This information has been prepared by the Buckman Center to summarize some of the important rights and responsibilities you have as an F-1 student in relation to United States government immigration regulations. It also identifies some of the situations for which you should seek assistance from our Office. It will not provide you with information on the actual procedures required for you to take advantage of some of your rights or fulfill some of your responsibilities. The Buckman Center staff will be pleased to offer additional information, as well as counseling and assistance, to help you with any matter related to your immigration status. This information serves to outline procedures for operating within the web-based Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) which was implemented on January 30, 2003 . Please note that regulations and procedures continue to change.
Immigration Acronyms You Should Know
- SEVIS: Student and Exchange Visitor Information System
- A tracking system for F-1 and J-1 students, exchange visitors and their F-2 and J-2 dependents
- DHS: Department of Homeland Security
- An office of the U.S. Government that houses, among other entities, the three immigration-related departments (USCIS, ICS, and CBP)
- USCIS: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- Oversees SEVIS and charged with enforcement of immigration-related infractions
- ICE: Immigration and Customs Enforcement
- Oversees SEVIS and charged with enforcement of immigration-related infractions
- CBP: Customs and Border Protection
- Operates U.S. ports of entry
- DOS: Department of State
- Office of the U.S. government that oversees U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad
- You must be enrolled in a full course of study each Fall and Spring semester at Rhodes. If you drop below a full course of study you will violate your visa status. A student, in limited circumstances, can obtain permission to be enrolled less than full-time. Check with an advisor first!
- You cannot work outside of the college campus without permission from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If you work outside of the college campus without permission, you will violate your visa status.
- If you change your living address, you must inform Rhodes immediately. If you don’t inform Rhodes of your address change, you will violate your visa status.
- If you violate your F-1 or J-1 visa status, the United States government will consider you to be here illegally. Once illegal, you could be subject to arrest or deportation.
The Buckman Center will answer any questions you have about your visa status
The following documents are very important and must be valid at all times in order for you to maintain lawful F-1 status:
- Passport (should be valid for a minimum of 6 months into the future)
- Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student (F-1 Status)
- Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record (white card usually stapled in passport
Please keep your original documents in a safe place. We recommend that you make photocopies of these documents and store them in a location separate from the actual documents. If any of these documents is damaged, lost or stolen, you must have it replaced as quickly as possible. Please keep in mind that the F-1 visa stamp in your passport does not need to be valid at all times; but it must be valid when you reenter the United States after traveling outside the country. You should contact the Buckman Center if you have any questions about the documents or if you need to have them replaced.
SEVIS - Electronic Reporting System
The USCIS, ICE, and CBP utilize an electronic reporting system called the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to “track” international students and exchange visitors. All U.S. schools are required to use this system to report information on F-1 students and their F-2 dependents through secure, encrypted internet transmissions.
Rhodes College reports to the government only the information required by federal law. This includes all the information on your Form I-20 and information on "reportable events" that affect your immigrant status.
These events include but are not limited to:
- Registration/enrollment each school term
- Leaves of absence, suspension, and withdrawals from school
- Authorized and unauthorized drops below a full course of study, as defined by federal regulations
- Resumption of a full course of study after an authorized drop
- Employment off-camps
- F-2 dependent information
- U.S. residential address changes
- Completion/termination of studies
- Changes in major, program of study, degree, completion date, etc.
- School or program transfer
Since SEVIS is an electronic reporting system, it is very important that your information is on record with the Buckman Center. Your name on your academic record at Rhodes College must match the spelling of your name as it appears on your passport. The SEVIS system will report information about your status from the College's records to the DHS. Failure to maintain accurate records with the College may result in technical violations of your status. If you fall out of status, and your violation is reported to the DHS, your F-1 status could be immediately invalidated and you may lose all F-1 status benefits.
When to Contact the Buckman Center
To ensure that you maintain lawful immigration status, you must contact the Buckman Center if any of the following events occurs:
- If there is a change to your legal name, U.S. address, country of citizenship, immigration status, major, program of study, level of education, expected date of completion, information on F-2 dependents, or source of funding. If you intend to travel outside the U.S. and need a travel signature from a staff member on your Form I-20 or if you will apply for a new visa before reentering the U.S.
- Any time you or your F-2 dependents obtain a new Form I-94 upon reentering the U.S.
- If you lose any of your immigration documents, or if they are stolen.
- If you intend to change your immigration status.
- If you intend to study abroad, take a leave of absence, or transfer to another school.
- If you need to request an extension of your Form I-20 ; contact the Buckman Center before the Form I-20 expires.
- If you are seeking prior authorization to drop below full-time study or withdraw from Rhodes College (due to suspension or personal reasons).
