Roughly one out of every three students entering a City University of New York (CUNY) college was born outside of the U.S. As one of these students, there are many things you need to know about attending a CUNY college, obtaining and maintaining your immigration status, seeking employment in the U.S., and living in New York City.

CUNY’s International Student Guide page contains important information that will help you transition into life as a CUNY student. If you have any additional questions, you should call or visit your college’s international student office.


This section provides you with an overview of CUNY, including programs, offices and student support services found at each college.

CUNY (City University of New York) consists of 24 different colleges throughout the city. This section discusses CUNY degree programs, academic policies, and issues of academic honesty.

College Academic Programs

Each CUNY college has its own academic policies, procedures and programs. At CUNY we offer an extensive variety of majors –over 1,750 academic programs – in classes taught by world-class faculty. Undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees can be obtained in a wide range of subjects, including business, computer science, engineering, liberal arts, fine arts, and health professions. Law, bio-medical and journalism programs are also available. We have a complete list of all the academic offerings from across CUNY available online. Visit our website and select Academic Programs.

Please keep in mind that academic programs and degree offerings vary from college to college. For more information about a specific CUNY college or academic program, visit each individual college web site.

To successfully complete your program and earn your degree, you will need to understand how the U.S. higher education system operates at your CUNY college. CUNY colleges employ a credit bearing, semester based system, with specific program and degree requirements. It is also important for you to know the grading system, course registration procedures and academic calendar at your college. An academic advisor at your college will help you to understand this system. You can also become familiar with it via the glossary on this website and the information found on the individual college websites.

Visit the academic programs page for detailed information.

Academic Honesty

Understanding the rules of academic honesty are also key components of the U.S. higher education system, and consequently to your academic success.

Learning comes best in an atmosphere of honesty and trust. Therefore, all forms of cheating, plagiarism, and fraud are not only morally unacceptable but they also undermine CUNY’s educational mission. Your college will take these issues very seriously.

To become familiar with the rules of academic honesty, speak to your instructors and academic advisors. Do not hesitate to ask them to clarify anything you do not understand. You can also visit CUNY’s academic honesty web site for definitions and examples of cheating, plagiarism, and other aspects of academic integrity.

CUNY colleges offer an extensive variety of majors leading to associate, baccalaureate and graduate degrees.
Whether you have an interest in anthropology, business, the sciences, engineering, psychology or women’s studies, we have you covered.

Undergraduate Admissions

International students seeking an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree must complete an admission application on-line CUNY application. Students interested in English Language study, should visit the individual college websites to find out which CUNY colleges have an English Language Institute(ELI) and/or programs in English as a Second Language (ESL).

Graduate, Doctoral and Law School Admissions

International students seeking a Master’s, Doctoral or Law Degree within CUNY will need to obtain an application and procedures for admissions directly from the CUNY colleges offering academic programs that lead to one of these degrees.

Every CUNY college will have an international students’ office, where you can find advisors familiar with international student issues.

There are certain college offices in which you should be familiar, including those responsible for admissions, academic advisement, registration, and bill payment.

Though they may have slightly different names, all CUNY colleges have offices dedicated to providing student services. These offices are a great support in helping you to enroll in, and complete your program of interest. They are instrumental in helping students to understand their degree requirements, select courses, maintain good grades, and adjust to student life in the U.S. The following are some of the offices, services and activities that will be beneficial to you.

Admissions Office

There is an Admissions Office at every CUNY college. Staffs in this office will help you understand the admissions procedures for degree, certificate and special programs offered at individual institutions. You can also access the undergraduate admissions and graduate studies pages here.

Academic Advisement Office

Each college has an office or center for academic advisement. The staff in this office help students make important decisions regarding their academic program requirements and educational goals. Upon enrollment, graduate students are assigned an academic advisor in their particular field to guide them through their course and degree requirements.

Registrar’s Office

The Office of the Registrar is responsible for maintaining student information and records like dates of enrollment, courses taken, and grades earned. If you change your name or local address while studying at CUNY, it is important to notify your college’s Registrar’s office about the change.

Bursar’s Office

The Bursar’s office is responsible for the collection of student tuition and fees. This includes accepting payments, deferring bills, and processing refunds due to overpayment. Once you have registered for your courses, the Bursar’s office will send you a statement listing your tuition and fees for the semester and providing instructions on how to submit payment. Tuition and fees will vary, depending on the CUNY college that you attend and the degree you are seeking.

