Immigration Matters

Immigration Matters

Immigration Information

This page contains general information for F-1 international students. The focus of this section is on the specific obligations the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) says F-1 students must follow in order to maintain their non-immigrant status and qualify for other benefits such as practical training, change of status, etc. Please keep in mind that CBU’s Primary Designated School Official (PDSO) is Karen Conway, Dean of Students. Dean Conway is your contact at CBU for all immigration matters, while International Student Services (ISS) is at your service for all other things international student related.

Contacts
• International Student Services (ISS): advising@cbu.edu or (901)-321-3758
• Primary Designated School Official (PDSO): Karen Conway, Dean of Students at kconway@cbu.edu or (901)-321-3536

Immigration Documents
The following documents are very important and must be valid at all times:

  • Passport (should be valid for a minimum of 6 months into the future) 
  • Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student (F-1) Status (BCIS SEVIS Form I-20) 
  • Departure Record (BCIS Form I-94; white card, usually stapled in passport) 

Please keep the originals in a safe place. ISS recommends that you make photocopies of these documents and store them in a location separate from the actual documents. If the date on your I-20 will be expiring, if any information on your I-20 is not valid, or if you are contemplating a change of degree level or major, please visit the office of the PDSO/Dean of Students and apply for a new SEVIS I-20 or before you leave the United States for travel abroad or apply for any immigration benefit.

Under the current immigration regulations, the I-20 end date must be the average length of time a student needs to complete a similar program in the same discipline. This means that when the PDSO/Dean of Students issues you a new SEVIS I-20 you will have no grace period, and you must generally complete your degree by the end date on your SEVIS I-20. If you feel that you cannot complete your program in the time we allow you, you may file for an extension of stay with the PDSO/Dean of Students. This extension must be filed and approved in advance of the end date on your I-20 and there must be a valid reason for the extension.

Failure to have your I-20 undated in a timely manner, or to secure the necessary approvals, may result in a loss of your immigration status in the United States. If any of your immigration documents (passport, I-94, or I-20) are damaged, lost, or stolen, you must have them replaced as quickly as possible. You should contact the PDSO/Dean of Students if you have any questions about the documents or if you need to have them replaced.

Full Time Enrollment
The Bureau of Citizenship & Immigration Services (BCIS) regulations require that all students on temporary visas pursue their studies on a full-time basis at the institution they have been authorized to attend. Undergraduate students (including those in pre-master’s status) must successfully complete at least twelve credit hours and graduate students must complete at least nine credit hours each semester (excluding an approved annual vacation). See the PDSO/Dean of Students for details on complying with this and other BCIS requirements.

Checking in at the ISS and SEVIS Reporting Requirements
As soon as you arrive on the CBU campus, all international students must check in at ISS, room 347 in Buckman Hall, to complete the required SEVIS form. This is required under federal law so we can register you in the SEVIS system.

The new regulations require that Christian Brothers University report information to BCIS through the SEVIS system within prescribed periods. Within 21 days of a change in information as follows, the PDSO/Dean of Students must update SEVIS with current information including:

  • A change in the name, address or curriculum of the school
  • Any student who has failed to maintain status or complete his or her program
  • Name change for student and dependents
  • Addresses and address changes for student and dependents: The student must notify ISS and the PDSO/Dean of Students within 10 days of an address change. This must be the physical location where the student resides, rather than a mailing address 
  • Any student who graduated prior to the program end date on the I-20
  • Disciplinary action taken by the school as a result of conviction of a crime
  • Any other notification request made by SEVIS relating to the current status of the student’s school must also report the following information each semester no later than 30 days after the deadline for registering for classes:
    1. Student's academic status (i.e., whether the student has enrolled, dropped below a full course of study without prior authorization by the PDSO/Dean of Students or failed to enroll); 
    2. The current address of each enrolled student; and 
    3. The start date of the student's next semester. 