- If you want to obtain on-campus work authorization or apply for off-campus work authorization.
- If you want to have your dependent spouse and/or children join you in F-2 status.
- If you are facing charges for any felony or misdemeanor criminal act.
- If you need to apply for a U.S. Social Security Number.
Registration, Attendance and Course of Study Requirements
Registration and Attendance - You must register for and complete a "full course of study" each fall and spring semester at Rhodes College. “Audit” courses do not count toward the required 12 credit hours.
Undergraduate Students - Although F-1 students have the right to register for as many classes as College policy allows, you must register for at least 12 credit hours each fall and spring semester. Immigration regulations require prior Buckman Center authorization for all legitimate drops below full-time (see the “Registration Exceptions” listed at the end of this section). Dropping below 12 credit hours without prior authorization from a Buckman Center advisor will jeopardize your immigration status.
Registration Exceptions - There are some circumstances that permit a reduced course of study, such as illness or needing fewer than 12 credits in your final semester in order to graduate. In cases where a reduced course load may be permitted, an F-1 student must maintain a minimum of six credits unless it is the student's final semester or they are pre-authorized for a medical leave. Before registering for a part-time course load or dropping below full-time, an F-1 student must obtain prior authorization from a Buckman Center advisor. Registering for a part-time course load or dropping below full-time without prior authorization from the Buckman Center will immediately jeopardize your immigration status. If you are considering reducing your course load you must make an appointment with your Buckman Center advisor to discuss your situation prior to dropping below full-time. You must resume a “full course of study” in the following semester unless you obtain renewed authorization by the Buckman Center advisor for medical reasons.
Length of Time You May Remain in the United States on your Rhodes College Form I-20
Your Form I-20 is issued for the expected duration of your program of study. F-1 students admitted to the U.S. generally receive a "D/S" notation on their Form I-94 Arrival/Departure card, indicating permission to remain in the U.S. for "duration of status." The duration of F-1 status ends as soon as the student’s Form I-20 expires or as soon as the student completes his or her program of study, whichever is sooner.
If you need more time to complete your studies than allowed by your Form I-20, you must contact the Buckman Center before the expiration date (see the date indicated in Item #5 of your Form I-20) to request an extension. Before completing your program of study, you may want to make an appointment with an advisor to discuss options for extending your lawful status in the U.S.
You are required to complete a Semester Verification with the Buckman Center within the first two weeks of each semester for the duration of your program.
On-Campus Employment - Students in F-1 status may be employed at most on-campus jobs with student employment authorization from the Buckman Center. On-campus employment may not exceed 20 hours per week during fall and spring semesters. Full-time (more than 20 hours per week) on-campus employment is allowed only when classes are not in session; during winter intersession, summer vacation and spring break. For new students, authorization for on-campus employment may begin no more than 30 days before the start of classes. On-campus employment during summer vacation and academic breaks is permissible only if the student is registered to continue attendance at Rhodes College following the break.
Please note that on-campus employment implies that you will receive a Rhodes College paycheck. Please contact the Buckman Center should you have any questions about whether a particular on-campus job will qualify for standard on-campus employment authorization.
On-Campus Employment - F-1 students are eligible for limited employment off-campus. You must obtain written authorization from the Buckmam Center or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services before you engage in any off-campus employment. Please contact the Buckman Center for additional information regarding employment options.
For more information on off-campus employment please refer to the Employment links at left.
Please schedule an appointment with the Buckman Center to discuss any off-campus employment questions.
You must be in valid F-1 immigration status to be authorized for on- or off-campus employment.
Change of Address
If you move within the United States, DHS must be informed of your change of address within 10 days of your move. To ensure timely notification, please contact the Buckman Center so that your record can be updated within SEVIS.
We encourage you to contact the Buckman Center anytime you plan to travel outside of the U.S. This is particularly important as regulations and practices concerning re-entry into the United States continue to change. Many students now experience significant difficulties and delays in applying for visas at U.S. Embassies or Consulates. When you return to the U.S. after travel abroad, you should bring your passport and Form I-20 to the Buckman Center so that we may update your file. Immigration regulations require that we maintain current copies of your passport and immigration documents.
Travel Within the U.S. - You may travel within the U.S. provided you maintain your lawful F-1 status and have a valid passport and Form I-20 in your possession.
Travel Outside the U.S. before Completion of Studies – You may leave the U.S. at any time. You are permitted to return in F-1 status if you have a valid passport, valid F-1 visa stamp and a current Form I-20 that has been signed for travel on page 3 by an authorized staff member at the Buckman Center. Only a Designated School Official (DSO) at the Buckman Center is authorized to sign a Form I-20. A travel signature is valid for one year except for travel to Canada, Mexico and adjacent islands, in which case the signature is valid for six months.
