The Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status for Academic and Language Students is commonly referred to as the I-20 (or, the I-20A-B). A foreign student uses Form I-20 to obtain a student visa (F-1), and to enter the United States to begin a program of study, to document his or her F-1 immigration status, and to apply for certain F-1 immigration benefits.
An I-20 can only be issued by schools certified by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). A school obtains DHS certification by submitting Form I-17 through SEVIS. A school’s designation is valid for two years. Every two years, the school must apply for re-designation from DHS.
Each campus must have one Principal Designated School Official (PDSO) and other Designated School Officials who serve as resources for international students. The PDSO has the additional responsibility of serving as the main contact for SEVIS. The officials of Simpson College are as follows:
Todd Little, Director, Hawley Academic Resource Center – PDSO
Deb Tierney, Vice-President of Enrollment – DSO
Gwen Schroder, Director, Transfer Enrollment – DSO
Walter Lain, Asst. Dean for Multicultural & International Affairs - DSO
Jody Ragan, Registrar – DSO
Jay Wilkinson, International Program Coordinator -DSO
Since February 15, 2003, all I-20s must be issued through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, SEVIS.
Tips for U.S. Visas
An F-1 student may not accept off-campus employment at any time during the first year of study; however, the USCIS may grant permission to accept off-campus employment after one year. F-1 students may accept on-campus employment from the school without USCIS permission.
A spouse and unmarried, minor children may also be classified for a nonimmigrant visa to accompany or follow the student. Family members must meet all visa eligibility requirements, including evidence that they will have sufficient funds for their support, and that they will depart the U.S. when the student’s program ends. Spouses and children of students may not accept employment at any time.
Questions on how to obtain Forms I-20A-B should be made to Simpson College. Questions on visa application procedures at the American consular offices abroad should be addressed to that consular office by the applicant. General visa questions may be directed via e-mail to the State Department. Due to the volume of inquires, Visa Services cannot promise an immediate reply to your inquiry. However, to serve you better, please indicate the subject of your inquiry on the subject line of the e-mail. Inquiries on visa cases in progress overseas should contact the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate handling your case.
Returning Students – Visa Renewal
All applicants applying for visa renewals must submit:
- A passport valid for at least six months;
- An application Form DS-156, together with a Form DS-158. Both forms must be completed and signed. Some applicants will also need to complete and sign Form DS-157. Blank forms are available without charge at all U.S. consular offices and on the Visa Services Web site under Visa Applications Forms;
- A receipt for visa processing fee;
- A new I-20 or an I-20 that has been endorsed on the back by a school official within the past 12 months.
All applicants applying for visa renewals should be prepared to submit:
- A certified copy of your grades from the school in which you are enrolled;
- Financial documents from you or your sponsor, showing your ability to cover the cost of your schooling.
How long may I stay on my F-1 student visa?
When you enter the United States on a student visa, you will usually be admitted for the duration of your student status. That means you may stay as long as you are a full-time student, even if the F-1 visa in your passport expires while you are in America. For a student who has completed the course of studies shown on the I-20, and any authorized practical training, the student is allowed the following additional time in the U.S. before departing:
- F-1 student: An additional 60 days, to prepare for departure from the U.S. or to transfer to another school.
As an example regarding duration of status, if you have a visa that is valid for five years that will expire on January 1, 2001, and you are admitted in the U.S. for the duration of your studies (often abbreviated in your passport or on your I-94 card as “D/S”), you may stay in the U.S. as long as you are a full-time student. Even if January 1, 2001 passes and your visa expires while in America, you will still be in legal student status. However, if you depart the U.S. with an expired visa, you will need to obtain a new one before being able to return to America and resume your studies. A student visa cannot be renewed or re-issued in the United States; it must be done at an Embassy or Consulate abroad.
An F-1 student who is maintaining status may transfer from one DHS-approved school to another. An F-1 student who has not maintained F-1 status at the school he or she is authorized to attend is not eligible for transfer.
Steps Taken by the Student
At the Current School
1. The student must inform the school he or she is currently authorized to attend of the intention to transfer.
2. The student must determine which school he or she will attend because the “transfer out” form must indicate the name of the new school.
The DSO will select a date when the student is released to the other school. This is referred to as the “Release Date.” Generally, the Release Date is after the last day of the final semester the student will attend his or her current school.
At the New School
1. The student must report to his or her new school within 15 days of the program start date indicated on the pending I-20 issued by the new school.
2. The student must enroll in classes at the new school.
The DSO will print a new I-20, which will reflect the information on the transfer, and change purpose from “Transfer Pending” to “Continued Attendance.”
To maintain F-1 status, students must do the following:
- Attend the school they are authorized to attend.
- Pursue a full course of study when required.
- Make normal progress towards completing the course of study.