A school’s compliance with the reporting requirements does not exempt the student from other reporting requirements as a result of other laws or regulations. For example, students who are from some specific countries are required to undergo “special registration,” which has a special address reporting requirement even though address data is reported to BCIS through SEVIS, these students are still required to carry out the address reporting as required through the “special registration” process. Countries from which students are required to undergo “special registration” currently include: Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Name and Address Changes that Must be Reported
Students must report address changes to ISS within 10 days of changing address. The final rules allow a student’s mailing address to be reported on SEVIS, particularly where the physical address on campus is not a mailing address. The school is still required to maintain the physical address of the student. So, it is important that you give ISS both your mailing and your physical address. CBU must keep a record of both mailing and local (the place where the student actually lives) addresses.

Reporting to the PDSO/Dean of Students does not exempt non-immigrant F-1 students from other types of addresses that must be reported, such as non-immigrant students who are required to report under the National Security Entry-Exit System (NYSEERS) in addition to the SEVIS address reporting requirement.

Transferring
Transferring F-1 students must obtain a transfer clearance form from their previous school in the United States and must complete transfer procedures as provided in the federal regulations within fifteen days of the first day of class. F-1 students must notify the INS through the PDSO/Dean of Students of any change in program, including changes in level and field of study. Students must also have the previous school complete a Student Transfer Form and forward it to the PDSO/Dean of Students.

Length of Time You May Remain in the USA
You may study in your present program until you complete all program requirements or until the expiration date in Item #11 on your BCIS Form I-20, whichever occurs first. If you need more time to complete your studies than allowed by your Form I-20, you must contact the PDSO/Dean of Students before the expiration date to request an extension. If you complete your program before the end date indicated on your Form I-20, the Form I-20 is only valid if you have applied for Optional Practical Training (OPT) to follow the completion of your program. If you have been granted OPT you should still ensure that your I-20 does not expire.

The date you officially complete your studies is very important because BCIS regulations state that your lawful F-1 status automatically ends sixty days after you complete your program unless you take some action to remain lawfully in the U. S. Different programs have different dates of completion.

Travel
We would encourage you to contact the PDSO/Dean of Students anytime you plan to travel outside of the U.S. In addition, anytime you travel outside the U.S. and return to Christian Brothers University, you should bring your passport, Form I-20, and Form I-94 to the PDSO/Dean of Students so that your file remains updated. BCIS requires that we maintain current copies of your passport and visa documents. If you have been on a Study Abroad program or you have interrupted your studies for any reason, you may need a new Form I-20 to re-enter the U.S.

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, Form I-20, and Form I-94 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 the same status if you have a valid passport, valid F-1 visa stamp, and a valid Form I-20 that has been signed and endorsed on the reverse side by the PDSO/Dean of Students. Only a Designated School Official is authorized to sign your Form I-20. If you travel to Canada, Mexico, or certain islands near the U. S. for fewer than 30 days, you may be eligible to re-enter the U.S. even if the F-1 visa stamp in your passport has expired. You should consult with the PDSO/Dean of Students before making any trips outside the country. There are now some restrictions in place which prohibit students from certain countries from making use of the “automatic revalidation” provisions. Additionally, if a student goes to Canada or Mexico to apply for a visa stamp from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate and is denied, s/he will not be allowed to re-enter the United States under the “automatic revalidation” provisions.

If you are planning to return to Christian Brothers University post-travel, the PDSO/Dean of Students must sign the back of your Form I-20 before you leave the U. S. If you wish to attend a different school upon your return to the U. S., you should notify the PDSO/Dean of Students of your intention. You must obtain a new Form I-20 from your new school and use that form to re-enter the U. S.

Please be aware that if you apply for a new visa, you will be subject to the $100 SEVIS fee which must be paid in advance prior to your visa interview and is in addition to the regular visa fees.

