm the accuracy of the following information with the Office of Admissions. Students must have the Form I- 20 from GCU before going to the U.S. Consulate/Embassy to apply for visa.

Following conditions must be met before the Form I-20 can be issued to an applicant:

1. Acceptance of admission to Great Commission University.

2. The applicant must present evidence that he/she has funds to meet all expenses for the entire period of study, including round-trip transportation, living costs, health insurance, fees, tuition and books.

3. A deposit is generally required of applicants currently residing outside of the U.S. The amount of the deposit varies depending on Great Commission University’s assessment of the applicant’s ability to meet the financial obligations of a student.

Declaration of Financial Support

International students who do not have permanent resident status in the United States will be considered for admission to Great Commission University only if they can meet the requirements of a declaration of financial support for themselves and all dependents (spouse and children) who are accompanying them to the United States. If the dependents are remaining in their home country, the university strongly recommends that appropriate financial arrangements be made to care for the dependents during the entire time the student is away (in addition to the arrangements made for the student’s expenses in the United States).

The declaration of financial support may come from one or a combination of the following sources that will actually provide the necessary funds for study and living expenses. This information must be documented in a bank or financial statement reflecting the equivalent in American dollars, the date the account was opened, the average balance and the current balance.

  • Church/Denomination or Organization letter stating specific monthly support intentions and their bank statement
  • Personal Bank statement with US exchange rate
  • Family Bank statement with supporting letter of that family member stating specific monthly support intentions

Instructions for completing the declaration of financial support

  • The declaration of financial support must be fully and properly completed. It must be typed or clearly printed in ink.
  • Support from individuals: If you have more than one sponsor, please make copies of the declaration of financial support and have it signed by each of the different sponsors. Note that the declaration of financial support must be signed by the sponsor (s) and by the student, as witness.
  • Church, organizations and/or government sponsors: The director(s) of the organization should fill out the declaration of financial support and enclose a signed letter from the organization, and bank statement, guaranteeing their support to you.
  • 4. Supporting evidence of financial resources must be attached to the declaration of financial support. It may consist of one or a combination of the following:

a. Your personal Bank Statement, with the U.S. exchange rate, if you are going to sponsor yourself during your studies. It has to show sufficient resources to complete your degree program

b. An original letter from a bank or other financial institution in which the sponsor has savings deposits, certificates of deposit, money market certificates, or other types of accounts. Note that the letter must be in official stationery and states: (1) date when the accounts were opened and (2) the availability of the individual’s or the organization’s funds.


a. The supporting documentation must be dated within 6 months of the intended date of enrollment at GCU.

b. Income tax statements or returns, proof of property ownership, and statements of retirement accounts are not acceptable as evidence for availability of funds.

F-1 Student Visa Status

  • Financial support may come from personal, private, and organizational sources
  • The student must register full-time while in the United States
  • Spouses have no employment options
  • Student employment is limited to 20 hours maximum while school is in session
  • Family bank statement with supporting letter of that family member stating specific monthly support intentions is required
  • Health insurance for student and family required continuously while in the United States

Permanent Resident Alien Status

Applicants who are not citizens of the United States, but do have official permanent resident status, must submit supplemental application materials as follows:

1. A photocopy of official, current Permanent Resident Alien (PRA) card. Great Commission University admissions personnel must photocopy this card.

2. Official English translations of all documents. If issued in a language other than English, transcripts must be accompanied by a literal and officially certified English translation.

3. Great Commission University reserves the right to notify students attempting to transfer credits received in secondary degrees or courses completed at universities outside the United States that they must have their non- U.S. academic transcripts evaluated by an academic transcript evaluating agency using a course-by- course report. GCU prefers that transcripts be evaluated by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) to determine their level and authenticity. Once international applicants have submitted their official transcript(s), they will be notified whether an AACRAO evaluation will be required. (Credentials evaluation reports are the financial responsibility of the applicant.)

NOTE: Concerning current Permanent Resident Aliens

  • Health insurance for student and family required continuously while in the United States
  • No declaration of financial support is required

Curricular Practical Training (Cpt)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) enables F-1 students to gain off-campus work authorization for internships or other work in the student’s major field. Generally, students may apply for CPT after having been enrolled in the academic program for a full academic year, and if the student has maintained valid F-1 status. Graduate students may be allowed to begin CPT during their first year if it is required as part of the college’s curricular program.

