Individuals - International students are personally responsible for maintaining their legal immigration status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) while in the U.S. The Office of International Programs has a two-fold responsibility 1) ensuring UAF compliance with the regulations and 2) to advise and assist you in maintaining your legal status.
The International Advisors are located in the Office of International Programs & Initiatives, 215 Eielson Building,
Phone 474-7677 or 474-7583
At the request of the UAF Chancellor, they are authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and the Department of State, to provide international students and scholars with immigration advising. Please take advantage of their expertise in immigration regulations. Contact them as soon as possible regarding any change in your research or teaching activities, change of address, or employment authorizations. If you have questions or concerns, ask sooner rather than later. The advisors are your advocates – they want to assist international students, scholars and professors in maintaining legal status.
International students and scholars are held to a higher standard than U.S. domestic students by U.S. immigration regulations. Issues that may not seem important could have a life-changing impact for international students and scholars.
“To Remain in Status” or “Maintaining your status”
To remain in status means you possess the proper immigration documents and are obeying the U.S. regulations for your immigration status.
The documents you must have are:
- A valid passport: means that the passport that your country issued to you has not expired. It is very important that you do not let your passport expire. You can access your home country website to find the procedures for extending or renewing your passport if necessary.
- Port of entry immigration stamp and annotation in your passport: When you arrived at the U.S. port of entry, the Customs and Border Protection officer stamped your passport and annotated the stamp with “F-1” and “D/S” while updating your immigration record and creating an electronic I-94 arrival record. This documents your official status in the U.S. D/S means duration of stratus. It indicates that as long as your Form I-20 or DS-2019 is valid AND you obey the laws and regulations regarding your immigration status, you have legal status in the U.S. Additionally, the stamp shows the date you entered the U.S. and the location. You should print a copy of your electronic I-94 arrival record for your personal reference and use from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website: cbp.gov/i94. You will need your passport information when completing the request online. You may need this for documentation purposes if applying for future immigration benefits.
- The visa in your passport gives you the authorization to request admission to the United States at a U.S. port of entry (POE). Your visa may expire and you are still in the U.S. legally. Once you have been admitted to the U.S., the U.S. visa in your passport is not an important document – except if you leave the U.S. and want to return in the same immigration status. If it expires and you leave the U.S. and wish to return to the U.S. in the same immigration status, you will have to go to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate (again) and apply for another visa before you will be allowed to re-enter the U.S.
- The Form I-20 (F-1) is the document that controls your stay in the U.S. and what you are authorized to do while here. Item #5 on the Form I-20 shows the date when your authorization to participate in your program in the U.S. ends. You should know the expiration date of your document. Sometimes the authorized period of stay may be extended. Talk with the International Advisor at least two months before your document expires so that you know what has to be done to extend your authorized period of stay. F-1 students have a 60-day grace period following the program end date. The grace period may be used for making travel arrangements to return home, sending personal belongings home and sight seeing activities. You may also apply for employment authorization in your field of study. This is known as Optional Practical Training employment authorization. Program extensions must be processed before the end of the program, not during the grace period.
The regulations you need to obey are:
- Attend the university that you are authorized to attend, every semester, except during summer. Notify the International Advisor if you plan to transfer to a different school. Your SEVIS record must be transferred to the new school before you can legally begin taking classes there.
- Take a full course of study every semester (except summer). As students, you are required to be enrolled in full-time status. You must request and receive approval for less than full-time enrollment from the International Student Advisor before the semester begins.
- Graduate students must be registered for at least 9 credits; undergraduate students must be enrolled in at least 12 credits every semester and all courses must be for a grade. Courses taken as an “Audit” do not count toward the minimum enrollment requirements.
- Of the minimum number of required credits, no more than 3 credits may be independent study or distance delivery courses.
- Courses earned under the alternative credit options in English, Foreign Languages and or Math do not count towards the credit per semester requirement.
- Before dropping classes international students are required to have authorization from the International Advisor, if the reduction of credits drops the individual below the required minimum number of credits per semester. To remain in status, approval must be received prior to dropping the credits.
