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F-1 Student Guide

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F-1 Student Guide


Welcome to Edinboro University of Pennsylvania . . . To the United States!

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania (EUP) is authorized under federal law to enroll non-immigrant students. At Edinboro University we feel responsible for each student's performance, behavior, and compliance with the school and immigration rules and regulations. It is for this reason that we want to remind you of your responsibilities while studying under a U.S. Student Visa (F-1).

FIRST:

    • You must present your I-20 form stamped by the Customs officer and your valid passport, visa and I-94 card to the International Student Services Office, in Reeder Hall, so that a copy can be placed in your file.
  • In accordance with the current U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reporting requirements at 8 CFR 214.3(g)(1), you must finish the enrollment and registration process for that semester before the deadline.

  • In order to maintain your F-1 status you must attend classes on a regular basis and follow your course schedule. Undergraduate students must be enrolled in a minimum of twelve (12) credits and graduate students must be enrolled in a minimum of nine (9) credits.
  • You must also provide the school with your address while in the United States. Any change of address must be reported to the International Student Services Office within ten (10) days.
  • You should keep the original I-20 form with your passport. This is an official record of your period of study in the United States.
  • Your passport must be kept VALID at all times.

It is your responsibility to comply with all immigration regulations which apply to F-1 students, including extension of study programs. If you fail to follow these procedures, you may not be eligible to continue (or to apply for) benefits provided to F-1 students, such as any type of employment (including assistantships), school transfer, and practical training, and you may be given a notice to depart the United States, with the possibility that you could be barred from returning to the U.S. for 3-10 years.


GENERAL INFORMATION FOR F-1 STUDENTS

Students who are studying in the United States as a non-immigrant need special services because of this distinctive status. These are different than needs for services that they have in common with all other students.

An F-1 is a non-immigrant visa for international students to enter the U.S. pursuing academic studies. Most of the international students at Edinboro University entered the U.S. as an F-1 student. To be eligible for an F-1 visa, you must demonstrate that you have been admitted to a post-secondary institution as a full-time student, you have sufficient funding for your academic studies, a permanent residence of your home country and do not intend to abandon it. Here are some of the general keywords of immigration laws:

  • Immigrant- A foreign national who intends to reside permanently in the United States.

  • Non-immigrant - A foreign national who intends to remain only temporarily in the United States and to return to an un-abandoned foreign residence abroad.
  • Green Card - Form I-551 stamp or card which evidences an individual's permanent residence in the United States.
  • Visa - Form placed in a passport by a U.S. Consulate abroad which allows the visa holder to board passage to the United States and to present him or herself for inspection by an USCIS officer at the port of entry in the U.S.
  • Form I-94 - Arrival/Departure Card - Document issued by the immigration officer at the port of entry authorizing an individual to enter the United States, stating the visa category which the person is authorized to hold, and stating the date by which the individual must depart the United States.
  • Employment Authorization Card(EAD) - Provides an individual with authorization to work for any employer in the United States.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) - The government agency which determines an individual's eligibility for visas and is charged with enforcing immigration law and policy. USCIS process all immigrant and non-immigrant benefits provided to visitors in the United States. Website: www.uscis.gov
  • Department of Labor (DOL) - The government agency designed to protect U.S. workers (U.S. citizens and permanent residents) and encourage the employment of U.S. workers.
  • Department of State (DOS) - The government agency which operates U.S. embassies and consulate abroad, and is charged with issuing visas to foreign nationals wishing to travel to the United States.
  • Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) - A government computerized system that maintains and manages data about foreign students and exchange visitors during their stay in the United States. Website www.ice.gov/graphics/sevis.index.htm

General F-1 Student Visa related terms:

    • I-20 Endorsement - You need to have a valid signature from designated International Student Services Office staff on your I-20 in order to re-enter the U.S. The signature is valid for 12 months. However, a signature each semester is recommended.
  • F-1 Program Extension - The "completion of studies" date, in item #5 on the I-20 form from Edinboro University is the date the USCIS expect you to complete your studies. If you are unable to complete your course of study by that date, you must apply for a program extensions sufficiently in advance of the I-20 completion date. It is your responsibility to request an extension, within the established time period, at the International Student Services Office.