CPT employment may be paid or unpaid. If the internship is unpaid, CPT authorization should still be approved. Students are not allowed to participate in unpaid internship unless as part of a ministry practice program.

Part-Time and Full-Time CPT

CPT can be Part-Time or Full-Time, as long as the student maintains a full course of study with the University.

● Part-Time CPTEmployment for 20 hours or less per week while you are also enrolled (full-time) for classes is considered Part-Time CPT. You must be careful to limit your work to no more than 20 hours per week. Participation in Part-Time CPT does not affect your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Thus, there is no limitation on the length of time you may participate in Part-Time CPT. Part-time CPT is allowed during the fall, winter and spring quarters and during summer vacation.

● Full-Time CPTEmployment for more than 20 hours per week is considered Full-Time CPT. There is no limitation on the length of time you may participate in Full-Time CPT, but if you participate for 12 months or more you will not be eligible for OPT.

Conditions and Limitations

● Students may be authorized for CPT for up to one academic quarter at a time. If additional periods of CPT are desired, the student must complete the renewal form by the start of each quarter.

● Students have been enrolled as a full time F-1 student for one full academic year prior to participating in CPT (possible exceptions for graduating students).

● Maintained good F-1 status throughout the program, including full-time student status even while on CPT (BA – 12 units, MA – 8 units).

● Students must be in a degree-seeking program. Certificate and ESL students do not qualify for CPT.

● CPT can be Part-Time or Full-Time, as long as the student maintains a full course of study with the University. Note that accruing over 12 months of full-time CPT will prevent students from having the opportunity to do an OPT.

● All F-1 students working in the USA must acquire a social security number and be paid through the employer’s payroll system.

Applying for CPT

● Step One

    • a. Obtain a letter from your employer.
    • The letter must be on company/institution letterhead and include:
      • – The name of the company;
      • – Exact beginning and ending date of your employment (ending can be open);
      • – Physical address of the location where you will be working (including the zip code);
      • – Job title or brief job description;
      • – Number of hours per week (Part-Time CPT: not to exceed 20 hours/week).
    • b. Fill out “Student Eligibility for CPT Verification Form”.
    • c. Fill out the Student Information and Internship Information sections of “Advisor Verification Form for International F-1 Student Curricular Practical Training (CPT)” and then have your advisor fill out the middle section of the form. Your advisor must fill out the middle section of the form, not you.
    • ● Step Two
    • Make an appointment with Great Commission University International Student Office (GCUISO) to obtain CPT authorization on the 3rd page of your I-20. The following items are required before such authorization can be granted. The appointment should be scheduled at least two weeks before you plan on beginning your internship. Please bring them to the appointment:
      • a. Current I-20
      • b. Student Eligibility for CPT Verification Form
      • c. Advisor Verification Form for International F-1 Student Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
      • d. Offer of employment letter from the company/institution where you will work
    • Student is eligible to apply up to 90 days before the end of his or her first year of study. The actual CPT employment cannot begin until the first academic year is complete.
    • ● Step Three
    • Once CPT is authorized, the student must obtain a SSN and be added to the CPT employer’s payroll system to be legally participating in the CPT program.

Social Security Numbers (SSN)
Social Security Administration Office (SSA) generally issues SSN to people who are authorized to work in the United States. A verification letter should be requested to support your SSN application from GCUISO before going to the SSA Office.
For more information and to find copies of SSA publications, visit their website at or call 1-800-772-1213.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Curricular Practical Training?

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is work authorization for employment that is related to the GCU curriculum. The Ministry Practice program may or may not require CPT authorization, but students may also seek CPT employment as supplemental to their education. The advisors at the GCUISO will authorize CPT.
2. What are the eligibility criteria for Curricular Practical Training?

You have to have been enrolled in your program for a full academic year, and have maintained valid immigration status before you can apply for CPT. Graduate students whose degree curriculum requires immediate participation in an off campus work experience may be able to work before the academic year is completed.
3. Do I have to be registered while on Curricular Practical Training?

Students must remain in valid F-1 status, which includes maintaining a full-time study course load, in order to participate in the CPT program.
4. Does Curricular Practical Training impact on the amount of allowed Optional Practical Training?

