Students who are admitted to the United States for study in approved universities and colleges must follow certain rules and regulations in order to maintain legal immigration status. The NMU International Education Services office can answer your questions about student status in the U.S. and clarify U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations.
United States immigration law is subject to frequent change; information should always be verified by your international student adviser. Your friends and family members are just that: they should not be considered a reliable source of information regarding your particular student status.
A visa is your permission to apply for entry into the United States. As long as a student remains in the United States, in legal immigration status, it does not matter if the visa has expired. There are several kinds of student visas. Visa status of accompanying dependents is linked to the type of visa the student carries. Most NMU international students enter the U.S. with F-1 or J-1 student status. All international students must pursue a full-time course of study while in the United States.
I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for F-1 Non-Immigrant Student Status)
The I-20 is issued to academic and language students who have qualified for admission to an approved U.S. university or college. Students must take the I-20 and apply for a visa at the United States Consulate serving their home country. Additional proof of financial support, significant ties to the home country, and proof of non-immigrant intent may be required at the time of the Consulate interview.
I-94 Arrival/Departure Card
This process is now done electronically and you can access your I-94 information online. The Arrival/Departure Record is issued to international travelers who intend to enter the United States. The form I-94 conveys your legal status during your stay in the United States. Canadian citizens are normally issued a multiple entry paper I-94.
OPT/CPT - Practical Training
International students who remain in good immigration status during their academic program in the United States may be eligible for practical training. It is a BENEFIT to international students who remain in good status. There are two types of practical training: Curricular (CPT) and Optional (OPT). CPT is generally taken during the program of study, while OPT is typically a post-completion benefit.
Designated School Official (DSO)
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services authorizes universities and colleges to administer regulations related to the F-1 visa program. Each university informs the USCIS of employees who function as DSOs. NMU appointed DSO's in International Education Services are Angela Maki (PDSO), Lila Isleib (DSO) and Mary Brundage (DSO).
60 and 15 Day Grace Periods
Preparation for departure. An F-1 student who has completed a course of study and any authorized practical training following completion of studies will be allowed an additional 60 day period to prepare for departure from the United States or to transfer. An F-1 student authorized by the DSO to withdraw from classes will be allowed a 15 day period for departure from the United States. However, an F-1 student who fails to maintain a full course of study without the approval of the DSO or otherwise fails to maintain status is not eligible for an additional period for departure.
If you are in the United States in a valid visa status but do not currently hold a valid visa stamp, it may still be possible for you to make a short trip (30 days or less) to another country in North America and return to the US without renewing your visa. This is called "Automatic Revalidation".
The following conditions apply:
Your trip outside the US must be limited to North America. Trips to Canada, Mexico, or any adjacent islands* (except for Cuba) qualify for Automatic Revalidation.
Note: If you are in a visa status other than F or J, only trips to Canada or Mexico qualify for Automatic Revalidation.
Upon re-entry to the US, you must be in possession of the following documents:
- Valid passport
- I-20 or DS-2019 with travel signature from within the past six months
- I-94 - go to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website to print out your current I-94
- Expired F-1/J-1 US Visa stamp or If you changed your visa status within the US, you must show your previous US visa stamp (expired or valid) and documentation proving that your change of status was approved.
If you apply for a new US visa stamp during your trip, you are not eligible for Automatic Revalidation.
If you are a citizen of Iraq , Iran , Syria , Sudan , North Korea , or Cuba , you are not eligible for Automatic Revalidation.
* Adjacent islands include Saint Pierre, Miquelon, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French, and Netherlands territories or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea. [Source: INA § 101(b)(5)]
Role and Responsibility of the International Scholar
ARRIVAL OF A J-1 SCHOLAR
- You must check in with International Education Services (IES) within 5 business days of your program start date. This includes all J-1 scholars (paid or unpaid by the university). If your SEVIS record is not activated within 30 days of the program start date, you are out of status and must leave the country. This start date is found on your form DS-2019.
Note: If you are unable to make the arrival date listed on your DS-2019, you must contact the International Education Services at firstname.lastname@example.org so that your entry date can be deferred in the SEVIS system. If this is not done, and you check in beyond the 30 day grace period, there will be no way to activate your record in SEVIS. It is, therefore, critical for you to be in contact the International Education Services Office of your arrival date.