- Apply for extensions of program before the expiration date on the current I-20.
- Follow USCIS procedures for changing from one program or educational level to another.
- Follow procedures for transferring from one school to another.
- Limit on-campus employment to 20 hours per week while school is in session (full-time on-campus employment is permitted during vacation periods such as summer as long as the student was enrolled full-time in the term before and intends to be enrolled full-time the following term).
- Refrain from off-campus employment without authorization. Limit off-campus employment (with authorization through economic hardship or part-time practical training requirements) to 20 hours per week while school is in session.
- Report a change of address or name to the DSO within 10 days of the change. The DSO must report the change to SEVIS within 21 days.
- Within 60 days of completing the course of study and any authorized practical training, depart the United States, apply for a change of status, or transfer to another school.
- Maintain a valid passport. Although it is unclear what effect passport expiration has on immigration status, students are instructed to always maintain a valid passport.
Students authorized to withdraw from classes must depart the United States within 15 days. Students who have failed to maintain a full course of study without first obtaining the DSO’s approval, or who otherwise failed to maintain their status, are not allowed any additional time in order to depart the United States.
Full Course of Study Requirement
For an undergraduate student, at least 12 semester hours of instruction per academic term at Simpson College unless the student needs less than a full-course load to complete the program during the final term.
Students may be granted exceptions to the full-course-of-study requirement. Please visit with a DSO if this is something that needs to be discussed.
Failure to Maintain Status
Although it is the student’s responsibility to maintain his or her status, SEVIS reporting regulations require the DSO to report a student’s failure to maintain status within 21 days of the student falling out of status.
Reasons for terminating a student’s I-20 can include: unauthorized withdrawal, unauthorized employment, unauthorized drop below full course of study, unauthorized drop below full course time exceeded, expulsion, suspension, failure to enroll, costs exceed resources, extension denied, otherwise failing to maintain status, violation of change of status regulations, no show.
If a student in F-1 status has overstayed the authorized period on the I-20 or otherwise failed to maintain student status, he or she may be reinstated to student status by applying to a DHS district office.
To be eligible for reinstatement, the student must:
- not have engaged in unauthorized employment;
- not be in deportation proceedings;
- not have been out of status for more than five months (unless due to exceptional circumstances); and
- not have a record of willful violations.
Additionally, the student must establish that any violation was due to circumstances beyond the student’s control or as a result of an error on the part of the designated school official, or was a result of a reduced course load that could have been authorized in advance.
F-1 students are admitted to the United States for “duration of status” and must complete their academic program by the completion date on the form I-20 or apply for a program extension. Program extensions can be given to students who have continually maintained status and whose completion dates will be delayed due to valid academic or medical reasons. A student’s SEVIS record must be updated with a program extension prior to the expiration date on the current Form I-20; otherwise, the student will be considered out of status and will need to apply for reinstatement. The student may apply for an extension of program at any time, so long as it is prior to the completion date on the Form I-20.
Academic probation and suspension are not acceptable reasons for delay. Individuals who have not maintained status or who have delays due to academic probation or suspension must apply for reinstatement.
To request an extension of program, please visit with a designated school official.
Change of Level, Degree, or Major
When the student changes degree levels or majors but remains at the same school, the DSO uses the “notification” procedure to update SEVIS.
Students are required to inform the designated school official of the change in order to have SEVIS and the Form I-20 updated.
F-1 students who are maintaining status may engage in on-campus employment. Employment is limited to no more than 20 hours per week while school is in session. Students may work full-time during the annual vacation or when school is not in session as long as they have maintained status and they intend to register the following term. The 20-hour limit applies to all types of on-campus employment, including assistantships; in other words, the total hours per week must not exceed 20 hours.
For students making their initial entry, employment may begin no sooner than 30 days before the start of classes. Part-time Mexican and Canadian students who commute from their home countries are not permitted to work on campus.
Work that Qualifies as On-Campus Employment
Employment By the School
On-campus employment performed for the school, on the school’s premises, is clearly on-campus employment whether the employment is in the library, the computer labs, or the housing office. Work required by a scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship is also considered employment by the school.
Other Employment on the School’s Premises
Work performed on the school’s grounds for another employer is considered on-campus employment as long as the employer provides direct services to students. Employment in the campus bookstore or cafeteria, both of which provide direct services to students, is acceptable even if the bookstore or cafeteria is operated by a private, commercial firm. Work for a construction company erecting a campus building is not acceptable because the construction company does not provide direct student services.
Off-Campus Work That Qualifies as On-Campus Employment
The F-1 regulations permit employment off-campus to be considered as on-campus employment if:
1. the location is educationally affiliated with the school,
2. the educational affiliation is associated with the school’s established curriculum or is related to a graduate-level research project that the school has contracted to perform, and
3. the work is an integral or important part of the program of study.