- The U.S. immigration regulations also state that you must continue to make satisfactory progress towards the completion of your program.
- Students in F-1 status must apply to the International Advisor for approval to continue from one educational level to another (example: bachelor’s degree program to a master’s degree program) or a change from one program to another (example: general studies to mathematics) before you begin the new program. When these changes are made, a new Form I-20 will be issued.
- The only authorized employer is UAF. DO NOT accept off-campus employment without authorization. Under U.S. immigration regulations, students cannot work more than a total of 20 hours per week while school is in session. Students may work over 20 hours per week when classes are not in session with authorization from their employing UAF department (example: summer vacation). If you have a graduate assistantship, it is especially important that you do not work more than 20 hours in any week. You must write the actual hours (and days) that you work on your timesheet. Example: It is not legal for you to work only 15 hours and put 20 hours on your timesheet; or to work 25 hours and only put 20 hours. You must report the actual hours you work.
- Report a change of residence to the International Advisor within 10 days of your change of residence. You may complete the Office of International Programs Change of Address form or you may send the information by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
- Leave the U.S by the end of the 60-day grace or request an extension at least 30 days before the completion date.
Academic Probation, Appeal and Dismissal
International students who fail to maintain the required cumulative GPA (2.0 for undergraduates, 3.0 for graduates) must discuss the legal status of their stay with the International Advisor. Being placed on academic probation could jeopardize your non-immigrant status.
International students disqualified from their program or dismissed from the University lose the legal privilege to remain in the United States as a student. If the international student is disqualified or dismissed during the semester, they must leave the U.S. within 15 days.
You are required to notify the International Adviser of changes in your funding so that your I-20 can be adjusted to reflect your source of funding. International students who lose their UAF financial aid (example: graduate assistantship) and wish to remain at UAF, must provide the International Advisor with documentation of financial ability to pay the estimated expenses. Please contact OIP as soon as you are notified of loss of aid or scholarship award to discuss options.
NOTE: International students are not eligible for student loans through the Financial Aid Office. However, you are eligible for UAF privately-funded scholarships. For more information, see the Scholarship page . The application deadline is February 15 for the following academic year.
International students must ensure that their actions do not compromise the legality of their non-immigrant status. The UAF Student Code of Conduct is printed every semester in the back of the Class Schedule. You should be familiar with the campus rules and Code of Conduct.
International student-athletes have to meet the criteria of both the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) and the immigration regulations. International student athletes who want to participate in a training period with a semi- or pro team, and/or sign a semi- or pro contract during their enrollment and attendance at UAF, must comply with the NCAA regulations and comply with the immigration regulations. Your athletic coach and compliance officer will assist you in complying with the NCAA regulations. Please contact the International Advisor prior to participating in the training session and/or signing the contract, to ensure you have the proper immigration status for the activity. Failure to obtain the proper status could jeopardize future employment opportunities in the U.S.
The phrase “out of status” means that you have violated one or more of the immigration laws related to your immigration status. If, for any reason, you think you are out of status, see the International Advisor immediately, so that reinstatement can be started.
So, to “remain in status” or “maintain your status”, means that you have not let your important documents expire (passport or I-20) and that you obey the regulations of your F-1 immigration status.
It may become important to have copies of your immigration documents in the future. UAF does not keep these records beyond three years. You should save a copy of your electronic I-94 record, as well as your passport ID and visa pages. They should be maintained in one place, such as in a large envelope. On leaving the U.S., as soon as it is convenient, you should staple your airline boarding pass to the I-94 copy so that you have documented arrival and departure dates. This should be done each time you leave the U.S.
You should keep these records as long as you may be employed in the U.S. during your professional career. In the future, if you apply for entry to the U.S. in different immigration statuses, the immigration service has the right to ask for copies of all previous immigration documents. UAF does not keep these records beyond three years after your SEVIS record has been ended.
For more information on activities allowed in the F-1 status see the Current Student link.