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Immigration Information (General)

Who Is an International Student?

Non-U.S.-citizens attending UDM can be classified into three groups:

At UDM, the term "international student" refers only to those students currently in the U.S., or intending to enter the U.S., in a nonimmigrant classification (see below). International Services tracks the legal status of nonimmigrants in F and J status. Neither U.S. permanent residents nor undocumented aliens come under the auspices of the International Services Office; admission procedures for both of these groups are the same as those for U.S. citizens.

Nonimmigrant Classifications

A nonimmigrant is an alien who has been admitted to the U.S. for a limited, temporary purpose (e.g., to study) and who intends to depart the U.S. after completing that purpose. There are twenty-four classes of nonimmigrants. Those most commonly encountered at UDM are listed below.

Class (Status) and Enrollment Restrictions

The vast majority of nonimmigrants at UDM are students in F-1 status. Upon admission, these students are issued a document (Form I-20) that allows them to apply for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. International Services also issues a corresponding document (Form DS-2019) to individuals accepted or invited to study, teach, or do research at UDM under the U.S. Department of State's Exchange Visitor Program. These individuals enter the U.S. in J-1 status.

SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System)

SEVIS is an internet-based system that provides U.S. schools and officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State (DOS) with accurate and current information on exchange visitors and international students in F-1 status from the time their initial immigration documents are issued by the school until they depart the U.S.

School personnel authorized to create and update SEVIS records for students in F-1 status at their institution are known as Designated School Officials (DSOs). Those authorized to oversee the SEVIS records of the school's exchange visitors (J-1 status) are known as Responsible Officers (RO) or Alternate Responsible Officers (ARO). At UDM, the Director of International Services, the International Admissions Counselor and the Foreign Student Advisor serve as both DSOs and (A)ROs. The majority of SEVIS recordkeeping involves the reporting of events (such as registration for a full course of study) that indicate the student or exchange visitor is maintaining legal nonimmigrant status, or events (such as working without authorization) that constitute a violation of status.

Regulations, Policies and Procedures

Full course of study requirement

Nonimmigrant students in F-1 (Student) and J-1 (Exchange Visitor) status are required to register for a full course of study (defined below) in the fall and winter semesters for the duration of their academic program. Students may take a vacation or register part time in the summer term (unless that term is the student's first term at UDM). There are few exceptions to the requirement for full-time enrollment and failure to enroll for a full course of study can result in the loss of the student's status, making the student subject to deportation.

Full course of study defined

Exceptions to full-time enrollment

Exceptions to full-time enrollment may be made under certain circumstances. The following circumstances must be reported in SEVIS and require prior authorization by ISO. Failure to obtain authorization prior to assuming a reduced course load can result in the loss of the student's status. To request authorization, students must complete a Request for Exception from Full-time Enrollment form ("Blue Form").

Limits on reduced course load

Students experiencing the academic difficulties listed above may be authorized to drop below a full course of study for one semester during their entire program. They must maintain a course load of at least six credits and must resume full-time study the following semester (excluding summer).

Students experiencing illness or injury may be authorized to drop below a full course of study for a maximum of one year. Students must obtain authorization each semester.

Reduced course load with a graduate teaching or research assistantship

Students assigned teaching or research responsibilities "pursuant to the terms of a scholarship, fellowship or assistantship" may request permission from International Services to carry a reduced course load of (minimum) six credit hours. However, ISO will authorize a reduced course load only if the assistantship meets all three of the following criteria:

The intent is to distinguish between significant academic-based assistantships and other University assistantships and "scholarships" which are merely forms of on-campus employment.

Students requesting authorization must bring to the ISO the following form, completed and signed by their supervisor or department chair: Request for Reduced Course Load (Teaching or Research Assistantship).

ISO will consider requests for a reduced course load on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the hiring department.

Students and advisors should know that a program extension is generally not available to students who, because they have been authorized for a reduced courseload based on a teaching or research assistantship, fail to finish their program by the completion date indicated on the I-20.

Students should be advised that they must be authorized by ISO before registering for less than a full course of study. Students who register for a reduced course load before obtaining authorization risk losing their F-1 status if the authorization is not granted.

It should be clear that international students enrolled in a full course of study are permitted to accept any University assistantship which does not exceed 20 hours per week, and that students do not require authorization from ISO to be employed in such a position. However, an assistantship must meet the criteria outlined above in order for a student to be considered eligible to carry a reduced course load.

Employing an F-1 or J-1 student on campus

International students in F-1 and J-1 status may engage in on-campus employment for up to 20 hours per week while attending classes full time and for 21 hours or more during a vacation period or school holiday. Students may not continue to work on campus after their program of study ends. F-1 students require no authorization in order to work on campus; however, J-1 students must obtain an authorization letter from an (Alternate) Responsible Officer in the ISO.

New hires should be instructed to request the International Student Employment Packet from the Office of Financial Aid since this packet contains, in addition to the standard paperwork, forms and information relevant to international students.

Certification of employment letter required for Social Security card

The Social Security Administration no longer routinely issues Social Security numbers to international students. Such students must present evidence of employment (or of an offer of employment) when applying for a Social Security card. For new on-campus hires, this evidence will take the form of a letter from International Services as well as a letter from the student's supervisor. A form letter for supervisors, which may be filled in online and printed out on University letterhead, is available on this site.

Off-campus employment for F-1 and J-1 students

Off-campus employment in the field of study is available, with certain restrictions incidental to status, to F-1 and J-1 students both during and after the course of study. All off-campus employment must be authorized and failure to obtain authorization is grounds for termination of the student's status. In-depth information on international-student employment regulations and procedures is available on this site.

Practical Training authorization for students in F-1 status

International students participating in co-op or in a required, paid internship during the course of their program must be authorized to engage in Curricular Practical Training (CPT) by a DSO in the International Services Office before beginning employment. The student must be in valid F-1 status for at least one academic year before being eligible for CPT. (Exception: graduate students whose program requires that they begin an internship before the end of the first academic year are not subject to this regulation.)

Students may also participate in up to one year of Optional Practical Training (OPT) either before or after finishing their program. OPT is authorized by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Students must apply through the International Services Office.

Academic Training authorization for students in J-1 status

Off-campus employment for J-1s is known as Academic Training. The training can be done either during the course of study or after completion and must be authorized by a Responsible Officer (RO) or Alternate Responsible Office (ARO) for the school's J-1 program.

Before the student can be authorized, the academic advisor or dean in the student's department or college must complete the form Recommendation for Academic Training. The form is then submitted to the (A)RO, who writes a letter addressed to the student authorizing him/her to work.

Bringing an Exchange Visitor to UDM

UDM's participation the Department of State's Exchange Visitor program makes it possible for UDM faculty to invite a scholar or professor from abroad to do research or teach at UDM on a temporary basis. The minimum program duration is three weeks; the maximum duration is five years. Exchange visitors can be funded by the sponsor (UDM), by the exchange visitor's government, by agencies of the U.S. Government, by specific international organizations, as well as by other organizations and the exchange visitor's personal funds. Anyone interested in promoting educational and cultural exchange by inviting an international researcher or professor to UDM should fill out the form Request to Sponsor Exchange Visitor and submit it to the International Services Office. Please direct any questions regarding the Exchange Visitor Program to Amanda Dentler, Director of International Services at amanda.dentler@udmercy.edu or 313-993-3323.