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F-1 Status

Know your Immigration Documents  
Maintaining F-1 Status Print
Reinstatement to F-1 Student Status  
Types of Employment for F-1 Students Print
Program Extension Print
Curricular Practical Training Print
Severe Economic Hardship Print
Optional Practical Training Print
OPT STEM extension Print

Know your Immigration Documents

Passport Image of Visa

You should keep your passport valid at all times.  Your passport is your own government’s permit for you to leave and re-enter your country.  Most passports contain an expiration date.

Renewing your passport

Contact your own consulate or embassy in the U.S. to renew your passport.  The officials there will tell you what forms and fees are required.

Click here to find your embassy

VisaImage of Passport Courtesy of Wikipedia

The visa stamp put in your passport by the U.S. Consulate is to enter the U.S. It does not show how long you can stay here.  It can expire while you are in the U.S., but must be valid to enter the U.S. 

Renewing your U.S. visa for re-entry

If your visa has expired, and you plan on traveling outside the United States, it must be renewed in order for you to re-enter. You can do this at the U.S. embassy in your home country.  F-1 visas cannot be renewed in the United States. The following documents are usually requested to renew your visa:

  • SEVIS Form I-20 endorsed for travel
  • Proof of Financial support
  • SEVIS fee receipt
  • School Transcript/Verification of Enrollment

If your F-1 visa expires while you are in the U.S., you do not need to leave the country to renew it.  As long as you are here attending school you are here legally.

Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record)

I-94 information is tracked electronically by USCIS for when foreigners travel in and out of the US. In the past, it has been shown on a small white card usually stapled onto the U.S. visa page of your passport.

After May 1, 2013, the only way to obtain this information is to go the I-94 retrieval website. It contains an eleven-digit identifying number (called your arrival/departure number). The USCIS sometimes refers to the "arrival/departure" number as the "admission" number.

I-94 visas have been electronic since March 2013

Expiration

There should be a date stamped in your passport indicating the date that you arrived in the U.S. (or a U.S. customs port of entry) You should also see the “D/S” is written below the date stamp.  This “D/S” indicates “duration of status” which means that you are admitted for the length of your program (listed on your I-20 or DS-2019) plus any periods of Optional Practical Training, plus 60 days grace period. The stamp will also tell your Port of Entry under the words “ADMITTED.” (such as SFR for San Francisco)

Form I-20

The form I-20 is issued for the program and level of study you are presently pursuing.  If you graduate before the completion date indicated on your I-20 you are considered to have completed your program of study and your I-20 is no longer valid. The third page of the I-20 contains spaces for information about your employment authorization and travel signatures by a Designated School Official (DSO) as well as notations by a USCIS official.

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Maintaining F-1 Status

When you enter the United States on an F-1 visa, your primary purpose for being here is to study.  The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) establish regulations that F-1 visa holders must follow to maintain their status. If you lose your F-1 status, you lose benefits like on-campus employment and Optional Practical Training (OPT). To make the most of your F-1 visa status, take the time to learn the immigration rules and regulations.

To maintain your F-1 status you must adhere to the following regulations:

  • Register and remain full-time in your program of study (UG=12 hours, GR=8 or 9 hours) each semester (except summer vacation)
  • Inform The Coordinator of International Student Services of any  address changes
  • Have your I-20 endorsed for travel
  • Do not work without permission from USCIS or The Coordinator of International Student Services
  • Attend the school you are authorized to attend
  • Report a change of program to The Coordinator of International Student Services
  • Request a transfer to another school in a timely manner
  • Have a valid and accurate I-20

Failure to comply with these regulations is a violation of your F-1 status. If you have questions or concerns about your F-1 status, please contact The Coordinator of International Student Services for clarification.

Medical insurance: SPSU requires international students on F-1 visas to purchase the endorsed SPSU International Student Insurance policy. Payment of this fee is mandatory and should be paid directly to the Office of Business and Finance along with payment of tuition and miscellaneous fees. Purchase of this insurance policy is mandatory each semester.

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CHANGE OF STATUS

To be eligible for a change of status, your current nonimmigrant status must be valid. You must also have a valid I-94 card and passport (if required). 

An applicant for change of nonimmigrant status to F-1 status must provide the following documents:

  1. Form I-539-Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/i-539.pdf
  2. Proof of financial support for the first year of studies, and for any dependents.
  3. Cover letter addressed to INS requesting the change of status and explaining why the change is needed (This letter is optional, however, a strong letter can help convince USCIS of the student’s temporary intent as well as persuade USCIS that the student did not have a preconceived intention to study in the U.S.)
  4. I-94 card Arrival/Departure Card (front and back) with current legal status. If you are a dependent, please provide documents to prove that the primary status holder is in legal status. ***A copy of the I-94 card is needed for any dependent(s) that are also filing for a change of status***
  5. Copy of passport and visa information
  6. SEVIS $200 fee payment receipt*
  7. Form I-20 AB from Coordinator of International Student Services (must be signed by student)
  8.  Check or money order payable to the Department of Homeland Security for $290.00

*You may pay the SEVIS fee online at www.FMJfee.com with a credit card or you may pay it at any Western Union Quick Pay Center. You will need your SEVIS ID# to make the payment. You will also the SEVIS School Code: ATL241F00208000.