On-Campus Employment Before Transferring to Another School
Upon completion of the program of study, an F-1 student may not work on campus unless he or she has received an employment authorization document (EAD) for optional practical training or has been issued a Form I-20 for a new program and intends to enroll for the next term in that program. In the case of transfer students, the student can only work on campus at the school having jurisdiction over the student’s SEVIS record. For example, if a student completes a bachelor’s degree at School A in May, the student can continue to work at School A until the “Release Date” of the transfer to School B if School A has completed the “Transfer Out” process through SEVIS. On or after the “Release Date,” the student may work at School B as long as School B has completed the “Transfer In” process through SEVIS and issued a “pending transfer” I-20.
Procedures for On-Campus Employment Authorization
Although no specific authorization is necessary, DSOs may choose to provide students with an on-campus work permission memo or authorization letter so that the student may apply for a social security number or to assist the student’s employer with I-9 documentation in cases where the employment is occurring at an off-site location.
Off-Campus Employment: Severe Economic Hardship
An F-1 student who has maintained F-1 status for one full academic year and is in good academic standing may apply to USCIS for off-campus employment based on unforeseen severe economic hardship. To qualify for this type of employment, the student must document the economic hardship and show that part-time employment opportunities on campus are insufficient to meet the student’s needs. Students are required to make a good faith effort in locating employment on campus before applying for off-campus employment based on economic hardship.
Economic hardship refers to financial problems caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control. Financial problems may be the result of a student losing a graduate assistantship, the death of a financial sponsor, inflation in the home country causing the devaluation of currency or the exchange rate, unusually high increases in tuition and/or living expenses, and so on. If the student’s financial problems are great, it may not be possible to solve them through part-time employment.
USCIS approves this kind of employment authorization by issuing an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Once authorized, off-campus employment is limited to 20 hours per week when school is in session. Full-time employment is allowed during the student’s annual vacation. The employment authorization is automatically terminated if the student fails to maintain status.
Procedures to Apply for Economic Necessity Work Authorization
To obtain authorization for off-campus employment due to economic hardship, the student must apply to the designated school official for certification, who makes a recommendation in SEVIS. The student then applies to USCIS for an EAD. Employment cannot begin until the EAD is obtained by the student.
Steps Taken by the Student
1. Provide documentation of the circumstances that have caused severe economic hardship and that show that the severe economic hardship is a result of unforeseen circumstances not caused by the student and beyond the student’s control.
2. Meet with the DSO to discuss the documentation and provide current passport, Form I-94, and Form I-20.
To Be Sent to the USCIS Service Center
The following documents should be submitted by the student or DSO to the USCIS Service Center having jurisdiction over the student’s place of residence.
U.S Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Nebraska Service Center
P.O. Box 87765
Lincoln, NE 68501-7765
- Completed I-765.
- A check or money order for $180 made payable to USCIS.
- A photocopy of the I-94 (front and back).
- A photocopy of the last employment authorization document (front and back) if available and applicable.
- Two color photos with a white background taken no earlier than 30 days before submission of the EAD application to USCIS. Photos should be unmounted, printed on thin paper, glossy, and not retouched. The applicant’s head should be bare unless, the applicant is wearing a headdress as required by the religious order to which he or she belongs. The photos should not be larger than 1-1/2 x 1-1/2 inches, with the distance from the top of the head to just below the chin being about 1-1/4 inches. Lightly print the applicant’s name and admission number, if known, on the back of each photo with a pencil.
- A photocopy of the identification page(s) from the passport.
- A photocopy of the I-20 showing the DSO’s recommendation.
- Supporting materials documenting the unforeseen nature of the economic hardship, including a list of the student’s assets, income, and expenses.
- Supporting materials documenting the unavailability/insufficiency of on-campus employment.
Curricular Practical Training
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) must be employment that is an integral part of an established curriculum. It is available to students in F-1 status who have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for at least one full academic year.
To be considered CPT, the work must not only be related to the major field of study but must also be an integral or important part of the established curriculum.
To apply for Curricular Practical Training, please visit with Todd Little, director of the Hawley Academic Resource Center.
Eligibility Requirements for Curricular Practical Training
The General eligibility requirements for curricular practical training are:
- The student must have been enrolled full-time for at least one full academic year.
- The employment must be an “integral part of an established curriculum.”
What Kind of Employment Can Serve as the Basis for CPT:
For employment to be considered an “integral part of an established curriculum, it must usually fall into one of two categories:
1. Required Part of Degree Program. If the academic program requires employment in the field of study to graduate, the student may participate in CPT as long as he or she meets the other requirements of lawful status. If the employment is required, CPT need not be credit-bearing.
