F-1 Student Visa Guidelines
Maintaining Legal F-1 Status
When an international student is admitted to the U.S. in F-1 student status, this implies that the purpose of being in the U.S. is to be a full-time student. As such, U.S. law requires that the international student comply with immigration regulations for the duration of his/her F-1 student status. Many other activities, including on and off-campus employment, are considered a privilege, and strict immigration regulations are in place that must be adhered to.
Usually international students are admitted to the U.S. for “Duration of Status,” noted as D/S on the I-20 form and I-94 card. This implies that the student may remain in the U.S. as long as legal F-1 student status is maintained, which can very well differ from the completion date on the I-20.
It is the international student's responsibility to inform himself/herself of immigration rules and regulations and be aware that these rules and regulations can change during his/her stay in the U.S. It is very important that the student understands his/her legal responsibilities because there are penalties for violating immigration laws that can be as severe as making the student ineligible to re-enter the U.S. for 10 years or even for life.
The Office of International Admissions is here to assist international students and help provide them with pertinent information to keep students in legal F-1 student status, but it is ultimately the student’s responsibility and obligation and not the College’s to maintain the student's legal F-1 status.
The following are a few basic things an international student can do to maintain his/her legal F-1 student status:
- Report your change of address within the U.S. to the Office of International Admissions within 10 days of your move, so your current address can be updated in the real-time web-based electronic information system called SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System).
- Make certain that you enroll at the institution that issued the I-20 you used to enter the U.S.
- You must be enrolled full-time for each module. At NECI this means that you must enroll full-time in each of the modules within the program. There are very few exceptions where under-enrollment is permitted, and must be authorized in advance by an Office of International Admissions advisor.
- If you change your major, you must inform the Office of International Admissions within 10 days of making the change so that a new I-20 can be issued reflecting this change. Not informing the Office of International Admissions can have unfortunate consequences if the major listed on your I-20 does not match the major listed on your transcripts.
- You must complete your academic program by the end date on your I-20. If you are unable to complete your program by that date due to documented medical reasons or valid academic reasons, you can apply for a program extension before your I-20 expires.
- On-campus employment is limited to a total of 20 hours per week when school is in session and must be authorized by the Office of International Admissions before you begin work. You may work on-campus full-time only during academic breaks.
- You must be authorized by the Office of International Admissions for all off-campus employment prior to beginning work and pending receipt of your U.S. social security card. All off-campus employment must be related to your field(s) of study.
- If you choose to transfer to another institution, you must request to have your SEVIS records transferred from your current institution to your new institution. A request to transfer your SEVIS records to another institution should only be done after you have been accepted by the new institution. Contact the Office of International Admissions to discuss your transfer needs.
- You must never let your passport expire. You should begin the passport renewal process at least six months prior to its expiration date. You can find contact information for embassies in Washington, D.C., at: www.embassy.org/embassies/.
- Before the end of your academic program or within 60 days of completing your program (as indicated) do one of the following:
- Apply to begin a new program within 60 days of completing your program and must attend the next available semester within 5 months of your program completion date.
- Change your status to another immigration category within 60 days of completing your program.
- Apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) prior to the completion of your program if you are eligible to do so.
- Leave the U.S. within 60 days of completing your program.
- If you will not complete an academic program, you must contact the Office of International Admissions to discuss your situation, and you will have 15 days to leave the U.S.
- Temporary Absence. If you are outside the U.S. for more than 5 months, you must obtain a new I-20 before you return to NECI, because a break in your F-1 status has occurred.
- Program extensions. If you need to remain in the U.S. longer than the period of time specified on your I-20, you must apply to Office of International Admissions for a program extension before the program end date on your I-20 form. Program extensions will be granted if the delay in completion of studies is due to compelling academic or medical reasons. A student who is unable to complete the program within the time listed on the I-20, and who is ineligible for extension, is considered “out of status.”
- For more information on this subject, please contact:
Office of International Admissions
7 School Street
Montpelier, VT 05602
Telephone: 877.223.NECI (6324)