If a student qualifies for CPT, s/he may use up to eleven months of Full-Time CPT without affecting Optional Practical Training (OPT) eligibility. However, if a student uses 12 months or more of Full-Time CPT, further OPT is not allowed. Part-Time CPT does not count towards this limit.

5. What is considered part-time training?

Employment for 20 hours or less per week while you are also enrolled (full-time) for classes is considered Part-Time CPT. The employment authorization written on the back of your I-20 copy will specify permission to engage in part-time training. You must be careful to limit your work to no more than 20 hours per week. Participation in Part-Time CPT does not affect your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Thus, there is no limitation on the length of time you may participate in Part-Time CPT. Part-Time CPT is allowed during the fall, winter and spring quarters and during summer vacation.
6. What is considered full-time training?

Employment for more than 20 hours per week is considered Full-Time CPT. The employment authorization on your I-20 copy will specify permission to participate in full-time training. There is no limitation on the length of time you may participate in Full-Time CPT, but if you participate for twelve months or more you will not be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT).
7. Do I have to pay U.S. taxes on my salary?

In general, F-1 students who have been in the U.S. for five years or less are “non-residents for tax purposes” and are exempt from Social Security (FICA) and Medicare taxes (see Internal Revenue Service Publication 519, “U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens”). However, your earnings are subject to applicable federal, state, and local taxes. Tax returns must be filed on or before April 15 each year for the previous calendar year, which will determine if any of the withheld taxes can be refunded. US tax laws are complex and changing. For more information and to find copies of IRS publications, visit their website at (foreign student filling requirements for U.S Federal Income Tax Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ).

8. What proof of employment authorization can I give my employer?

You should bring your I-20 form authorized for CPT is the document that indicates employment authorization.

Optional Practical Training (Opt)

  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) is the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in your degree program to off-campus work in your major field. OPT is authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This authorization can take 2 to 3 months to obtain. The maximum amount of time granted to work on F-1 OPT status is 12 months per degree level plus a possible 17 months STEM extension for those who hold qualifying degrees. Any OPT used prior to program completion counts against the maximum of 12 months post completion.
  • Eligibility Requirements

● Students must have been enrolled in a degree program for a full academic year and be in valid F-1 status at the time of application.

● You do not need to have a job offer in order to apply for OPT.

● Employment while on OPT must be directly related to your major area of study.

● The maximum amount of time granted to work on F-1 OPT status is 12 months per degree level plus a possible 17 month extension for those who qualify.

● You may not begin working until you receive the OPT card and the start date on the card has been reached.

● You may change jobs during the 12 months.

  • When to Apply
  • You may apply up to 90 days before your graduation date and the immigration service must receive your application no later than 60 days beyond your graduation date or 60 days beyond the end date of your I-20 (whichever is earlier) or, if you are an advanced graduate student, no later than 60 days beyond the last day that you are registered as a student.
  • Applying for OPT

● Step One

a. Pick up the OPT application at the Great Commission University International Student Office (GCUISO) and read through the entire application.

b. Ask your academic advisor to fill out the “Academic Advisor’s Recommendation Form”.

c. Fill out the “ISO information sheet” and Form I-765 (Please read important instructions for filling out the I-765).

● Step Two

Bring all the items completed in “Step One” to the GCUISO and sign in to speak with the Advisor on duty. The GCUISO advisor will print out a new I-20 for you which will include our “ISO Advisor Recommendation” for your OPT on page 3. You will send a copy of this new I-20 with your application.

● Step Three

Make a photocopy of all of the documents in the application for your records.

● Step Four

Mail in the following documents so that they are received by the immigration service no more than 60 days beyond your graduation date or no more than 60 days beyond the end date on your I-20 (whichever is earlier).

Required Documents

● A photocopy of pages 1 & 3 of the SEVIS I-20 with the ISO Advisor’s recommendation for Optional Practical Training on page 3.

● A photocopy of both sides of I-94 Card or electronic form.

● A copy of photo page (identification page) of your passport also includes any extra pages that record extensions of the validity of your passport).

● A copy of the F1 visa page of your passport (even if expired).

● A copy of all previous I-20s that have been issued to you.

● A photocopy of your previous OPT card or other work card (EAD) if you have had one.

● If you are applying for the 17 month extension, you must also include a copy of your transcripts or diploma as long as it states the degree field.

● Two passport type photographs (Print your name and admission number lightly in pencil on the back of each photo, and put the photos in an envelope and attach it to the petition).

