Basic Immigration Info: Maintaining Your F-1 or J-1 Visa Status

Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is an internetbased database management system that allows schools and the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to exchange data on the visa status of international students and exchange visitors. Current student/exchange visitor information is transmitted electronically throughout an F-1 student’s or J-1 exchange visitor’s academic career in the United States. U.S. Consulates also have access to SEVIS.

Basic requirements to maintain F-1 and J-1 Status

  • Maintain a passport valid six months into the future.
  • Attend the school you are authorized to attend:
    • F-1 visa holders - the school listed on the I-20 that was stamped by ICE at your port of entry.
    • J-1 visa holders - the university sponsor listed on the DS-2019 that was stamped by ICE at your port of entry.
  • Pursue a full course of study every semester until degree program is completed, and make normal progress toward the completion of the course of study.
  • Full course of study for undergraduates is 12 credit hours per semester. Enrollment during the summer session is not required.
  • Full course of study for graduate students is 9 hours per semester. Enrollment during the summer session for three hours is required for all students who have a GTA/GRA. Other conditions may apply, please contact the Graduate Office to confirm your summer semester enrollment requirement.
  • Make sure that all information on your I-20 or DS-2019 is accurate at all times. (This includes program/level/financial/assistantship information, etc.)
  • Follow USCIS procedures for changing from one major or degree level to another.
  • Apply for extensions for your degree completion before the expiration date on your current I-20 or DS-2019.
  • Limit on-campus employment to 20 hours a week while school is in session.
  • Do not work at off-campus employment without authorization. If you have authorization, limit authorized off-campus employment to 20 hours per week while school is in session. (Students on full-time CPT may work more than 20 hours per week).
  • F-1 visa holders - Report any change in Rolla address in Joe’ss within 10 days of a change. J-1 visa holders report any change in Rolla address to the Office of International and Cultural Affairs within 10 days of a change.
  • F-1 visa holders must report any change in international address in person at the Registrar’s Office at Room 103 Parker Hall within 10 days of a change. J-1 visa holders report change in your international address to the Office of International and Cultural Affairs within 10 days of change.

Advice to help maintain your status

  • Do not drop courses below the required number of credit hours without immigration authorization. You can make this request to your International Student Advisor in the Office of International and Cultural Affairs.
  • Always maintain the required insurance coverage with the UM-System provider. F-1 and J-1 students must carry Missouri S&T medical insurance. J-1 visiting scholars and J-2 dependents must be covered by an insurance plan with benefits as required by the U.S. Department of State.
  • When traveling outside the U.S. you must have your original I-20 or DS- 2019 signed for travel before you leave, and you must carry it with you while you are traveling.
  • If for some reason you violate one of the above requirements, please come immediately to the Office of International and Cultural Affairs to learn about your options, and possibly to complete USCIS reinstatement forms.

This is a very brief synopsis of some basic requirements of F-1 / J-1 visa status. Please come to the Office of International and Cultural Affairs so that we may help you with any individual questions or concerns.
Note: Please allow a minimum of 5 business days for all requests that are submitted to the Office of International and Cultural Affairs.

GENERAL SEVIS INFORMATION

SEVIS FAQs

SEVIS is an Internet-based system that allows schools and the U.S. Bureau of  Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE) to exchange data on the visa status of international students and exchange visitors. Accurate and current information is transmitted electronically throughout an F-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor’s academic career in the United States. U.S. embassies and consulates also have access to SEVIS.

Yes and no. The requirement that schools provide the federal government with information about each student’s status is not new. Most of the information that will be reported to SEVIS has been required by immigration for many years. But the existing paper-based system precluded widespread coordination among schools and governmental agencies. In 1996, Congress passed legislation directing the INS to move to an electronic data collection system. This program is now known as SEVIS -- the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. Technical challenges and lack of funding delayed the program for several years. However, in October 2001, Congress passed the USA Patriot Act that authorized additional SEVIS funding and required nationwide compliance by Feb. 15, 2003. By Aug. 1, 2003, all F-1, J-1 students/scholars and dependents had be entered into the SEVIS system.

