General Information and Terminology

Below we have provided terms and definitions, as well as sample documents, which pertain to F-1 and J-1 students. 

Other International Student Information

English Proficiency and Language Support Programs
International students admitted to study at the University at Albany have demonstrated their English language proficiency per University standards. While these standards have been met, international students, like all other students, need continued guidance and practice in areas like academic writing and presentation skills. The University offers a number of related resources to assist students, including but not limited to the following:

  • Intensive English Language Program or the IELP (Science Library G40) offers 4 and 8 week-long intensive ESL training focused on academic reading, writing, speaking and listening as well as academic vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. IELP also provides English for Specific Purpose (ESP) instruction in areas like business and engineering English, and also provides a 4-day intensive Academic & Language Skills Boot Camp before each semester, a 4-week intensive summer program called Learn to Thrive (in the university classroom), and supplemental English, including for the occasional concurrent enrollment of degree seeking students.
    AdvisingPLUS (SS 308) works with students in need of academic assistance. Some of this assistance is also provided online, including Writing assistance, through STAR-NY.
    Student Success Center (State Quad, Whitman Hall) has ESL tutors are available for UNI 110 Writing and Critical Inquiry courses, as well as general advisement on writing
    Educational Theory and Practice courses
    o ETAP 487 (2 credits): Academic Discussion for English as a Second Language, International Undergraduate Students—this course assists students in small groups (3-5 students) in developing their skills in grammar, vocabulary, speaking or writing. Please note that while it is listed as a 400 level course it is an appropriate course for first year students.
    o ETAP 500 (3 credits): Academic Writing for English as a Second Language, Graduate Students—this course is highly recommended for international graduate students. Students will learn about the expectations and conventions of doctoral and masters level academic writing in English. It is designed to improve students’ writing skills through classroom practice and teacher and peer feedback.

Grace Period at End of International Student Program
F-1 visa holders have 60 days after the end of the program of study (or the end of OPT) to be admitted to a new program (which must begin within 5 months) or to travel within the U.S., wrap up their affairs, and prepare to depart. J-1 visa holders’ grace period is only 30 days. In both cases, the students may not leave for a short trip (to Canada, for example) and return after the expiration of the I-20 or DS-2019 form.

Students who voluntarily withdraw before completing a program, and are authorized for this withdrawal, must leave the U.S. within 15 days. Those who are academically dismissed or suspended for disciplinary reasons must leave the U.S. immediately upon final decision of dismissal. No grace period applies in these situations.

Housing
Options are the same for international students as for all students: freshmen are required to live on-campus; undergraduate transfer students may be accommodated on campus if they apply in a timely way.
Students looking for off-campus accommodations can refer to our Housing page for resources.

Insurance
All students identified by the University as “international” (i.e. visa holders) are automatically billed for required health insurance and emergency assistance insurance (evacuation and repatriation of remains). Students who opt to receive health insurance as a benefit of University assistantships are not required to carry the international student health insurance but ARE required to purchase the emergency assistance insurance. Other students who have equivalent health insurance coverage may apply for a waiver of the international health insurance fee by a specified date early each semester. Note: Waiver applications approved in the fall are good for the academic year but must be resubmitted each fall.

Travel Outside and Within the U.S.
Students leaving the U.S. temporarily must request a “travel signature” from ISSS staff on the I-20 or DS-2019 form. This signature certifies that the student is in good standing as a full time student. No one other than Designated School Officials (DSOs, whose names are designated in SEVIS) should sign any immigration documents. Students traveling within the U.S. (but away from the Albany area) are advised to carry their passports and I-20 or DS-2019 forms with them, in the event that they need to prove who they are and that they are legally present in the U.S.

Terminology

F-1: The F-1 visa category is for students pursuing full-time study in the United States

F-2: Dependents of an F-1 (spouse or child under 21) are referred to as F-2s.

J-1: The J-1 visa has a number of subcategories for exchange visitors, which include students, exchange visitors, visiting scholars, au pairs, etc...  The Exchange Visitor program is administered by the Department of State

J-2: Dependents of an J-1 (spouse or child under 21) are referred to as J-2s.

SEVIS: The federal database managed by the Department of Homeland Security which houses the records for F-1 and J-1 students.  ISSS makes regular reporting in SEVIS.

Status: This is the legal standing of a visa holder in the United States.  Different statuses allow different purposes for being in the United States.  Some allow study, employment, and other benefits, others do not.

Visa: This is the entry document.  A student needs a valid visa to enter the United States, and should enter using the visa that reflects their current status.  A student can remain in the United States on an expired visa as long as his or her immigration status is still valid.

Non-Immigrant: F-1s and J-1s are non-immigrant visas, meaning that the student must show non-immigrant intent prior to obtaining the visa.

I-20: This document is used for a F-1 student to obtain an F-1 status, and proves their status while in the United States.

DS-2019: This documents is used for a J-1 exchange visitors to obtain a J-1 visa, and proves their status while in the United States.

DHS (Department of Homeland Security): The federal agency responsible for a number of security and enforcement related matters, including immigration enforcement.  SEVIS is managed by DHS.

USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services): This federal agency, housed under the Department of Homeland Security, adjudicates benefits such as OPTs and changes of status.

CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection): This federal agency, housed under the Department of Homeland Security, mostly interacts with students at the border and determines their eligibility to enter the U.S.

ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement): This federal agency, housed under the Department of Homeland Security, this is a law enforcement agency for immigration related matters.

Sample Documents

Sample I-20 form

Sample DS-2019 form