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Immigration

What is SEVP/SEVIS?

SEVP stands for the Student and Exchange Program while SEVIS stands for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.

SEVIS is a database under SEVP that was put into place back in January 2003 by the Department of State and the Department of Homeland security following the events of September 11, 2001. This database needed to be created in order to satisfy legislation passed by U.S. congress, mandating the use of an electronic systems to collect and store information on all Fand J non-immigrants. Using the system SEVIS, SEVP is able to communicate current and up to data to any and all government agencies in need of student information.

At any SEVP approved institution in the U.S. there will be a PDSO (principle designated school official) or DSO (designated school official) present on campus for the intake of F and J non-immigrants. It is this individual(s) who is responsibile to ensure proper reporting and record upkeeping for SEVP. These student records of admission and continued participation in these educational programs need to be continuously maintained for the institution to remain SEVP approved.

Table of Contents

Maintaining F-1 Status

As an active student here in F-1 status, it is your sole responsibility to understand and comply with all rules and regulations set by the United States Government. Although the onus is on you, our Global Education Office is here to provide guidance and assist with all things related to your immigration record. Failure to adhere to regulations will leave you in violation of status and result in the termination of your immigration record. This could potentially lead to both immediate and long terms ramifications while being a student and when applying for benefits with the USCIS in the future.

What is F-1 Status?

“Status” is your nonresident category officially granted by an immigration official when entering the country. To be in F-1 “status” means that you are legally in the U.S. and have benefits and restrictions specified in the immigration regulations for the F-1 visa category.

Once an initial student has received their I-20, applied for and obtained their F-1 visa, they will look to enter the United States through a port of entry. By successfully entering the country through CBP (Customs and Border Control) a student will be placed into F-1 status. Your status is directly related to your reasoning for being in the country. As an F-1 student your main priority is your education and to complete your program of study.

After having entered the country, you will notice that your passport has been stamped with D/S. The D/S on your passport stands for duration of status. This means your admission to the United States is for the length of your F-1 status. F-1 status covers the following periods of time:

  • Fully registered student making progress towards their degree.
  • Students who have been authorized for 1 year of employment post-degree via Optional Practical Training. (Potentially 3 years for STEM eligible degrees)
  • The 60-day grace period is provided to students who successfully complete their degree. This period of time is granted to F-1 students to prepare for departure, attempt a change of status, or transfer out to another institution.

F-1 Student Documentation

As an international student there is a federal law that states you need to carry your “registration documents” at all times. Your registration documents consist of your passport, visa, I-20, and form I-94. Your I-20 and passport in particular are very important so we recommend that these are kept in a secure location and to instead carry around copies of these documents with you daily. Only carry originals when traveling outside of the tri-state area whether by plane, bus, or train.

Passport: Your passport will always need to be valid at least 6 months into the future. Should you at some point in time lose your passport or have it stolen you should immediately report it and look to have a police report filed. To receive a renewed passport, you will need to contact your local embassy or consulate, likely located in NY. Depending on your governments procedures you may be required to show to them a police report if you believe it was stolen.

Visa: Your visa is normally placed in your passport (unless you are a citizen of Canada or Bermuda) and is what is used for entry into the country. Unlike your passport, if your physical visa is lost/stolen, you will only be able to renew this abroad. In many cases, your visa may expire before the conclusion of your planned duration of status (program of study or OPT period) but since the visa is only used for entry you will be able to remain within the country. However, if you intend to leave the country for any reason with an expired visa and plan to re-enter, your visa will need to be renewed before crossing through CBP

Form I-20: This government issued document is provided to you by Monmouth University. It is necessary to have when applying for the F-1 visa and is also used whenever entering the country. The I-20 holds information about your institution, current status, program dates, travel endorsement, and a wealth of other information. The I-20 must be kept valid at all times and if misplaced can be requested to be reprinted by your (P)DSO. If the I-20 expires before the actual completion of a student’s program, this will be considered a violation of F-1 status. Throughout a student’s program of study, several I-20’s will likely be issued with various type of adjustments. It is the student’s responsibility to collect and retain all I-20’s issued as they can be requested when seeking benefits such as employment benefits/ a change of status.

