International Students: Maintaining Immigration Status

The responsibility for maintaining immigration status lies with the student. Key information on maintaining immigration status is listed below. Full information is available in the International Student Handbook. To maintain immigration status, international students must:

1.    Maintain full-time enrollment and normal progress toward their degree. An international student must be registered for 10 hours of graduate coursework leading to a specific graduate degree during each consecutive semester of an academic year, excluding summer, in order to meet federal requirements to maintain immigration status. Once an international student has completed all course work and is working on his/her thesis or dissertation, he/she must register for at least one research credit each academic year to retain proper university and immigration status. Such students must submit a Reduced Course Load Certification Form to UC International Services upon completion of all required course work.

2.    Work no more than 20 hours per week on campus. An international student is permitted to engage in on-campus employment only and is limited to working no more than 20 hours per week while school is in session. Working more than 20 hours per week is a violation of student status and could lead to any number of penalties, including deportation. During summer and other breaks there is no hourly limitation and students, domestic and international, can work up to 40 hours a week.

3.    Obtain extensions of their permission to stay in the U.S., as required. DHS regulations state that a student on an F-1 visa may stay in the U.S. for the duration of an educational program or a series of educational programs (for example, from an undergraduate degree through a master’s degree) plus the duration of optional practical training and then an additional 60 days. However, a student who does not complete the stated education program within the time indicated on his/her I-20 form must request a program extension prior to the completion date. A student who does not request a program extension is out of status and must be reinstated by the DHS. There are laws that severely penalize non-immigrants who violate their status through overstays. Please make sure an I-20 does not expire.

A J-1 student may stay in the U.S. for the duration of an educational program or series of educational programs plus the duration of academic training and an additional 30 days.

All J-1 students sponsored by the University of Cincinnati must make an appointment with UC International Services in Suite 7148, One Edwards Center prior to the expiration of the DS-2019. A J-1 student sponsored by organizations other than the University of Cincinnati (for example, Fulbright, LASPAU, etc.) must contact his/her sponsoring agency (the organization issuing the DS-2019).

4.    Get approval from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or UC International Services to work off campus. An international student is not eligible to work off-campus until he/she has been a full-time student for at least one academic year. At that point the student may be eligible provided there is a legitimate “academic” or “economic necessity.” The student must make an appointment with an International Services staff member to discuss eligibility. As very few students are approved for off-campus employment by the DHS, it is important that international students have sufficient financial support to fund their entire stay at the University of Cincinnati. A student can work off campus through Curricular Practical Training if the work is an integral part of degree completion. Such employment must be authorized through UC International Services.

5.    Maintain a valid passport! Each student’s passport must be valid for a minimum of six months beyond his/her expected date of entry into the U.S. For example, if the student will enter the U.S. on September 1, 2009 his/her passport should be valid until at least March 1, 2010. Renewal applications must be made with the Embassy or Consulate of the country issuing the passport, and a certification of student status from the University of Cincinnati will be required. (This can be obtained from UC International Services.)

6.    Notify UC International Services of transfer to another school or a change in educational program. An international student planning to transfer to another school should confer with an adviser in International Services. The new school will require certification of proper student status and eligibility to transfer. UC International Services will need to “release” the student’s SEVIS record to the new school in order to transfer. A transferring student must report to the international office of the new school within 15 days of the beginning of classes to have the transfer processed.

Reporting a Change of Address

An international student is required to report any address change to the university within 10 days of the change. This includes address changes of any dependents as well.

Changing Degree Programs

Any time an international student changes majors (such as chemistry to math) or degree levels (such as masters to doctoral) he/she must obtain a new I-20. No later than the 15th day after starting the new program, the student must obtain a new I-20 from UC International Services. A student must provide evidence of acceptance to the new program and proof of financial support for the new program.

Visa Expiration/Renewal

This procedure is only necessary when the student intends to travel outside the U.S. and the visa is expired. The visa need not be renewed if the student is traveling in Canada, Mexico, or other contiguous U.S. territories for less than 30 days. A student cannot renew a visa in the U.S.; he/she must visit the American Consulate/Embassy Office in the country he/she is visiting in order to get the renewal date issued. The following documentation is required: a valid passport, a properly executed I-20 or DS2019, proof of financial support, and/or a letter of certification.

Traveling Outside the United States

An F-1 visa holder needs the following documents to re-enter the U.S. after a temporary absence: 1) page 3 of form I-20 endorsed by International Services, 2) a valid passport and U.S. visa, 3) verification of adequate financial support, and 4) verification of enrollment.

Note: A new I-20 is required only if there has been a change in the student's field of study, degree level, in the source or amount of funding, or if all the endorsement lines are complete. Requests for a new I-20 or for a signature on page 3 must be made at least 5 business days before a student's planned departure.

A J-1 visa holder needs the following documents to re-enter the U.S. after a temporary absence: 1) a valid DS-2019 (pink copy) endorsed by International Services (or sponsoring agency), 2) a valid passport and U.S. visa, 3) verification of adequate financial support, and 4) verification of enrollment.

Note: A new DS-2019 is required if the student's current DS-2019 will expire before he/she plans to re-enter the U.S. or if the program of study, degree level or finances have changed. Requests for a new DS-2019 or for a signature on the pink copy must be made at least 5 business days before the student's planned departure.

More information for international students (varying from immigration regulations to cultural issues) can be obtained in the International Student Handbook.