Procedures for returning to Rhodes College are different from those for returning to attend a different school. If you wish to attend a different school upon your return to the U.S. , you should notify the Buckman Center of your intention before your departure. You must obtain a new Form I-20 from your new school and present it to an immigration officer upon re-entry the U.S.
Travel Outside the U.S. after Completion of Studies - The date you officially complete your studies is very important to your ability to travel and re-enter the U.S. If you attempt to return to the U.S. in F-1 status after your completion date, you may be denied the right to re-enter the U.S. unless you have been authorized to engage in Optional Practical Training and have received your Employment Authorization Document and obtained a written offer of employment in your field of study.
If you depart the U.S. and wish to return after the date of your completion of studies, you must present the following documents to the CBP inspector upon arrival back in the U.S.:
- Your valid OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card (USCIS Form I-766)
- Your Form I-20 which has been endorsed for travel within the last six months by the Buckman Center
- Your valid passport
- Your valid F-1 visa stamp
An international student who travels abroad and then returns to the United States to continue their coursework needs the following documents to re-enter the United States:
- Valid passport
- Valid F-1 visa sticker in the passport
- Unexpired I-20 or DS-2019 with an up-to-date signature from the Designated School Official (DSO)
A valid passport means that the passport has an expiration date of no less than 6 months in the future. A student who needs to renew a passport should contact the embassy of the home country located in Washington, DC. Renewal procedures and processing times are different for every country. Find information about foreign embassies located in Washington, DC.
Some students who renew passports during their stay in the U.S. will have 2 passports—the old passport containing the valid F-1 visa and the new valid passport which does not contain a visa sticker. USCIS will honor the unexpired F-1 visa sticker in the old passport if both passports are presented at the same time.
Before you make plans to travel outside of the United States, you should check to see if the F-1 visa stamp in your passport is still valid for re-entering the United States. If the expiration date has passed, a new visa must be obtained at a United States consulate or embassy while outside of the United States. It is not possible to obtain F visas while in the United States.
It is best to apply for a new F-1 visa sticker in the student’s home country. Obtaining a new visa in a third country can be difficult, because the Unites States embassy performs a series of background checks on all visa applicants. Student visas are issued in Canada and Mexico by appointment only. You can make an appointment with the United States embassies in Canada and Mexico online.
I-20 or DS-2019 with Travel Authorization
All F students must have a signature from the Director of International Programs or the Assistant Director of Admissions on their I-20 before they leave the United States.
J students should contact their sponsoring agency to make certain that the travel signature on their DS-2019 is valid for their re-entry into the United States.
Travel signatures are valid for travel for re-entry for one year
To ensure that you will be able to register each semester, please settle your tuition bill in a timely manner. Not being able to register for classes because your account is not settled will impact your ability to maintain lawful status. If you have problems meeting your financial obligations please contact the Buckman Center.
Leave of Absence, Suspension or Withdrawal
While in the United States in F-1 status, you must remain continuously enrolled for a full-course of study at Boston University until you have completed your academic program. If you interrupt your studies, your Form I-20 will become invalid and you will not be eligible to remain in the United States in F-1 status.
Important: if you are working on- or off-campus, you must cease employment immediately upon withdrawal.
You must contact the Buckman Center before you interrupt your studies for any of the following reasons:
- You are planning to request an official leave of absence from the College (for a study abroad experience, academic reasons, a medical leave or personal reasons) during the fall or spring semester.
- You are being suspended (or are under review for suspension)
- You are planning to withdraw from all of your classes at any point during the fall or spring semester (or summer term if it is your first or final semester of study).
In the event that you are suffering from an illness or other medical condition that compels you to interrupt your studies at Rhodes College , you can request authorization for a medical leave of absence from the Buckman Center. Such authorization will enable you to maintain valid F-1 status during the time you are not enrolled.
Completion of Studies
The date you officially complete your program is very important because immigration regulations state that your lawful F-1 status automatically ends 60 days after you complete your program unless you take some action to remain lawfully in the U.S. It is also important to note that once a student departs during the 60-day grace period, they forfeit their F-1 status and may not reenter the U.S. in F-1 status with the Form I-20 issued for the program they just completed.
Failure to Comply with Responsibilities
Immigration laws in the United States provide for severe penalties if you fail to comply with your immigration responsibilities. Maintenance of accurate records at the Buckman Center is especially important since details of your status are reported automatically to DHS through SEVIS. You should work closely with the Buckman Center staff to make certain that you comply with all F-1 regulations. The staff of the Buckman Center is always pleased to provide you with information, counseling and assistance so that you may achieve your educational goals while at Rhodes College.