International Student Services (ISS) is here to help you succeed.
We understand that, as an international student, you have a lot more to worry about than your domestic counterparts. Our primary goal is to ensure you maintain valid F/J immigration status.
ISS staff serve as Designated School Official (DSO) for F-1 students or Responsible Officer (ROs) for J-1 students. The DSO/RO is your primary source for information on immigration rules and regulations. Another responsibility of the DSO/RO is to keep your record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) up-to-date, which is mandatory under U.S. federal law. To do this, we require your help.
Stay in touch with ISS! You need our approval if you ...
- Change your major, program, or degree
- Intend to transfer to a new school
- Withdraw from school and take a leave of absence
- Drop below full-time enrollment
- Need your I-20 signed for travel
- Move to a new address
- Want to take an internship
- Need to extend your I-20
This list is not comprehensive. For more specific information, take a look at the following sections about maintaining your visa status, work authorization and guidance on travel.
Meet with ISS
Make an Appointment
Meet individually with ISS staff to discuss your concerns and process immigration benefits for F-1 and J-1 students.
10 Minute Topics
Stop by our office, Monday through Friday, 1-2 pm to chat with ISS advising staff. No appointment is needed, just come find us in the ISS Office Foyer. This time is for quick questions. If you are applying for OPT, filing a change of visa status application, have a complicated or private question, we recommend scheduling an advising appointment.
The ISS office front desk can help answer general questions and refer you to offices and resources for problem solving. Letters for getting a driver's license, social security number, ITIN or inviting family to visit can be issued by the front desk without an appointment. We can also help you print your I-94 entry record and complete exchange enrollment verification forms.
Academic Support for International Students
If you need academic support, St. Edward's University has plenty of resources. Stop by the office or call (512) 492-3118 to meet with kathyj [at] stedwards.edu (subject: Academic%20Support%20for%20International%20Students, body: Student%20ID%3A%0AName%3A) (Kathy Jackson), an experienced advisor and educator, for assistance. Additional support resources can be found on the Academic Counseling page.
Maintaining Visa Status
Your immigration status is just that: yours. Take ownership of this responsibility.
It’s important that you understand your responsibilities as an international student on a nonimmigrant visa. Upon initial arrival to campus, you must check-in with the International Student Services office (located in Moody 102) so that we may register your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 and activate your immigration record. Thereafter, we encourage students to stop by the office or email us to check in at least once per year. Here are a few other basic requirements to maintain your immigration status:
Keep up with important documents
It’s important that you keep proper documentation of your immigration status. Here are the documents you should always have on-hand:
- Form I-20 or Form DS-2019: This is your certificate of eligibility and the most important document in terms of your immigration status. Make sure to sign in blue ink on Page 1. You should keep ALL old versions for your records, but only use the most recent.
- Visa: This is the stamp in your passport. It serves as an entry document only, meaning it can be expired if you are in the U.S. and plan to remain so. However, if you travel outside of the U.S. with an expired visa you will need to get it renewed in order to re-enter. If your visa expires and you intend to travel, see ISS for visa renewal information.
- I-94 Entry / Departure Records: Created by Customs & Border Protection (CBP) when you enter or depart the U.S., the I-94 is official documentation of your immigration status. You can access your I-94 record online. Make sure it lists your correct visa status upon initial entry into the country. If “D/S” is listed on your record, that means you are allowed to remain in the U.S. for "duration of status," i.e. until your current program end date as long as you maintain active immigration status.
It’s your responsibility to monitor expiration dates on your immigration documents. Take note of the program end date listed on your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019, and the expiration date listed on your visa, and set calendar reminders. Ask ISS staff how to renew or extend your documents before the expiration date, or you will go out of status.
Enroll As a Full-time Student (undergraduate = 12 hrs/semester and graduate = 9 hrs/semester)
You are required to be enrolled full time (undergraduate = 12 hrs/semester and graduate = 9 hrs/semester) during the academic year. All students may take a one-semester vacation after two consecutive semesters of full-time enrollment, usually enrolled fall/spring with a vacation during the summer.
Exceptions to the full-time enrollment rule may be granted for the following reasons:
- Final Semester: You have less than 12 hours of undergrad / 9 hours of graduate coursework left in your degree plan. In this case, you may be authorized to enroll part-time to complete your degree in your final semester.
- Severe Medical Situation: Requires specific documentation from licensed medical professional stating you cannot maintain full course load.
- Limited Academic Reasons: There are a few academic situations (primarily in the first semester) where you may qualify for a reduced course load. Your academic advisor and immigration advisor will evaluate your situation to see if you qualify.