2. Not Required Part of Degree Program. Credit-bearing training opportunities that are an integral part of a program of study may be used for CPT.
CPT may be part-time or full-time. Employment for 20 hours or less per week is considered part-time CPT; employment for more than 20 hours per week is considered full-time CPT.
Use of 12 months or more full-time CPT eliminates eligibility for OPT. Students should be aware that they will not be eligible for optional practical training if they accumulate an aggregate of 12 months or more of full-time CPT. Participation in part-time CPT does not affect eligibility for optional practical training.
Optional Practical Training
Students who have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for at least one academic year at Simpson College are eligible for optional practical training (OPT), which is defined generally as temporary employment directly related to the student’s field of study, for purposes of gaining practical experience.
Students are eligible for up to 12 months of OPT in the aggregate during a single level of education. OPT time that has not been used during the course of study must be used within 14 months after completion of studies. Students become eligible for another 12-month period of OPT after completing a program of study at a higher educational level.
A student may not begin OPT employment until CIS issues an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
When Can OPT Be Done?
A student may apply to engage in OPT for employment commensurate with their educational level, and directly related to their major area of study during the following periods:
- During the student’s annual vacation, as long a the student intends to register for the next semester (it is recommended that students have a job offer before applying);
- While school is in session, provided that practical training does not exceed 20 hours per week;
- After completion of course requirements except for thesis, project, or portfolio; and
- After completion of the course of study (students must apply for this type of practical training before the completion of studies).
Termination of Practical Training
Authorization to engage in practical training employment is automatically terminated when the student transfers to another school or begins study at another educational level.
Travel While Authorized for Employment
A student returning from a temporary trip abroad with an unexpired off-campus employment authorization on his or her I-20 ID may resume employment only if the student is readmitted to attend the same school which granted the employment authorization.
An F-1 student who has an unexpired EAD issued for post-completion practical training and who is otherwise admissible may return to the United States to resume employment after a period of temporary absence. The EAD must be used in combination with an I-20 ID endorsed for reentry by the DSO within the last six months.
Documents Needed to Apply
The following documents should be submitted by the student or DSO to the UCIS Service Center having jurisdiction over the student’s place of residence, before the student’s Program End Date is reached:
U.S Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Nebraska Service Center
P.O. Box 87765
Lincoln, NE 68501-7765
· A photocopy of the SEVIS I-20 recommending OPT.
· A check or money order for $180 made payable to USCIS.
· Completed I-765.
· A photocopy of the I-94 (front and back)
· A photocopy of the last employment authorization document (EAD) (front and back), if available and applicable.
· Two color photos with a white background taken no earlier than 30 days before submission of the EAD application to USCIS. Photos should be unmounted, printed on thin paper, glossy, and not retouched. The applicant’s head should be bare unless, the applicant is wearing a headdress as required by the religious order to which he or she belongs. The photos should not be larger than 1-1/2 x 1-1/2 inches, with the distance from the top of the head to just below the chin being about 1-1/4 inches. Lightly print the applicant’s name and admission number, if known, on the back of each photo with a pencil.
· If the applicant has not been previously issued an EAD, submit a photocopy of the identification pages from the passport or from another photo I
· Photocopies of all previous I-20s, front and back (including non-SEVIS and SEVIS I-20s).
Reporting Changes of Address
Students on OPT must continue to notify the school or DSO of any address or name change so the change be reported in SEVIS.
Travel: Reentry to the United States
Before nonimmigrant students leave the United States, they should check with Todd Little to ensure the documents needed for reentry are valid. Generally, to enter the United State, students must have a:
· Valid passport,
Valid U.S. visa,
· Valid Form I-20,
· Current proof of financial support, and
· EAD card, if on post-completion optional practical training.
Students may also wish to carry transcripts or proof of registration with them when they travel in case they are asked to provide verification of enrollment or full-time status.
Brief Travel to Canada, Mexico, or Adjacent Islands Other Than Cuba
Generally, an alien must present a valid, unexpired visa in the category for which application for admission is being made, each time he or she enters the United States. If an alien’s nonimmigrant visa expires while he or she is in the United States, or if an alien changes his or her nonimmigrant status in the United States, the next time they travel abroad they must obtain a new visa in the proper category in order to be readmitted to the United States.
An exception to this rule exists for F-1 students who travel for less than 30 days solely to Canada, Mexico, or “adjacent islands other than Cuba.” The visas of such aliens are considered to be “extended” to the date of re-entry, eliminating the need to obtain a new visa at a U.S. consulate before that particular reentry.
Canadians reentering the United States do not need a passport or a U.S. visa (Canadians without a passport will need a photo ID and a birth certificate), but they will need an endorsed I-20 and valid I-94 (for reentry). Landed immigrants of Canada will need a passport and a visa