Documents Related to Immigration
Every foreign national who enters the U.S. legally is given an "immigration status" upon entry. This immigration status determines the types of activities the foreign national can engage in and the length of time he/she is eligible to remain in the United States.
All foreign nationals in the United States are issued "immigration documents" indicating the type of immigration status one holds. The information on these documents determines the nature of activities permitted under the terms of the particular immigration status.
Most foreign nationals who come to the U.S. must obtain a visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy overseas. There are both immigrant and non-immigrant visas. Immigrant visas are given to those foreign nationals who have been granted permission to reside and work permanently in the United States.
Non-immigrant visas are issued to foreign nationals who are coming to the U.S. for a specific reason and for a temporary period of time. There are currently more than 40 different types of non-immigrant visas. It is the duty of the U.S. Consular Officer to determine the most appropriate visa for the visit and to decide to approve or deny the visa application. The Consular Officer has sole discretion in this matter and is trained to detect individuals attempting to enter the U.S. fraudulently, or whom they believe intend to remain here on a permanent basis. Under federal law, an individual applying for a non-immigrant visa must show proof of adequate financial resources for the duration of the visit, provide evidence of close ties to the home country, and convince the Consular Officer that he/she has no intention of remaining in the U.S. permanently.
Visas are used to gain entry to the U.S. in a particular immigration status. They are issued for varying lengths of stay and may be for single or multiple entries. The visa is placed in the foreign passport and contains the following information: full name, date and place of birth, citizenship, visa type, number of entries, date of visa issuance, expiration date of the visa and the Consular post at which the visa was issued. Each visa contains a unique number found on the upper right hand corner of the document.
The length of a visa is based upon reciprocity between the U.S. and the home country of the foreign national. Thus, the visa may not be granted for the entire period of time foreign national plans to be in the U.S. A visa is an entry document only and while it may be used to enter the U.S. while it is valid, it does not indicate how long a foreign national is permitted to stay in the U.S. The length of stay is determined by an Immigration Officer or Inspector at the port of entry and the date is specified on the Form I-94, Record of Arrival and Departure. It is the I-94 card (not the visa) combined with other immigration documents which authorize the length of time a foreign national is permitted to remain in the U.S.
If the non-immigrant visa expires after the foreign national is lawfully admitted to the U.S. it is permissible for him/her to remain in the U.S. as long as the I-94 and other immigration documents remain valid. However, as soon as the foreign national departs the U.S., a new visa is required to re-enter.
The Form I-94, Arrival and Departure Record is issued to foreign visitors upon entry to the U.S. to track their dates of arrival and departure.
The I-94 card is extremely important as it is evidence of an individual's lawful admission to the U.S. in a specific immigration status. The I-94 card indicates the type of non-immigrant visa category under which the individual was admitted to the country, the date and place of admission, and the length of stay authorized. The card also contains an admission number printed on the top left-hand corner, the foreign visitor's name, date of birth, and country of citizenship. It is surrendered upon departure from the U.S. and used to verify that the foreign national has not remained beyond the authorized stay. The I-94 is used with other immigration-related documents to complete Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification Form) and to determine if the individual is eligible to receive payment while in the U.S.
NOTE: There are currently three different versions of the I-94 card, the most common of which is a small white card (about 4" by 5") stapled into the foreign passport at the time of arrival. The DHS is also testing a new type of I-94 card which is machine issued and looks very much like an airline boarding pass. In addition, some foreign nationals are given permission by the DHS to change from one "immigration status" to another after they arrive in the U.S. In these cases, the DHS issues Form I-797, Notice of Action, to the foreign national which contains a replacement I-94 card indicating the new immigration status. All forms of the I-94 card contain the same information.
Form I-20 is issued to a student who has been admitted to a degree-granting program at a college or university. At UNH, an I-20 is issued by the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) after the student has been formally admitted and has provided all the necessary financial documentation required by federal regulations. The I-20 contains information about the student and indicates the planned program of study, the school to which the student must report and is valid only for the dates listed on the document in section 5.
The student uses the I-20 to apply for an F-1 Student Visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in his/her home country. The F-1 visa permits the student to enter the U.S. in F-1 student status and proceed to the academic institution which issued the form.
On entry to the U.S., the student presents a valid foreign passport containing the F-1 visa and the I-20 to an Immigration Officer. The officer will examine the documents and may ask specific questions related to the course of study. If satisfied with the documentation presented and the response to the questions, the officer will admit the student to the U.S. in F-1 "immigration status", will stamp the I-20, the foreign passport, and issue Form I-94.