Before the student’s arrival to the United States

  • After Missouri S&T admits an international student, SEVIS is notified and the immigration approves the University’s request to issue an I-20. The University transmits the new bar-coded I-20 form to the student.
  • The student visits the U.S. Consulate abroad, and the Consulate confirms through SEVIS that the I-20 the student is carrying is a valid document. If everything is in order, the Consulate issues the visa.

After the student’s arrival to the United States

  • A BICE officer at the airport reports to SEVIS the student’s entry into the United States.
  • When the student arrives on campus, he/she checks-in during New International Student Orientation to the Office of International Affairs. The University provides regular electronic reports to SEVIS throughout the student’s academic career.
  • Finally, SEVIS records the student’s departure from the United States.

We must report:

  • Whether the student has enrolled at the school or failed to enroll;
  • A change of the student or dependent’s legal name or address;
  • Completion of degree program;
  • Academic or disciplinary actions taken due to criminal conviction;
  • Whether the student drops below a full course of study without prior authorization from an international student advisor;
  • Termination date and reason for termination;
  • Other data generated by standard procedures such as program extensions, school transfers, changes in level of study, employment authorizations, and reinstatements;
  • Data on any student who fails to maintain status or complete his or her program.

Some examples of failure to maintain status include:

  • dropping from full-time to part-time enrollment without prior approval from a coordinator of international student services;
  • attending a school other than the one a student is authorized to attend;
  • failure to complete a timely school transfer procedure or program extension or change of educational level;
  • failure to renew I-20 document;
  • failure to make appropriate progress in degree program;
  • unauthorized employment;
  • failure to report a change of address.

The student’s record will be updated with SEVIS regularly. Students who fail to maintain status may even become subject to deportation. Specific consequences may include:

  • denial of re-entry to the United States;
  • inability to move from undergraduate to graduate status;
  • denial of requests for Practical Training;
  • denial of requests to change visa status;
  • possible denial of all future visa applications.

If a student drops below a full course of study without prior approval from a coordinator of international student services, that “event" would be reported to immigration, via SEVIS, and he or she would be out of status. The student may apply to immigration for reinstatement if the violation resulted from circumstances beyond his or her control. Reinstatement is intended to be a rare benefit for exceptional cases. The student may not apply for reinstatement under any circumstances if he or she is out of status longer than five months. If immigration does not reinstate the student, he or she may not appeal that decision.

We are committed to assist students in ways that prevent status violations from ever occurring. Accordingly, these processes are in effect:

  • Any F-1 or J-1 student who is enrolled for less that the required full-time credits (12 for undergraduate students, nine for graduate students) must receive PRIOR authorization from the Office of International Affairs.  Students must complete a Reduced Enrollment Request Form in the Office of International and Cultuiral Affairs even if the semester in which the student is enrolling is the student’s final semester. 

Immigration is required to audit Missouri S&T’s compliance with these new requirements every two years. Failure to comply with the federal regulations could result in the loss of the University’s ability to issue I-20s/DS-2019s to international students.

As everyone knows, data moves faster through an electronic system than through a paper system. Immigration has advised educational institutions that students can expect that immigration forms will be produced faster, applications for benefits such as Optional Practical Training will be approved more quickly, and visas will be granted without the usual long delays.

  • Read any email updates from the Office of International Affairs list serve;
  • Refer to this informational FAQ;
  • Changes in immigration or visa procedures sometimes happen quickly. Information is posted as soon as we have reliable facts. Periodically check the Office of International and Cultural Affairs.
  • Understand the immigration regulations that govern your particular status, and learn how to fulfill your responsibility to maintain lawful status in the United States
  • Be proactive. Students should plan their course schedules carefully so that they maintain full-time enrollment;
  • Make travel arrangements early, and anticipate delays at consulates and border crossings;
  • Keep all documents up-to-date -- changes in degree level, degree program, I-20 or DS-2019 extensions, and travel validations must be done in a timely manner and in the SEVIS system. The Office of International Affairs’  indicates the minimum processing time for a document is five days.  Processing time could increase because of SEVIS
  • And above all, if you have any questions or doubts about your status, please contact the Office of International Affairs.  The contributions of international students and scholars are vitally important to the fulfillment of Missouri S&T’s mission.  The Office of International Affairs is committed to assisting you in meeting your goals.

Take a look at the BICE website.