General Information

What is a DSO?

DSO stands for Designated School Official. A DSO is responsible for reporting and updating information to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) about each F-1 student’s situation.


How do I enroll in class?

For all other students, you may log into the student system to enroll in your classes.

Here is a tutorial that shows you how to enroll using the student system.

Enrollment Tutorial


How many classes do I need?

International F1 students must take a minimum of 12 credit hours every fall and spring semester. Of the 12 credit hours 9 must be face-to-face, and only 1 class or 3 credit hours may be online. (Hybrid classes count as face-to-face classes).

F1 students may enjoy a summer break from school unless it is their first semester in the U.S., then they must take 9 credit hours. Of the 9 credit hours 6 must be face-to-face, and only 1 class or 3 credit hours may be online. (Hybrid classes count as face-to-face classes).   Students will be eligible to have the following summer off.


What is considered a face-to-face, hybrid or online course?

Face-to-Face or Traditional

A physical class presence is required. Instruction is carried out in the classroom or lab as appropriate, via face-to face instruction.  


Hybrid courses meet half the time in a traditional face-to-face classroom environment and deliver the remainder of the course presentation, interaction, activities and exercises through various electronic means. A course with 50% face-to-face instruction and 50% electronic instruction is considered face-to-face. 

Online or Distance Education

An online course has more than 51% of instruction online. Some exams or labs may be required to be completed in person and/or proctored. Courses that require only a physical presence for the final examination is considered an online/distance education class. 

As a reminder, no more than the equivalent of one class or 3 credits per semester may be counted toward the full course of study requirement if the class is taken on-line or through distance education.


Can I enroll in a certificate program?

F-1 international students are not eligible for certificate programs that are fewer than 24 semester credit hours or take less than one year to complete.


How much is tuition?

Tuition varies depending on how many Semester Credit Hours you are taking and your residency. Generally, International F1 Students MUST take a minimum of 12SCH per fall and spring semesters and will pay out-of-state tuition.

F1 studenst must pay tuition per credit + F1 international insurance


How do I pay for tuition and fees?

Once you have arrived in the United States and check in, you will be given instructions on how to enroll in your classes.

After enrolling in your classes, you should pay your tuition before midnight that same day to avoid being dropped out of your courses.

Please note, you must enroll in your classes before you can pay for tuition because tuition is based on the number of SCH you will be taking plus the international F1 insurance.

For a step by step process for paying tuition and fees:


Can I get my I-20 using express mail?

Once the office receives all of your documents, you should wait at least 10 busines days for processing. This time will varry depending on when the application is submitted and how many applicants there are at that time. Applications are processed in the order they are received.

Once the I-20 is processed, we will mail it to the mailing address you provided on the I-20 applicatoin.

There are 2 options available for the mailing of your acceptance letter and I-20 which are as follows:

  1. Send by Regular Overseas Mail - Overseas mail takes 4-6 weeks. If you want your I-20 sent by regular overseas mail, no response is required. Your I-20 will be sent by regular overseas mail to the address indicated on your application. Please do not e-mail to confirm your overseas address.

  2. Send by Express Mail to receive your I-20 within 5 days after processing. Express mail is at the expnse of the student.

    To select express mail, follow this link: International Express Mail


F-1 Status, Insurance, Work

If I lose my F-1 status, what do I need to do?

You may need to leave the United States to re-establish student status by re-entering the country with a new I-20 or by filing a reinstatement request with the Department of Homeland Security. For more information, please refer to the Reinstatement instructions of the OISS&SA website found on the forms page at hccs.edu/f1forms.


If I do not finish my studies by the completion date on the SEVIS Form I-20, what do I do to stay in school and finish my degree program?

You will have to meet with a DSO/ISA at the OISS&SA to extend your I-20 completion date. You MUST do this at least 45 days before the completion date.

What to bring:


Do I need insurance?

Yes. All students holding an F‐1 Visa will be automatically enrolled and charged for the Houston Community College endorsed International Student and Accident & Sickness Insurance Program. You may download a copy of the Accident & Sickness Insurance booklet and access other helpful information from www.studentinsurance.com/Schools/TX/HCC/ or get information from Health Insurance FAQ’s.


Can I apply for a waiver of the health insurance fee?