Form I-94: This form shows a record of your most recent entry into the country. It further confirms your identity as well as your what status you last entered in. This form is easily accessible online at any time by visiting the official I-94 website.

Full-Time Requirements

Unless otherwise informed, all F-1 International Students must be enrolled Full-time during the regular academic year.

  • Undergraduate students: 12 credits minimum
  • Graduate students: 9 credits minimum

Note: Both undergrad and graduate students are allowed to take up to one online course for up to 3 credits each semester that can count towards full-time enrollment.

Be Advised: In most cases, students will not need to take courses during the summer session unless they wish to. However, there are 3 instances where full-time enrollment during the summer will be required.

  • If a student is starting their degree program in the summer and will be physically entering the U.S. with an initial I-20.
  • If a student is transferring into Monmouth from another institution and wishes to begin studying on campus during the summer session.
  • If a student will pursue a Change of Education Level after completing their Undergraduate degree and will be starting a new degree program with classes beginning in the summer directly following graduation.

At no time should a student be under-enrolled in less than 12 (undergrad) or 9 (grad) credits during the Fall and Spring semesters. Being below full-time without any type of authorization will be considered a violation of F-1 status and result in a terminated record should the issue not be resolved.

For more information on this and exceptions to being fully enrolled during the academic year, please reach out to our office for guidance at geointernational@monmouth.edu.

Normal Academic Progress

Academically, international students are required to be making “normal progress” towards their degrees. This basically means that students should be enrolled in proper courses that go towards the completion of their degree, while also meeting all of the institution’s academic and enrollment requirements.

Employment

Employment is any type of work or service that brings any type of benefit to the individual performing it. This is not just limited to financials compensation but also includes goods and any experience gained from this employment. The United States considers working without authorization a very serious offense and would be a direct violation of your immigration status.

Make sure to always contact our office first, before engaging in anything that may be deemed as employment.

Change of Address

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires that any change of address be reported within 10 days. If you are a current student, you will need to do this via a change for address request in your myMU portal. Once submitted it will first go through registrar and then to our office to be updated in SEVIS. If you are on OPT or the STEM extension, to have this updated in SEVIS you can email your new address to geointernational@monmouth.edu.

Completion of Your Program

Once a student has successfully completed their academic program of study and their I-20 end date has passed, they will enter into their 60-day grace period. To review your options available to you during this period, please meet with us to review your case.

*If a student does not complete their educational objective and for example, chooses to withdraw instead, they will not be granted the 60-day grace period and will need to leave in a much shorter time frame. If you intend not to finish your degree, please consult with our office for further guidance.

Loss of F-1 Status

If at any time and for any reason a student loses their immigration status due to a violation and their record requires termination, the student will want to work with our office urgently to resolve this matter. There is one of two ways to go about this with the first being a travel restart, with the other option being reinstatement. Both options require consideration based on the student’s case and can be discussed in depth during a scheduled appointment. Should a student pursue the reinstatement option we would highly recommend they obtain the assistance of an immigration attorney for filing as this service will not be provided by our office.

Changes Requiring SEVIS Updates

Reduced Course Load

Under normal circumstances undergraduate students are required to complete at least 12 credits per semester and graduate students are required to complete at least 9 credits per semester. However, through this request, it may be possible for an international student to receive authorization to drop below this credit minimum via an RCL (reduced course load) for the following reasons:

  • A medical reasoning such as illness, injury, or mental health concerns.
  •  You are having Academic Difficulties such as difficulty with the English language in your first semester or had been advised to take a course you do not have the proper level of knowledge or skill set to successfully complete.
  • Concurrent Enrollment at another SEVP approved institution for credits that when combined with Monmouth credits places the student at full time for the semester.
  • It is your Final Semester, and you are below full time but are enrolled in the necessary number of credits to complete your degree.

Should one of these reasons apply to an international student, they must first check in with their Academic Advisor about an RCL and complete a Reduced Course Load request. Your Academic Advisor will automatically be emailed for their approval. If you have a scholarship through Monmouth University, please check with the Financial Aid office to see how your Reduced Course Load may impact this.

Important to note, an RCL is only valid for one semester at a time. Should additional time be needed on an RCL for another semester and/or reason, a separate request will need to be submitted for approval.