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. using your current BCIS Form I-20, you may be denied the right to re-enter the country unless you have been authorized to engage in “Optional Practical Training” employment. BCIS regulations require that if you depart the U. S. after completion of studies, you must present the following documents to the BCIS Inspector upon your arrival back in the U.S.:

  1. A valid Employment Authorization card (BCIS Form I-688) and
  2. 2. Your BCIS Form I-20 which has been endorsed within the last six months by the DSO for travel 

In addition, we recommend that, if you do have a job, you present a letter from your Optional Practical Training employer verifying your employment.

International Students who wish to Study Abroad
If you decide to participate in a Study Abroad program while at Christian Brothers University, please contact the PDSO/Dean of Students to get information about I-20 requirements. In some cases, you will need a new Form I-20 to return to the United States. Any absence from the United States for a period of 5 months or more may affect your eligibility for Optional Practical Training. Please discuss this with the PDSO/Dean of Students before finalizing your plans or leaving the United States.

Dependents and other Family Members
If you are married and/or have children, you may be eligible to have your spouse (husband or wife) and/or children visit you temporarily or join you for the duration of your studies. You must, however, provide evidence that there are funds available to support them while they are here. Each family member must now be issued their own Form I-20.Please be aware that there are restrictions on full time study by F-2 dependents. Please contact the PDSO/Dean of Students for more information.

All dependent F-2 non-immigrants must be issued their own I-20. The U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services has published a final rule that changes the regulations governing enrollment for F-2 dependents. Under this rule, the F-2 spouse of an F-1 student may not engage in full time study, and the F-2 child may only engage in full time study if the study is in an elementary or secondary school (kindergarten through 12th grade). The F-2 spouse and child may engage in study that is vocational or recreational in nature. Full time study is defined as 12 credit hours for undergraduate students and 9 credit hours for graduate students.

An F-2 spouse or child who was enrolled on a full time basis prior to January 1, 2003, will be allowed to continue study but must file for a change of nonimmigrant classification to F-1, J-1, or M-1 status on or before March 11, 2003.An F-2 spouse or F-2 child violates his or her nonimmigrant status by engaging in full time study.

If you are an F-2 dependent and are going to be a full-time student (12 hours for undergraduate students and 9 hours for graduate students), you will need to apply to the BCIS for a change of status to F-1. It can take up to 240 days for the BCIS to approve a change of status so it is important that you apply early. The Dean of Students can help you prepare an application for a change of non-immigrant status.

Failure to Comply with Responsibilities
The immigration laws of this country provide for severe penalties if you fail to comply with your immigration responsibilities. You should work closely with the PDSO/Dean of Students to make certain that you comply with all F-1 regulations. We are always pleased to provide you with information, counseling, and assistance so that you may achieve your educational goals while at Christian Brothers University. We are happy to help you in any way we can to understand and comply with all federal immigration rules.

Healthcare / Insurance Info
Health care in the United States can be very expensive and even a short hospital stay can cost thousands of dollars. Some hospitals in the United States will not treat individuals who do not have insurance. This is the reason CBU and the U.S. government require all international students to obtain health insurance coverage. All F-1 and exchange visitors and their dependents are required to show proof of health insurance before they can register for classes. All coverage must contain repatriation and evacuation. CBU will purchase insurance for students who do not show proof of insurance prior to registration. The amount for the coverage will be added to the student’s account. For more information, please contact International Student Services (ISS) at advising@cbu.edu.

NOTE: Christian Brothers University also serves the health care needs of international students at Health Resources. Services provided by Health Resources are confidential and free of charge to CBU students. In addition, all CBU students are required to be fully immunized before coming to campus. Please print and fill out the Health Form and bring to campus the day of your arrival. You will not be allowed to attend classes without having completed a CBU Health Form.

Employment
Employment options for international students are limited but available. In most cases, F-1 students must obtain specific employment authorization from the PDSO/Dean of Students (and in certain instances USCIS), particularly when pursuing off-campus work. You must obtain permission before beginning employment, even if it is for purposes of fulfilling an internship requirement.

