Guidelines for Maintaining Lawful F-1 Student Status
F-1 student status is the most common status used by international students at D'Youville College. This section of the International Student Office website is about maintaining and reinstating F-1 student status. Included is information about work and travel as it pertains to maintaining legal status. Please review this information carefully and contact us with any questions you have.
Under United States immigration law, it is your personal responsibility to maintain lawful F-1 student status.
The International Student Office at D'Youville College is required to report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in SEVIS when an F-1 student does not fulfill the following requirements of status. In order to maintain lawful student status, please make sure you follow these guidelines:
- Remain a full time student and make progress towards your degree 12 credits undergraduate/12 credits combined BS+MS programs, 9 credits graduate (The exception is for winter and summer break. A student may take courses part time, full time, or not at all) *You must contact the ISO BEFORE you withdraw or stop attending classes.
- Reduced Course Load
- Only under very limited circumstances may a student reduce their course load.
- Students may reduce their course load below full time for 2 reasons: either academic or medical.
- Academic reasons can be initial difficulty with the English language or unfair American teaching methods. The course load can be reduced to 6 credit hours for only one term. Students must resume a full course load the following semester.
- A student can have a reduced course load or take no classes at all due to a medical reason. You must see the ISO before you decide to take a medical leave of absence (this also includes a maternity leave) The student must provide a letter from a licensed Medical Doctor BEFORE dropping classes.
- Students must notify the ISO before they return to avoid falling out of status
Attend the school you were authorized to attend. You must attend the school whose I-20 you used to enter the United States or the school your I-20 was transferred to.
- Only one distance course may be counted towards the full course of student requirement per term. If the minimum full time requirement is 12 credits, 9 must be in the classroom and one course may be distance.
- Keep your passport valid at all times.
- Have an accurate and valid I-20. Item #5 on your I-20 shows the expected date of completion. If the expiry date is approaching and you need additional time to complete your degree you must apply for an extension at the International Student Office BEFORE the expiry date.
- Do not work without proper employment authorization.
- Students are allowed to work on campus, 20 hours or less while school is in session.
- Off campus employment is very limited and requires authorization from the International Student Office and Homeland Security. Please see the ISO for further information.
- You have 10 days to report a change in address to the ISO. You may change your address at the Registrar's Office and the ISO will be notified. *For those students on clinical placements you must let the ISO know where you are doing your clinical placement and where you are living within 10 days of moving.
- If a student is planning on transferring from D'Youville to another school they must see the ISO before doing so.
- If a student has fallen out of status they are ineligible to transfer. You can either apply for reinstatement from DHS or depart and re-enter the U.S. with an initial I-20 for a new program at the new school.
- Upon completion of a degree program, a student may remain in the U.S. for up to 5 months maximum when transferring to a new degree program.
- You must depart the country within 60 days of your program completion date or OPT end date. *Please make sure to turn over your I-94 as you are exiting the country.
- You must obtain a change of education level to begin a new program of study, before you complete your current program.
- You must file a U.S. tax return every year, even if you did not receive any income.
Consequences of Failure to Maintain Status:
The PDSO (Primary Designated School Official) must update a student's record every semester with SEVIS. If a student fails to maintain status they lose the privileges of their student visa and become subject to deportations, denial of re-entry in the United States, the inability to change education levels, denial of OPT and possible denial of future visas.
Immigration regulations require you to file for a program extension when you are not able to complete your program of study by the date that appears on #5 of your current Form I-20.
To complete this requirement you must apply for a program extension and be issued a new Form I-20 BEFORE your current I-20 expires.
Failure to comply with this requirement will result in the termination of your F-1 student status. D'Youville is required to report this information in SEVIS.
How to Qualify
- Your current I-20 has not expired
- You have sufficient financial support for the remainder of your program
- A new International Student Financial Form will have to be submitted
- One of the following caused the delay in completing your program:
- Important Academic Reason: Needing more developmental English than expected, a change in major, a change in research topic, an unexpected research problem, etc.
- A Documented Medical Reason: You must attached medical evidence form a licensed medical doctor or psychologist on official stationery that states the nature of the illness and the period of time you were ill(if this is not on file in our office already)
A delay due to academic probation or suspension is not an acceptable reason for a program extension according to Immigration regulations.
How to Apply
- Complete the Request for Program Extension form.