Your college provides special services, such as writing centers, to help improve your skills. There are many services available for CUNY students, including international student services, health and counseling services, writing instruction, career planning, child-care, disability services, student activities, and athletics.

International Student Services at CUNY

CUNY takes special pride in its international student body and offers many resources to assist them. The staff in the International Student and Scholar Services Office at each campus is available to advise you on your college’s orientation program, course registration procedures, and international student immigration issues. Whether you are in F-1 or J-1 status, you should always contact your International Student Advisor (Designated School Official-DSO, Responsible Officer-RO or Alternate Responsible Officer-ARO) before and upon your arrival in the U.S. Here is the list of  CUNY International Student Advisors.

Health Services

It is the mission of CUNY’s Student Health Services Division to assist students in receiving quality health care. Each CUNY campus has a health center where you can go for medical referrals, immunizations and basic first aid. Health services center can also assist students with questions about health insurance and provide referrals to medical providers in the community. Staffs in this office are trained to be sensitive to the cultural diversity of the CUNY population. Here you can find the list for campus health advisors.

Counseling Services

It is not uncommon for students studying in a foreign country to experience homesickness, cultural adjustment issues, and stress. If you have any of these feelings while studying at CUNY, you may visit your college’s counseling office for help. Services are free and confidential and provided in a safe environment in which students may address personal and other issues that may inhibit them from attaining their academic goal. Counseling Centers are staffed with multi-culturally sensitive counselors, who can help you learn how to adapt to your new environment and enjoy your time in the U.S.

Writing Services

At your college’s writing or language center, you can meet English instructors and tutors who will help you improve your writing skills. They can also provide feedback on papers that you have written. The ability to write well can drastically improve your grades and help you to do well in your professional life. You should take advantage of this service as much as possible.

Career Services

For career information and help with job searches, you can visit your college’s Career Development Office. You can also obtain assistance in writing a resume, interviewing for jobs, and finding internships.

Child-Care Services

CUNY currently operates 19 licensed campus-based child care programs that provide services to over 2,000 student-parents and 2,200 children of CUNY students. Programs are designed to improve the quality of life for student parents and their families. Educational programs created by the child care centers focus on the children’s cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development. More details are located on: Child Care

Disability Services

Based on nationally regarded best practices, CUNY is deeply committed to ensuring equal access and equal opportunity for students with disabilities through innovative support programs. Each CUNY campus features an Office of Disability Services, managed by a director who oversees the delivery of reasonable accommodation and support services for students with disabilities. They also provide counseling and medical referrals, and arrange crucial auxiliary aids and services, including assistive technology services, sign language interpretation, distance learning networks, priority registration, and alternative testing arrangements. For further information please visit the Office of Disability Services website.

CUNY Malave Leadership Academy

The CUNY Leadership Academy (CLA) is the principal source for leadership education, research, and opportunities at the City University of New York (CUNY). The Academy is where students come together with faculty and other leaders to develop the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary to become global leaders. For more information please go to the The Malave Leadership Academy (MLA) website.

Student Activities/Life

All CUNY colleges have a student life or student activities office. This office provides students with the opportunity to participate in student government, join student clubs, and engage in various events and activities.

Participating in student organizations and activities will help you become an integral part of the CUNY campus community, and build a network of friends. It will also help you become a more effective and influential leader on campus as well as in the global marketplace.

Most CUNY colleges have a wide variety of student clubs from which to choose. However, if you cannot find a club that matches your interests, you can often start your own club by visiting your Student Life Office for guidance.

Joining a student organization is beneficial because they:

  • provide you with leadership training and
  • allow you to meet American students as well as those from your home country and other countries.
  • give you the opportunity to learn from other students by sharing academic interests and hobbies with one
  • help you to improve your English Language communication
  • provide you with the opportunity to become more academically well-rounded, gain work experience, and enhance your

If you have an interest in writing, broadcasting or other forms of media, check with your student life office to find out how you may become involved with the student-operated newspapers, magazines, television stations, and/or radio stations. Contact information can be found  the student student life on campuses page.