Mail the entire package (certified or registered) to the following address:

USCIS VSC
ATTN: I-539
75 Lower Welden Street
St. Albans, VT 05479

If you have changed your status while in the U.S. and are traveling outside of the U.S., you must obtain a new F-1 visa from the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country before reentry.

Please note:  You may not be employed on campus until the status has been changed.  An applicant for change of nonimmigrant status to F-1 may start attending school even before the applicant has been submitted or approved, except: Nonimmigrants changing to F-1 from B-2 and nonimmigrants changing to F-1 from F-2 dependent.

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Reinstatement to F-1 Student Status

F-1 students can fall out of status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in several ways. These include:

  • dropping below a full course of study
  • working without authorization or more than the weekly limit
  • allowing your I-20 to expire (line 5c)
  • failing to follow transfer procedures from one school to another
  • failure to maintain f-1 status

Being out of status means that a student will no longer be eligible for benefits such as practical training, on-campus employment, or transferring to another school. It also means that once the student travels out of the country they will be unable to re-enter the U.S. on their current I-20. Under USCIS regulations, International Student Services must report your failure to maintain status in SEVIS and you must depart at that time. 

To regain F-1 status, one option would be to file for reinstatement with USCIS. An application is sent into the district office of USCIS where an officer will decide whether or not to reinstate the student based on the information provided in the application. The officer is looking for circumstances beyond the student’s control and that the student was not working illegally. Students who are not granted reinstatement are required to return home immediately. Please understand that there is some risk involved in the reinstatement process.
You will only be considered for reinstatement as an F-1 student if you establish: 

  1. That the violation of status was due solely to circumstances beyond your control.
  2. That failure to reinstate you would result in extreme hardship.
  3. You are pursuing or will pursue a full course of study.
  4. You have not been employed without authorization.
  5. You are not in removal (deportation) hearings.


If you feel you qualify for reinstatement, please contact the International Coordinator in the ATTIC for further details.

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PROGRAM EXTENSION 

Although an F-1 student is admitted to the United States for “duration of status” to complete an educational program, the student must actually complete his or her program before the program end date indicated in SEVIS.

An F-1 student who is unable to complete his or her program of study by the date of completion listed in item #5 on the form I-20 must apply for a program extension.  Program extensions can be given to students who have continually maintained status.

Acceptable delays that cause the student to require an extension include: changes of major or research topics, unexpected research problems, or documented illnesses.  Delays caused by academic probation or suspension are not acceptable reasons for program extension.

The student must apply for the extension before the date of completion indicated in item #5 on the form I-20.

 

TO APPLY FOR A PROGRAM EXTENSION, THE STUDENT MUST DO THE FOLLOWING:

  1. Obtain a letter from an academic advisor verifying the reason that the extension is needed and providing the anticipated completion date
  2. Provide current proof of financial support for additional semester(s) needed
  3. Sign new form I-20

The International Student Services Coordinator will prepare a new I-20 for the student with an extension for an appropriate period of time. 

Please note: If a student’s date of completion on the form I-20 has expired and a program extension has not been requested, the student is considered “out of status” and must apply for reinstatement. 

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TYPES OF EMPLOYMENT FOR F-1 STUDENTS

On-Campus Employment

  • 20 hours per week during the regular academic year
  • Full-time(40 hours) during authorized vacations and breaks
  • Must be enrolled in a full course of study with a 2.0 GPA

Note: A student may not begin to work without a social security card. Please inform employer to allow time to obtain this information before issuing start date. (See Coordinator of International Student Services for details).

Curricular Practical Training

  • Must be in F-1 status for at least one academic year (9 months) with some exceptions.
  • Must be enrolled in a full course of study
  • If a student works longer than 12 months full time in this capacity, they forfeit their Optional Practical Training (OPT) after graduation- See Coordinator of International Student Services for details
  • Complete work report 

Optional Practical Training

  • Must be in F-1 status for at least one academic year (9 months)
  • A student is allowed to work for a 12 month period full-time before or after graduation in their field of study. You may apply for one year OPT after each academic level (i.e.: Associates, Bachelors)
  • May apply up to 90 days before program end date and up to 60 days after the program date
  • For a student to work off-campus, they must have an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the USCIS which costs $380- See Coordinator of International Student Services for details

CURRICULAR PRACTICAL TRAINING

An F-1 student may be authorized to participate in a curricular practical training (CPT) program which is an integral part of an established curriculum.
Students must have been F-1 status for at least nine months before they are eligible for curricular practical training.  If the student has left the country after "falling out of status", and has returned to the program as an "initial entry", the student must fulfill the nine months in lawful status requirement.  The one exception to this rule is if the student is enrolled in a graduate program that requires immediate participation in a practical training experience.  Students who have one year of full-time CPT are ineligible for OPT.