- If your reason is academic, your academic advisor must certify the extension and document the reason
- If your reason is medical, you must attach the medical documentation
- Fill out the Financial Form and attach the supporting documentation
- Make an appointment with the International Student Office
How to Reinstate Your F-1 Student Status
What is "Reinstatement?"
Reinstatement is a procedure that allows you to explain the circumstances that caused you to violate the terms of your F-1 student status by filing an application with the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
USCIS recognizes that students experience problems while pursuing their education in the U.S. You must be able to convince Immigration either that your violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond your control, or that it relates to a reduction in course load that your international student advisor would have been able to authorize due to qualifying academic or medical reasons. Review our the guidelines for applying for a reinstatement of your F-1 student status.
What are the rules for getting reinstated?
- You may not have been in violation of your F-1 status for more than five months. If you have, you are considered to be ineligible for reinstatement unless you can prove that your failure to file a timely reinstatement application was the result of exceptional circumstances and that you have filed as promptly as possible considering them.
- You may not have a record of repeated or willful violations of F-1 status.
- You must be enrolled in school now
- You cannot have worked without authorization.
- You are not in removal proceedings from the U.S.
- You must complete an application and write a convincing explanation of what happened and why the violation was not your fault, or demonstrate that you would have qualified for an authorized reduced course load due to a qualifying academic or medical reason had you applied in time. Saying that you did not know that you were violating your status will not convince the Immigration officer. You are responsible for knowing the rules for maintaining your status and obeying them.
- Evidence is crucial to a successful reinstatement. If you can think of any kind of evidence such as a letter from your academic advisor, former designated school official, newspaper clippings about conditions at home, or an affidavit from someone who is familiar with the circumstances that caused the violation, it would be very helpful to your application.
- A new Form I-20 is required for your reinstatement application. If your I-20 was issued a year ago or if your violation of status had anything to do with finances, you will need to complete a new application for a Form I-20 and present new evidence of your financial ability to support the costs of studying and living in the U.S. for each year of study remaining in your program.
- If your violation of status occurred more than five months ago, you are required to pay the SEVIS Fee even if you paid it previously and provide evidence of its payment with your reinstatement application.
The Travel Option
Students sometimes prefer to travel outside the U.S. and reenter to return to F-1 status rather than file an application. There are serious "pros" and "cons" to travel as an option that must be carefully discussed with your international student advisor before making any travel plans.
How does a violation of status affect you?
- Your F-1 status has been terminated in Immigration's Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and you need to take action to regain lawful status. You may continue your full-time studies as usual while your application is being processed by Immigration.
- Your privileges and benefits as an F-1 student are terminated until you are reinstated including employment.
- It may take up to four months for Immigration to answer your application. You may continue your studies while you are waiting.
F-1 Student Status Reinstatement Application
How to Apply
1. Complete the application form:
- Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-539)
2. Attach the following documents to your application:
- Attach documents that prove your case.
- Cover Letter
- You are pleading with USCIS to permit you to continue your studies at D'Youville College. You must write your request with that in mind.
- It is up to you to convince the immigration officer who will review your application that you qualify for reinstatement.
- Your new I-20 Form from D'Youville College
- If we are preparing your I-20 Form for you now, you can sign it when you bring your Reinstatement Application into the office.
- Photocopies of all previous Forms I-20 you have issued by D'Youville College and former schools.
- Original Form I-94 Departure Record.
- Remove it from your passport carefully.
- A photocopy is not accepted.
- Photocopy your passport (biographical and picture page).
- Photocopy your US visa stamp.
- $300 Fee in the form of a money order.
- Make it payable to the Department of Homeland Security.
- Photocopy of your SEVIS Fee payment receipt
- if you paid it prior to violating your status, or were required to repay it because you violated your status more the five months before filing this application for reinstatement.
Information About Application Processing
You must send your application to USICS, certified mail, return receipt requested.
The USCIS Dallas Lockbox facility:
For any U.S. Postal ServicesUSCIS
P.O. Box 660166
Dallas, TX 75266
For Federal Express mail and courier deliveriesUSCIS
2501 S. State Highway 121 Business
Lewisville, TX 75067
USCIS may take about four months to review your application and reply to us. We will contact you as soon as we hear from them. You may continue your studies while the application is being processed but not work.
If you decide to travel before you receive an answer to your application, consult with your International Student Office first!