If a student situation does not fall under any of the reasons above you will be required to enroll full time in order to maintain your F-1 status. Unfortunately, we are not able to issue a Reduced Course Load for financial issues, as this is not a reason recognized by the U.S. government regulations.

I-20 Extension

This request is for students who are unable to complete their degree requirements by the program end date listed on their I-20. For extension, a student must make this request at least 30 days before the current I-20 end date expires. The International Student Serices (ISS) office will not be able to authorize an extension after your I-20 end date has passed. 

Failure to extend will result in the loss of your F-1 status and ability to apply for off-campus work authorization – Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT). 

Steps for I-20 Extension

  1. Meet with an academic advisor to discuss a new program completion date. It should be mentioned that there will be the submission of a request to our office that will then be redirected for the academic advisor to complete.
  2. Submit the I-20 Extension request. This request will confirm the following:
    1. Confirmation and approval from academic for the extension
    2. Reason for the need of an extension (Medical or Academic delay)
    3. New anticipated program completion date

Once the request is fully submitted and if approved, an updated I-20 will be generated showing the new program end date. Do note, this process will only extend the end date on your I-20, and not your F-1 visa in your passport.

Immigration Leave

This form is for international students specifically here on the F-1 or J-1 visa who intend to exit Monmouth University whether permanently or temporarily due to personal or medical reasons. This form is related only to your immigration record and does not act as a replacement for an academic withdrawal from classes or an academic leave of absence.

In order to take a leave of absence, students will need to do the following steps:

  1. Speak with an academic advisor to ensure an understanding on how a break could impact a student’s studies.
  2. Complete the Immigration Exit form.

When a student takes a leave of absence for personal reasons, unless transferring to another institution, ISS will be required by F-1 regulations to terminate the SEVIS record and they must depart the U.S. within 15 days. The student cannot remain in the U.S. as an F-1 international student or re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status, during the leave or after the withdrawal from the university.

When a student takes a leave of absence for medical reasons, they will be required to upload a medical note into the request. The note must be in English, on official letterhead, be signed by a medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy or licensed clinical psychologist/psychiatrist and must specifically recommend a leave of absence for whichever semester the break will occur. During a medical leave, ISS will keep your SEVIS record active. During the leave a student may stay in the U.S., travel in and out of the US, or may remain outside the US during the entire leave.

Unlike a personal leave, a medical leave will need to be renewed each semester if needed.

An immigration leave may impact a scholarship or grant given by Monmouth University. It would be necessary for a student to check in with the Office of Financial Aid to see how they may be affected.

When you want to return from your leave of absence, a written request must be submitted to the ISS office via email. Please be aware that if returning from a personal leave, you will need to pay the SEVIS fee again, present financials showing coverage for at least one year, and need to wait 2 semesters on a new I-20 SEVIS ID, before eligibility to apply for CPT or OPT.

Adding Dependents

This request is for new or continuing students who have already been issued an I-20 and would like to add a dependent(s) to their immigration record. Any dependent added to an F-1 student’s immigration record would need to be either a spouse and/or child(ren) accompanied with proof of relation. By working with our office, we will seek to have the student’s dependent(s) seek admission as F-2 visa holder. The following will need to occur and be provided in order to successfully have a dependent added:

  1. For a spouse you will need to provide a passport and marriage certificate (translated in English)
  2. For a child you will need to provide a passport and birth certificate (translated in English)
  3. Financials: for your first dependent you will need to show liquid funding of $8,000 USD. For any additional dependent after that will require $4,000 extra.
    • The liquid funding amounts needed to be shown to add dependents onto your immigration record are based on a formula using Monmouth County’s poverty line.

Once proper documentation has been provided and reviewed, the Global Education Office will issue an F-2 I-20. This I-20 will need to be signed and sent to the dependent abroad for them to schedule a visa appointment with their local embassy or consulate.

Change of Education Level

This request is for when a student has completed their current degree or finished their authorized OPT and have been admitted to a new and/or higher degree program here at Monmouth. The request and processing for a change of education level must occur within the students 60 days grace period. The new program start date, listed on the COEL I-20, must be within five months of the previous programs end date. Commonly, students who pursue a COEL complete their degrees during the Spring semester and then begin their new program the following Fall. However, if in case a student wishes to begin their new program immediately after the Spring semester, they would need to be enrolled full time for that summer semester. This is due to the start date on the initial COEL I-20 counting as the first semester of an academic program which requires full time enrollment.

