International Students are required by U.S. law to abide by immigration regulations throughout their stay in the U.S. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) admits international students to the U.S. for the sole purpose of being a full-time student. Participation by students in any other activity, from employment to vacation, is considered to be a privilege and is only allowable in accordance with strict USCIS rules. When you entered the U.S. you accepted responsibility to abide by the conditions of your nonimmigrant status. Failure to take appropriate measures to maintain your lawful nonimmigrant status could result in penalties for violations of immigration law. It is the student’s responsibility to be informed about immigration rules. LHU’s Institute for International Studies (IIS) can provide international students with the necessary information to maintain status. However, it is the student and not the university who is ultimately responsible for abiding by the USCIS rules and maintaining legal status.
Important Acronyms to Know
- F-1 – A student immigration status
- J-1 – An exchange visitor status that can include students
- J-2 – Dependent of a J-1
- IIS – Institute for International Studies
- DSO – Designated School Official
- USCIS – U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services
- DHS – Department of Homeland Security
- DOS – Department of State
- POE – Port of Entry
- SEVIS – Student Exchange Visitor Information System
- Passport: The passport is the legal document issued by your country of citizenship. It must be kept valid at all time during your stay in the U.S. and must be valid at least 6 months into the future to re-enter the U.S. or apply for a visa. You must keep your passport valid at all times while studying at LHU or you will be considered out of status. The passport can usually be renewed through your embassy or one of your consulates in the U.S.
- I-20: The I-20 is the document issued by an agency or USCIS institution which you present to the U.S. embassy or consulate abroad to obtain the F-1 student visa and which you present to immigration officials to enter the U.S. each time you travel abroad and come back. The I-20 must be signed on the back within the last 12 months to get back into the U.S. in F-1 or J-1status (a new signature for each departure is recommended).
- I-94 Card: The I-94 card is the small white card that you complete before passing U.S. immigration officials upon entrance into the U.S. This is the document that authorizes your presence in the U.S. as a student for a specified period of time, in a specified program of study, at a specified institution. Two dates appear on the I-94; the date of entrance into the U.S. and the date of expiration of your permission to stay. For F-1 visa holders, the expiration dates is usually D/S (duration of status), which corresponds to the I-20 date of program completion. The number at the top of the I-94 card that you receive upon your initial entry is called your “Admission Number.”
- Visa: The U.S. entry visa is a stamp or sticker on a page of your passport that permits you to enter the U.S. The visa may expire while you are in the U.S. You cannot and need not renew it while you are here. A new entry visa will be required if the original expires and you travel back home or abroad then wish to re-enter the U.S. You can only get a new entry visa in your home country, you cannot re-new your visa in the U.S.
Maintaining Legal Student Status
You must always
- Maintain a valid passport throughout your stay in the U.S. (valid at least 6 months past your program completion date).
- Attend the school whose name appears on the I-20.
- Be registered as a full-time student, that means at least 4 courses (12 credits) for undergraduates; 3 courses (9 credits) for graduate students. You cannot drop below this except under specific circumstances that must be authorized in SEVIS, in advance by an International Student Advisor.
- Keep your certificate of eligibility (I-20) valid at all times and apply for extensions of stay one month before the document expires.
- Complete necessary immigration transfer procedures when changing from one school to another in the U.S. (by consulting with the International Student Advisor at the new school before the transfer and at least two weeks after arriving at the new school).
- Do one of the following within 60 days of completion of the program of study for F-1 students:
- Leave the U.S.
- Transfer to a new school, get a new certificate of eligibility (I-20) for the new program and enroll
- Change to another immigration status (like J or H1b)
- Be sure that the International Student Advisor signs your I-20 before you travel outside the U.S.
- Maintain health insurance that meets specific requirements (repatriation).
- Keep your international file current (address).
- Always notify the Institute for International Studies within 10 days of a change of address or telephone number, we will update the information in SEVIS.
- Leave the country within 15 days after withdrawal from classes.
You must never
- WORK OFF CAMPUS unless you have the necessary authorization printed and signed on the back of your I-20 from the International Student Advisor (may do Curricular Practical Training after two semesters with authorization).
- WORK ON CAMPUS more than 20 hours per week while school is in session.
- Take a leave of absence, drop below a full-time student load, start an internship, or curricular practical training, without receiving approval on the I-20 form.
- Have anyone but an International Student Advisor (Designated School Official) sign the I-20.
Once you have completed or terminated your program, or have failed to maintain legal student status, you can no longer legally enter the U.S. with your I-20 form and an International Student Advisor can no longer sign those documents.
In addition, all international students are required to complete and submit U.S. tax forms to the federal government every year regardless of whether or not they had any U.S. source of income.