International Students

The Registrar is the primary designated school official (PDSO) for all F-1 visa students with respect to their visa requirements, maintenance of status, optional practical training, and related matters. The Assistant Registrar (Office of the Registrar) and the Director for International Recruitment (Admissions) serve as Designated School Officials (DSO). The information outlined below is not intended to be exhaustive. Students should contact the Registrar when they have questions about their F-1 status.

As a result of the USA Patriot Act of 2001, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) was created. SEVIS is a web-based system for collecting and maintaining information on international students and exchange visitors in the US. It creates an interface between institutions of higher education, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), consulates and embassies abroad, and ports of entry. SEVIS is administered by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), a division of US Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE), the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

An F-1 visa is obtained after a student’s visa application has been approved by a US consular official. (Please note: a visa is not required for Canadian citizens to enter the US in any nonimmigrant category). An F-1 visa stamp is placed in the applicant’s passport by the US Consular Officer, noting the period of its validity and the number of entries allowed. After this, the I-20 form, originally issued by the college and used in the visa application process, is returned to the student to apply for admissions to the US. As of January 1, 2003, students may be admitted to the US no sooner than 30 days before the “report date or program start date” indicated in SEVIS and on Form I-20. At the port of entry the student must present to immigration officials: a passport valid for at least six months; an F-1 visa stamp (unless exempt from the visa requirement as for Canadians) on which the name of the school must match the name of the school on Form I-20; evidence of financial support, including the same financial support information used to obtain the F-1 visa; and form I-20 properly signed by the DSO and by the student. Upon admitting the student to the US, the immigration officer issues the student the departure portion of Form I-94, marked with the date and place of entry, the alien’s status as an F-1 student, a unique 11-digit admission number, and for the period of admission known as “duration of status,” indicated by the notation “D/S.”

“Duration of Status” consists of the time spent pursuing a full-course of study (as indicated on the I-20 form), time spent in practical training after completion of studies, a 60 day “grace period,” and any extensions of duration of status granted under the regulations.

It is extremely important for an F-1 student to maintain status while in the US. Failure to maintain the terms and conditions of nonimmigrant status is a ground for deportation under USCIS regulations. An F-1 student maintains status by:

  1. Reporting to the PDSO for Initial Registration in SEVIS upon arriving at the school.
  2. For the first entry for initial school attendance, the school listed on the visa and on the I-20 must be the same, and that is the school the student must intend to attend.
  3. Pursuing a full course of study at the school listed on the currently valid Form I-20 during every academic session or semester except during official school breaks, or unless approved under a specific exception, in advance, by the PDSO.
  4. Making normal progression towards completing the course of study, by completing studies before the expiration of the program completion date on Form I-20.
  5. Keeping Form I-20 valid by following proper procedures for extension of stay, change in educational levels or program of study and transfer of schools.
  6. Remaining in the US for no longer than 60 days after completing the full course of study, unless prior to that time the student has followed proper procedures for applying for practical training, moving educational levels, or school transfer.
  7. Reporting a change of address to the PDSO within 10 days of the change, so that SEVIS can be updated.
  8. Abiding by rules requiring disclosure of information and prohibition on criminal activity.
  9. Abiding by any special requirements, such as Special Registration requirements.
  10. Keeping a passport valid at all times unless exempt from the passport requirement.
  11. Working only in on-campus employment unless otherwise allowed by USCIS regulations. An F-1 student who is eligible for on-campus employment must follow the college’s on-campus employment policies. F-1 students may not work full-time during the regular semesters.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined as temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student’s major area of study. OPT is granted for a cumulative maximum of 12 months and can be authorized before or after completion of studies or a combination of both. A student must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis at a USCIS approved school for one full academic year before being eligible for OPT. OPT is recommended by the DSO, proper forms are filed by the student and the DSO with the USCIS Service Center having jurisdiction over the student’s place of residence in the US. If positively adjudicated by the USCIS, an employment authorization document (EAD) is issued. Work cannot begin before issuance of the EAD. OPT can be part-time (maximum of 20 hours per week) while school is in session and full-time during official breaks or after completion of requirements. Please note, if an F-1 student is planning to use the OPT after completion of degree requirements, they must apply for OPT prior to completion of requirements.

Visits Abroad and Re-entry in F-1 Status

F-1 students wishing to visit a country other than their home country while in F-1 status must check with the embassy of the country they would like to visit to inquire about specific entry procedures. Usually, F-1 students returning to their home country for a visit will be allowed to enter their country if they hold a valid passport or other travel document issued by that country. Please keep in mind that Mexico and Canada have distinct entry requirements, which must be investigated by F-1 students wishing to visit there.

To re-enter the US after a temporary absence of 5 months or less and to resume his or her program of study, an F-1 student must have a valid passport or travel document and a valid F-1 visa unless exempt from the passport and visa requirement. If an F-1 student’s visa has expired, they must go the US Consulate office in their home country to obtain a new visa. An F-1 student must also have a properly endorsed (by a DSO) Form I-20. An F-1 student should bring their I-20 to the Office of the Registrar for signature every time they plan to leave the US.

Housing

On-campus housing is available during winter and spring breaks to all students who hold F-1 visas. For a modest fee and on a first come first serve basis, international students may move into the prospective rooms in Humphrey’s during breaks.

Pangaea

Is a club for all students to experience the culture, history and food of other countries.