A waiver of the health insurance fee may be requested online from the insurance company (click on “Waive Online”) with proof of acceptable alternate insurance as follows:
Acceptable Alternate Health Insurance Plans:

  • A government or scholarship sponsored plan that meets Houston Community College’s waiver criteria
  • A job‐based employer health insurance plan (or covered as a dependent under a job‐based employer health insurance plan).

Note: individual policies (Example: Plans offered online to individuals) are not considered acceptable alternate health and will not be accepted. 

Video:  More on Health Insurance Requirements and Waiver


Can an international student work?

International students may work up to 19.5 hours a week on campus, if you are in good academic standing. For special  permission to work off campus CPT or OPT must be granted. For more information see F1 Services and Forms.


How can I find a job On-campus

Students may create and application on the HCC Jobs website by clicking the link at the top of the page "Jobs@HCC" then selecting "search for a job" on the right hand side.

  • when filling out the online application, you may enter your HCC ID number (without the W) in place of a social security number

On-campus jobs are limited and it is at the student's advantage to appear in person when applying for a job, thus, the OISS&SA also strongly encourages students to create a resume and go to each campus and each department at each campus to apply for a job in person.


Also - please see the guidelines for On-Campus Employment: F1 Students and Employment



Payment and Scholarship Information

How do I pay for my tuition if I am on scholarship?

Steps for Payment through a Private or Third Party Scholarship:

Private Scholarships

Private Scholarships for college students are offered each year by a variety of companies and non-profit organizations.

The following steps are required for Private Scholarships:

  1. The donor will need to send the scholarship check to:
         Houston Community College
         ATTN: Head Cashier
         3100 Main St., 11th Floor
         Houston, Texas 77002

  2. Included with the check should be a cover letter with the following information:
  • the recipient’s name
  • student ID number
  • P number or social security number (if applicable)
  • award period
  • any restrictions  Please Note: Restrictions may include a number of required course load; whether the scholarship covers books in addition to tuition and fees; the student is allowed to receive a balance check for the unused portion of the funds.

*If the donor does not send the check to the head cashier, the processing of your scholarship will be delayed. Checks for private scholarships should NOT be sent to Houston Community College Scholarship Foundation or to your local Houston Community College Campus.


Third Party Scholarships:

Scholarships from the following agencies are considered third party scholarships.  In this case, the sponsor is under contract with HCC.

  • Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission
  • Ambassade De La Republique Gabonaise
  • Embassy of Qatar

The following steps are required for Third Party Scholarships:
The student must bring, in person, a printed copy of the final letter of commitment from their sponsor to any one of the Houston Community College cashiers every semester and each time they add a class or the student charges increase.  Classes will be dropped when the letter of commitment is not updated in the student account even though the charges may remain.



You will have a hold placed on your student account when your scholarship is not paid per your student account information.  The hold will block college services including enrollment and transcripts.  It is always the student’s responsibility to understand the rules of your scholarship.  Please remember SACM enforces their payment policy for online courses.

Online classes for SACM students:
Special note to students who are sponsored by the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission (SACM):
The SACM requires students interested in taking online classes to first obtain approval from their academic advisor at the Mission before enrolling in these classes. Once you have identified the online class of interest, please take the following steps:

          1. Immediately contact your academic advisor at the SACM with the name of the course and its number.

          2. Obtain approval in writing.

          3. Enroll in the class only after approval has been granted by SACM

Please Note The Office of International Student Services is not responsible for submitting scholarship letters to the cashier’s department.  It is the students’ responsibility as you are not properly enrolled without completing all payment paperwork.


*Students with scholarships from Venezuela CADIVI must contact the Bursar’s office every term to obtain the payment instruction letter.  The letters will be mailed or emailed to the student.


Are there local scholarships or Financial Aid for F-1 students?

1. F-1 Students do not qualify for Financial Aid, however, through the HCC Foundation there are several scholarships available to you.

  • The Computer Science Technology Scholarship
  • The Society of Iranian American Women for Education Scholarship
  • The Southwest Intensive English Program Endowed Scholarship
  • The Northeast College Scholarship. 

By completing a single scholarship application, an HCC student can apply for all of the different scholarships offered through the HCC Foundation to help pay for his or her tuition, fees and books.

Please visit the HCC scholarship website at www.hccsfoundation.org for more information and how to apply.