  • Designated School Official (DSO) has the following roles in the F-1 process:
    • The DSO is a regularly employed member of the school administration who is designated by the school to represent and speak for the school in F-1 student matters.
    • The DSO ensures institutional and individual compliance with the law, by learning and interpreting and applying laws and government policies pertaining to F-1 students.
    • On behalf of the school the DSO issues and signs Forms I-20, updates SEVIS, and assists in other immigration matters dealing with F-1 students. Only the DSO may sign Form I-20 and create and update records in SEVIS; the DSO may not delegate this responsibility to any other person.
    • The DSO ensures that the institution keeps records that are required to be kept, and that the instutition complies with its reporting duties under SEVIS.
    • The DSO approves or recommends benefits to F-1 studetns and their families, and educates students and the school about their rights and obligations under F regulations.
    • Each designated school or campus must appoint one Principal DSO(PDSO), who, in addition to the above duties, functions as the principal contact between government and the school. A school or campus may also appoint up to nine (9) additional DSOs.
  • Transfer of Schools or Change of Degree Program - All students transferring from one school to another or advancing from one degree level to another must complete the transfer procedure at the International Student Services Office within 15 days after classes start. The International Student Services Office is required to notify the USCIS. The transfer procedure may also be affected by leaving and re-entering the U.S. using the new school's I-20.
  • Employment - Employment opportunities for foreign student in the U.S. are restricted by law. In general there are two types of employment: on-campus and off-campus employment.
      • On-campus Employment - Enrolled F-1 students may work on the campus without obtaining permission from the USCIS; however, permission is required from the International Student Services Office. You are permitted to work 20 hours per week during academic year and 40 hours per week during summer and winter breaks (the number of hours can be further limited by the University).

  • Off-campus Employment - Off-campus "Employment" is any type of work or services performed in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, food or any other benefit for an employer not related to the University (example: McDonalds). A work permit is required before any off-campus job is allowed. See the staff in the International Student Services Office for advice and assistance.

It is your responsibility to comply with all immigration regulations which apply to F-1 students. If you fail to comply with your responsibilities, you may not be eligible for benefits granted to F-1 students or you may lose your valid student visa.

HOW TO MAINTAIN LAWFUL F-1 STUDENT STATUS

Under United States immigration law, it is your personal responsibility to maintain lawful F-1 student status. You should begin by reading the "Instructions to Students" on page 2 of your I-20. By following those instructions, as well as the guidelines listed below, you should be able to maintain lawful F-1 student status with little difficulty.

You must maintain lawful F-1 student status if you wish to enjoy the benefits associated with it, such as on-campus employment, practical training, and the ability to re-enter the United States when you travel. If you have any questions, please come to the International Student Services Office. We will be happy to answer your questions and discuss your concerns.

Guidelines for Maintaining F-1 Student Status

  • Report to the DSO to have your SEVIS record registered in SEVIS in a timely fashion; no later than 30 days after the Program start date (new students in Initial SEVIS status); and each semester thereafter, no later than 30 days after each session start date (continuing students).
  • For the first entry for INITIAL school attendance, the school listed on the visa and on the I-20 must be the same, and that is the school the student must intend to attend.
  • Pursue a "full course of study" at the school listed on the currently valid Form I-20 during every academic session or semester except during official school breaks, or unless approved under a specific exception, in advance, by the DSO.
  • Make normal progress towards completing the course of study, by completing your studies by the program completion date on the Form I-20.
  • Keep Form I-20 valid by following proper procedures for extension of stay.
  • Keep Form I-20 valid by following proer procedure for change of educational levels or programs of study (major).
  • Keep Form I-20 valid by following proper procedures for transfer of schools.
  • Abide by the F-1 grace period rules.
  • Report a change of address to the DSO within 10 days of the change, so that SEVIS can be updated.
  • Abide by rules requiring disclosures of information and abide by all state and federal laws.
  • Do not work, either on or off-campus, unless specifically authorized under the regulations.

If you follow the guidelines listed below, you should be able to maintain F-1 student status.

    1. Carry a VALID passport always
      Your passport must be valid for at least six (6) months into the future. To renew your passport while in the U.S., refer to the instructions found on your Embassy's website in New York or Washington, DC.
  • Carry a copy of your vital documents when you travel
    When traveling outside Pennsylvania, you should have your original I-94 card, I-20, and passport. Please make sure that you also have a copy of these vital documents in a secure place.

  • Report a Change of Address
    Whenever you change your address (local or home country), you must provide the International Student Services Office with the new address within ten (10) days of the change. You must also update S.C.O.T.S.

  • Maintain full-time enrollment
    As an F-1 visa student, you are expected to maintain full-time enrollment and make normal progress toward your degree. Note that the definition of "full-time" may differ from school to school and that immigration regulations may require a more restricted definition of "full-time" than that followed by your school. As a result, you should refer to the guide below and consult with the International Student Services Office to determine whether or not you are a "full-time" student.

