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International Student Immigration Issues

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How to Extend Student Status

This message explains how an F-1 or M-1 student can apply for an extension of their student status while in the United states. An F-1 student is admitted to the United States for "Duration of Status" (which is noted as "D" slash "S" on their Form I-94, "Arrival-Departure Record", instead of a specific expiration date) to complete an educational program, plus any authorized practical training following completion of their studies, plus sixty day grace period to prepare for departure from the United States.

An F-1 student is eligible for program extension if he or she has "continually maintained status" and delay in completion is "caused by compelling academic or medical reasons, such as changes of major or research topic, unexpected research problems, or documented illnesses."

To apply for an extension an F-1 student must submit completed Forms I-20A-B and I-538 to their designated student official within a 30-day period before the expected completion date noted on the initial Form I-20A-B.

The program-extension process does not require an INS adjudication or a formal authorization of extension of stay. It is a process whereby the designated student official verifies eligibility criteria and notifies the INS Data Processing Center of a student's new expected completion date. This information is used to update INS's student database.

A M-1 student must keep valid his or her permission to stay in the United States, as noted on the Form I-201D. Extension of stay for M-1 students is processed by submitting Form I-539 with the required filing fee.

Send the student's Form I-201D, the Form I-20M-N (if applicable), and the Form I-94 of dependents (if any) to the INS office having jurisdiction over the student's current school not less than 15 or more than 60 days before the student's authorized stay expires.

The student should not send his Form I-94 or passport to INS. While the application for extension of stay is pending, the M-1 student is considered to be legally in the United States as long as the student has met and continues to meet all the requirements for maintaining his or her status.

Permission for Foreign Students to Work

This message explains how foreign nationals on F-1 or M-1 student visas may apply for permission to work. There are only certain types of employment legally available to F-1 or M-1 students in the United States.

M-1 students may not work, except for practical training, for which approval from INS is required. F-1 students, on the other hand, may accept practical training employment or off-campus part-time employment after having been in status for nine months. F-1 students must apply for INS approval for off-campus employment and practical training after graduation. Note that F-1 students may accept on-campus or curricular practical training when authorized by the designated school official.

These rules are strict because F-1 or M-1 visas are not initially approved without proof that the potential student can provide for themselves and their education without needing to work while in this country. Please note that the law bars any F-1 student from any type of off-campus employment during their first 9 months as a foreign student in the United States.

Both the F-1 and the M-1 students must use recommendations by the designated school official on Form I-201D, along with Form I-765, "Application for Employment Authorization," to apply for employment authorization from the INS. The instructions on the Form I-765 should answer any of your questions about the student employment, and filing fees required, and where to file the application.

Please remember that it is important that you are barred from accepting any off-campus or practical training employment unless and until you receive authorization by the designated school official on your I-201D or a Form I-688B from INS. If you are found working without permission, you are subject to deportation.

Visa to Study or Do Research in the U.S.

Foreign students can study in the US under F-1 student visas or J-1, exchange visitor visas. The applicant must be accepted by a school or institution approved by the INS to issue I-20 forms, or by the US Information Agency to issue IAP-66 forms. You can find out from the school or institution whether it has the necessary approval.

The school or institution will send the I-20 or the IAP-66 form directly to the student or exchange visitor. The student or exchange visitor can apply for the visa at the nearest embassy or consulate.

To apply, he or she must present a valid passport, one recent 1.5 inch square photograph, the I-20 or the IAP- 66, and a completed application form. The application form may be obtained from the embassy or consulate.

The applicant must also present evidence that all expenses can be paid. In addition, he or she must show serious intent to study or do research and that he or she has strong and binding ties that will compel departure from the US after the study or exchange visitor program has been completed.

The applicant must also have enough knowledge of English to be able to study here, or proof that English language training here has been arranged.

A student's or exchange visitor's spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21, also can apply for visas to come with him or her.

If you are in the US on a student or exchange visitor visa and wish to change school or institution, or obtain work permission , you must contact your foreign student advisor, responsible officer, or your local immigration service.

If your visa has expired and you need a new one to travel outside the US and return, you should apply for the visa at an American Embassy or Consulate while overseas.

The Department of State does not issue or renew student or exchange visitor visas in the US.

Visas for the Spouse and Dependent Children of Foreign Students

Note that if there has been any major change in the information on your I-20A-B or I-20M-N, a new form will need to be obtained and submitted by the foreign student.