International Students in F-1 "immigration status" are issued I-94 cards which do not contain an actual date of departure. Instead, the I-94 is noted D/S which stands for "Duration of Status". This means that an F-1 student can remain in the U.S. as long as the I-20 is valid and the student is in compliance with the F-1 regulations.
The Exchange Visitor Program is administered by the U.S. Department of State (DOS). Its purpose is "to promote international educational and cultural exchange to develop mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries". Organizations and institutions apply to the DOS for designation as program sponsors. Only designated program sponsors can issue Form DS-2019 to Exchange Visitors.
Exchange visitors come in many varieties: they may be students, professors, researchers, specialists, short-term scholars, au pairs, camp counselors, international visitors, etc. UNH is a designated program sponsor and has permission to issue Form DS-2019 to those individuals who qualify to enter the U.S. as visiting professors, research scholars, specialists, students or short-term scholars.
The program sponsor issues Form DS-2019 to a qualified foreign national participating in its exchange visitor program. This form is taken by the foreign national to a U.S. Consulate or Embassy overseas to apply for a J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa. The Exchange Visitor presents his/her valid passport containing the J-1 visa and Form DS-2019 to a DHS Officer on arrival in the U.S. If the DHS Officer is satisfied with the documents presented, the exchange visitor will be issued Form I-94 and admitted to the U.S. in J-1 "immigration status".
In order to be in lawful "immigration status" an exchange visitor must be in possession of Form DS-2019 with valid dates (as specified on Block 3 of the form) and have an I-94 card with the notation D/S. The exchange visitor is only permitted to receive compensation from the program sponsor which issued Form DS-2019. For exceptions to this rule, please consult with OISS staff.
To determine if a particular exchange visitor (J-1 immigration status) is eligible to be employed or compensated by UNH, you must review Form DS-2019. The form contains personal information about the visitor, the category of exchange visitor (student, professor, research scholar, specialist or short-term scholar) the dates of validity, and the name of the program sponsor. If Form DS-2019 has been issued by UNH, the foreign national is eligible to be employed, or receive compensation from UNH. This form, combined with a foreign passport or other identity document with a photograph, and a valid I-94 card may be used to verify employment eligibility.
If Form DS-2019 has been issued by a Program Sponsor other than UNH, written permission from the sponsor is required for employment or compensation at UNH and you should contact the OISS immediately.
If Form DS-2019 indicates student status and the program sponsor is UNH, the visitor is a UNH student and is eligible for on-campus employment at no more than 20 hours per week during school sessions and 40 hours a week during vacation periods. However, all J-1 students require authorization from the OISS to be employed on campus. If the student's Form DS-2019 has been issued by a program sponsor other than UNH, contact the OISS for information.
Commonly referred to as an EAD Card, the Employment Authorization Document is issued by the USCIS to individuals who have been granted permission to work in the United States.
Foreign nationals in a number of different immigration statuses may be eligible to apply for employment authorization. For example: F-1 students eligible for Practical Training following completion of studies; dependents of J-1 scholars; individuals in the final stages of permanent residency; those who have been admitted to the U.S. as refugees or been granted asylum; those who have been granted "temporary protected status" in the U.S., and a variety of others.
The front of the EAD card contains the dates of employment authorized, a photograph and the individual's full name, date of birth and visa classification. Any limitations placed on the employment will be noted on the card. Foreign nationals who hold valid employment authorization cards are eligible to be employed by any employer for the dates indicated on the EAD.
Commonly called a "Green Card", the resident alien card is issued by the DHS to foreign nationals who have been granted permission to reside and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis. Green Card holders are also referred to as Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR or PR) and they have an immigrant visa as opposed to a non-immigrant visa. If an individual presents a Resident Alien Card as verification of employment eligibility, no other documentation is required. Permanent residents do not have I-94 cards.
Form I-797, Notice of Action is issued as a result of an application or a petition submitted to the USCIS. Foreign nationals might have Form I-797 as a result of a request to change from one non-immigrant classification to another, or because a petition has been filed on their behalf by an employer or other entity. If the application or petition is approved by USCIS, the Service issues Form I-797 to verify its approval of the action.
The top left-hand corner of Form I-797 is imprinted with a unique number which begins with three letters, followed by 10 digits. This form also contains a description of the action requested and the name of the person or organization which filed the petition, the visa classification approved and the validity dates. The lower half of the form contains a replacement I-94 card.
The beneficiary of an approved Form I-797 for an employment-related "immigration status" is only permitted to work or receive compensation from the sponsoring employer listed on Form I-797.
A UNH employee in possession of a valid I-797 for an employment-authorized immigration status such as a J-1, H-1B, TN or O-1 does not need an additional employment authorization document (such as an EAD card) and need only present Form I-797 and a valid picture identification for employment verification.
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