Staying in Good F-1 Standing
Keep your passport valid at least six months into the future.
Pursue a full course of study each spring and fall semester. At F&M this is minimum of three one-credit courses. You may not audit courses, as part of your three credits.
Never accept off-campus employment without consulting with International Programs. Before you accept off-campus employment in the US (either paid or unpaid) you are required to first obtain employment authorization from International Programs and/or the Department of Homeland Security.
You may work on campus up to ten hours per week. Full-time campus employment (up to 40 hours per week) is permitted only during winter, spring, and summer breaks.
Obtain a Program Extension to remain in the US longer than the time listed under section 5 on your I-20 prior to its expiration, if needed. If you fail to do this, you will be out of status. If you will complete your studies early, please email Dean Haile at firstname.lastname@example.org to have your program shortened in SEVIS.
Keep your I-20 current. Changes in legal name or major should be reported to Dean Haile within ten days of the change: email@example.com
If you take a Leave of Absence, either voluntarily or involuntarily, leave the country within ten days. Failure to do so could end your academic career in the US.
Report changes in your local and home country addresses within ten days of the change to firstname.lastname@example.org, including when you are on authorized Optional Practical Training (OPT). This include on-campus moves from one College House or apartment to another mid-semester ( you only have to report mid-semester moves).
Complete the School Transfer Process to change authorized schools either during your studies or following graduation. You must report to the new school either in person or by phone or email within 15 days of your new Program Start Date.
Depart the US within 60 days of completion of studies or authorized practical training after graduation. The exceptions to this rule include students who are transferring to a new school or have applied for a Change of Status to acquire a new non-immigrant status.
Report your employment and personal address details to the Office of International Programs when you are on authorized OPT. This includes the name and address of your employer, your title, business phone number, as well as your business email address. You are allowed no more than 90 days of unemployment during your 12 months of OPT. Students that receive a STEM extension for OPT (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics majors only - ask Dean Haile about specific qualifying majors if you have questions) are eligible for 30 additional days of unemployment. (see more details on the Employment Page about OPT).
General Travel Instructions for F-1 Students
If you are planning to travel outside of the United States and wish to re-enter the country in F-1 status, follow the instructions below:
- Make sure your passport and visa are valid.
- You must have a valid I-20 form with a valid travel endorsement from the International Student Services staff at Franklin & Marshall. Please note that your I-20 is INVALID if your SEVIS record has been terminated. Travel endorsements are valid for one year, except if you are on OPT (see below for more information on traveling when on OPT).
- If you will be outside the U.S. for 5 months or more, you are required to apply for and obtain a new I-20 form and F-1 visa in order to return to the U.S. in F-1 status. The exception is if you are outside of the U.S. for more than 5 months studying abroad through one of our approved programs. In this case you will not need a new I-20 and F-1 visa.
For travel requirements while on Post-Completion Practical Training (OPT) please see the Graduates section.
Automatic Visa Revalidation (AVR): If you are traveling to Mexico, Canada or one of the adjacent islands, you do not need a valid F-1 visa in order to re-enter the United States as long as you return within 30 days and are carrying a valid I-20. You would also need to retain your I-94 for re-entry.
- Definition of AVR: Your expired U.S. entry visa is considered to be automatically extended to the date of reentry provided that the visa has not been cancelled, and you have not applied for a new visa. To take advantage of AVR your travel must be to contiguous/adjacent entities for less than 30 days.
- The adjacent islands include: Saint Pierre, Miquelon, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French, and Netherlands territory of possession in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea.
- If you are currently out of status and your F-1 visa has expired, you are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation.
Travel while on Severe Economic Hardship
If you have been authorized for economic need work permission, you must see your International Student Advisor before leaving the United States. Travel during that time is not recommended.
Travel to Puerto Rico, Hawaii, or the U.S. Virgin Islands
- A valid I-20 Form endorsed within the last 12 months by a Designated School Official. (If you are on OPT, the signature should be no older than 6 months.)
