What does USCIS, ICE, and CBP stand for?
USCIS stands for U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services. It is responsible for most application and petition adjunctions.
ICE stands for The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It is responsible for immigration and investigations, detention, removal, intelligence and SEVIS.
CPB stands for The Bureau of Customs and Border Protections. It is responsible for immigration inspections at U.S. ports of entry, for the Border Patrol, and for the Customs Service.
What does DOS and DOL stand for?
Department of State (DOS) have the responsibility of managing U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, and, therefore, of interpreting and administering statutes that affect visa issuance. They also play an important role in the academic environment; it is within the DOS that the Bureau of Educational and Cultural affairs administer the J-1 Exchange Visitors Program.
Department of Labor (DOL) have the responsibility of interpreting and administering statutes related to U.S worker. Key components of immigration law encountered on a college or university campus relate to the employment of aliens. DOL has the duty of protecting both U.S and alien workers from abusive employment environments. For example an employer cannot use alien workers to undercut U.S. wages, nor can that employer abuse alien workers by paying them less than U.S workers.
How does the process of admission and getting a visa work?
- After you have applied and been admitted to Judson the school will issue an I-20 and send it to the student. For more information on how to apply click here.
- The student is then required to pay a one time SEVIS (I-901) fee.
- Student goes to the U.S embassy or consulate to apply for an F-1 visa. To read information on how to prepare for your visa interview click here.
- Consular officer reviews the application, confirms that the SEVIS fee has been paid, runs required security checks, and grants the F-1 visa. Consular officer enters a notice in SEVIS that the visa has been issued.
- Student arrives at U.S. port of entry (POE).
- Immigration officer at the POE reviews the passport, F-1 visa, and I-20, processes the student through US-VISIT, and admits the student in F-1 status. Once date and port of entry data is processed by the POE data system , that data should be transmitted to SEVIS, to notify the DSO that the student has entered using the school’s I-20.
How do I maintain F-1 status?
- Report to the DSO for SEVIS Registration upon arriving at the school.
- Attend authorized school
- The school listed on the visa and I-20 must be the same, and that is the school the student must attend.
- Carry a full course of study and make normal academic progress towards completion of program
- Transfer of extend program in a timely manner.
- Keep continuity in the program of study
- In general an absence from the U.S or any other academic break of more than 5 months terminates F-1 status. However an authorized study abroad program does not break continuity of status for the purpose of future benefits such as practical training.
- Refrain from unauthorized work
- F-1 students have a broad range of employment options, but they are not permitted to work at will any job they choose. All F-1 Employment must be approved either by the DSO or by USCIS, depending on the kind of employment. Any work outside those parameters is unauthorized work and is a violation of student status, thus making the student ineligible for the normal benefits attendant to F-1 status. In particular, unauthorized work makes a student ineligible for reinstatement.
- When travelling abroad, always return in proper F-1 status.
- F-1 students should avoid returning in some other status such as B-2 tourists. Per item 5 above, a student must maintain continuity of F-1 status to protect the benefits that come with F-1 status. Students traveling abroad will sometimes return in a status other than F-1, such as B-2 thus creating a break in status.
- Keep your passport valid for six months into the future.
- Report any changes of name or address to the DSO within 10 days of change. Students on post completion OPT should also report, “interruption in employment.”
- File timely requests for extension of stay, change of status, transfer, optional practical training and other benefits.
- Do not work off-campus, except when specifically authorized under immigration regulations. While on standard post-completion OPT, do not accrue more than 90 days of “unemployment” in the aggregate.
- Obey all state and federal laws.
How many credit hours are required in order to have a full course of Study?
- For Graduate studies it is 9 credit hours, with some exceptions.
- For Undergraduates at least 12 credit hours, or the equivalent thereof, for students enrolled in a standard credit-hour system, except during the last term.
- Distance education needs 3 credit hours.
Are there any exceptions to a full course of study?
There are certain exceptions and that would be a Reduced Course Load (RCL) to reflect the difficulties and circumstances common in an educational career. The DSO must authorize an RCL in SEVIS before the reduction in course load, and the DSO must also notify SEVIS within 21 days of the student’s re-commencement of all full course of study.
The DSO may authorize a reduced course load of academic difficulties only under the following circumstances
- Initial difficulties with the English language.
- Initial difficulties with reading requirements.
- Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods.
- Improper course level placement.
A reduced course load for academic difficulties can be approved only once while the student is pursuing a course of study at a particular program level. However use of an academic difficult RCL does not affect eligibility for other RCLs
The DSO may grant approval for enrollment in a reduced course load or no course load due to a temporary illness or medical condition, but only upon the recommendation of a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist. The medical condition exception to an RCL may not exceed 12 months in the aggregate.