    The rate of normal progress is the rate at which the average full-time student in your school or department advances toward the degree or certificate objective. Working to finish an "incomplete" course or project does not fall within the definition of making "normal progress." If you find yourself in this situation, come to the International Student Services Office to discuss your options.

    Graduate Program
    Undergraduate Program
    Full-time Course Load
    9 Credits/semester
    12 Credits/semester

    Edinboro University's Attendance policyrequires that students attend at least 80% of all classes in each semester throughout the whole academic year.

      1. Students are expected to attend each class meeting in its entirety. Faculty members shall maintain a record of classroom attendance. Each student is responsible for verifying his or her attendance when arriving late to class and/or justifying early departure.

      1. Class absences are excused for medical reasons, university activities approved by the appropriate vice president or designee, and/or for personal reasons. University activities appropriate to be considered as unexcused absence include but are not limited to: scheduled athletic events, cultural events, academic competitions, etc., in which the student is a participant. Other appropriate situations included: military duties, auto accidents, death in immediate family, medical emergencies. Verification of such absences may be required by the instructor, and the student is responsible for make-up work as required by the instructor.

      1. A student, who has been recognized by an individual faculty member as potentially benefiting from learning experiences which complement regular classroom attendance, may contract with their instructor for a mutually agreeable alternative to regular classroom attendance.

    1. Faculty members are encouraged to consider class attendance in their grading. A student shall have the privilege of unexcused absences equal to the number of classes held in a week, or to one absence per credit hour, whichever is less.

  • Authorized/Annual Vacation
    F-1 regulations recognize that traditional school years include a session (usually summer; May-August), during which students are considered by the school to be on break, and not required to be registered for classes. The regulations see this as an annual vacation, and considered the student to be maintaining status even though he or she is not actually registered for classes. You must be registered for classes during the traditional school year (Fall and Spring semesters). Summer sessions cannot substitute for a semester.

  • Authorized employment - ASK BEFORE YOU START!
    The University strives to employ students to assist with the financing of their education. A comprehensive student employment program has been designed to promote the students' financial independency representing structured pathways from a school environment to the work world. Students are engaged in meaningful work activities that are tied to their academic endeavors in most of the work opportunities.

    In addition to financial reasons, student employment is a wonderful bridge for:

    1. Career exploration
    2. Professional references
    3. Academic enrichment
    4. Social interaction
    5. Time management

    TYPE OF EMPLOYMENT

    Institutional Employment- is on-campus employment funded with institutional funds. This type of employment is not related to a student's financial need.

    All students must submit a bi-weekly time card and are paid on a bi-weekly basis. The pay rate is $7.15 per hour. Students may work up to 15 hours per week during periods of enrollment. The hiring department will determine the number of scheduled hours based on the departments needs, funds available and the student's schedule.

    ONCE EMPLOYMENT IS OBTAINED. You must go to the Payroll Office (second floor, Reeder Hall) to complete a W-4 form (for income tax withholding). The student must:

    • Provide the name of the county where you live.
    • Provide the name of the township or borough where you live.
    • Provide original social security card or birth certificate.
    • Provide student ID or driver's license.
    • Provide documentation that EMST has been paid for the current year, if applicable.
    • Provide banking account and routing numbers, if interested in direct deposit.
    • Provide your social security card per requirement of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
    • NOTE: International student must bring their visa/passport.
    • International student must come to the International Student Services Office and complete the Statement of Citizenship and Taxation form, which will be forwarded to the Payroll Office for their records.

  • Obtain an Extension of Stay as needed
    As an F-1 student, you are admitted into the United States for duration of Status or "D/S" (as indicated on your I-94 card). This means that you are granted permission to stay for the period of time reasonably required to pursue a full course of study in an educational program, plus any periods of practical training for which you have received authorization, plus a grace period of 60 days in which to depart from the U.S. or apply for a change of status if you complete your program of study.

    If you require more time to complete your program than that which is authorized on your Edinboro University I-20 (see item 5 ". . .and complete studies no later than {date}."), you must request a program extension through the International Student Services Office. An extension request must be presented at least 30 days before the completion date note on your I-20. You will need to establish that there are valid academic reasons for going beyond the date noted, so meet with your academic advisor to discuss your academic plan. Ask your advisor to inform the International Student Services Office, in writing, of the results of your meeting and your expected completion date. This can be accomplished with an email to Mrs. Linda Kightlinger (lkightlinger@edinboro.edu).