Currently a COEL form will be under development and in partnership with admissions.

Change of Major

Occasionally, part or mid-way through a student’s program of study they may discover another major that better suits their academic interests. When this happens, our office will need to be made aware, as this may result in a student’s immigration record requiring an update. In this case, a “Change of Major” request will need to be submitted to our office. Confirmation of this change and the semester that this change will occur will have to be provided by the student and their academic advisor via the request.

Only after the request has been submitted and approved can a student potentially receive an updated I-20 showing and updated CIP and major. Sometimes a change of major may reflect the same CIP code and in which case would not generate a new I-20 but either way, the student will be informed.

As a reminder, an F-1 students immigration record will need to reflect what a student is doing at any point in time. Therefore, if a student submits this request midway through a semester in which they are still registered under their previous major, the update in SEVIS will not be able to take place until the current semester is completed.

Lastly, please note, that by changing your academic major, this may require you to pursue additional credits to meet the requirements of your new major. This could result in a student needing additional time added on to their I-20 to complete their program. Should this be case, an I-20 extension request will also need to be submitted.

Transfer Out

This request is submitted when a student is looking to transfer their SEVIS immigration record from our university to another SEVP approved institution during or after their programs of study. This transfer is not to be confused with the transfer of academic records from one institution to another which would need to be worked on separately with the Registrar’s Office. In order for us to transfer an immigration record, the following would need to occur:

  1. If a student is looking to transfer out during their program of study and will not be completing their degree here at Monmouth, an immigration exit form will need to be submitted first.
  2. Complete a transfer out request. Within this request students will be asked to indicate a transfer release date that informs us of when to release the record to the next institution.
  3. Upload following documents into transfer request:
    • A copy of your acceptance letter from the next institution
    • The transfer out form from the next institution (this should be provided by the future institutions International Student Services Department and is normally in the form of a digital or paper form)

On the academic’s side of things, a student also may need to complete the “Total Withdrawal” e-form. You will need to speak with your academic department to determine if this needs to be completed. Once the request is fully submitted, the global education office will work to complete the transfer of the SEVIS record to the next institution. 

Important information to consider before submitting the transfer out request include:

Once a SEVIS transfer is completed, the Global Education Office will no longer have access to your SEVIS record and will be unable to assist or advise on issues related to immigration. Questions at that time would need to be brought directly to the new institution. If the program end date has passed and a student request’s to be transferred after the 60 days grace period, the record will have already auto completed and the request will be denied. In this scenario, follow up with the next institution will be required for guidance on regaining status.
 
If a student is currently on OPT or the STEM extension, once the immigration record has been transferred officially transferred in SEVIS, this would complete any current work authorization and employment would need to cease, effective immediately. If you will not be completing your program of study here at Monmouth University but wish to transfer out during the middle or after the current semester, you’ll likely first need to complete the “Total Withdrawal” e-form for academics/registrar (if applicable) and also the “Immigration Exit for International Students” e-form, for the immigration side of things.
 
When transferring an immigration record, the program start date of the next institution must be within five months from either the transfer release date or the current program completion date listed in SEVIS. For students on OPT, instead of the program completion date, it will be the end date of your work authorization listed in your SEVIS record and EAD card.

Travel Restart

This request is for students who have fallen out of immigration status due to a violation and need to regain F-1 status by departing the United States and re-entering. This process is called the “Travel Restart.”

In order for this process to begin the following will need to take place:

  • Meet with your academic advisor to make them aware of your situation and to confirm your anticipated program completion date.
  • Submission of the Travel Restart Request. In this request you will be able to inform the Global Education Office of your travel plans and other relevant information.
  • Receive and upload updated financial documentation showing your ability to pay for the remainder of your course; this will be required to submit in the Travel Restart Request.

