International Students - Immigration Regulations
This web site highlights some of the critical requirements for F-1 international students. You must read this carefully and familiarize yourself thoroughly with your rights, responsibilities, benefits, and laws as an F-1 student and make every effort to maintain your lawful status. The information below is only an overview and does not include all exceptions. Also note that various requirements may change. Please make an appointment with Liz Yaros in the Office of International Programs before taking any action that may jeopardize your status. We want your time at Meredith to be successful and your role in making that happen is very important!
All International Student Advisors are required to report academic, employment, and address information into the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) database as well as register all F-1 students in the system each semester. It is YOUR responsibility to learn, understand, and fulfill the requirements of your F-1 visa and to update us of any changes in your information! We are here to assist and advise you, but regulations now contain significant penalties for students’ noncompliance and have made it clear that F-1 students are responsible for knowing the specific requirements of their visas.
The most important regulations you need to know are highlighted here. We will also send you periodic email updates on changes (make sure we have your current email address!). Our office maintains instruction packets on applying for various benefits such as practical training, a social security card, etc., so if you need help, just ask! You can also check for updates on the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) web site.
YOUR OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS
You are required to have a valid passport at all times. You can renew or replace your passport in the U.S. through your nearest embassy or consulate. We must keep a photocopy of your current passport on file at all times. To re-enter the U.S. after traveling abroad, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months to get back into the U.S. If your passport expires while in the U.S., you are out of status and we must report this in SEVIS
A nonimmigrant F-1 visa is a permit stamped to a page in your passport and obtainable only at a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas. Your visa is a travel document that allows you to re-enter the U.S. after traveling abroad. The visa does not determine how long you can remain in the U.S. Expiration of your visa has no adverse effect on your F-1 status while you remain in the U.S.
You are required to get a new visa if you travel abroad and 1) your current visa has expired or 2) you changed your visa status from within the U.S.
If you need to apply for a new visa, check the website of the U.S. embassy in your country for specific requirements and processing times. Please note it can often take several weeks or more to obtain an F-1 visa.
- Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record)
At your port of entry into the U.S., the immigration officer will issue and/or process a Form I-94 for you. This is a small white card, often handed out on the plane shortly before landing. Your I-94 card indicates the place and date of entry of your admission to the U.S. It has your admission-departure number, which will be automatically populated in SEVIS when you arrive. Keep this card with your passport and surrender it when you leave the U.S. If you lose this card, please contact Liz Yaros for assistance in applying for a replacement.
- Form I-20
Your I-20 form is the Certificate of Eligibility issued by Meredith College indicating your initial admission and current enrollment at Meredith College. It shows your current major, level of study, and valid program dates. You must present this form when you apply for a visa, when you enter the U.S., as identification for immigration officers, and when you apply for F-1 benefits.
Each F-1 student and F-2 dependent must have his or her own valid I-20. You should carry a copy of your I-20 and passport with you at all times and have the originals with you for any travel outside the Raleigh area. A new I-20 must be issued for most SEVIS reportable events, authorizations, and recommendations.
You must notify Liz Yaros immediately if this form is lost, if you need an extension, or if your financial or academic information changes. Federal regulations require any changes in items 4, 5, 7, and 8, as well as name changes, to be updated in SEVIS by specific deadlines. You must update Liz Yaros of changes immediately so that she can meet these deadlines.
Major points to remember for maintaining your status:
- Maintain a valid passport and I-20 form
- Enroll in a “full course of study” each semester, unless otherwise authorized in SEVIS
- Make “normal progress” towards finishing your degree by the end date on your I-20
- Follow proper procedures in SEVIS to change your major, program level, or program length
- Do not work on campus for over 20 hours/week during the regular semester
- Do not work off-campus without authorization
- Report an address change within 10 days of moving
- Follow proper procedures for transferring schools
- Abide by the F-1 grace period rules
- Follow the rules requiring disclosure of information in SEVIS and prohibition on criminal activity
FULL-TIME COURSE ENROLLMENT
F-1 students are required to maintain continuous, full-time enrollment during each Fall and Spring semester. Summer enrollment is optional. Undergraduate F-1 students must register for at least 12 credit hours and Graduate students must register for at least 6 credit hours each semester.
Under certain approved circumstances (a medical illness or academic reason), you may be allowed to drop below the full-time requirement. However, the Office of International Programs must first approve any such allowances in SEVIS before you may drop below full-time enrollment. You will need to provide certain documentation for approval and there is no option for retroactive approvals of reduced course loads in SEVIS.
F-1 students who fail to register for the minimum credit requirements and are not pre-approved to drop below a full-time course load are considered to be out of status must be reported in SEVIS. Please see Liz Yaros to discuss any issues you may have regarding full-time enrollment.
Federal Regulations also prohibit F-1 students from enrolling in more than 1 (3 hour) on-line course per semester. F-2 dependent family members are only allowed to enroll in “avocational” courses and may not enroll in any full-time post-secondary courses. They must apply to change to an F-1 status. Please see Liz Yaros for assistance in applying for a Change of Status.
All F-1 students must file federal income tax forms for the previous year. All students, regardless of whether they have U.S. sources of income, must file a Form 8843. Those who have worked on or off-campus must also fill out either a Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ. Tax forms are generally available in the Meredith library and online by February each tax year.
Neither our office nor the Meredith Payroll Office are equipped to offer you tax advice. However, we will direct you to a variety of resources. Not filing tax returns is a violation of your status. The IRS website is http://www.irs.gov.