Final term or semester of a program of study
The DSO may authorize a reduced course load during a final term or semester if fewer course are required to complete the degree. However a student may not take 0 courses during the final ter. Even if the school continues to enroll the student for administrative reason. The student who has completed all requirements for the degree must apply for OPT , another academic program , or a change of status to some other classification such as B-2 , or depart the U.S She/he cannot just “hang around” for a semester or term.
What do I need to know about the F-2 status?
- An individual entering the U.S as dependant (spouse or child under 21 years of age) of an F-1 student enters in F-2 status. Each spouse or child receives his/her own SEVIS Form I-20 and SEVIS ID number.
- The F-2 may study part time, but only if the study is “vocational or recreational’. If an F-2 wishes to engage in full-time study, he/she must first apply for and receive a change of status to F-1
- The F-2 is not allowed to work in the U.S
- It is important to emphasize that the F-2 status is a derivative of an F-1 and if the F-1 falls out of status, the F-2 dependents are out of status as well
When would I need to update SEVIS Records?
- Change in level of major or study
- Extend program
- Shorten program
- Complete program
- Personal information changes
- Financial information changes
What do I need to do about my SEVIS if I am transferring?
The F-1 regulations permit a student to transfer from one SEVIS-approved school to another. To do this, the DSOs from both schools must update the student’s record in SEVIS.
What is Reinstatement?
F-1 students who have violated their immigration statue are no longer eligible for F-1 benefits. In come circumstance, they may apply to the USCIS for reinstatement in order to regain their status.
It is possible to get a Reinstatement for the following violations:
- Failure to report to the school for SEVIS registration
- Failure to enroll for a given academic term
- Failure to make a normal progress
- Failure to attend the authorized school
- Failure to complete the transfer out and transfer in program
- Failure to file a timely change of status
- Failure to obtain a program extension prior to the program end date
- Failure to notify an address change in a timely way
- Failure to depart from the USA in a timely time
The following are more serious violations for which one will generally not be granted a Reinstatement:
- Unauthorized employment
- Out of status for more than 5 months, unless the student shows exceptional circumstances
- Remaining in the U.S after ceasing, terminating, or interrupting studies before the completion of the program.
How can I get F-1 status if I already have a another visa?
You are only eligible if you have an immigration status that allows for that change, or if you are admitted to an academic program. The following non-immigrants are ineligible to change their status to F-1.
- Nonimmigrants in C, D, J, or M status
- Nonimmigrants who are in the United States under the Visa Waiver Program
- K exchange visitors who are subjects to the two year home country physical presence requirement.
B nonimmigrants (both B-1 visitors and B-2 visitors for pleasure) are prohibited from “enrolling in a course of study or taking other actions inconsistent with B nonimmigrant status” unless USCIS first approves a change of status to F-1. This rule only applies to those in B nonimmigrant status. It does not apply to individuals in other nonimmigrant statuses (for example, J-2, H-4 and other dependents). Given the long processing times for changes of status, another option for a B visitor who wishes to study is to exit the U.S with an I-20. He/she can apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S consulate overseas and then re-enter the U.S in F-1 status.
What are my employment options with an F-1 status?
On campus employment is allowed. On campus employment is defined as employment on the school’s premises, but it can be with an on location commercial firm providing on-campus service for the school’s students. Employment is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session; full-time employment is permitted during official school breaks and during the student’s annual vacation.The student must be pursuing a full course of study, or if employed during annual vacation, intend to register for the next academic term at the school. Employment may begin no sooner than 30 days prior to the start of classes for new students with initial entry to a new program.
Transfer student employment can only occur at the school responsible for the students’ SEVIS record. However, before the release date, he/she only work at the transfer-out school; after the release date, he/she can only work at the transfer –in school.
A student may be authorized to work off-campus under the following circumstances:
- Urgent economic necessity
- Internship with an International Organization
These forms of off-campus employment must be recommended in SEVIS by the DSO , and adjudicated and approved by the USCIS, which issues an EAD card evidencing the employment authorization. A student cannot begin the off-campus employment until he or she receives the EAD from USCIS
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) employment is available to F-1 students who have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for at least one full academic year. CPT employment must be “an integral part of an established curriculum.” For more information on CPT click here.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an employment opportunity available to an F-1 student who has been lawfully enrolled on a full time basis for on full academic year. This includes students enrolled in a study abroad program. It the study abroad student has spent at lease on full academic term enrolled in a full course of study in the U.S prior to study abroad, he/she remains eligible for OPT. Also a student may be authorized for 12 months of OPT and become eligible for another 12 months of OPT after moving to a higher education level. For more information on OPT click here.