When the family members enter the United States, they will present their passport and form I-20A-B or I-20M-N to the immigration inspector. The inspector will issue each person a form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, which notes the authorized period of stay. This period of stay will match that of the foreign student. Please note that F-2 or M-2 visa holders are barred from accepting employment or engaging in business under any circumstances while in the United States. To do so will subject the individual to deportation.

The American consulate in your native country would determine whether the above requirements are met and qualifies as a spouse or dependent child for an F-2 or M-2 visa. In addition, form I-20A-B or I-20M-N from the school which the foreign student is either going to attend or is currently attending must be submitted to the American consular officer in order to support the application for the F-2 or M-2 visas.

If the spouse and or dependent child are going to accompany the foreign student to the United States, the foreign students' form I-20A-B or I-20M-n may be used as the basis to request the F-2 or M-2 visas.

If the spouse and or dependent child are joining the student later, they will need to submit to the United States consular officer a properly endorsed form I-20A-B or I-20M-N from the school the foreign student is attending.

For a spouse and/or dependent children to enter the United States with an F-1 or M-1 student, or to join them later, the spouse and/or dependant children must meet certain requirements. These requirements are:

1. They each must hold a valid passport, unless they are citizens of Canada or exempt from passport requirements;

2. They must prove they have sufficient funds to meet all their expenses while in the United States;

3. They must agree to depart the United States upon the termination of the foreign student's F-1 or M-1 visa.

School Transfers for F-1 Students

If you are currently an F-1 student who has been pursuing a full course of study at a school which INS has authorized you to attend you may transfer to another school or continue in the same program or major at a different school.

To be eligible you must be a bona fide student wishing to transfer to another school to complete an academic educational program. For example, from a high school program to a college program, or from one degree program to another, or from one college to another. In order to transfer from one school to another you must follow some simple procedures.

An F-1 student who is maintaining status may transfer to a different school through a notification procedure. There is no need to ask INS for permission to transfer schools.

To transfer schools an F-1 student must first notify the school he or she is attending of the intent to transfer, then obtain a Form I-20A-B from the school to which he or she intends to transfer. The transfer will be effected only if the F-1 student completes the student certification portion of the Form I-20AB and returns the form to a designated school official on campus within 15 days of beginning attendance at the new school. Upon receipt of the student's form I-20AB, the school official must:

1. Note "Transfer Completed on (Date)" on the student's I-20ID in the space provided for the designated school official's remarks, thereby acknowledging the student's attendance;

2. Return the I-20ID to the student;

3. Submit the I-20 school copy to the service's data processing center within 30 days of receipt from the student; and

4. Forward a photo-copy of the form I-20AB to the school from which the student transferred. However, an F-1 student who is not enrolled as a full-time student at the school he or she was last authorized to attend is ineligible for school transfer. Such a student must apply to the INS district office for reinstatement to F-1 student status on Form I-539, "Application to Extend Time of Temporary Stay", accompanied by a Form I-20AB from the new school.

A fee is required for the processing of the application for reinstatement.

If permission to transfer is denied, INS will specify a date by which you must depart the United States. If you transfer schools without first seeking permission from INS, you will then become subject to deportation.

School Transfers for M-1 Students

To request permission to transfer schools as an M-1 student you must submit a completed form I-539, "Application to Extend Time of Temporary Stay", along with a completed for I-20MN , "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status for Vocational Students", endorsed by the designated school official of the school to which you wish to transfer. These documents, along with your I-94, "Arrival Departure Record", and those of your spouse and children and your Form I-20ID, should be submitted to the INS office having jurisdiction over the school where you were last authorized to attend.

Sixty days after having filed for this transfer, you may start attending your new school. If the application is approved, it will be retroactive to the date of the filing of the application. You will be granted an extension of stay for the period of time necessary to complete the course of study, plus thirty days, not to exceed one year.

As an M-1 student, you may be eligible to transfer to another school within the first six months of your present enrollment, provided that you meet the following requirements:

1. You must be a M-1 student in valid status.

2. You must have been pursuing a full course of study at the school which you were last authorized to attend.

3. You must intend to pursue a full course of study at the school to which you wish to transfer.

4. You must be financially able to attend the school to which you wish to transfer.

Please note, after you have completed six months as an M-1 foreign student, you may not transfer to another school unless, due to circumstances beyond your control, you are unable to remain at the school which you were initially authorized to attend.

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Revised 9/20/96