All of the above require advanced approval from the International Student Services (ISS) office. If you need to drop below full time, schedule an appointment with an immigration advisor to discuss your options.
Receive Proper Work Authorization
Do not begin any type of employment — job, internship, volunteer work or otherwise — without first checking with ISS and receiving proper authorization. Violating this rule will jeopardize your ability to legally stay in the U.S. and continue your studies. Learn more about employment opportunities available to international students on the work authorization page.
Take Action Upon Completion of Your Program of Study
F-1 students have a 60-day grace period to depart the U.S. upon program completion and J-1 students have a 30-day grace period. Other options to extend your stay include, but are not limited to:
- F-1 Students: Apply for Authorized Post-Completion OPT work authorization
- Transfer to another school/program
- Change your education level (e.g. bachelor’s to master’s)
- Apply to change to another visa status
Plan ahead and contact ISS if you wish to pursue any of these options.
With immigration, it’s important to remember that many decisions are outside of our control. If a DSO learns you have violated your immigration status in any way, they must take appropriate action, which may include the termination of your Form I-20. Common termination reasons include:
- Failure to register initial I-20
- Failure to request program extension before program end date
- Failure to maintain active full-time enrollment
- Failure to make “satisfactory academic progress”
- Working without authorization
- Being arrested for violation of any local, state, or federal law
If you go “out of status,” inform advisors in ISS immediately to discuss your options for regaining status. We will do everything we can to support you, but please help us by always reading and responding to emails! Most issues can be resolved easily with your cooperation.
Frequently asked questions related to travel:
What documents do I need to take with me when I travel?
- Valid visa (not expired)
- I-20 or DS-2019, signed for travel by an international student advisor within the last year
In addition, we recommend that you carry:
- Official transcript (obtained at the Registrar’s Office) OR Letter of Enrollment
- SEVIS fee receipt
- Proof of financial support (a personal bank statement, or sponsor’s letter and bank statement)
- Business card of PDSO or DSO (to contact us if you encounter problems)
Do I need to renew my visa if I travel abroad?
If your nonimmigrant visa stamp has expired, you will have to apply for a new visa to reenter the U.S. unless you will be using Automatic Revalidation. Please review the Visa Renewal handout, and speak with an immigration advisor before you leave the United States to apply for a visa renewal.
What if I travel to Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean?
If you plan to travel to a country that is contiguous* to the U.S. (but NOT Cuba), and you intend to stay there less than 30 days and will NOT apply for a new U.S. visa, you may reenter the U.S. on an expired visa stamp (this regulation is known as Automatic Visa Revalidation).
*Here is a list of countries contiguous to the U.S.: Saint Pierre, Miquelon, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, The Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, or other British, French or Netherlands territories or possessions in, or bordering, the Caribbean Sea.
How does Automatic Visa Revalidation work?
When traveling to a contiguous country, you keep the same I-94 number with you upon exiting the U.S. Tell the immigration official at the port of exit (border) that you intend to stay outside the U.S. for less than 30 days and that your U.S. visa is expired. Make sure to have your I-20 or DS-2019 signed by an ISS advisor before you travel, and present that document along with your valid passport, form I-94 and expired visa to reenter the U.S. Please note that reentry into the United States through Automatic Visa Revalidation is not guaranteed.
Do I need a visa to travel to Mexico, Canada or another country?
If you are traveling to Mexico, Canada or any country that is not your country of citizenship, you may need a visa to enter that country. The following contacts may be helpful to determine if you need a visa to enter another country:
International Student Services (ISS) staff advises on employment eligibility and facilitates work authorization for F-1 and J-1 international students.
International students may not work off campus during the first academic year but may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions. Below is a brief explanation about each type of employment authorization. Because individual circumstances vary, students are encouraged to make an appointment to discuss work authorization.
The U.S. government takes working illegally very seriously. Do not accept or begin any employment without first contacting ISS to discuss eligibility and authorization requirements.
As an F-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor, you are eligible for part-time on-campus employment from day one of your program. On-campus employment includes office jobs with any on-campus department or office, teaching assistant positions, or work at a university-affiliated business such as Jo’s coffee shop, or the bookstore. You must apply for a Social Security Number before you start working and should see ISS as soon as you have a job offer so that we may guide you through this process.