Once this form is completed, our office would generate a special I-20 with “Travel Restart” remarks included for students to use when re-entering the U.S. to resume their studies. To regain valid F-1 status via this method, the new “Travel Restart” I-20 will be required as well as a new SEVIS fee needing to have been paid. It is important to note that two full semesters of study would need to be completed with your new SEVIS ID before you would be eligible for off-campus work authorization – Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Important information to know for travel: While most travel restarts are successful, there are no guarantees, and it is important to note that entrance into the country is completely at the discretion of CBP (Customs and Border Protection). While it is unlikely to run into any severe complications when re-entering, CBP can ultimately deem you ineligible for re-entry and deny you at the border. They can also request to speak with your current (P)DSO via phone or email before allowing you entry. Should this be the case student would need to contact MUPD who will connect you to a Monmouth University (P)DSO.

Important information to know for required financials: In order to issue “Travel Restart” I-20, our office is required to receive updated funding. Students are required to submit updated financial documentation showing their ability to support themselves during their next year of study or the remainder of their degree program, whichever is less. We are only able to accept documents no older than six months. Should you use a sponsor (e.g. family member or friend), you will provide their information below in the request and be asked to have filled out an affidavit of financial support.


Maintaining J-1 Status

As an active student here in J-1 status, it is your sole responsibility to understand and comply with all rules and regulations set by the United States Government. Although the onus is on you, our Global Education Office is here to provide guidance and assist with all things related to your immigration record. Failure to adhere to regulations will leave you in violation of status and result in the termination of your immigration record. This could potentially lead to both immediate and long terms ramifications while being a student and when applying for benefits with the USCIS in the future.

What is J-1 status?

Under Construction

Types of J Visa Categories at Monmouth

  • J-1 Student Exchange
  • J-1 Intern
  • J-1 Scholar/Research Professor

Change of Status

Changing immigration status to or from an F-1, can be a very complex and timely process. An application can take upwards of 9 months to be processed and adjudicated by USCIS. Depending on how a student decides to pursue a change of status, it may be best to work with outside consultation from a practicing and reputable immigration attorney.

Change of Status to an F-1

In some circumstances, an individual may already be here on a specific type of visa such as a tourist or an H-4 visa and wish to study under F-1 status. In this case there is one of two ways to go about this:

  • Travel and Re-Entry: This would normally be the more advisable option, which involves the generation of an initial I-20 with a start date of the following semester and the departure of individual from the United States thus ending their status in that visa category. Once abroad that individual would schedule a visa appointment with their local consulate/embassy. As with any initial I-20 first created, the SEVIS fee would need to be paid prior to the interview for the F-1 visa. Once approved and the F-1 visa is received, the individual can confidently re-enter the United States in F-1 status. The benefits of this approach would be the quick turnaround time of gaining F-1 status, the potential for a relatively low cost (the SEVIS fee + Travel), and the likely hood of successful re-entry.
  • Change of Status: Although not recommended in most circumstances, some situations may call for this approach as opposed to the travel and re-entry method. In cases where the individual is within the country and is either unable or advised not to physically leave the U.S., the “change of status” option can be considered. This would allow the individual to pursue F-1 status without needing to depart the country. If this is the course of action decided on, a (P)DSO at our university will create a special I-20 with “change of status” remarks on page 1. The individual will then need to work with an immigration attorney for filling the request for the “change of status” with USCIS and also remain in communication with our office, providing any updates as they come along. The drawbacks of pursuing this option include the legal fees paid to the immigration attorney, the waiting time for adjudication (upwards of nine months), and the non-guarantee of approval. Additionally, something else to keep in mind is that the individual applying for the change of status may not partake in their academic objectives while the application is pending with USCIS. Once a decision has been made and if approved, the student may then pursue their academic degree but until then, they must remain in the country in the visa status of which they arrived.

Change of Status from an F-1

In many circumstances, post F-1 status, an international student will want to pursue one of several different types of visa categories to further pursue employment and residency within the United States. This process would need to be started well in advance of either the completion of a student’s degree or their OPT/STEM OPT end date. Working with an immigration attorney an application must be filed to USCIS for adjudication while the student is still within legal status. Unfortunately, our office only specializes in F and J visa regulations and are not equipped to assist with another visa categories application procedures. However, in most cases the immigration consultation is covered by the students host organization or place of employment. Some examples of common visa types that a student may wish to consider applying for are the H1-B, O-1, L-1, TN and E visas.