Please contact us if there is anything you don't understand, or that we can help you with.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Curricular practical training (CPT) is employment which is an integral part of the established curriculum of academic program and which will be counted towards completion of your degree. CPT can also be a non-required course (that you are enrolled for) that is related to your field of study, in which you receive credit for work experience. For complete instructions and an application, review:
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
OPT is off-campus employment authorization that lets F-1 students get work experience in their major field of study. The amount of work you are permitted is a maximum of 12 months of full-time employment for each higher educational level you pursue in the U.S. You can use it during or after your studies. You can work for any employer, anywhere in the country. For complete details, requirements and an application, download the OPT document:
- Optional Practical Training Instructions & Application (PDF)
- The fee for the OPT application is $410.
- Academic Advisor's Recommendation form
- Your academic advisor will complete this form to recommend your practical training employment.
- OPT Training Information for STEM Extension degrees (science, technology, engineering, math)
- Helpful STEM OPT Links:
Travel During Optional Practical Training
(After Completion of Studies)
While your OPT application is PENDING at the USCIS
- If you travel outside the U.S. and your request for OPT is still pending at the Service Center, you may re-enter the U.S. to search for employment. To avoid problems at the border, be sure to return to the U.S. before your I-20 expires.
- If you leave the U.S. and re-enter on a tourist visa, you will not be in F-1 student status or eligible for F-1 benefits. Therefore, if you re-enter the U.S. in B-2 status, your OPT application and EAD card will not be valid for work authorization.
After your OPT application has been APPROVED
- If your OPT has been approved and you depart the U.S. before you get a job, your OPT ends and you cannot re-enter the U.S.
- If your OPT has been approved and you have a job or a job offer, you may travel and re-enter the U.S. to continue working at the same job.
- Documents needed to re-enter the U.S.:
- A letter from your employer on official letterhead verifying that you are employed under OPT or a letter from an employer offering you a job.
- Your SEVIS I-20 for OPT with signature on page 3. The signature must not be more than six months old when you re-enter the U.S.
- Your valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD card)
- Your valid passport
- A valid F-1 visa stamp (except for re-entry from Canada, Mexico and contiguous territories after short trips of < 30 days). PLEASE NOTE: Citizens of Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria may not re-enter the U.S. with an expired F-1 visa. Also, individuals who have a U.S. visa application pending at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate will not be able to re-enter the U.S. Last, individuals whose U.S. visa application was denied will not be able to re-enter the U.S.
- During your OPT year, you need to have your I-20 signed every six months for travel outside the U.S.
- While on OPT, you are still considered to be in F-1 student status and can apply for an F-1 visa stamp. However, while on OPT, the risk of denial of your application may be higher than when you were a student. This is because the Consular Officer may think that your OPT is an avenue for you to immigrate to the U.S. You must prove non-immigrant intent to qualify for an F-1 visa. If the Consular official is not convinced of your intention to return home, your F-1 visa application may be denied.
- Documents needed to show at the U.S. Consulate for a new F-1 visa stamp while on OPT:
- An official letter offering employment and showing salary, location, job duties and beginning date. The letter should indicate that you will be working only during your OPT period and that you will stop working on your OPT ending date.
- Your valid passport
- Your SEVIS I-20 with unexpired DSO signature on page 3
- Financial documents
- Your EAD card
- You should also be prepared to discuss how this job experience will help you find a job in your home country.
F-1 Student Status and Travel to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean Islands
Here are the documents you'll need to re-enter the United States:
- Valid Passport (you may need to have at least 6 months validity remaining on your passport. Please check with the International Student Office)
- I-20 (Up to date signature on page 3)
- US F-1 student visa
Note: Under the revalidation of visa benefit, individuals on nonimmigrant visas may re-enter the US with an expired visa after a stay of less than 30 days in Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean Islands
There are exceptions:
- Individuals from Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria may not re-enter the U.S. with an expired visa.
- Individuals whose visa applications have been denied may also not re-enter the U.S.
Visiting Canadian Temporary Resident Visa
If you are interested in visiting Canada, please visit the Canada Citizenship and Immigration website for more information on the application process.
How to obtain and process your I-20: Part-Time Border Commuter Student Status
What is Part-Time Border Commuter Status?
In 2002, the Immigration and Naturalization Service announced new regulations regarding part time commuter students to serve the educational interests of students living in communities within commuter distance of the border. The interim rule allows Canadian students to study on a part time basis at schools located within 75 miles of the United States border.
To qualify for the classification described above, a student must:
- Be a national of Canada who maintains an actual residence in Canada.
- Be attending a school located within 75 miles of the border.
