Immigration Information for Current Students
Visa and Passport Renewal
The visa stamp in your passport acts as a “ticket” to enter the United States. It is common for your visa to expire while you are still here and it does not negatively affect your status, as long as your I-20 or DS-2019 is valid. However, if your visa has expired and you need to leave the US and re enter, you will need to have your visa renewed. It is recommended that you allow sufficient time for the renewal as processing times may vary in each country. To renew your visa in your home country, you will need to gather the following documents:
- Endorsed I-20 or DS-2019
- Financial documents showing proof of necessary funds to cover school costs
- Evidence showing that you intend to return to your home country upon completion of your studies
- If you are on OPT, bring your OPT I-20 and your Employment Authorization Card.
- Transcripts from Southeastern and enrollment verification for the following semester.
It is highly recommended that you renew your visa in your home country. If you apply in a third country, you are unable to return to the U.S. until the visa has been issued. There have been some occasions where this has taken several weeks. Always check with the Department of State’s web page for up to date information.
The passport that you carry indicates your country of citizenship and identity. It must remain valid during your stay in the U.S. If your passport will expire while you are here, you will need to have it renewed within six months of the expiration date. You may renew the passport by contacting your country's Consulate or Embassy in the US. Information regarding international Consulates can be found at www.state.gov.
Before your send your original passport to be renewed, please remember the following:
- Do not send your I-94 card or original I-20
- Make copies of all application documents and the passport before mailing them
- Enclose a self-addressed, pre-paid envelope with your application
Change of Address
All foreign nationals must be aware of the Department of Homeland Security’s regulations on address change notification. All non-U.S. citizens, including lawful permanent residents, are required to notify DHS of changes of address within 10 days of moving. The only foreign nationals exempt from this requirement are nonimmigrants in A and G categories.
Please note that if you are an F-1 or J-1 status holder in SEVIS, you should comply with this requirement by informing the ISO of an address change within 10 days of the change instead of sending an AR-11 or AR-11SR directly to DHS.
Also note that if you change your address in LeoNet, this will not be communicated to the ISO or DHS. Therefore, you must email the ISO at email@example.com once you move with your new address.
The ISO will NOT use this update to change your address in LeoNet. This is the student’s responsibility to ensure that Southeastern
has the most up to date contact information.
Change of Status (to F-1 or J-1)
Acquiring F-1 or J-1 Status by Travel
F-1 or J-1 student status is appropriate for individuals who intend to pursue full-time studies in the United States. For persons currently in the United States in another nonimmigrant status, they can obtain F-1 or J-1 student status via travel abroad OR by applying to US Citizenship and Immigration Services ( USCIS) for a change of status without departing the United States.
Individuals may acquire F-1 or J-1 status by leaving the United States before commencing their academic programs, obtaining an F-1 or J-1 student visa stamp and reentering the United States in F-1 or J-1 status.
First, newly admitted students must apply for a Form I-20 (F-1) or Form DS-2019 (J-1). Second, students will be instructed to pay the SEVIS fee when they receive the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 and to use the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 to apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa (stamp) at a US embassy or consulate abroad. The ISO recommends that the individual apply for the visa stamp in his or her country of citizenship or permanent residence.
Finally, upon entry to the United States, students should present the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019, passport, visa stamp, and SEVIS fee receipt to the immigration inspector. They will receive a Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record, indicating F-1 or J-1 status.
Acquiring F-1 or J-1 Status While in the United StatesIndividuals currently in the United States may apply for a change of status from certain nonimmigrant classifications to F-1 or J-1 student status. This process does not require a departure from the United States. USCIS reviews applications for change of status based on an applicant's ability to document and justify a change of intent after arrival to the United States. Applications are approved at the discretion of the USCIS adjudicator.
Please note the applicant's current non-immigrant status must be valid at the time the application is received at USCIS and that the current status will continue to be valid up until the date that the new status is requested to begin. If USCIS determines that the change would be approved more than 30 days in advance of the program start date, there is a chance the application could be denied. It is recommended that individuals contact ISO to discuss their eligibility to apply for change of status and the timing of the application.
