Do you want to enjoy your stay in the U.S. and avoid immigration problems? Here are general guidelines that you have to follow as an international student. Questions about immigration should be directed to the International Student Advisor (ISA):
- Passport and visa
Keep your passport valid for at least 6 months into the future. If you need to extend your passport while in the U.S. you should contact your country's embassy or consulate in the U.S. Your visa must be valid for ENTRY into the U.S. only. If your visa expires while here, you can remain as long as your I-20 is valid.
Notify the ISA of your local address when you arrive at SU and about any change in address within 10 days of moving.
- Full course of study
To remain a full-time student, you must take 12 or more credit hours if you are an undergraduate student or 9 or more credit hours if you are a graduate student during each academic semester (Fall and Spring). Before you drop a full course of study you must get approval from the International Student Advisor. Students are not permitted to take a semester "off."
Off-campus: It is a serious violation of your status to work off-campus without prior authorization from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
On-campus: you are allowed to work on-campus for a maximum of 20 hours per week while school is in session. These 20 hours include work for an assistantship. Students are permitted to work 40 hours per week on-campus during breaks (summer, winter, and spring).
If you have valid academic or health reasons, you can request for more time to complete your program at SU than that which is authorized on the SU I-20. The request to extend the program must be done prior to the expiration date on your I-20.
- Completion of study
If you have completed your studies or practical training and did not change to another immigration status prior to the program end date on your I-20, you must leave the U.S. within 60 days (F1 students).
Any earlier departure from SU before the end date on your I-20 requires you to inform the International Student office about the date and reason for doing so. If you leave the U.S. for an extended period you can jeopardize your F-1 status.
If you plan to leave the U.S., you must have the following documents with you to re-enter the country:
- Valid passport
- I-20 with a valid signature. The signature is valid for 12 months.
- U.S. visa stamp in your passport must be valid for your return to the U.S. If it has expired or will expire you need to obtain a new student visa abroad--it cannot be renewed in the U.S.
- Proof of enrollment. You can request from ISA a letter, stating that you are valid as a student at SU.
If you travel within the U.S. the International Student Office recommends that you carry your passport, I-94 card, and I-20.
- Academic program or degree level change
If you plan to change your academic program or degree level you must inform the ISA. You must receive a new I-20 which has to be produced prior to your program end date as listed on your I-20 before beginning the new program or degree level.
- Attending another school (transfer)
If you decide to attend another university, you must notify the ISA of your intention. According to DHS, the ISA must transfer your record in SEVIS to your new school. After that, the new school can issue you a new I-20.
You must notify the International Student Office of any accompanying dependents in F-2 status and provide biographical information (e.g. full name, address, country of birth, etc.) and immigration information (e.g. passport information, visa information, etc.) For traveling and re-entering the U.S., F-2 dependents need all the same documents as the F-1. F-2 dependents are not authorized to work at any time and options for study are restricted.
Consequences that you might face if you fail to maintain your legal student status:
- You lose the privileges of your student visa (tuition waiver, work, practical training, etc.)
- You are considered illegally present and can be subject to removal by the U.S. government
- Possible denial of a request to re-enter the U.S.
- Possible denial of a request to change your non-immigration status
- Possible denial of future visa application
You are encouraged to contact the ISA, Mary Burnett if you have questions. Do not rely on your friends for immigration advice!