CUNY Athletics

Many CUNY colleges have free athletics facilities where students can exercise or play sports. The City University of New York Athletic Conference (CUNYAC) consists of ten institutions in the senior college division and five institutions in the community college division. CUNYAC promotes the highest standards of intercollegiate athletic competition at the Division II and III levels. The Conference recognizes championships through tournament and league play in more than 11 sports for men and for women (including soccer, basketball, swimming, volleyball, tennis, etc.). Each year over 2,500 student-athletes participate on the athletic teams of the CUNY institutions. Visit the CUNY Athletics website for more info.

This information was developed by the City University of New York Athletic Conference and is used with their permission.


This section covers the information, process and forms needed to obtain the F-1 and J-1 visa, and immigration status; also frequently referred to as F-1 status or J-1 status (F or J status).

This section describes the various letters and forms you will receive once you have been accepted to a CUNY college.

After you have been accepted to the CUNY college to which you have applied, you will receive a Welcome Letter along with 4 forms for you to complete and return to your college’s Designated School Official (DSO) or Responsible Officer (RO). These forms are needed before you can enroll at the College and so that your DSO/RO can issue the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019. You will need the Form I-20(Certificate of Eligibility) to obtain the F visa; Form DS-2019 to obtain the J Visa.

Here’s what you will need to do, upon receiving the Welcome Letter and required forms:

1. Review the Welcome Letter and forms.

2. Complete and return the following forms:

  • The Immunization Form
  • The I-20 or DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility) Application Form. Review the instruction letter accompanying your I-20 or DS-2019 upon receipt.
  • The Affidavit of Support form.
  • Declaration & Certification of Finance form

Proof of certain immunizations is needed before you can register for courses. Therefore, you will need to submit this immunization form along with any other pertinent health records. This information is needed to determine if you have the mandatory immunizations as required by the U.S. government.

The Certificate of Eligibility (for the I-20 or DS-2019) application form is needed to obtain information required to issue the actual I-20 or DS-2019. The Affidavit of Support and the Declaration & Certification of Finance forms are needed to determine if you are financially able to support yourself.

When completing the finance forms, remember to convert all figures into U.S. dollars and attach all necessary documents (e.g. bank letter/statement, sponsor’s proof of income, proof of an approval loan or evidence of a scholarship) before returning them to your advisor. Please attach documents that are original and translated into English.

Forms I-20 and DS-2019 are very important documents. They are needed to obtain the F or J visa, and to maintain F or J immigration status in the U.S.

In addition to issuing these documents, the International Student Advisor is charged with entering the information listed on them in the DHS database known as SEVIS: Student & Exchange Visitor Information System. The information is viewed by the Department of State officials at the U.S. Consulate when you go to apply for F-1 Student Visa or J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa.

After the college has determined that you have provided the required information, including sufficient funds to support your education and living expenses, the International Student Advisor will mail the Form I-20 to you, if you are a prospective F-1 student; the Form DS- 2019 if you are a prospective J-1 student.

The Forms I-20/DS-2019 will be reviewed and verified by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer via SEVIS, each time you enter the U.S. The SEVIS database is also updated by your International Student Advisor, when you report to school, register for classes, change your major, drop below full-time status, apply for permission to work, change your address, graduate, withdraw from school, and any other related F/J requirements.

It is extremely important that you take care of your I-20 or DS-2019 forms, and do not lose them. Your I-20 or DS-2019 form, passport with the valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp and, I-94 Admissions/Departure Card are documents critical to maintaining your F/J status.

You will receive instructions from your International Student Advisor on how to apply for your F/J visa, how to obtain your F/J immigration status, and what you must do after you arrive. Carefully review this letter upon receipt and before you apply to the F-1/J-1 Visa.

As a new applicant, you must pay a one-time I-901 SEVIS fee: $200 for F-1; $180 for J-1, to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security before you can apply for a visa. You will need the SEVIS fee payment receipt in order to apply for your visa at the U.S. Consulate in your home country. This fee is not required for F-2 or J-2 dependents.

You must pay the SEVIS fee in U.S. dollars, either online (using a credit card) or through the mail (by U.S. check, money order, or bank draft). Once payment is received, it takes three business days to be processed. This means your payment must be received at least three days before you apply for a visa at the U.S. Consulate in your country (or at least three days before your entry into the U.S. if you are a Canadian citizen).