  • F-1 Grace Periods
    The December 2002 regulations create three periods that are technically outside the narrow definitions of "duration of status," but are still included in the paragraph where that definition is found. The three periods are:
      1. An F-1 student may be admitted up to 30 days before the program start date listed on Form I-20.

      1. An F-1 student may remain in the United States for up to 60 days beyond either the completion date on Form I-20, or the completion of the program of study, if earlier than the date on Form I-20, to prepare to depart the United States or to transfer schools

    1. An F-1 student who has been granted an authorized withdrawal by a DSO may remain in the United States for up to 15 days following the withdrawal noted in SEVIS, to prepare to depart the United States

    An F-1 student who withdrawals or terminates their studies at Edinboro University without prior approval by the DSO has no grace period. You must be prepared to depart the United States immediately.

    The law prevents a person who was unlawfully present for more than 180 days but less than one year from reentering the United States for three (3) years. If a person has been unlawfully present for one year or more, he/she is barred from reentry for ten (10) years.

  • Obtain Reinstatement for F-1 Status, if necessary
    When you are admitted to the United States in F-1 status, you are expected to comply with immigration regulations. If you fail to comply with these regulations, you will be considered "out of status" and will need to apply to the USCIS for "reinstatement." Only if the USCIS approves your reinstatement can you regain certain benefits attached to F-1 status, such as the ability to work on-campus, to engage in practical training, or to receive certification for re-entry into the U.S. after travel abroad.

    When is reinstatement necessary?

    The following are considered violations of F-1 status that require reinstatement.

    • Failure to attend the school whose I-20 you used to enter the United States,
    • Failure to maintain full-time registration (see Maintaining F-1 Status for more information.),
    • Failure to apply for a Program Extension before the completion date on your I-20, if you need more time to complete your current program,
    • Failure to obtain a new I-20 if you change your education program or degree level,
    • Failure to obtain a new I-20 and notify Edinboro University within 15 days of the report date on the Edinboro University I-20 when you transfer from another school.

    Who is eligible to be reinstated?

    Reinstatement is possible only if you

    • Are pursuing or intend to pursue a full-time course of study,
    • Can document sufficient financial resources to pursue a full-time course of study,
    • Can establish that the violation of F-1 status resulted from circumstances beyond your control,
    • Are not deportable from the United States on any other grounds,
    • Have not been out of status for more than five (5) months.

    Note that certain kinds of violations cannot be remedied through reinstatement; instead, they require that you depart the United States. Among these violations is working in the U.S. without appropriate, and prior, authorization from the International Student Services Office or the USCIS. Unauthorized employment is considered a deportable offense that cannot be resolved through reinstatement.

    Procedure:

    In order to apply for reinstatement, you must first qualify for an I-20 issued specifically for this purpose. You should speak with the International Student Services Office to determine whether you are eligible for reinstatement. If you are, the International Student Services Office will issue a new I-20 for reinstatement to submit your application to the USCIS. Make sure that any accompanying dependents are included in your request, since any status violation committed by you also affects any dependent family member.

    Please note that the reinstatement application is made directly to the USCIS. The International Student Services Office does not have a role in endorsing or approving your application; onlythe USCIS can reinstate you to F-1 status. You must work with the International Student Services Office through this process. You cannot complete this application otherwise.

    Your reinstatement application should include the following:

    • Your written request to the USCIS for reinstatement, explaining the circumstances for being "out of status",
    • An I-20 for reinstatement, with financial documentation covering the tuition, fees, and living expenses for your program of study. Sign and date this I-20.
    • A complete USCIS Form I-539
    • A money order made payable to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the amount of $300.00
    • Photocopy of your passport identification page. Do not send your passport!
    • Photocopies of all previous I-20(s),
    • Your original I-94 card showing that you are admitted in F-1 statue for "duration of study."

    You will be provided with a photocopy of all your application materials for your own records before sending it to the USCIS.

    If your reinstatement is approved, the USCIS adjudicator will endorse your I-20 to indicate that you have been reinstated and return it. If your application is denied, you will be notified and required to leave the United States.

    Special Considerations

    Processing times for reinstatement applications may vary; it may take as long as six (6) months. Although you may continue to study, you are not eligible for any privileges associated with F-1 status, such as employment on-campus or practical training, while your application is pending.

    Travel-Alternative to Reinstatement-Leaving and Re-entering the United States

    An alternative to reinstatement requires that you depart the United States and return on a new I-20 marked for "initial attendance." However, if you choose this alternative, you forfeit any time accrued toward practical training eligibility. You must again, wait nine (9) months from the date you re-enter on the new I-20 in order to re-establish your eligibility for practical training. Seek the guidance of the International Student Services Office for more information regarding the risks associated with this alternative before you make travel plans.