F-1 On-Campus Employment: F-1 students can work on-campus without authorization, according to the following requirements.

  • You are not eligible for any campus jobs classified as work-study positions.
  • You may work a maximum of 20 hours per week while school is in session and full-time during break and vacation periods.

Curricular Practical Training
CPT is temporary employment authorization that allows an F-1 student to gain practical experience via an internship, work off-campus, or cooperative program that is directly related to the student's program of study. CPT is linked to a specific course, is credit-bearing, and is limited to the specific employer and dates of employment listed on the CPT application. You must receive authorization from the PDSO/Dean of Students prior to the beginning requested date of employment. Once your CPT request has been approved, you will receive a new CPT I-20 reflecting your authorization to work. CPT is date- and employer-specific.

Are you eligible?
In order to be eligible for CPT, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be in lawful full-time F-1 status for a full academic year.
  • Be in good academic standing with the university.
  • The requested training must be an integral part of your program of study.
  • Your academic advisor must sign the CPT application form.
  • You have provided a job offer letter that from your employer.

An F-1 student may only apply for CPT based on one of the following categories:

  • Work is needed to fulfill course requirements.
  • Work is part of an established cooperative or clinical training program.
  • Work is necessary for the completion of the degree, thesis, or dissertation.
    (This category is most often used by graduate students who are registering for continuation courses.

Authorization period and time restrictions
Work authorization is given per quarter/semester. Additional quarters/semesters require a new application. You may use a job offer letter that covers more than one academic term, but you must still apply each term for CPT. In this case, the end date requested will be the end of the quarter/semester. Part-time CPT at the master's level cannot be combined with another part time job, such as a teaching assistantship, because combined, they are considered full-time employment.

Long-term employment offers
You might receive a job offer that spans more than one quarter. This is allowed, provided that your program enables you to be registered for a CPT class for multiple terms. Keep in mind that if you have 12 months of full-time CPT, you will not be able to apply for OPT.

  • You may turn in an employment letter with the long term dates of your offered employment. The end date of CPT should be the end of the quarter/semester.
  • You will still need to turn in a letter from your academic advisor for each semester covered. 
  • Turn in the following documents to the PDSO/Dean of Students: 1. Letter from your academic advisor stating the need for the CPT, beginning and ending dates, class for credit. 2. Job offer letter.

If the application is approved by the PDSO/Dean of Students, the period of CPT will be entered into SEVIS and a new I-20 will be printed. If your application is not approved or is incomplete, you will be emailed by the PDSO/Dean of Students.

If needed, apply for a Social Security Number after picking up the I-20. You will need a letter from the PDSO/Dean of Students. You can obtain this letter from the PDSO/Dean of Students after completion of the CPT process and your request has been approved.

Job offer letter
The letter should be typed on company letterhead and must contain the following information:

  • Dates of employment must match dates on the academic advisor's letter
  • Number of hours per week; part-time is 20 hours or less and full-time is 21 hours or more.
  • Address where the employment will take place.

OPT for F-1 Students
As an F-1 student, you may pursue off-campus work through Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT) after receiving authorization.

What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?
OPT is temporary employment authorization allowing F-1 students the opportunity to gain practical experience in their field of study. OPT is most often awarded upon completion of an academic degree, for a 12-month period.

Types of OPT applications

  • Post-Completion OPT: The most common type of OPT; it is used after your I-20 and degree are finished. 
  • Pre-Completion OPT: This type, which is used before the end date listed on your I-20 (usually during the summer vacation and), is only authorized if CPT is not an option. 
  • 17-Month STEM Extension OPT: extensions of the post-completion OPT period is for students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program.