- Be matriculated (be accepted in a degree program) in a full course of study. A full course is defined as leading to attainment of a specific educational or professional objective, albeit on a part-time basis.
- Seek admission to the United States at a land border port of entry.
- Present Form I-20 endorsed to reflect the student is registered as a "border commuter student" in a full course of study on a part-time basis only to the end of the current semester or term.
Part Time Status Defined
Undergraduate: Less than 12 credit hours Combined Bachelor/Masters Program: Less than 12 hours Graduate: Less than 9 credit hours
You must visit the International Student Office every semester for a brand new initial I-20. Your first part-time I-20 will state in the remarks "initial part-time border commuter student." Your subsequent I-20's will state "continuing part-time border commuter student." As long as you maintain continuous enrollment you will not have to pay the $200 SEVIS fee again.
You will be required to turn over your I-94 after the completion of each semester. You will receive a new I-94 when you process the new I-20.
Please note: Part-time border commuter students may not live in the United States and they cannot work on campus. However, you are able to apply for CPT and Post Completion OPT.
How to obtain your part time I-20
- Be accepted into a program of study.
- Submit the deposit.
- Submit the International Student Financial forms with supporting documentation.
- Your I-20 will be available at your registration session/orientation session.
How to Process your I-20 at a U.S. Port of Entry
- Check over your I-20 and ensure that all information (name, birth date, country of birth and citizenship, course of study is correct. If there are any errors, please contact the ISO at (716) 829-8119 or (716) 829-8114.
- The SEVIS processing fee ($200US) must be paid BEFORE you go to the port of entry. You can fill out the I-901 form online and pay by credit card at www.fmjfee.com . We suggest that if possible to pay online by credit card. You will receive an immediate receipt that you can take with you to the port of entry. If you mail it in to the address on the front of the I-901 form, you will have to wait for them to mail a receipt back to you, which could take up to three weeks.
- Assemble your financial statements to prove that you have access to enough liquid assets to cover the total in item #8 on your I-20. Financial proof may include official bank statements (on bank letterhead), lines of credit, approved loans, or receipts from the college if you have already paid. Please also keep in mind that you must show proof that you have the capability to cover the entire length of the program. Please check the instructions on the International Student Financial Form.
- If you are sponsored by a parent, family member or employer you will need the notarized "Sponsor Affidavit" stating that they are willing to support your educational endeavor. The sponsor will need to show proof that they have access to enough money in liquid assets to cover the total in item #8c on your I-20 (See #3 above). They must also provide proof of capability to pay for the entire length of the program.
- To process your Federal Form I-20, you need to go to the Peace Bridge. Remember that you CANNOT process your I-20 more than 30 days before the start of class as listed in #5 on your I-20.
- When you reach the booth where the CBP officer asks where you are going, tell him or her that you are a D'Youville College student and you would like to process your SEVIS I-20. They will take your passport and your I-20. They will ask you to pull over to the right where another guard will be waiting.
- Once there, you must show your SEVIS I-20, photo identification, proof of citizenship, the $200 receipt from the I-901 form and your financial documents. They will stamp and return your I-20 with a small, white card (I-94). You will need $6 USD for the port of entry fee(I-94) THESE ARE VITAL DOCUMENTS – DO NOT LOSE THEM.
- After processing at the U.S. Port of Entry you will need to visit the International Student Office to have page 3 of your I-20 signed. Your I-20 isn't valid for re-entry until this is done.
- If you are attending school on a part-time basis your I-20 will be stamped "F-1", it will only be valid for one semester, and you will need to go through Step #6 EACH SEMESTER. Please remember that you will need to contact the ISO before the beginning of each semester. You CANNOT wait to pick up your I-20 after classes begin. Part time students will also be required to turn over their I-94 after the completion of each semester. You will receive a new I-94 card when you process your new I-20.
- Carry the SEVIS I-20 and your I-94 with you EVERY TIME YOU CROSS INTO THE U.S. As you pull up to the booth, present your I-20, I-94 and passport to the CBP officer. This includes times when you are not going to class, but just visiting. Tell them you are a student, but you are visiting, going shopping, etc.
- If you plan on working in the US after you complete your program (Optional Practical Training), you must see the ISO BEFORE YOUR GRADUATION DATE.
- After you have completed your program at D'Youville, on your absolute last day when crossing back into Canada, hand the Canadian Customs official your I-94 (small white card) and tell them you are done with school. Keep your I-20.