Any individual wishing to change their current non-immigrant status to either the F-1 or J-1 should first contact the ISO at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will meet with you to discuss the required documentation and application process.
Both J-1 and J-2 visa holders who are subject to INA Section 212(e), also known as the two-year home residency requirement (see below), may not apply to change status within the United States unless they have received a waiver from USCIS, a waiver recommendation from the US Department of State (DOS), or have fulfilled the requirement.
Program ExtensionAlthough an F1 student is admitted to the US for “duration of status” to complete an educational program, the student must actually complete his/her degree program before the program end date indicated on the I-20. Any student who will not complete the academic program by that date must apply to the ISO for an extension before the program end date.
Remember, it is your responsibility to stay informed about your program end date!
Your program cannot be extended on the I-20 due to delays caused by academic probation or suspension.
If you find that you will not complete your program by the date noted on your I-20, please make an appointment with the ISO to see if you are eligible for a program extension. If you are found eligible, your program end date will be extended in SEVIS and you will be issued a new I-20.
A student who fails to complete his or her program within the time prescribed on the I-20 and cannot meet the extension criteria is considered out of status and must apply for reinstatement.
Inviting Family to the United States
Individuals who wish to invite family members to the U.S. to witness their graduation ceremony or to visit will need to request an invitation letter from the ISO. This letter will be presented by the family members when they apply for the visa in their country to show that the person they are visiting in the U.S. is considered to be a full time student and is currently in status with DHS.
To request the invitation letter, please download the Invitation Request Form. Once it is completed, bring it to the ISO so that we can process the request. Please allow up to three business days for processing.
Transferring From Southeastern to Another Institution
If you wish to transfer from Southeastern to another academic institution the following semester, you must follow these guidelines:
- Receive your confirmed admission from the new institution.
- Meet with the ISO. Bring your acceptance letter from the other school and the Transfer Out Verification Form. The other school may also give you their own SEVIS transfer form.
- Once the ISO has confirmed your eligibility to transfer, we will release your SEVIS record to the new school only after the current semester has ended.
- You will receive your new I-20 or DS-2019 from the new school after the release date.
A person is eligible for F-2 status if they are the spouse or unmarried minor child (under 21 years of age) of the F-1 student. Each F-2 dependent must have his/her own Form I-20 which can be obtained from the ISO. They may apply for the F-2 visa stamp at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas or by applying for a Change of Status in the United States (please contact the ISO for further details).
If a student is applying for his/her own initial I-20 and will be accompanied by dependent(s), he/she needs to be sure to include dependent information (along with adequate funding) by submitting the Dependent I-20 Request Form to the ISO along with their own application documents.
When requesting a dependent I-20 after the student is in the U.S. in F-1 status, he/she needs to submit the Dependent I-20 Request Form (along with proof of adequate funding) to the ISO.
Please note that individuals on the F-2 dependent student visa are NOT eligible to work in the U.S. Additionally, F-2 spouses are NOT allowed to pursue a full course of study. They may take 1-2 recreational courses, but are NOT eligible to participate in courses leading toward a degree. However, F-2 children can participate in full-time elementary or secondary study (kindergarten through 12th grade).
F-2 dependents follow similar travel and reentry procedures as the F-1 status holder, but should carry copies of the F-1’s most current immigration documents if traveling separately.
A person is eligible for J-2 status if they are the spouse or unmarried minor child (under 21 years of age) of the J-1 exchange visitor. A J-1 exchange visitor at Southeastern can be either a “student” or “scholar.” Each J-2 dependent must have his/her own Form DS-2019 which can be obtained from the ISO by the J-1 status holder. They may apply for the J-2 visa stamp at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas or by applying for a Change of Status in the United States (please contact the ISO for further details).
If a student is applying for his/her own initial DS-2019 and will be accompanied by dependent(s), he/she needs to be sure to include dependent information (along with adequate funding) by submitting the Dependent DS-2019 Request Form to the ISO along with their own application documents.
When requesting a dependent DS-2019 after the student is in the U.S. in J-1 status, he/she needs to submit the Dependent DS-2019 Request Form (along with proof of adequate funding) to the ISO.
J-2 dependents are eligible to apply for employment authorization from the USCIS as long as the employment is not for the purpose of supporting the J-1. Please see the ISO for further information.