    If You Need a New Visa in Your Passport

    It is very important that if you are planning on traveling out of the United States AND need a new visa in your passport that you speak to someone in the International Student Services Office prior to traveling.

    GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT TRAVEL

    Department of Homeland Security Travel Guidance: International Student Guidance.F-1 students who leave the United States must have the following documents with them to ensure their re-entry:

      • Valid passport

      • Valid U.S. visa

      • Valid Form I-20 endorsed for re-entry by a DSO on page 3

    F-2 who are not accompanied by the F-1 student must have:

      • Valid passport

      • Valid U.S. visa

      • Valid separate Form I-20 endorse for reentry by a DSO on page 3

    If dependents have never been indicated on the I-20, then you must first see an advisor at the International Student Services Office.

    I-20 Endorsement

    You need to have a valid signature on your I-20 page 3 by a DSO at the International Student Services Office. The signature is valid for one academic year, but we recommend a signature each semester. (NOTE: during F-1 post-completion practical training, the I-20 must have been signed within the last six months for re-entry)

    YOUR VISA: Visa classification as determined by the United States Consulate after reviewing Form I-20.

    EXPIRATION DATE: Date after which visa is not valid. Renewal is required only for re-entry to the United States after this date; students and their dependents may remain in the U.S. with an expired visa.

    NUMBER OF ENTRIES PERMITTED: Indicates the number of allowed entries into the U.S. Multiple (M) or unlimited applications permit entry into the U.S. as long as the visa is valid and the student has a valid, endorsed Form I-20 to present at the time of entry.

    NAME OF SCHOOL: Name of school for which visa was issued. (If you are in F-1 status and transfer to another school, the name of the school does not need to be changed at a U.S. Consulate before returning to the U.S., as long as the visa is still valid.)

    RENEWAL OF U.S. VISA: Student visas cannot be renewed within the United States. (Do not confuse renewal of your visa with a request for extending your authorized stay in the U.S.; visit the International Student Services Office if you will not complete your studies by the ending date in item 5 on your I-20.) Students and their dependents who need to renew their visas in order to re-enter the U.S. must apply in person to a U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country. These offices are only located outside of the United States and they hold regular office hours. We suggest you visit the appropriate U.S. embassy/consulate website for instructions. They are closed evenings, weekends, and holidays.

    It is very important that if you are planning on traveling out of the U.S. AND need a new visa in your passport that you speak to someone in the International Student Services Office prior to traveling.

    PRACTICAL TRAINING

    An F-1 student may wish to engage in temporary employment to gain practical experience in his or her field of study. To obtain permission for this kind of employment an F-1 student can seek authorization for practical training.

    Definition of Optional Practical Training

    Optional Practical Training is defined in the regulations as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study." [8 C.F.R.214.2(f)(10)(ii)]. Optional Practical Training can be authorized at the following times:

      • During the student's annual vacation and at other times when school is not in session if the students is currently enrolled and eligible, and intends, to register for the next term or session;

      • While school is in session provided that it does not exceed 20 hours per week while school is in session;

      • After completion of all course requirements for the degree, excluding thesis or equivalent, if the student is in a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree program; or

    • After completion of the course of study.

    Optional Practical Training can be authorized for a maximum aggregate period of 12 months per educational level. A student becomes eligible for another 12 months of practical training when he or she changes to a higher educational level.

    General eligibility requirements for Optional Practical Training

      • Enrollment for at least one full academic year

    • Employment must be in the student's area of study

    OPT before completion of the course of study; specific requirements

      • If the student still has coursework remaining to complete his or her educational objective.

        A student who still has coursework remaining in his or her degree program is limited to 20 hours per week of Optional Practical Training while school is in session.


    • If the student has completed all course requirements for the degree (excluding thesis or equivalent)

      Remember, however, that there are only 12 total months available, and that training done before a degree is completed will count against the 12-month total and reduce time available after the degree is awarded.

    OPT after completion of the course of study; specific requirements

      • Optional Practical Training after completion of the course of study will only be granted for full time use.

  • You must apply for post-completion OPT before the completion date of your course of study.
  • Your application must be filed with the USCIS Service Center before your program end date (item #5) on your I-20.
  • To apply for and receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) for OPT from the USCIS, you need to seek the assistance of the International Student Services Office.
  • While you are on OPT you are still an F-1 student and must continue to report changes of address within 10 days. In addition, we also need you to provide us with your employers name and address and any changes in employment. As long as you are actively searching for employment, there is no penalty for being unemployed.

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