International students are admitted to the United States when they show a U.S. immigration officer at the port of entry that they have:
Both F-1 and J-1 students are admitted for "duration of status." This is indicated by the abbreviation "d/s" on the Record of Arrival/Departure (Form I-94) issued at the time of entry into the United States. "Duration of status" is the term used for the time period that a student is actively attending an INS approved school on a full time basis or engaging in authorized practical or academic training. An additional 60 days grace period is also automatically included by the INS under the term "d/s" F-1 students or 30 days for J-1 students. These extra days are given so students can prepare for their departure from the United States. Employment is not allowed during this 60 day period (30 days for J-1 exchange visitors).
As a condition of their admission and presence in the United States, International students are required under U.S. immigration law to follow certain rules. If they follow these rules and regulations, they are considered to be "maintaining their status" in the United States. For international students there are several key provisions they must follow.
Full Time Enrollment
International students (both F-1 and J-1) must enroll full time in order to maintain status. For Undergraduate students this is defined as 12 credit hours. For graduate students this is defined as 9 credit hours.
Under certain circumstances, students may request an exception from full time enrollment. This request must be approved by an International Student Counselor in order for the student to maintain status. In order to find out if you qualify for or in order to request an exception from full time enrollment, please see the Request for an Exception from Full Time Enrollment Form. Please note that you must submit the required documents indicated on the form in order for your request to be considered.
Some of the reasons the ISS may authorize a temporary deviation from a full course load are for a medical problem, a valid academic reason for enrolling less than full time, the last semester of enrollment and for other reasons..
You must maintain the validity of your immigration documents at all times while you are in the United States. For all international students and scholars, except commuting Canadians, this means that:
Change of Address
International students should be aware that you are required by federal law to report changes to your address to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service within 10 days of moving. The law also provides that a willful failure to register with the INS or give written notice of a change of address is a criminal offense. Non-immigrants can notify the INS of a change of address on Form AR-11 which is available in the International Student Services Office. There is no cost or fee for the form, which is also available on the INS web site in Chinese, Spanish and Russian. The form should be mailed to:
Department of Justice
Immigration and Naturalization Service
425 I Street NW
ULLICO 4th Floor
Washington, DC 20536
F-1 and J-1 students are admitted to the United States for duration it takes to complete their degree providing academic progress is made. If an F-1 or J-1 student must remain in an educational program beyond the date originally estimated for completion of the program as stated either on their I-20 or IAP-66, the student must comply with INS procedures program extension. If your I-20 or IAP-66 is expiring, you should come to the ISO at least 45 days before your documents expire. At that time you will be asked to complete an application for a new I-20 or IAP-66, a copy of your approved plan of work, a recent unofficial transcript, and evidence of both financial support and academic progress towards the completion of your degree.
Generally, F-1 and J-1 students are limited to 20 hours of employment on campus when school is in session and full time on campus employment during a vacation semester or when school is not in session. For additional details about employment options for international students click here.
Non-immigrants who do not comply with the terms of their visa status and/or the employment restrictions associated with their visa status will be considered "out of status" by the INS. Students who work while they are "out of status" or who do not follow the employment restrictions that are part of their visa status are statutorily ineligible to seek reinstatement of status.
Consequences of Failing to Maintain Status
Non-immigrants who do not maintain their visa status face severe penalties under U.S. immigration law. If a student does not maintain their status, there are often few remedies, particularly if they work or if they do not promptly file for reinstatement of status to correct the problem. This is particularly true when the individual is out of status for six months or more; so if you know you have a problem, it is imperative that you contact the ISS promptly.
Failing to maintain status, by overstaying your visa by even one day, results in the immediate voiding of the visa stamp in your passport and necessitates your having to return to your home country to obtain a new visa. If you are in unlawful status, (failed to maintain status) for more than six months, you may be barred from re-entering the United States for three years. If you remain out of status more more than one year, you may be barred from reentering the United States for ten years.