J-2 dependents follow similar travel and reentry procedures as the J-1 status holder, but should carry copies of the J-1’s most current immigration documents if traveling separately.
This information outlines the several ways that it is possible to become a permanent resident of the United States. For more information about permanent residence in general, the ISO recommends consultation with a qualified immigration attorney.
A person who has permanent resident status in the United States has the right to live and work in the US. This right may last for a lifetime, or it can be ended in some circumstances by an uninterrupted absence from the United States of more than a year or two.
Permanent residents are said to have immigrant status in the US, in contrast to foreign nationals who are here temporarily in nonimmigrant status, such as F-1 students, J-1 scholars or H-1B temporary workers. A permanent resident is said to have a green card, an outdated reference to the permanent residence identification card, which used to be green but is now a pale red, white and blue. Permanent residents are also often said to have PR.
Permanent residence is not the same as citizenship. Permanent residents of the US remain nationals of their home country. They do not hold US passports and they do not owe allegiance to the US. They may not vote in elections, and they may not hold elective office. After a certain period of physical presence in the US (five years in most cases, three in some), permanent residents can apply for US citizenship if they choose, but it is not necessary to become a citizen to retain the right of permanent residence.
There are several avenues for acquiring permanent resident status in the United States. Following is a brief summary of the options. For more information about permanent residence in general, the ISO recommends consulting a qualified immigration attorney.
The laws governing immigration in this country of immigrants have changed drastically over the years. At present, legal immigration is tightly limited, with preference given to close family members of US citizens (and permanent residents) and the professionally skilled and highly talented who come to the country to take up specialized or high level jobs. Within these limits, various provisions of current immigration law attempt to insure equity and national diversity in the continued flow of new residents to the US.
It is possible, at present, to become a permanent resident of the US in any of five ways: through the petition of a close relative, by a successful application for political asylum, through the petition of an employer, by winning the annual green card lottery, or through self-sponsorship.
Family-Based PR: If you have a mother, father or spouse who is a citizen or permanent resident of the US, that relative may be able to file a petition with USCIS to obtain permanent residence for you. If you have a child or sibling who is a US citizen and is at least 21 years old, that relative can also petition for permanent residence for you. Depending on the relationship between you and whether your relative is a citizen or permanent resident, it can take several months to more than 10 years for you to obtain permanent residence in this way.
Asylum: If you can prove to the satisfaction of immigration officials that you have a well-founded fear of persecution should you be forced to return to your home country, you may be able to obtain permanent residence in the US through an appeal for asylum. Applications for asylum must generally be filed within one year from last entry to the US. An asylum application often takes years to complete and is best done with the aid of an attorney. The majority of asylum applications are eventually denied, although applicants from countries whose governments are considered by the US to be hostile to the United States have often experienced a higher approval rate.
Diversity Lottery: After several prior experiments in making permanent residence available through a lottery system, Congress instituted the diversity lottery program in 1993. This program allots 55,000 green cards every year under a complex formula that favors nationals of countries that have contributed fewer immigrants to the US in recent years. Recent diversity lotteries have favored applicants from Africa and most of Western Europe, since these areas have been least represented in immigration to the US in recent years. Millions of people apply for the annual diversity lottery. Regional allocations for the diversity lottery will change every year in response to changing immigration patterns. Registration for the diversity lottery, which usually takes place for a thirty-day period in Fall each year, is simple and does not require an attorney or agent of any kind. Please see http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/types/types_1318.html for information on applying for the Diversity Lottery.
Employment-Based PR: If you have a permanent, professional level job in the US, and if your employer can prove that there are no qualified US persons available for the position, you may be able to obtain permanent residence through the petition of your employer. A second employment-based option is the Outstanding Professor/Researcher petition, in which an employer demonstrates that the employee meets criteria which show that he or she has risen to the very top of his or her field of expertise.
A professional worker may obtain permanent residence when first entering the US to take up a senior position. More often, however, an international scholar will begin working with authorization based on his/her F-1/J-1 nonimmigrant student status or as a temporary worker in H-1B status. At some point - a point that may come almost immediately or only after several years - the employer may be able to petition successfully for permanent residence for the worker. The employment-based application process can take anywhere from a few months to several years from start to finish, depending on the filing location and the length of a variety of processing backlogs that can come into play.
