International Center Immigration Status and Documents
The following provides general immigration information. If you have specific questions regarding your immigration status, please contact the International Office. PLEASE DO NOT rely on friends, professors or staff in your academic department for advice on immigration matters. While these people are well-intentioned, they usually do not know all of the regulations pertaining to your immigration status and situation. Following bad advice may jeopardize your legal status in the U.S. or may cause you to lose opportunities available to you.
PLEASE NOTE:. MANY U.S. Immigration regulations are changing. The information here is current, but it will change. Always check with the International Office before traveling out of the USA, transferring to another school, considering employment or completion of your studies. Also, consult the International Office website for the most current information.
Foreign students and scholars in the USA should be aware of the Immigration regulations applicable to their stay here and must keep all documents appropriately updated and valid. You should be familiar with the following documents:
PASSPORT: The passport is the legal document issued by your country of citizenship and must be kept valid at all times while in the USA The passport can usually be renewed through your Embassy or one of your Consulates in the United States. Some countries have agreements with the U.S. Government such that a passport is considered valid for six months beyond its actual expiration date. Bearers of passports from these countries may remain in the USA up to the expiration date shown in the passport as long as no other regulations would prevent such a stay.
VISA: The U.S. visa is the stamp or sticker on a page of your passport that allows you to present yourself to an Immigration Officer at a port of entry for consideration for entry to the USA. Students typically have either an F-1 or a J-1 visa. Scholars will usually have a J-1. The U.S. visa may expire while you are in the USA; you cannot and need not renew it while you are here. A new visa will be required if the original one expires, and you travel outside the USA and then wish to re-enter the country. You must present the form IAP-66 (for J-1), I-20 (for F-1) or original H visa petition approval (for H-1B), for the school you will be affiliated with, to obtain your visa.
TRAVEL DOCUMENTS IN LIEU OF PASSPORT: If you have been issued a Travel Document in lieu of a passport by the government of the country of which you are a resident, the information above, regarding passports, applies to Travel Documents.
I-94 ARRIVAL/DEPARTURE RECORD: The I-94 is the white card that you complete before passing U.S. border officials upon entrance to the USA Some people are being issued a computer-generated card instead. This is the document that authorizes you to be in the USA as a student or scholar for a specified period of time, in a specified program of studies or in a specific department, at a specified institute. Two dates appear on the I-94: the date of entrance into the USA and the date of expiration of your permission to stay. For people in F-1 or J-1 immigration status, the expiration date is D/S (duration of status) which implies the date of program completion. (A more detailed discussion of the expiration of your permission to stay may be found in the upcoming sections dealing specifically with F and J visa matters.) The I-94, like the passport, must be valid at all times. The I-94 should be kept in the passport. It will be surrendered to airline officials when you travel outside the continent and a new I-94 will be issued upon re-entry to the USA When traveling to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean Islands, the I-94 will usually not be surrendered but should be valid for 30 days beyond the date you will re-enter the USA
I-20 & DS-2019: The I-20 form (for F-1 immigration status) or DS-2019 form (for J-1 immigration status) is the document issued by Wabash College which you present to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad to obtain a visa and which you present to border officials in order to enter the USA each time you travel abroad and come back. These documents are important records of your stay in the USA Take care not to lose them and do not throw them away even if they have expired. If you are traveling outside the USA, you must have these documents signed prior to your trip.
Duration of Status/Permission to Stay
The INS grants duration of status to F-1 students by entering the notation "D/S" (duration of status) in the upper right corners of both the "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status" (INS Form I-20) and the "Departure Record" (INS form I-94). "Duration of status" is defined as:
The time during which you are pursuing a full course of study and making normal progress toward completing that course, plus the time you may be working in authorized "practical training" after you complete studies (if you qualify and are so authorized), plus sixty (60) days in which to depart the country.
For example, item 5 on the I-20 may indicate that you are to complete your studies by May 15, 2008. As long as you continue to pursue the program indicated on your I-20, you have permission to stay in the U.S. until July 15, 2008 (May 15 plus 60 days). The additional 60 days beyond the date the program ends are granted in order for F-1 participants to get their affairs in order and depart the U.S. YOU CANNOT WORK DURING THIS 60-DAY PERIOD unless you are authorized for Optional Practical Training.
If your program will not be completed by the expiration date as indicated on the I-20, you must apply for an extension of stay, PRIOR TO that date, as outlined below. If, however, you complete your program prior to the date indicated on your I-20, your permission to stay in the United States will end sixty days after you have completed the program, regardless of what the I-20 or I-94 might indicate, unless authorization for Optional Practical Training has been applied for and granted. ALSO, if you change degree objective or field of study you must obtain a new I-20 for the new program in order to have permission to stay in the U.S. to pursue that program.