Designed to encourage very high performing students to finish their degree at HCC. $300 will be awarded per semester to students with a 4.0 cumulative GPA who have 30 or more semester credit hours recorded at HCC. If the student receives other aid, he/she must also maintain satisfactory academic progress. The student can retain this scholarship as long as cumulative GPA remains at 4.0.


Can my sponsor pay HCC directly from their home country?

Yes, tuition and fees can be paid directly by the sponsor through their local bank together with Western Union services.

When enrolling in your courses, select "other" for the payment method and follow the steps outlined in the OLD International Payment Tutorial
Upon completing the steps, you will print out bank and routing information and send it to your sponsor to take to their bank in their country.

For more information see the Western Union Information brochure.


What is the Western Union International payment option?

HCC has contracted with Western Union Business Solutions to provide international students an alternative method for paying student bills. This payment option allows you to pay your student account balance in the currency of your choice and provides a simple and reliable way of initiating payments electronically. 

Advantages of using the student payment portal:

  • Students with sponsors overseas can easily pay the HCC tuition and fees from their local banks.
  • Foreign currency quote is easily obtained by accessing the payment method through the HCC student system.
  • Tuition and fees are paid in the currency of your choice which is converted to U.S. Dollars.
  • There are NO additional transaction charges from Western Union Business Solutions or HCC, though you may be charged a transaction fee by your bank.
  • The exchange rate is valid for 72 hours after the transaction is initiated, taking the uncertainty out of the total payment amount.
  • The exchange rate is competitive when compared to most banks' retail rates.
  • Payments received will include your reference information, which ensures that your payment reaches your student account quickly.
  • Payments will be electronically transmitted to HCC ensuring timely posting. Payments will be posted 2 to 5 business days from the time payment is initiated.


How to make a payment - also refer to the downloadable step by step tutorial with pictures: OLD International Payment Tutorial

Step 1: Initiate your payment quote online

  • Sign-In to the HCC Student System
  • Click “Make a Payment”
  • Select the items you would like to pay and enter the amount due in U.S. Dollars.
  • Select International Funds Transfer under the payment method
  • Choose your currency type.*
  • A payment amount in your currency of choice will automatically be generated. This quote is secured for 72 hours.
  • Agree to the payment amount and accept terms and conditions.
  • Download payment instructions, including a reference number, as a PDF document. You will need the reference number to complete your payment in Step 2.

Step 2: Transfer funds to Western Union Business Solutions

  • The payment instructions will tell you how to transfer funds through your personal bank or online.
  • If you have your bank send the funds to Western Union Business Solutions, be sure that they send your reference number.

Step 3: Western Union Business Solutions does the rest!

  • Using your reference number, Western Union Business Solutions will transfer your funds into your HCC account.
  • This usually takes 2 to 5 business days after your local bank initiates payment to Western Union Business Solutions.



  1. Q. What are the benefits of using the international student payment method?
    A. When you select to make your payments via the international student payment method you will receive an exchange rate that is valid for 72 hours, which can be accepted before sending your funds. You will always know the amount you're going to pay in local currency at the time you send your payment and have confidence that the right amount will arrive to HCC.
  2. Q. Do I need to provide HCC’s bank details?
    A. No. You only need the local bank details that will be provided to you as a PDF. Western Union Business Solutions holds HCC’s bank details. All payments will be allocated accordingly using individual student ID numbers.
  3. Q. Can I make a transfer via my own bank?
    A. To get the benefits of this service it is important that you send your payment amount to Western Union Business Solutions using the reference number that is provided. You can use your own bank to make this transfer to Western Union Business Solutions. Make sure that your bank sends the reference number you have been given. This ensures your tuition and fee payment is easily identifiable and not be delayed.
  4. Q. Which fees can I pay using this service?
    A. This service can be used to make payment for all balances on your student account.
  5. Q. I can find my home country but it doesn't let me use my home currency. Why?
    A. Unfortunately, due to international and domestic banking regulations, some currencies are unable to be traded on the open market or are otherwise unavailable. In the instances where your country appears as an option but the currency is unavailable, you can select an alternative currency, including U.S. Dollar, to ensure your payment will be posted to your student account quickly.


For payment support please contact:

Western Union Business Solutions
100 Summit Avenue
Montvale, NJ 07645
Toll Free: 1.877.218.8829
Telephone: 1.402.884.3041
Email: studentinquiries@westernunion.com


Orientation, Check-In

Is orientation mandatory for international students?

