Immigration Rights, Rules and Responsibilities of International Students in F-1 Visa Classification
This information is for the use of international students in F-1 status at the University of New Hampshire . After reading this information, you should have a basic understanding of the important rights or benefits you have in relation to U.S. immigration regulations. You should also have an understanding of your responsibilities for maintaining your lawful immigration status as an international student in F-1 status. You will not, however, have an understanding of the actual procedures which must be followed in order to apply for certain benefits. Consultation with, and assistance from, the staff of the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) will be necessary in order for you to exercise many of your rights.
Students in F-1 status are 1) those who have been officially admitted to a degree program at UNH, either as an undergraduate or a graduate student and have received an official letter of admission from the University and will be enrolled in a full course of study leading to, or culminating in, the award of a US degree; or, 2) individuals engaged in full-time study in a non-degree prescribed course of study, such as an ESL program. In either case, the primary purpose of being in the US is to engage in full-time study and individuals will therefore be subject to all federal regulations governing the F-1 student classification.
Designated School Officials (DSOs)
Individuals who have been authorized by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to administer the F-1 program. At UNH, this refers to the OISS staff.
These documents are extremely important and will be needed as various forms of identification - both in the U.S. and if you travel outside the U.S. Replacement of forms can require a substantial fee, so take care not to lose your documents.
Passport: You must keep your passport valid at all times while you are in the United States (unless you are exempt from passport requirements). If your passport will expire while you are still in the US , you must contact the Embassy of your home country in order to make arrangements to have your passport extended. You will not be permitted to re-enter the United States with an expired passport. If you lose your passport, you should immediately take steps to have it replaced. OISS staff can provide you with the address and phone number of your home country embassy or consulate.
Visa: The F-1 visa stamp in your passport permits you to enter the United States for a specific purpose and within a specific period of time. The visa may either be for single, double, or multiple entries. If it is authorized for single entry only, you will need to apply for a new visa in order to reenter the U.S. If the visa is authorized for two entries, you may leave and reenter the U.S. one more time as long as your I-20 is valid and travel is within the time specified on the visa. (Immigration Inspectors will mark your visa with the notation "1 of 2" when you enter the first time.) If the visa is authorized for multiple entries, you may come and go as many times as you wish, provided that your I-20 remains valid and travel occurs within the dates specified on the visa.
Please look at your visa and note the date of expiration. If your visa expires while you are in the U.S. but your Form I-20 and Form I-94 are valid, your legal immigration status in the US remains valid. Your visa is used for entry or reentry to the U.S. only. It does not dictate the length of your authorized stay. That is determined by your I-20. If your visa has expired and you depart the United States , you will be required to obtain a new visa while outside the U.S. before attempting to reenter the United States . EXCEPTION : If you are traveling to Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands for a period of less than 30 days, you will be permitted to reenter on an expired visa, provided that it corresponds with your current status and that your I-94 and endorsed I-20 are valid. If however you applied for and were NOT granted a new U.S. visa, you will not be permitted to reenter the U.S. using the expired visa. If you change your immigration status within the US and then leave, you will be required to obtain a new visa in the new category before reentry to the U.S.
Once you are in the U.S. , your I-20 and I-94 card become the controlling legal documents that determine the validity of your immigration status in the United States .
Form I-20: This form was issued by the OISS for your use to obtain an F-1 student visa from a US Consulate or Embassy. You should read and clearly understand all the information printed on your I-20. You are required to keep the information on your I-20 accurate. If you lose your I-20 you should immediately request a new one from the OISS. You must carry Form I-20 with you if you travel outside the United States for any reason during your course of study. In addition, you must contact the OISS to have your Form I-20 signed PRIOR TO YOUR TRAVEL or you may be denied reentry to the U.S.
Expiration Date on Form I-20: The expiration date on your I-20 (Item #5) is the date that your program in the US is expected to end (unless you complete your course of study prior to this date - see remarks under "completion of study" below). You will have sixty (60) days from that date before you are required to leave the United States . You may use this 60-day period to prepare for your departure, or to travel in the United States . You are not permitted to engage in employment of any kind during this time period. You will not be permitted to reenter the United States if you travel outside its borders after the date listed on Form I-20, even if it falls within this 60-day period.
Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record): This form, also referred to as an I-94 card, is the small white card which was given to you upon arrival in the U.S. It indicates your visa category and contains an eleven-digit identifying number called the admission number , which is used to keep track of your arrival in and departure from the U.S. The I-94 card officially determines how long you can stay in the US and is one of your most important immigration documents. If there is a date written in the upper right-hand corner of your I-94, you must apply to extend your stay or leave the US within 60 days of that date. Extensions of stay must be filed in a timely manner in order to remain in the U.S. If there is no date on the I-94, but rather the notation "D/S" (duration of status), you are considered to be in status for the entire length of time you are enrolled full-time in an educational program, plus an additional 60 days to prepare for departure, as long as your I-20 is valid. "D/S" does not mean that you can stay in the US indefinitely. If you lose your I-94, you should immediately apply for a replacement document. Consult the OISS staff for procedures.