● Fee: The fee is $410. Checks may be made payable to the Department of Homeland Security. You may send a money order or a personal check drawn on a U.S. bank, no cash. Attach to the front of the I-765.

On-campus Employment

F-1 students are allowed to work on-campus, but are limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session, and 40 hours per week during quarter breaks and summer vacation. There are provisions allowing students to temporarily work more than 20 hours in a given week under certain circumstances, but this must be approved by the university business office.

University positions for students are funded 100% by colleges and departments. These jobs are designed to have flexible work hours designed to accommodate students’ class schedules. The responsibility and wages are determined by the employer. Department heads must ensure that students are not surpassing allowed hours by working for multiple departments.


The purpose of the student employment program is threefold:

1. Support the operations of the University with part-time assistance from students in various educational and administrative tasks;

2. Allow students to supplement their income to assist with educational expenses;

3. Provide students with work-study opportunities that provide real-world experiences hopefully related to their areas of study.

Job Duties and Responsibilities

Students are employed on a part-time basis, up to 20 hours per week (with exceptions defined below) and may be assigned to support various functions of the University, including work that is clerical, tutorial, technical, custodial, maintenance, etc. Departments are responsible for defining the duties and responsibilities for each student position. Job descriptions should be clearly defined before an opening is advertised, and discussed with student applicants at the time of the interview.

Hiring Procedures

Departments that have identified both funds and a need for student employees should first clarify the proposed job description. This job description should be outlined in the job description list maintained by the HR department. Vacancies can then be advertised on campus bulletin boards and through the Populi system.

When students apply for vacancies, he or she must complete a Student Employment Application form and submit it to the Student Finance office. A Student Employment Requisition form must be on file with the HR department.

Eligibility for Employment

On-campus student employees:

  1. Must have and maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0 per quarter.
  2. Must be a currently enrolled student at Great Commission University at least half-time during each quarter of employment. (Half-time enrollment is: undergraduate – 6 quarter units minimum, graduate – 4 quarter units minimum.)

Only continuing student employees (continuing in the same department) with prior enrollment in spring quarter and continuing enrollment in fall quarter are exempt from the enrollment requirement during summer quarter. All new hires must be enrolled at the time of employment. Non-resident alien student employees must be enrolled full-time while employed.

Social Security Numbers

Employers must send the international student with the on-campus employment verification form to the Great Commission University International Student Office (GCUISO) so the student can obtain documentation that will be required for them to apply for a social security number. Using the above information, the GCUISO will draft a letter for the international student to take to Social Security Administration (SSA). Students going to the SSA office should bring the following documents:

  •   Employment Verification Letter issued by the University
  •   Completed SS-5 form (available at
  •   Passport with valid I-94 form
  •   Original I-20 document

Questions about this process may be directed to GCUISO or by calling the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213.

Once the above is completed, the international student must take the original receipt or submit the original Social Security card along with a completed I-9 to the HR department at the time of their hiring appointment.

Working Hours

Per US Citizenship & Immigration Service regulations, failure to comply with the following policy is a violation of the student’s Visa status that could ultimately result in deportation.

  • International students may only be employed in on-campus positions.
  • International students may not work more than twenty (20) hours per week and no more than 8 hours per day. If employed by more than one department or under multiple payrolls, the student must arrange his/her schedule with each department so that the combined hours worked in all positions does not exceed 20 hours per week.

The student must not be allowed to begin work until the hiring department receives an Authorization to Begin Work from the HR department. If the student is allowed to work before authorized, the student’s eligibility to remain in this country may be jeopardized. The student employee must submit the following documents to obtain the Authorization to Begin Work:

  •   Copy of their current class schedule and a copy of their previous quarter grades
  •   Student’s original Social Security card
  •   Acceptable documents to complete the Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9)

Great Commission University policy states that when school is in session, on-campus student employees may work up to, but not in excess of 20 hours per week and no more than 8 hours per day. However, under certain emergency situations, supervisors may request approval for student employees to work up to, but not more than, 30 hours per week.

During quarter breaks only, on-campus student employees may work additional hours (maximum 40 hours) when approved in advance. A request must be submitted in writing to the HR department for approval. The request must indicate the student’s name, SID number, dates, number of hours and a brief justification for the additional hours. Once approved, a copy must be submitted to the University business office.