Immigration Regulations and Maintaining Status

The information on this page gives you a brief overview of some of your status requirements. Individual circumstances may vary in certain cases, so when in doubt always consult an ISSS advisor first before making a decision that could potentially impact your immigration status.

The following subpages are designed to help you understand immigration regulations and maintain your status:

 

As an international student, you are responsible for maintaining your immigration status. Maintaining status means that you following the immigration rules, regulations, and reporting requirements. Failure to maintain status or a violation of status can lead to a loss of status, which may require you to depart the United States quickly or could jeopardize future applications for benefits (such as OPT, changes of status, or other authorizations).

ISSS advisors are also referred to as “Designated School Officials” (DSOs) and “Responsible Officers” (AROs). We are not federal or law enforcement officials, however we are required to report information about your status to the federal government. We are here to help you, which means that we are your point of contact for questions about immigration, travelling, work authorizations, cultural adjustment, and other issues. 

Looking for More Information? View our Immigration Matters Powerpoint from Orientation, here.

Do's and Don'ts of Maintaining Status

  • Do

  • 1. Do maintain full-time enrollment status at all times: Undergraduate students must be registered for a minimum of 12 credits during the fall and spring semesters; graduate students need to be registered for a minimum of 9 credits during the fall and spring semesters. Under certain pre-defined circumstances you may be allowed to register for fewer credits. Students must be approved by ISSS to be less than full-time by submitting a reduced course load authorization form.

    Note: No more than one 3 credit, fully (100%) online/distance education per academic term may counted toward the full time enrollment requirement, and you cannot only be taking an online course.

    2. Do talk to an ISSS advisor before dropping below full-time enrollment.

    3. Do keep your personal contact information up to date in MyUAlbany: International students must update their SEVIS USA address to reflect their current, physical residence in the United States. Students must also keep their SEVIS foreign address (address outside the United States), phone numbers, and emails up to date in MyUAlbany. This information is required in SEVIS and should be updated within 10 days of any changes.

    4. Do keep your I-20 or DS-2019 form up to date. This includes knowing your program end date and making sure that you apply for an extension to your program before it expires, if needed.

    5. Do keep your passport valid at all times.

    6. Do obtain a recent travel signature signature from ISSS on your I-20 or DS-2019 before you travel outside the United States.

    7. Do allow 5-7 business days for ISSS to process your requests.

    Don't

    1. Don't lose your documents. Make photocopies of everything because it makes replacement easier if you do lose them. Do not every throw out an I-20 or DS-2019, even if you have a new one. These are federal documents and you should keep them for your records.

    2. Don't rely on information from other students or unverified internet sources when it comes to USCIS, immigration, or visa matters.

    3. Don't work without the appropriate employment authorization. For purposes of immigration, “unpaid” work may still be considered work, and you may need authorization for it. This is especially true for off-campus employment. You must have prior authorization before beginning any work off-campus.

    Definitions

    F-1: The F-1 visa category/status is for students pursuing full-time study in the United States
    F-2: Dependents of a F-1 (spouse or child under 21) are referred to as F-2s.
    J-1: The J-1 visa/status 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 a 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 reports to DHS 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 stamp in your passport that you use to enter the United States in a certain status.  A student needs a valid visa to enter the United State, and should enter using the visa for the status they plan to use (so you must enter using your F-1 or J-1 visa to study, not a B or other visa). 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 a F-1 visa, and proves their status while in the United States.
    DS-2019: This documents is used for a J-1 exchange visitor 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,  is a law enforcement agency for immigration related matters.