Eligibility
Before proceeding with the OPT application process, please ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria listed below:

  • Be in lawful full-time F-1 status for full academic year
  • Be in good academic standing with the university
  • Have a valid passport
  • Have not had more than 12-months of full-time CPT

Post-completion OPT is the most common type of OPT; it is used after your I-20 and degree are finished. If you are approved for this type of authorization, you must abide by the following guidelines:

  • OPT is granted for full-time employment regardless of part- or full-time employment.
  • You may apply for one 12-month period of OPT at the completion of each academic level obtained (e.g. 12-months of OPT at the undergraduate level, masters, and PhD). Any student who applied and was approved for OPT at one academic level may not apply for a second period of OPT at the same level; you also cannot cancel your application. Any pre-completion OPT is deducted from the 12-months of post-completion OPT.
  • Once you send your OPT application materials to USCIS, you cannot change the requested dates. While on OPT, you may not pursue a new course of study, unless you are a PhD student and are in the 'all but dissertation' stage (see below for details). If you transfer to another university, your OPT work authorization will end on the day your SEVIS record is transferred.
  • You will have a 60-day grace period from the date your OPT expires to leave the U.S., apply for a change of status, or transfer your I-20 to another school.

Once USCIS has approved your OPT, you will receive a EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card that lists the dates of the OPT period and shows your picture. You cannot begin working until you receive the EAD card and the start date on it has passed.

Application materials checklist
The following items need to be reviewed by the PDSO/Dean of Students.

  1. Completed form I-765
  2. Photocopy of your first I-20 issued by CBU. If you can't locate your I-20, please turn in an I-20 that was stamped at the port of entry more than one year ago.
  3. Photocopies of all I-20s issued for previously approved periods of full or part-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
  4. Copy of I-94 Record
  5. Copy of Passport Bio Page
  6. Copy of F-1 visa stamp
  7. Check or Money Order made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security in the amount listed for I-765 processing.
  8. Two identical passport style (2" x 2") color photographs taken within the last 30 days
  9. If applicable, photocopy (front and back) of previously issued Employment Authorization Documents (EAD cards) or other USCIS approved employment authorization(s).
  10. Letter from the registrar’s office verifying your graduation status.
You can apply for post-completion OPT no more than 90 days before the end date on your I-20, or as late as 60 days after the end date (so long as you do not leave the U.S. during these 60-days, and are in F-1 status, in the U.S. at the time of application).
  • The end date is determined by the final semester that you will be enrolled at CBU.
  • The end date is the last official day of the semester, not the last day of classes or the date of a graduation ceremony.
  • If your I-20 will end after your final semester of enrollment, we will automatically shorten the end date to reflect that change.

You must send your OPT application to USCIS within 30 days from the date that the PDSO/Dean of Students signs the front page of the I-20.USCIS may take up to 3-4 months to process your OPT application. If you apply late, you may not receive the full 12 months of OPT, and your ability to begin working will be delayed.

STEM Extension OPT
This extension of the post-completion OPT period for students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Please note that the STEM Extension OPT carries additional visa restriction and reporting requirements. See restrictions below.

Are you eligible?

  • You must have earned a degree in a field included on the STEM Designated Degree Program List 
  • You must currently be on a period of post-completion OPT based on a STEM degree
  • You must have a valid EAD card
  • You must be working for an employer that is enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify program. You may find out if your employer is in the E-Verify system on the USCIS website or ask your Human Resources Office (HR)
  • You may apply for the STEM extension 120 days before the end of your first period of OPT. Check your EAD card for your OPT end date

How to apply:

  1. Ensure your degree program is eligible for STEM. Contact the PDSO/Dean of Students before proceeding with the application.
  2. Report any/all employment during your 12-month period
  3. Collect your application materials and bring to the PDSO/Dean of Students for review and processing
  4. Pick up your new I-20 with your STEM OPT recommendation from the PDSO/Dean of Students. 
  5. Mail your application to USCIS.
  6. Mail your application to USCIS within 15 days 

You will receive a receipt notice in the mail 2-3 weeks after filing the application. You may track the progress of your application on the USCIS website. Please note that USCIS does not regularly update the steps and most students see their status as 'initial review' until it jumps to 'card production.' Wait to receive EAD card in the mail. Once approved, you will receive a new EAD card for your OPT STEM Extension.

