INTERNATIONAL STUDENT RESOURCES
ADVISORY: CARRY YOUR IMMIGRATION DOCUMENTS AT ALL TIMES. For F-1 students take your original I-20, a copy of your passport, your student ID and your I-94 print off with you.
The Center for Student Engagement and Financial Resources (CSEF) is here to assist you and provide you with resources to aid in your success. If you are an International Student and need help with any paperwork or have any questions regarding how to be successful in a foreign country, please come see us and we will help you with what we can and connect you with the right people for any assistance we are not able to provide.
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Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is SEVIS?
The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is a Department of Homeland Security electronic monitoring system for international students. It requires schools to report certain information on each student. Most students seeking F-1 status are subject to a $200 SEVIS fee that must be paid before applying for a visa.
2. What is an I-20 Form?
The Form I-20 is issued by a U.S. school to prove that you have been accepted and have met all admission requirements for your program and are eligible for "F-1" student immigration status. It also indicates how long you may remain in the United States.
An entry visa is placed in your passport at a U.S. embassy or consulate (outside the U.S.). An F-1 entry visa is required to ENTER the U.S. in F-1 student status (unless you are from Canada or Bermuda). The entry visa stamp may expire while you are inside the U.S. You will only need a new visa if you leave the U.S. after it expires and you wish to return.
Each school has their I-20 Form and it must be requested. You can either contact your school's International Office directly or come see us so that we can help you request the form.
3. What is an I-94?
The I-94 is your official arrival/departure record. It indicates at what port-of-entry and on what date you arrived into the U.S. It also indicates how you were admitted into the U.S. (for example, as a student or a tourist). It will also include an expiration date. For F-1/J-1 students/scholars and their dependents, this should be “D/S”, which means “Duration of Status.” This notation refers to the date you complete your studies or the end date on your Form I-20/Form DS-2019 (whichever is earlier) plus any grace period you may be eligible for. If you enter the U.S. from a land border, you will get a paper Form I-94 stapled to your passport; otherwise, you can access the record electronically.
4. Does my Form I-20 become VOID when I stop going to school full-time?
Yes! If you find yourself in a situation where you must stop attending school full-time, be sure to inform your school's International Student office prior to withdrawing from classes. Depending on the reason for your departure you may receive a certain window of time to depart the U.S. Your Form I-20 will become void and your record will be terminated in SEVIS.
5. What is the difference between an F-1, J-1, and an M-1 Visa?
The main difference between an F-1 and J-1 visa is the question of who is paying for your education? For a J-1 visa you have to demontrate that at least 51% of your educational funding is coming from an outside source such as a scholarship, whereas for an F-1 visa you can use all personal funds to finance your education. However, both visas require you to be a fulltime student.
This chart describes the differences in requirements and benefits between F-1 and J-1 visas.
An M-1 visa a temporary student visa that allows international students to attend an accredited vocational or non-academic school, such as a trade school or practical training school. You also have to be a full-time student and be able to pay for your education and stay in the country.
You can visit the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for more information, forms, and applications.
USCIS M-1 Visa Questions and Answers.
6. How do I maintain legal F-1 status?
- Maintain a valid passport (at least 6 months into the future).
- Currently attend the school whose Form I-20 you last used to enter the U.S., or complete required transfer procedures.
- Be enrolled in a full-course of study during the academic year (12 credits or more per semester).
- Comply with extension of program procedures BEFORE your current Form I-20 expires.
- Comply with procedures for changing from one degree level to another.
- Engage only in authorized employment.
7. Can I work with an F-1 Visa?
F-1 students may not work off-campus during the first academic year, but may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions. There are various programs available for F-1 students to seek off-campus employment after the first academic year.
USCIS requirements table: shows the types of documents that a foreign student in F-1 nonimmigrant status may be issued and could present to an employer for Form I-9 purposes.
8. What is OPT (Optional Practical Training)?
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a period during which undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 status who have completed or have been pursuing their degrees for more than nine months are permitted by the USCIS to work towards getting practical training to complement their field of studies.
While there is some right to work under OPT while still in school (“pre-completion OPT”), the main use for OPT is the right to work for 12 months after completion of a degree (“post-completion OPT”). So as you near graduation, you can apply for OPT, which will permit you to work for any employer in the US (subject to all of the rules of OPT). You can apply for a new OPT period for each new degree level you complete - for instance, if you receive a Bachelor’s degree, you can apply for OPT and work for a year, go back to graduate school, then when you complete your Masters or PHD, you can apply for OPT again and work for another year (many students actually do this). However, you can only obtain one OPT per degree. For example, you can't apply to two OPTs with a Bachelors degree - even if it is a different Bachelors degree than the first time you applied for an OPT.
9. Are there any exceptions for OPT?
One twist to OPT is that students who have graduated from a US college or university with a specific degree in the STEM fields - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - can apply to extend their OPT for an additional 17 months, bringing their total post-graduation OPT available time up to 29 months.
The specific degrees that qualify for the extension are:
- Actuarial Sciences
- Computer Science Applications
- Engineering Technologies
- Life Sciences
- Military Technologies
- Physical Sciences
10. What are the differences between a domestic (US citizen) application and an international application?
All undergraduate applicants use the same application, and submit the same admissions materials. There are three differences for international students:
1. An English language proficiency test may be required. It can be waived under certain circumstances.
2. A certification of finances is required.
3. Transfer student applicants with international transfer credit (college or university credit completed after high school outside the United States) are required to submit a course-by-course evaluation of their coursework from foreign universities and official course descriptions.
To get information on your home institution's International Students Office and/or the process of a transcript evaluation please visit our International Students Supplemental Page.
If you have any questions that are not addressed here please contact Center for Student Engagement & Financial Resources at firstname.lastname@example.org.