- Valid passport.
Renewing your F-1 Visa
Consular Policies & Procedures
While you may experience a visa renewal process similar to your original visa application, major changes went into effect at all US Embassies and Consulates worldwide in 2010. Most US Embassy and Consulate websites offer excellent information describing the new requirements of the F-1 visa process: http://www.usembassy.gov/. If you have questions or concerns regarding how to apply for an F-1 visa, we strongly suggest that you contact the US Consulate or Embassy where you intend to apply for your visa. Please note that it's NOT possible to renew your F-1 visa from within the US.
Applying in a Country Where You Are Not a Citizen
If you would like to apply for a visa at a US Consulate or Embassy in a country that is not your country of citizenship or lawful permanent residence, please research the specific visa requirements that the Consulate or Embassy may have for "Third Country Nationals."
It is possible that it will be more difficult, and in some cases impossible, to obtain a visa from a US Consulate or Embassy that is not located in your country of citizenship or lawful permanent residence. You should contact the Consulate, inform them of your country of citizenship, and ask: (1) if they will accept and consider your application, and (2) approximately how long it will take for the visa to be issued, if approved. In order to process your visa application the consular official will have to be able to evaluate the ties that you have to your country of citizenship or lawful permanent residence.
Applying in Canada, Mexico, or the Adjacent Islands
If you apply for an F-1 visa at a US Embassy or Consulate while in Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands, you will not be allowed to take advantage of the Automatic Visa Revalidation (AVR) provision to return to the US. See definition of AVR below. If your visa application is denied in Mexico, Canada, or the adjacent islands, you will be required to travel elsewhere, most likely your home country, to re-apply for the F-1 visa in order to return to the US.
- Definition of AVR: Your expired U.S. entry visa is considered to be automatically extended to the date of reentry provided that the visa has not been cancelled, and you have not applied for a new visa. To take advantage of AVR your travel must be to contiguous/adjacent entities for less than 30 days. The adjacent islands include: Saint Pierre, Miquelon, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French, and Netherlands territory of possession in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea.
To renew your F-1 visa, you will need to submit the following documents to a US Embassy or Consulate. Forms can be downloaded or obtained from any US Consulate. Below is a list of documents that are standard parts of a visa application. Some of these should be prepared before you depart the US. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list. You should research the specific F-1 visa application requirements on the website for the Consulate at which you will apply for your visa because there can be some variation.
Commonly required documents include:
1. Form DS-160, the Online Non-Immigrant Visa Application
2. Application Fee - You should review on-line the current amount of this fee and payment options.
3. One Photograph - Please review on-line how your photo should be submitted. Photo specifications are typically 2 inches square (51 x 51 mm) showing a full face without head coverings against a light background.
4. Passport - This must be valid six months into the future.
5. Your F&M I-20, and all previous I-20's including any that were issued at another institution. You may also need to request a travel signature if you have one that will be older than one year at the time you submit your visa application.
6. Proof of continued enrollment at F&M - The Registrar's Office can provide an Enrollment Verification Letter. Visit here for details: http://www.fandm.edu/registrar/features/enrollment-verification
7. F&M transcript - also provided by the Registrar's Office. Instructions for requesting a transcript can be found here: http://www.fandm.edu/registrar/features/academic-transcripts If you transferred to F&M from another institution, obtain a transcript from that institution as well.
8. Original financial documents proving the availability of sufficient funds. These should be no older than six months at the time of your visa application.
- F&M financial aid award letter
- Proof of other sources of funding verifying the amount and availability of funding for the upcoming semester or academic year. This could be family funds, loans, or government scholarships.
9. Documents that demonstrate your intent to return to your home country after you complete your studies, that is documents that demonstrate your non-immigrant intent. If you can show your social and economic ties to your home country.
10. I-901 Fee Receipt (for the SEVIS fee you paid already)
For more details regarding the F-1 visa application process, please review the information provided by the Department of State on their website: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1268.html