For Additional Information please click "CPT Explanation".

NOTE: Please keep in mind if a student is deemed “out of status” all employment must cease.

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SEVERE ECONOMIC HARDSHIP

A student may be authorized for off-campus employment if he/she demonstrates severe economic hardship resulting from unforeseen circumstances.

To qualify for Severe Economic Hardship, an F-1 student must have been in F-1 status for at least one full academic year. The student must be in good academic standing and registered full-time.  The student must also prove to USCIS that employment is necessary due to severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond his or her control that arose after obtaining F-1 status.

If you feel that you qualify for a SEVERE ECONOMIC HARDSHIP, please contact the International Coordinator in the ATTIC for further details.

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OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is training that is directly related to an F-1 academic student’s major area of study.  It is intended to provide students with practical experience in their field of study during or upon completion of a degree program.

An F-1 academic student who has attended an SEVP-certified college, university,conservatory or seminary on a full-time basis for at least one academic year may be authorized up to 12 months of OPT per program level.  However, F-1 students who have one year or more of full-time curricular practical training are not eligible for OPT.  It is not necessary to have an offer of employment before applying for OPT.

F-1 students may apply for post-completion OPT up to 90 days before their program end date and up to 60 days after their program end date.  The application must be properly filed within 30 days of the date the student’s International Student Officer recommends OPT in SEVIS.

The new OPT rule establishes a limit on the number of days students in a period of post-completion OPT can be unemployed and still maintain F-1 status.  For students on regular post-completion OPT, the limit is 90 days.

OPT APPLICATION PROCEDURES

  • Make an appointment with the Coordinator of International Student Services.
  • Complete the I-765 form (question 16 on the I-765 should state (c) (3) (b)). Click Here

In addition to the I-765 form bring the following documents to your appointment:

  • photocopy of visa and passport information
  •  two passport photos
  • photocopy of the I-94 card (front and back),
  •  a check or money order for $380 made payable to the Department of Homeland Security
  • Mail the documents to :
USCIS TSC
P.O. Box 6660867
Dallas, TX 75266
  • Before mailing write on the front of the envelope “I-765 for Optional Practical Training”

You will receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card approximately 2-3 months after you submit the OPT application.  If you do not receive the EAD card 91 days after the date on your Notice of Action, you can request the Coordinator of International Student Services to contact immigration on your behalf. Once the EAD card is received, a copy must be given to the Coordinator of International Student Services.

Changing or Cancelling OPT
If you apply for OPT, but have to delay your graduation, you cannot change your OPT application once you apply. Also, USCIS does not give REFUNDS.

Traveling while on OPT
If you plan to travel while on OPT (after you graduate) you will need the following:

  1. Valid visa
  2. I-20 (must be signed for travel)
  3. Passport
  4. Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  5. Letter from Employer

Student Responsibilities while on OPT

  1. Report to the Coordinator of International Student Services within 10 days of: (1) Legal name change (2) address change (3) change in employer (4) loss of employment.

***Please note: *** Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this does not violate any labor laws.  The work must be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-completion OPT.  These students must be able to provide evidence from the employer that the student worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.

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OPT STEM Extension

F-1 students who completed a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in a STEM field and are currently engaged in post-completion OPT may apply for the STEM extension if they have a job or job offer from an E-Verify Employer.

The STEM Designated Degree Program List is on the SEVP web site. The student must ensure the Form I-765, the supporting evidence, and the fee payment reaches the proper USCIS Service Center before his or her current OPT expires.  USCIS recommends that a student file for the 17-month STEM extension up to 120 days prior to the end of his or her post-completion OPT.

Student pursuing a period of STEM extension OPT must not:

  • Work in a paid position for any employer that is not an E-Verify employer
  • Have more than 120 days of unemployment time during the entire period of post-completion OPT and STEM extension OPT).

STEM EXTENSION PROCEDURES

  • Make an appointment with the Coordinator of International Student Services.
  • Complete the I-765 form (Application for Employment Authorization)  (question 16 on the I-765 should state (c) (3) (c)).  Click Here

In addition to the I-765 form bring the following documents to your appointment:

  • photocopy of visa and passport information,
  •  two passport photos (full-frontal face position)
  • photocopy of the I-94 card (front and back),
  •  a check or money order for $380 made payable to the Department of Homeland Security
  • One of the following documents must also be included: (1) official transcripts (2) unofficial transcripts or (3) Copy of the diploma showing the level and the program of study

Mail the documents to:

USCIS
P.O. Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266
 
Student Responsibilities while on STEM OPT
  1. Work in a paid position for an E-Verify employer at least 20 hours per week
  2. Work in a position related to the STEM degree
  3. Report to the Coordinator of Internationals Student Services within 10 days of: (1) Legal name change (2) address change (3) changes in employer (4) loss of employment.

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