Limitations on Duration of Status
The "completion of studies" date in item #5 of the most recent INS Form I-20 you were issued is the date by which the CIS expects you to complete requirements for your current program. If you are unable to complete your program of study by that date, consult with David Clapp at least thirty (30) days before reaching the I-20 completion date. If you are eligible for an extension of your time limit, the Director will assist you to comply with extension requirements.
NOTE: In order to maintain lawful F-1 status, you must:
- Keep your passport and I-20 valid at all times,
- Attend the school you are authorized to attend,
- Continue to pursue a full course of study,
- Obtain a new I-20 prior to moving from one degree or educational level to another (e.g. from Master's to Ph.D. or MBA to MSIS), before changing your major or field of study (e.g. from undeclared to Political Science) or before transferring from one school to another. Make sure that the transfer or notification procedure has been completed.
- Extend your permission to stay (as indicated on the I-20) before the I-20 expires,
- Limit all employment to 20 hours per week while school is in session,
- Report changes of address to BCIS within 10 days using Form AR-11,
- Obtain an endorsement for travel from the International Office prior to traveling outside the U.S. (if you intend to re-enter to attend Wabash), and
- Do not engage in employment without authorization.
Full-Course of Study
Foreign students in F-1 immigration status are required by immigration regulation to be full-time students. Usually students register full-time for Fall and Spring terms. An annual vacation, usually the summer, is allowed.
Full-time undergraduate status is defined as enrollment for a minimum of 3 course credits each term. Please note that academic requirements may be less than immigration requirements. If your Academic Advisor recommends that you register for less than full-time, you should determine if you qualify for an exception to the immigration regulations (see below). If you are eligible, you must obtain permission from the International Office to be registered for less than a full course of study in order to maintain legal F-1 status.
Exceptions to the full-time study regulation are made for students who are:
- Having difficulties with the English language or reading requirements or are unfamiliar with U.S. teaching methods (during the first term only);
- Placed in an improper course level;
- In the final term of their academic program and need less than the minimum full-time load to complete that program;
- Master's/Ph.D. degree students who have completed all course requirements and are working full-time on a thesis or dissertation;
- Encountering serious medical or academic problems.
You may apply for an extension of your program (your permission to stay in the U.S.) if:
- Your I-20 has not expired (item #5) and,
- You have continuously maintained lawful F-1 status and,
- The delay in completing program requirements has been caused by compelling academic reasons (such as changes in major field of study or research topics, or unexpected research problems, or compelling and documented medical reasons.)
Delays in completing program requirements that are caused by academic probation or suspension are NOT acceptable reasons for extension of a program of study.
If your completion of studies date has expired or if you do not meet the eligibility requirements to apply for program extension, you may need to apply for "reinstatement" to lawful F-1 status. In this case immediate consultation with David Clapp right away.
Application Deadline for Extension of a Study Program
You must apply for an extension within the thirty (30) day period before the completion date on your I-20. You should contact staff in the Office of International Studies at least thirty (30) days before your I-20 completion date so that you will have sufficient time to prepare your application. If your completion date has already passed, please contact the Office immediately.
If your visa has expired and you plan to travel outside the US of have changed your visa status while in the US, you will need to obtain a new visa at an American embassy or consulate abroad, either in your home country or in another country you are visiting, before you may re-enter the US. It is not possible to revalidate your visa while you are in the US. Until you travel outside the US, you do not need to and you cannot obtain a new visa. You should prepare yourself adequately for your appointment at the Consulate by taking with you any documents that indicate your current status and intent to leave the US at the end of your stay.
This does not mean that you should overwhelm the Consul (the person who interviews you at the Consulate) with unnecessary documentation; you should simply make clear your honest intent, recognizing the factors that the Consul views as evidence of that intent. During your interview, provide the interviewer only with those documents he or she requests; whatever supporting material you have you may show if the interviewer asks for it. The Consular Officer will review your application and the documentation you present in order to be certain that you are indeed a non-immigrant and that you do not intend to live in the United States permanently. The burden of proof is on you. The strongest of proof will include family ties, property, job and other financial commitments in your home country. It is rare that a Wabash student has any difficulty in obtaining a visa to re-enter the US. If you are well-prepared and truthful in your efforts, your visa will probably be issued. Please consult well in advance of departure with the International Office regarding documents to carry with you.