You must have your I-20 or DS-2019 form before you can pay the SEVIS fee. After receiving the I-20 or DS-2019 form, you will need to know your SEVIS identification number. The SEVIS identification number is printed in the upper left of the I-20 and on the upper right of the DS-2019. Detailed information and instructions on paying the fee can be accessed at Student and Exchange Visitor (SEVP) I-901 SEVIS Fee Processing Website.

Once you have received your I-20 or DS-2019 and your SEVIS fee payment receipt, make an appointment at the U.S. Consulate in your home country to apply for the visa.

While Consulate procedures for the F-1 or J-1 visa may differ from country to country, the application process usually includes a short interview in English, several forms that you need to complete, and a processing fee. When you go to the U.S. Consulate, you must bring your college acceptance letter, financial form with supporting documents,

I-20 or DS-2019 form, SEVIS fee payment receipt, and passport. Your passport must be valid for at least six months from the date of your appointment at the Consulate.

Once your application is approved, the F-1 or J-1 visa will be stamped in your passport.

After receiving your F or J visa, you will be ready to enter the U.S. and receive your corresponding F or J immigration status upon arrival in the U.S.

On your flight to the U.S., you will receive the I-94 Admissions/Departure to complete. Present this form, along with your passport, and I-20/DS-2019 to the U.S. Custom and Border Patrol Immigration Officer for inspection. The officer will place the F-1 or J-1 and D/S (Duration of Status) stamps on your I-20/DS-2019 form, and the I-94 card.

Please note, that when you enter the U.S., you may be subject to various security checks, including, being photographed and electronically fingerprinted. This is a routine procedure for anyone entering the U.S. with a visa and is part of the safety measures taken by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

DHS regulations require that you enter the U.S. on the Form I-20 or DS-2019 from the CUNY college or any other U.S. college that you plan to attend. If you do not do so, it is a violation of F-1 immigration laws and can result in loss of your student immigration status.

Once you arrive in the U.S., you must report to your college’s international student office within 10 days.

International Student Services Office & International Student Advisor
(DSO or RO)
Once you enter the U.S., you must report to International Student Services Office and meet with your International Student Advisor. Your International Student Advisor will need to validate your F/J status in SEVIS. To do so, you must provide him/her with the following original documents: passport, I-20 or DS-2019 and I-94 card. Your advisor will make copies of these documents and maintain them for mandatory record keeping purposes.

Failure to report to the college that issued the I-20 or DS-2019 upon your arrival to the U.S. is a USCIS violation and can also result in loss of your student immigration status.

Student Orientation
It is important that you participate in all new-student orientation programs offered by your college. The International Student Advisor will provide you with specific orientation information pertinent to you. Orientations are held at the start of each semester, and offer valuable information that will help you understand the requirements for maintaining your F or J status. They also provide you with student life information that will help you adjust to your new environment and learn more about your academic requirements.


One of the most important responsibilities you will have during your CUNY stay is to maintain your immigration status. This section will assist you in doing that.

You must remain a full-time student each fall and spring semester. Failure to enroll as a full-time student is a violation of your immigration status.

To be a full-time undergraduate student, you need to take at least 12 class credits during both, the fall and spring semesters. This usually means being registered for at least four classes each semester.

Depending on the CUNY college, the number of class credits required for a graduate level, doctoral or law student to be full-time can vary. Please check with the International Student Advisor at your respective campus to confirm the number of credits you must take each semester to satisfy your full time status requirement.

To maintain your immigration status, you must make sure that your passport, and I-20/ DS-2019 remain valid all the time. Your visa needs to be valid each time you enter the U.S.

Your I-20 or DS-2019 will include an anticipated completion date for your studies in the U.S. This date is listed in Section 5 of the I-20 and in Section 3 of the DS-2019. Most students complete their programs in the period of time noted on their I-20 or DS-2019, but occasionally students need an additional semester or more to complete their program. You must consult your International Student Advisor if you need additional time to complete your program, at least 30 days before the completion date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019. Once your completion date passes, your I-20 or DS-2019 will expire and you may not be able to extend your stay in the U.S.

To make sure you keep your passport valid at all times, contact your country’s consulate in New York City or your embassy in Washington D.C. for renewal procedures. More information can be found on NYC official website.

Make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months from the day you plan to re- enter the U.S. You cannot enter the U.S. on the F-1 or J-1 visa, using a passport that is less than six months from expiration.