Yes, all international students must participate in orientation.

See hccs.edu/iss-orientation for more information


When I arrive in Houston, where do I need to report my arrival?

You must go to the Office of International Student Services & Study Abroad (OISS&SA) at 3100 Main, Houston, TX 77002 (first floor of the garage) to report your arrival with a Designated School Official/ International Student Advisor (DSO/ISA). There may be consequences if you fail to do so.

See hccs.edu/iss-checkin for more information


When does school start, and when should I physically be in town?

Each semester has a different start date. Refer to the HCC calendar (link at the very top of the page) for thie next semester start date.

DHS requires that all intial I-20 students (new students) enter the United States within the the 30 days prior to the start date on their SEVIS Form I-20, however, The OISS&SA suggests that students do not wait until the last day to enter so that they may beging the process of getting enrolled inclasses.

You must report your entry into the United States at the Office of International Students & Study Abroad at 3100 Main St. Houston, Texas 77022 prior to registration.
Refer to the check-in event at hccs.edu/iss-checkin for when to report to the OISS&SA.



Is the TOEFL required for admission to HCC?

No, you do not have to take the TOEFL to be admitted to HCC; however, international students planning to enroll in an academic program must demonstrate English Language proficiency. This can be accomplished by a counselor’s recommendation to take an appropriate test which will be given to new students at check-in


What happens if I already took the TOEFL?

If you already took the TOEFL and scored over 550 or scored 213 on a computer-based test and 79 on an Internet-based test (iBT), you will be exempt from taking the Intensive English Program.


What is the Accuplacer ESL test?

A variety of assessment instruments are used to determine placement into programs and courses at HCC. One of the instruments we use to determine English proficiency for non-native speakers is the Accuplacer ESL (English as a Second Language), a computerized test that assesses reading, writing and grammar and is used for placement purposes. Information for Accuplacer ESL testing will be given to those who need it when they attend check-in.


Can CLEP scores be used to satisfy full time enrollment?

No, CLEP scores cannot be used to satisfy full time enrollment. However, you can receive credits for a CLEP score so that you will not have to take that class. But the CLEP class you get credit for cannot count towards the 12SCH full-time enrollment for any of the semesters.


What is the Texas Success Initiative (TSI)?

The State of Texas and Houston Community College requires that all students must be tested to determine readiness to enroll in college-level courses. This requirement is referred to as the Texas Success Initiative (TSI). A major emphasis of TSI is to ensure that all students be tested to determine if they are “college ready” in reading, writing and mathematics. Testing is mandatory and must be completed prior to one’s first enrollment at HCC, unless it is determined that the student has been waived or exempted from TSI requirement. See your college counselor for more information.


Can I take classes without completing English as a Second Language?

All students must provide proof of English proficiency in order to take academic level classes. If you do not have proof of English proficiency, HCC will test you to determine your level of English proficiency. Students who place into Level 1 - Level 4 ESL must complete the ESL courses before they will be given permission to enroll in academic courses

To learn more about what tests and scores are accepted as proof of English proficiency, please refer to the Test and Foreign Credentials page.


International Transfer Students

What is a transfer student?

A transfer student is any F-1 student who is currently enrolled at another US college, university, high school or ESL school and plans to pursue a certificate or degree at HCC. Transfer students are required to submit their admissions applications to the Office of International Student Services & Study Abroad.

For the steps to apply as an International Transfer Student, please refer to Admissions for International Students



Are there transfer limitations?

Students who intend to transfer to baccalaureate degree programs (university) upon completion of their HCC Associates degree should be aware of possible limitations on lower-division course work. Universities will generally not accept more than 66 semester credit hours of lower division academic credit towards the baccalaureate degree.

Students are advised to discuss their transfer plans early on with an academic advisor at HCC and at the school to which they wish to transfer so as to ensure they are taking the correct courses in preparation for their transfer.


What is concurrent enrollment?

There are two types of Concurrent Students:

  1. An international student with an I-20 from another college or university wishing to concurrently enroll at HCC must submit written permission from that college or university.
  2. An international student at HCC who cannot find one or two classes for the semester to complete the 12 SCH requirement for full time status may consult with a DSO at the OISS&SA to receive a concurrent letter for permission to take these extra credits at another institution to help maintain their status for that semester.
    • Please visit your DSO immediately if you are having trouble finding 12 SCH for the semester.