After the first academic year (two consecutive semesters), international students may engage in three types of off-campus employment:
F-1: OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is one type of work permission available to eligible F-1 students. It allows you to be employed in a job related to your major for up to 12 months at each education level – bachelor's, master's, and PhD – before graduation (pre-completion OPT), after graduation (post-completion OPT), or a combination thereof. Complex rules and guidelines dictate your eligibility for OPT. Carefully review this information, and then contact your immigration advisor in ISS at least 3–4 months before the desired start date of your employment.
Types of OPT:
- Pre-Completion OPT: Any portion of OPT used before the student’s program end date. It may be part time or full time.
- Post-Completion OPT: Any portion of OPT used after the student’s Program End Date. It must be full time.
- STEM OPT Extension: For students who majored in designated STEM degrees approved by DHS.
Eligibility for OPT
- Meet the one academic year enrollment requirement
- Seek employment directly related to your major area of study
- Students may only be authorized for 12 months of practical training at each level of study.
Previous work impacts your eligibility for OPT in the following ways:
- Part-time pre-completion OPT counts at half the rate, e.g. 6 months of part-time OPT only deducts 3 months from total available 12 months.
- If you take more than 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT), you will be ineligible for OPT.
- Part-time CPT does not affect OPT eligibility.
For more information about the application process, including timeline and a list of required documents, please download the forms below.
F-1: CURRICULAR PRACTICAL TRAINING (CPT)
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is employment which is an integral part of an established curriculum, including, but not limited to, internships or practicum courses that require employment. Students must be full-time enrolled for two consecutive semesters before they are eligible to apply for CPT. Please note that if you engage in more than 12 months of full-time CPT, you will be ineligible for OPT. Part-time CPT, however, does not affect your eligibility for OPT. See your ISS advisor at least one month before you would like to begin your internship.
J-1: ACADEMIC TRAINING (AT)
Academic Training (AT) is work authorization that allows J-1 students to work in the U.S. in a job or internship related to their field of study. This authorization requires approval by either St. Edward’s or ISEP and by the student’s home university. While AT can be done during or after you finish your exchange program, ISS recommends you not start any employment on AT until you have been in the U.S for at least two months.
May I enroll under full-time?
There are a few exceptions to this rule for example if students are in their final semester before graduation, students with a serious documented medical condition and specific academic reasons for first-year students. Please contact ISS for more information.
I have a hold from ISS – how do I drop a class?
Contact iss [at] stedwards.edu and let us know which class you wish to drop. If dropping the class(es) will cause you to violate your status, please meet with an advisor to discuss your options and the consequences of dropping. If dropping will not impact your status, we can lift the hold.
What documents do I need when I travel?
You should always travel with a valid passport, visa and I-20 or DS-2019. If you forgot your I-20, contact ISS immediately to request a new I-20 before you return to the U.S.A. The new I-20 can be mailed to you but you will need to pay for shipping. Optional but helpful documents include official transcripts, SEVIS I-901 receipt, or proof of financial support.
How can I renew my passport?
You should contact your country's embassy or consulate to request a new passport.
How do I renew my visa?
Please remember, that a visa is a travel document. This means it is only used when you enter the US and if your visa expires while you are already in the US, this is not a problem or violation. Visas can only be renewed at a U.S. consulate or embassy outside the United States and students will only need to renew an expired visas if they are travelling internationally. A full list of U.S. consulates is available at www.usembassy.gov.
How do I extend my I-20?
You will need to request the extension before the program end date on your I-20. Required documents include a new certification of finances form, bank letter and the I-20 Extension Request Form completed by your academic advisor.
Can I travel while on OPT?
Yes, you can travel while on OPT using your passport, F-1 visa, I-20, OPT card and documentation of employment. Note: travel after graduation but before your OPT is approved can have higher risk. Please plan your travel accordingly.
Do I have to pay taxes?
All international students should submit form 8843 each year to document your presence in the USA to the IRS. This form can be found at https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8843.pdf. Income taxes apply to anyone who has earned income in the USA (typically through authorized employment and scholarships from US institutions). You may be eligible to get some of this tax money back by filing taxes at the start of the next calendar year. ISS staff are not tax experts. The Payroll Office is a great on-campus resource for questions about taxes withheld from your on-campus employment. Many students find the guide https://www.nafsa.org/uploadedFiles/NAFSA_Home/Resource_Library_Assets/I... to be very helpful.
I need an ITIN to pay tax for my scholarship, how can I get an ITIN?
The steps to apply for an ITIN can be found at https://www.irs.gov/individuals/how-do-i-apply-for-an-itin. Although ISS is not able to advise on filing taxes, we can provide a letter for you to submit along with your documents for the ITIN.