You will always need to maintain a valid F or J visa in order to re-enter the U.S. Check the expiration date on your visa to see when you will need to renew it. Remember, you can only renew it at the U.S. Consulate in your home country. You cannot obtain or renew the visa in the U.S. Know that if your visa expires while you are in the U.S., you do not have to renew it until you leave the U.S. for a vacation in your home country.

If you have a valid visa in an expired passport, always present both, the old and new passport to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer when you re-enter the U.S.

Meet with your advisor before you leave the U.S. to obtain the advisor’s travel authorization to re-enter the U.S.

If you plan on traveling outside the U.S. during your studies, you must have your I-20 or DS-2019 signed by your International Student Advisor before you leave. The advisor’s travel signature is only valid for six months.

If you do not have a current signature on your I-20 or DS-2019, you will have difficulty re-entering the U.S. You should visit your International Student Advisor with your passport that has a valid F-1 visa stamp and I-20 or DS-2019, at least two-three weeks before traveling.

Changes in Personal Information: Notify your International Student Advisor and your college’s Registrar’s Office within 10 days after obtaining your new address. You must also notify your advisor if there are any changes in your name, citizenship, degree level, major, sources of funding or anticipated graduation date. Your advisor will make the necessary updates to your records in SEVIS. Failure to report changes in your personal information within 10 days of receiving it can place you in danger of losing your student immigration status.

Departure from College: Contact your advisor if you plan to leave your college temporarily or permanently. Whether you plan to study abroad, take a leave of absence, withdraw, graduate early, or transfer to another school, you must notify your advisor before leaving.

Missing Documents: Contact your advisor immediately if any of your documents are stolen, lost, or misplaced. Your Advisor will instruct you on how to obtain replacement documents. Note: You must always report your lost passport to the police and obtain a police report.

International students are only permitted to work outside their colleges with permission from either their International Student Advisor or the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Working without authorization is a deportable offense. Do not accept any employment unless you have written work authorization. For more information on how to obtain legal employment, see the employment options section of this guide.

As an international student, you are required to file federal income taxes for each year you earn income from U.S. sources including income you make from working in the U.S. and income from scholarships you receive.

Taxes are filed between January 1 and April 15 of each year. Visit your International Student Advisor (DSO/RO) for more information.


This section discusses employment opportunities at your college or at other CUNY campuses. International students are allowed to work on-campus at their college or any of the other CUNY colleges.

On-Campus Employment

As an international student, you can work throughout the CUNY system for a maximum of 20 hours per week while school is in session, and 40 hours a week during the summer and winter breaks. Working on campus is a convenient way to earn extra money, make professional contacts, and improve your professional skills.

In an effort to ensure that the student obtains a good academic foundation, and maintain immigration status, many International Student Advisors will only permit students to take on-campus employment after their first year of study in the U.S.
It is highly recommended that students refrain from on-campus employment and focus on their coursework during their first year of study for the following reasons:

  • The first year is used to adjust to a new higher education system and culture.
  • The student’s primary purpose is to study in the U.S.
  • Students have already demonstrated valid financial sponsorship to cover tuition and living expenses for at least one year of study.
  • On-campus employment is considered incidental to study and should not be used in lieu of certified financial sponsorship from family, friends or self.

CPT or AT may be conducted off campus. This option is available if you are registered for an internship course or enrolled in an academic program that requires you to obtain practical training in your field of study for a specified period of time.

Internships are considered part of your education and, therefore, are allowed through a program called Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for F-1 students; Academic Training (AT) for J-1 students. This is a great way to network, develop new skills and gain work experience.

Most internships will also count as course credits, thus helping you make steady progress towards completing your studies. Here is the process for obtaining CPT or AT:

  • Check with your International Student Advisor to make sure you are eligible for an internship or practical training in your field, and to find out the specific
  • See if your academic department requires you to conduct academic training or offers any internship
  • Have your prospective employer write a letter on company letterhead, containing a job description, and specifying the length of the internship. Ask your advisor in advance, about other
  • Have the professor in charge of the internship course or overseeing your academic training to approve your internship in
  • Register for the
  • Pay your tuition
  • Bring the job description, approval letter, proof of course registration, payment receipt, and your I-20 or DS-2019 to your International Student Advisor to obtain approval to work

In exceptional circumstances students may pursue off-campus employment that is not directly related to their studies. Such employment is available only to students who experience unexpected economic hardship, and only after the first year of study.