Application materials checklist: The following items need to be reviewed by the PDSO/Dean of Students. Items marked with an asterisk also need to be submitted to USCIS.

  1. Employment verification letter*
  2. Completed form I-756*
  3. Check or Money Order made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (check USCIS for current fee)*
  4. Copy of current EAD Card (front and back)*
  5. Copy of I-20 issued for first period (12 months or less) of Optional Practical Training*
  6. Copy of I-94 Record*
  7. Copy of Passport Bio Page*
  8. Copy of F-1 visa stamp*
  9. Two identical passport style (2" x 2") color photographs taken within the last 30 days*
  10. Copy of transcript or diploma reflecting conferred degree/major. 

After all documents are reviewed, you will receive an Extension OPT and recommended I-20 signed by the PDSO/Dean of Students. This needs to be submitted to the USCIS along with the above documents.

Additional Requirements of STEM Extension OPT/Maintaining Status & additional considerations
While you are on STEM OPT, your status is F1 and it is your responsibility to maintain this status. This involves the following:

  • You must work in a job that meets the employment requirements (listed below).
  • You may not accrue more than 120 days of unemployment during the total 29-month period of OPT.
  • Ensure that you have the documents you need to travel (listed below).
  • Complete the reporting requirements (explained below).
  • Employment during the 17-month extended period must be paid and must be related to the field of study in order to qualify. Self-employment and volunteer positions will not qualify as valid employment for OPT purposes during the special 17-month OPT extension.
  • The special 17-month extension of OPT is only available to each student one time. A student who is approved for a 17-month OPT extension can never apply for it again. Example: If you use your STEM extension after your MS degree, but then complete a PhD, you would only be eligible for post-completion OPT, even if your PhD is in a STEM eligible field. However, you would be eligible for regular post-completion OPT. (12 months)

After STEM
You will have a 60 day grace period after your STEM Extension during which you may prepare for your departure or change to another status. You may be eligible for the Cap-Gap if you are changing to an H-1B visa with an October 1 start date.

Reporting requirements
Reporting requirements are very strict during the 17-month OPT extension. Failure to meet these reporting requirements will result in the termination of your F-1 status and EAD card.

  • You must report your change of residential address, legal name, employer name, employer address, and/or loss of employment to the PDSO/Dean of Students within 10 days of the change by submitting the Post Completion OPT Reporting Survey.
  • You are required to submit the above survey, every 6 months, even if there has been no change.
  • Your employer is required to report to the PDSO/Dean of Students within 48 hours in the event of your termination or departure from your job.

Employment requirements

  • Employment must be paid and must be at least 20 hours per week.
  • Change in employer is possible as long as the new employer is enrolled in E-Verify and you report this change via the OPT reporting survey within 10 days of the change.
  • Multiple employers, contract work or work through an employment agency are all permitted so long as the employers are enrolled in E-Verify.
  • Self-employment is permitted as long as your business is enrolled in E-Verify, you have the proper required business licenses, and your business is related to your degree program.

Travel restrictions
Remember that your status is still F-1. In order to re-enter the U.S. you must have:

  • Valid EAD card
  • I-20 with travel signature (no more than 6 months old) with current employer information listed on 3rd page of I-20
  • Note: if you do not have this document, complete OPT Reporting Survey and email IO Advisor with completed Document Mailing Request to receive most up-to-date I-20.
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp, unless you will be able to use Automatic Visa Revalidation. It is possible to renew the F1 visa stamp during STEM OPT.
  • Current passport, valid at least six-months after the date of last entry
  • We also strongly recommend that you have a job offer letter from a current or future employer. Days abroad do not count towards unemployment if time is excused by company or travel for business.

Employment authorization is automatically extended while a timely-filed 17-month extension application is pending. While the application is pending, international travel is not recommended since you will not have a valid EAD card in your possession.

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