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.
This list is not comprehensive. For more specific information, take a look at the following sections about maintaining your visa status, including work authorization and guidance on travel.
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:
It’s important that you keep proper documentation of your immigration status. Here are the documents you should always have on-hand:
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.
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:
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.
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.
F-1 students have a 60-day grace period to depart the U.S. upon program completion; whereas J-1 students have a 30-day grace period. Other options to extend your stay include, but are not limited to:
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:
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:
In addition, we recommend that you carry:
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.
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.
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.
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. You can pursue this employment opportunity without prior approval from ISS. “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, the on-campus post office 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:
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:
Eligibility for OPT
Maintain Active F-1 Status
Previous work impacts your eligibility for OPT in the following ways:
For more information about the application process, including timeline and a list of required documents, please download the forms below.
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.
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.