Limitations of D/S:
1. D/S expires if a student takes longer than expected to complete an academic level. The amount of time permitted for completing studies at a given academic level is determined by the date on the initial I-20 issued at the beginning of each academic program. You must pay close attention to the expected completion date noted on your I-20 and file for an extension of stay at least 60 days before your present stay expires. You must apply for an extension of stay from the OISS if you plan to remain at UNH beyond the date specified on the form I-20. As mentioned above, there is a 60-day period after the ending of your program during which you may stay in the US while you prepare to depart.
2. D/S expires if a student does not maintain a full-course of study (see definitions below, under "registration and course load"). Be sure to consult with OISS staff about any exceptions to avoid the serious consequences that may result from being out of status.
1. Registration & Attendance: You must register at and attend the school indicated on your I-20.
2. Course Load: You must register as a full-time student when school is in session. For undergraduate students, full-time is defined as a minimum of 12 credits. For graduate students the requirement is 9 credits (6 credits if on a full assistantship) or registration for Master's Thesis or Doctoral Research.
3. Reduction in Course Load: You may register for a lesser course load if a) you will complete your studies by the end of that school term and do not need a full course load in order to graduate; b) the OISS approves, in advance, a reduction in course load due to special circumstances such as illness, academic difficulties, etc.; c) you are engaged in a prescribed course of study in a non-degree program; or d) you are participating in authorized Curricular or Optional Practical Training.
- General: A maximum of 20 hours per week is permitted while school is in session. During annual vacation periods you may work up to 40 hours a week. (NOTE: Graduate students who hold full-time appointments as teaching or research assistants are not permitted to accept additional employment.)
- On-Campus Employment: Employment for the school you are attending is permitted, provided that you are maintaining your status.
- Off-Campus Employment: You can apply to the USCIS for off-campus employment authorization provided you can demonstrate an urgent financial need to work. Employment may not begin until authorization has been given. Consult with OISS staff for procedures.
- Curricular Practical Training: During your studies you can apply to the OISS for permission to engage in up to twelve (12) months of Curricular Practical Training . This is employment which is a required component of your academic program, or for which you will receive academic credit, and may occur anywhere in the US . Employment may not begin until written authorization has been given.
- Optional Practical Training: During, or upon completion of, your studies you may apply to the OISS and USCIS for permission to engage in up to twelve (12) months of Optional Practical Training , provided you have not engaged in 12 months or more of Curricular Practical Training. This is employment directly related to your major field of study and may occur anywhere in the US . Employment may not begin until authorization has been given. Consult with the OISS staff for application procedures.
You are only permitted to receive compensation until the expiration date listed on Form I-20. Do not begin employment or accept additional appointments without prior consultation with, and approval from, the OISS.
1. Within the U.S. : You have the right to travel freely within the United States provided you maintain your legal F-1 status and have your passport and immigration documents in your possession.
2. Outside the U.S. with return planned to the same school: You must consult the OISS in advance regarding travel authorization and the necessary documentation required to facilitate your reentry to the U.S.
3. Outside the U.S. with return planned to a different school: You must consult the OISS in advance regarding your proposed travel and change of schools. If the change is permissible, you must obtain a new and complete Form I-20 from your new school before you attempt to reenter the U.S.
You may be able to transfer from your present school to a different school if you qualify and follow certain procedures. You must consult the OISS staff for these procedures and notify them that you are planning to transfer. Your new school must issue you a new Form I-20 in order to complete the transfer.
Upon completion of studies you may have the right to a) continue study at the same school or a different school for a higher academic degree, certificate or program of academic work, b) apply for Optional Practical Training; or c) take up to 60 days to depart the U.S. If you complete your studies before the expiration date listed on your I-20 you will have 60 days to prepare for departure. If you choose to remain in the U.S. for more than 60 days following the end of your program (without entering a new program or Optional Practical Training), you will be in violation of your immigration status, could be subject to deportation, and/or may be denied entry to the U.S. in the future.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS IN F 1 STATUS
As a condition of enrollment, all international students are required to purchase the International Sickness and Injury Plan sponsored by UNH. For possible exceptions to this policy, contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
To view brochure:
- Report changes in your address to the OISS within 10 days of the change.
- If you change your major, your degree level, or source of funding, you must notify the OISS so we can issue you an accurate I-20.
You are required to file an income tax return each year, and pay any taxes due, regardless of your status or whether or not you were employed. Additional information is available from the OISS. OISS sponsors a Tax Workshop every spring, during which an expert explains the tax obligations faced by international students and scholars.
Consult with the OISS staff if you would like to arrange for your dependents (spouse and/or children) to join you here at UNH.
Failure to Comply with Responsibilities
New laws passed by Congress include severe penalties for visitors who violate their status. If you fail to comply with your immigration responsibilities, you may not be eligible for benefits associated with the F-1 visa status and, in some situations, may be subject to deportation and future exclusion from the U.S. Violations include working without authorization, falling below full-time enrollment, and failure to request a program extension prior to the expiration date on your Form I-20. Monitor your immigration documents carefully and do not hesitate to consult with the OISS on any matter relating to your immigration status.
Further information on the rights and responsibilities of international students in F-1 status, as well as counseling and assistance, is available from the Office of International Students and Scholars.
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