Self-Sponsorship: Certain highly accomplished scholars may find two routes to permanent residency available to them without having to have a permanent job offer, or any job offer for that matter. The first possibility is for an alien who can be documented to be of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education and business. This category is reserved for those who are at the very top of their field. When a job offer is not involved, the scholar must demonstrate his or her intent to continue work in his or her field. Only faculty and researchers of international reputation - who can document that reputation - will qualify for permanent residency under this category. The second possibility for a scholar to sponsor himself/herself for permanent residency is through the national-interest waiver application. The national-interest waiver may be filed either by the alien or by the employer. If it can be demonstrated that the work being done is (1) in the national interest and that (2) the scholar’s continued presence is crucial to the on-going work, the scholar - acting on his or her own - or the employer acting on the scholar’s behalf may be able to obtain permanent residence through a national interest waiver. A letter from an interested US government agency recommending the waiver is very useful when applying for a national interest waiver.
J-1 Two Year Home ResidencySome J-1 exchange visitor students may be subject to the 212(e) rule. This means that your home country requires you to return home for at least two years after the J program has ended. This rule would prevent you from changing your visa status within the boundaries of the US to most other statuses. You may apply for the F-1 student visa at a US Consulate or Embassy outside the US for a new academic degree program. However, it is not guaranteed that you will be issued an F-1 visa to enter the US to pursue another US degree. Should you be issued an F-1 visa, it does not eliminate the 212(e) requirement for you to return home for 2 years; it merely postpones the requirement until after your F-1 program.
Part of being an exchange student may entail returning home after the program and apply the knowledge and experience you have gained through the program by bringing it back to your home country, as may be required by the US Department of State and some sponsors.
Students may refer to their J-1 visa stamp and/or the information in the lower left box of the DS-2019 form to determine if they are subject to the 212(e) requirement.
There is a process to apply for a waiver of the 212(e) requirement if you are subject; however, it is not guaranteed that it will be waived. You should set up an appointment with the ISO to get more information. It is difficult to obtain a waiver if there was government money involved in your exchange sponsorship.
Waiver of 212(e) information: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/info/info_1294.html
Replacing Lost or Stolen Documents
If for any reason, you have lost your documents or they were stolen, please meet with the ISO as soon as possible for advising. For stolen documents, you must file a police report and follow the instructions below in order to replace the documents:
For F-1 or J-1 students, unless funding situations have changed, after verifying your identification and immigration status maintenance, the ISO will assist youin obtaining a replacement I-20 or DS-2019. Please contact the ISO at email@example.com to request the replacement.
Contact or review the web site information for your country's embassy or consulate in the U.S. to find out how to obtain a new passport and to make notification of your missing passport to guard against fraudulent use.
Contact information for foreign embassies in the U.S. can be found at http://www.state.gov/s/cpr/rls/fco/
Web site addresses for foreign embassies in the U.S. can be found at http://www.embassy.org/embassies
If you have lost all of your photo identification, contact your country's consulate/embassy to find out what alternate documents you may need.
EAD Card for F-1 Students on OPT
- Checkbox for Replacement of lost Employment Authorization Document at the top of Form I-765
- Send photocopies of all I-20's and a copy of the new I-20 with current OPT Recommendation, in addition to the other documents required.
Social Security Card
You will need new documents and have current authorization for work in the U.S. in order to apply for a new Social Security Card. If you think someone is using your Social Security Number, call the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213. Note: If you already have a Social Security Number, you usually do not need to show it to anyone. Generally, you only need to know the number for tax filing purposes and for providing to your employer. If you do not know your number, you should check with any previous employers, schools, or other institutions (such as your bank) that may have it on record or on copies of tax forms you previously filed.
If you plan to travel very soon, there may not be time to obtain a replacement I-94
card. If you have a photocopy of your latest card, you may want to submit a photocopy
to the airline upon departure. However, applying for a replacement I-94 is strongly
recommended as all foreign nationals over the age of 18 are required to carry their
I-94 card at all times.