It can be difficult to obtain permission to work based on economic necessity. Those who are authorized for off-campus employment can only work 20 hours per week while school is in session; 40 hours during vacation periods.

F-1 and J-1students should discuss off-campus employment with their International Student Advisor, who will instruct them on how to apply for work permission from USCIS.

Through a program called OPT, international students can work full-time for up to one year to gain work experience in their field.

You must be in F-1 status for one year to receive OPT. There are 2 categories of OPT: Post Completion and Pre-Completion.

Post Completion:

Following graduation, F-1 international students are allowed to work full time for up to one year to gain work experience in their field of study before returning to their home country.


In March 11, 2016, USCIS published a regulation allowing F-1 students in STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields to apply for an additional 24 months of OPT, beyond their initial 12 months. To qualify for the STEM OPT extension, a student must be engaged in an authorized OPT based on graduation from a program in the acceptable STEM field. The student must also be working for or have a job offer from an employer that is enrolled in the E-Verify system. Detailed information can be found at STEM Designated Degree Program list.


Pre-Completion: F-1 students can obtain OPT prior to graduation. They can work 20 hours a week while classes are in session and 40 hours a week during holiday and vacation periods. The amount of time used under Pre-Completion OPT is deducted from the students Post Completion OPT.

J-1 Academic Training (AT)

J-1 students may work under Academic Training for up to 18 months, after they graduate or while attending classes. They may also engage in AT for 20 hours a week while in school; 40 hours during holidays and vacation period. J-1 students should discuss the procedures for obtaining AT with their International Student Advisor (J-1 Responsible/Alternate Responsible Officer).

If you get a job while in the U.S., you will need to obtain a Social Security Card from a U.S. Social Security Office. This card will contain your Social Security Number. You need the Social Security Number for tax and employment purposes. Your Social Security Number will never change, so you only need to apply once.

To get a Social Security Number, you need to get a referral letter from your International Student Advisor. Take this letter, along with your job offer, passport, I-94, I-20 or

DS-2019, and CUNY identification card to the Social Security Office nearest you. You should receive your card within two-three weeks. For more information or Social Security Office locations, access the Social Security Administration website.

International students earning money while in the U.S. are subject to federal and state income taxes, and will need to complete the W-4 form prior to working.

International students must report their annual U.S. income by filing income tax forms each year, even if they do not work or receive some other form of U.S. income.

Students who do not receive U.S. income are required to file U.S. Internal Revenue Form 8843.

Students who receive U.S. income (including scholarships and assistantships) will need to file non-resident federal and state forms. Under certain conditions, international students can file as a U.S. resident for tax purposes only. Tax forms for those who earned U.S. income are filed between January 1 and April 15; for those who do not receive income during the year, the filing deadline is June 15th.

Check with your advisor to determine which forms are best for you, and to find out about available tax software programs.


New York City is a very exciting, vibrant city, full of interesting things to see and do. However, moving to the city can be a huge adjustment, and the earlier you begin to think about issues like housing, transportation, and banking, the easier your transition will be.

This section discusses the diversity of New York City.

New York City is the largest and most densely populated city in the United States, with over 8 million residents, many of whom were born outside of the U.S. With a resident and visitor population as diverse in culture and ethnicity as the world is wide, New York City serves as an international gathering place for the nation and the world. Its reputation for diversity and opportunity has attracted many students and immigrants from all over the world.

Learn about the five boroughs of New York, as well as characteristics of New York’s streets and neighborhoods.

New York State

New York City is in the state of New York. The state of New Jersey borders New York City to the west and Connecticut to the north.

New York Boroughs

New York City is divided into five boroughs, or government divisions:

  • Manhattan

    Manhattan is generally considered the heart of New York. This is where you will find most of the city’s skyscrapers and cultural attractions. An island, Manhattan is surrounded by the Hudson River to the west, the Harlem River to the north, and the East River to the east.
    Population – over 1.6 million

  • Brooklyn

    Brooklyn is the most populous borough and is known for its cultural diversity, its distinct neighborhoods, and its independent art scene.
    Population – over 2.5 million

  • Queens

    Queens is the most ethnically diverse county in the U.S. It is the largest New York borough and the location for the city’s two major airports, LaGuardia and JFK.
    Population – approximately 2.3 million

  • Bronx

    The Bronx is the city’s northernmost borough. It is home to the Bronx Zoo and is the birthplace of rap and hip hop culture.
    Population – approximately 1.4 million

  • Staten Island

    Staten Island is the most suburban of the five boroughs and has the smallest population.
    Population – approximately 0.5 million


Each borough encompasses of many neighborhoods, or areas, which are often quite distinct from one another. In fact, neighborhoods within the same borough can have drastically different rents, commuting times, and cultural influences.