- To check in, come to the International Education Services Office at 2001 Hedgcock between 8:00-12:00 and 1:00-5:00. Upon check in, you must provide IES with your U.S. address. This address must describe a residence. It cannot be a P.O Box or an office address. It can be a "care of" address. Bring your DS-2019, emergency contact information (one domestic, one international), and your passport to check in.
WHILE YOU ARE HERE
- You and your dependents must have current passports at all times. An expired passport will mean you are out of status. If you as the J-1 are out of status, so are your J-2 dependents.
- You must always be in possession of a valid DS-2019, which accurately reflects your purpose for being at NMU. If it is close to expiring, you should request an extension from the International Programs Office.
- You and your dependents must come to IES to have your DS-2019 signed, if you will travel outside the United States. Travel signatures are valid for 6 months.
- You must also report any life event that may affect your immigration status such as birth of a child, marriage, change of legal name, divorce or death. This rule also extends to J-2 dependents.
- You must report any change of address to IES within 5 days.
- If you are working at NMU you will need a social security number. If you do not have a social security number, come to International Education Services Office for further information.
- When your program is finished you must submit a Notice of Departure to IES. IES is required to report your program end date to the federal government. This could be the end date on your DS-2019 or it could be a prior date if you complete your program early.
- If your J-2 dependents will be departing the US prior to your program end date and prior to your arrival and not returning, they must submit a J-2 Notice of Departure to our office.
EXTENSION OF STAY
- Request for extension must be made by your host department. This can be a letter stating the reason for the extension and the new end date.
- Your program must be extended before the end date on your current DS-2019. If the end date lapses then no extension is possible and you must leave the United States.
- To ensure that this process runs smoothly, have your host department send IPO any extension paperwork at least two weeks prior to the program end date. IES will then verify that you are eligible for an extension and process the paperwork.
- J-1 scholars, students, and dependents (J-2s) are required to have major medical insurance for the duration of the program.
TRANSFER TO ANOTHER J PROGRAM
- J-1 scholars who plan to transfer to another institution must inform IES of their intent to do so prior to transferring so that this can be properly noted in the SEVIS system. They need to pick up and complete the transfer out form from IES. Under the SEVIS system, the current J program and the transferring J program will work together to complete the transfer process.
OTHER ISSUES OF CONCERN
- Inappropriate advice given to the scholar by a faculty member, academic adviser or international adviser that results in loss of legal status is not accepted by USCIS as grounds to reinstate the scholar to legal status.
- Reinstatement to legal status will rarely, if ever, be granted in the U.S. to scholars who lose their status. If you are out of status, you must return home with no guarantee of being issued a visa to return.
- J-2 dependents may request work permission from USCIS or attend school while they are in the United States.
- If you are being paid in the United States, you must file tax forms. Please contact the International Programs Office for more information.
STEM OPT extension
Eligible F-1 nonimmigrant students with STEM degrees from SEVP-certified and accredited U.S. college or university may apply for a 24-month STEM OPT extension. Interested F-1 students must apply for and received an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Please review the Study in the States website on STEM OPT as it has information that will help you with the application process, reporting and employer information. It also has a list of the current qualifying STEM OPT degrees.
To apply for your STEM OPT extension, you will need to work with a Designated School Official through the International Education Services (2001 Hedgcock) and provide the following documentation:
1. I-983 Training Plan - this form must be completed by the student and the student's employer in full before an STEM OPT recommendation can be made.
Traveling Information for J-1 Scholars
J-1 scholars must be mindful of visa concerns when planning any international travel. The following contain information that will help you plan your next trip outside the United States during your J-1 scholar program.
Are you traveling overseas? To re-enter the United States, you will need the following:
- Valid I-20 or DS-2019 recently endorsed with signature from International Education Services Office (IES).
- Valid visa stamp in passport. Check the expiration date. If expired, you must renew at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy. (Please note, if you have been outside of the United States for 5 months or longer and your F-1 or J-1 visa is still valid i.e. unexpired, you may need a NEW visa according to a recent State Department rule. Please check with the nearest US consulate to determine if your visa is still valid for entry to the US.)
- Valid Passport
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) no longer provides paper I-94 cards at the Port of Entry (except in limited circumstances).
If you have any questions before you depart the U.S., please contact the International Education Services at email@example.com.
U.S. Embassies and Foreign Embassies
Travel to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean Islands