The following points are highlights of important information regarding your immigration status as a student while in the United States. It is essential that you follow all regulations and maintain your status while in the U.S. Contact the International Education Center at 478-445-4789 or come in person to the Bone House with any questions or problems. We are always here to serve you.
The typical full-time student has an I-20 document and an F-1 visa. The exchange student has a DS-2019 document and a J-1 visa. Be sure to keep all your documents in a safe place! You don't want to lose them.
Your entry visa is the stamp in your passport that permits you to enter the United States. The expiration date on the visa is important only if you want to use it to reenter the United States.
The I-94 record is created upon entry to the U.S. and documents your arrival/departure and indicates your legal status and the period of your authorized stay in the United States. Your authorized period of stay should be listed as "D/S" or "Duration of Status," meaning that you are authorized to remain in the U.S. as long as you are maintaining full-time student status as indicated below. To retrieve your I-94 record, go to https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov. Visitors to the U.S. who entered prior to May 2013 or who arrive via land entry were/are issued a paper I-94 card at the point of entry.
Your I-20 is your F-1 certificate of eligibility, which indicates your F-1 status, program of study, source of funding and period of authorized stay.
Your DS-2019 is your J-1 travel and legal status document, which indicates your J-1 status, your program of study, source of funding and period of authorized study. If applicable, it also notes your "home country residence requirement."
Maintaining Student Status
- You must maintain a valid passport, I-20 or DS-2019, and I-94.
- You must attend the school listed on the I-20 or DS-2019 that you used to enter the United States.
- You must be enrolled full-time both fall and spring semesters: 12 hours for undergraduates and 9 hours for graduates. [F-1 students may only consider one distance education or on-line class (or three credits per semester) towards their full course of study requirement.] If you have specific medical or academic problems that prevent you from being a full-time student, you must discuss with your academic adviser and receive approval from the International Center before dropping below this level.
- You may take a summer vacation period during the summer term as long as you continue your full time enrollment in the fall term.
- You must report any change of residence to the International Center within ten (10) days.
- F-1 students are limited to working twenty (20) hours a week on campus while school is in session. J-1 students need special authorization to work on campus.
- You may NOT work off-campus without special authorization.
- You must follow established procedures in advance for transferring schools, changing educational levels and studying longer than the date indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019.
- Following completion of studies or completion of practical training, F-1 students have 60 days to leave the country; J-1 students have 30 days. If a student receives prior approval from the International Center to withdraw from classes in cases of extraordinary circumstances, that student has 15 days to leave the U.S. If a student withdraws without authorization, the student has no grace period and must depart the U.S. immediately.
NOTE: The International Education Center will report your enrollment, address and other changes to the Department of Homeland Security on the regular schedule required by current U. S. Federal Law.
If you fail to comply with any one of the above requirements, you violate your immigration status and may be subject to arrest and deportation unless you apply for and are granted reinstatement to status.
- You must have your I-20 or DS-2019 signed for travel by the Designated School Official / Responsible Officer at least one week before you plan to leave the United States.
- You must have a valid passport, visa and I-20 or DS-2019 endorsed by the Designated School Official/ Responsible Officer to return to the United States.
- If you travel to Canada, Mexico and certain adjacent islands for 30 days or less, you might be permitted to re-enter with an expired visa under a benefit known as automatic visa revalidation . However, if you apply for a new visa in one of these contiguous territories and are denied, or are not yet given a decision, you will not be allowed to re-enter the U.S. under this automatic visa revalidation provision. Furthermore, students from specific countries that are on the U.S. Department of State list of countries that sponsor terrorism are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation. If you are eligible for this provision, you must present a valid passport, I-94 record, and I-20 or DS-2019 that has been recently endorsed by the school's DSO or RO upon re-entry into the U.S.
Caution: You may be required to obtain an entry visa to travel to another country. You should contact the embassy of the country you will be visiting well in advance to inquire about visa requirements and procedures.
- You must maintain status to be eligible for employment in the United Sates.
- F-1 students may work on campus without special authorization. J-1 students require special permission even to work on campus. Both F-1 and J-1 students require special authorization to work off campus.
- You are limited to 20 hours of work per week, including graduate assistantships, while classes are in session. You may work full-time (40 hours per week) when school is not in session.
Off-Campus Employment for F-1 Students
- You must have been enrolled as a full-time student for the previous two semesters (excluding summer) to be eligible.
- You must apply at the International Education Center. There are three types of off-campus employment authorization: Optional Practical Training (OPT), Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Employment due to Severe Economic Hardship. The International Center must authorize employment for CPT. For OPT and Economic Hardship, your application must be approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
- You may NOT begin employment until you receive authorization from the International Center for CPT or from USCIS for OPT and Economic Hardship.
- You are limited to working a TOTAL of 20 hours per week (including both on and off campus) while school is in session and may work full time (40 hours per week) when school is not in session.
Off-Campus Employment for J-1 Students
- You may apply for Academic Training, which is a work or an internship experience directly related to your field of study, while enrolled in classes or after your study ends. If after, your employment must begin within 30 days from your program completion date as listed on the DS-2019. If you are on a one-semester exchange, you are eligible for a maximum of 4 months of Academic Training. If you are on a two-semester exchange, you are eligible for a maximum of 9 months of Academic Training. If you complete a degree on the J program, you are eligible for a maximum of 18 months.
- You must receive authorization from your Program Sponsor (for those on direct GC exchanges, this would the the GC International Center) before you begin employment and before your DS-2019 ends.
All international students are required to file a tax return, regardless if you worked or not, and even if no taxes are due. You must file tax paperwork between January 1 and April 15 of each year for the previous calendar year that you were present in the US.
You may have to pay income tax. Your earnings (including some scholarships) are taxable unless a tax treaty exists between your country and the United States. Contact the Business & Finance Office (204 Parks Hall) for more information.
F-2 / J-2 Dependents
- An F-2 spouse may NOT engage in full-time study and can only engage in study that is avocational or recreational in nature. An F-2 child may only engage in full-time study if the study is in an elementary or secondary school.
- An F-2 spouse or child may NOT accept employment. A J-2 spouse or child may apply to the USCIS for work authorization.