Manhattan Streets

Most of Manhattan’s streets are organized in a grid pattern. Streets run in an east-west direction from 1st Street in southern Manhattan through 220th Street in northern Manhattan. Avenues run in a north-south direction from First Avenue in the east to Twelfth Avenue in the west.

Adding to the NYC diversity are the visitors who come to “The City” each year to visit its famous attractions, including the United Nations, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Empire State Building, and Rockefeller Center.

Whatever your interests are, you should be able to find opportunities for them at your college and definitely throughout NYC. Learn more about life in “The City”.

Finally, there are also off-campus organizations that work with CUNY to provide valuable cultural opportunities and experiences for students, like One To World. One To World is a private, non-profit organization, dedicated to creating cross-cultural understanding by encouraging cultural, social, and intellectual exchange between Americans and students from other countries. One To World offers community visits, walking tours, conferences, career programs, and social nights.

Flying into New York City: There are three major airports in the New York metropolitan area:

  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (also called “JFK Airport”)
  • LaGuardia Airport
  • Newark Liberty International Airport

There are many options for ground transportation to and from the airports, including taxis, car services, buses, shuttle vans, the subway, and trains. You can check the airports’ websites for prices and other information.

Traveling In and Around New York City: There are four main ways to travel in and around the New York area:

  • Subways – Most New Yorkers do the majority of their inner-city travel on the city’s subway system, which is open 24 hours a day. You will need to purchase a Metro Card to ride on the
  • Buses – They are available throughout the city. The Metro Card can also be used to ride the bus. Buses provide travel to/from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
  • Taxis – Also known as “cabs”, are generally the most expensive way to travel in the city. However, many people find them a convenient way to travel at night, when subways and buses run less
  • Trains – There are different train lines for travel to nearby New York (like Long Island, and Yonkers) as well as to Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and upstate New York towns and cities, like Albany, the New York State

For information about New York City public transportation, including maps of the subway and bus systems, visit the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) website.

Housing is one of the biggest concerns for new students. Because it is expensive, you should try to find a place to live before arriving in New York.


It is a good idea to contact family, friends, current CUNY students, the international student office, and student life office to help you find housing. You should also ask people about the different neighborhoods (areas) of New York so that you can decide where to live, based on your comfort level, budget, and commuting time.

There are also companies and online listings that can be helpful in your search for apartments or temporary housing. Many students find the following resources useful:

In this section, you will learn about banking in the U.S.

You will need several forms of identification to open a bank account in the U.S.

One of the first things you should do when you come into the country is open a checking account. Then you can transfer money from your home country and deposit traveler’s checks and other money you may have.

Many international banks have branches in the U.S. You should see if your home bank has a branch in New York. Otherwise, you can open an account with an American bank. To open an account, you will need your passport, I-20 or DS-2019, proof of address, and other forms of identification.

In the U.S., credit and debit cards are widely used and often preferred over checks or cash. You can pay your tuition bill and make most purchases using these cards. However, most people still use checks to pay for rent.

Your International Student Office can also help you with this matter.

It is important to have health insurance during your stay in the U.S.

Medical care is not provided publicly by the U.S. government and can be extremely expensive
Health insurance is mandatory for J-1 exchange students and scholars and for their J-2 dependents. Although it is currently optional for F-1 students and F-2 dependents, it is highly recommended that you and your dependents also purchase health insurance throughout your stay; especially since health care in the U.S. can be very expensive. Your international student advisor and health services office can help you find insurance plans suitable for yourself and your dependents.

To view various health insurance plans for international students, visit the following websites:

Compass Benefits Group
ISO Student Health Insurance
International Student Insurance
International Student Protection
Gateway Plans
Study USA-Health Care
The Basic Emergency Travel Assistance
The Harbour Group
HTH Worldwide Insurance Services

CUNY does not endorse any particular health insurance provider for international students.

Contact Us

International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS)

555 W. 57th Street
New York, NY 10019

Phone: 646-664-8800
Fax: 646-664-8861