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Immigration Information for Students

 

I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Non-Immigration (F-1) Student Status

I-20 forms certify that the student whose name appears on the form has  applied and been accepted to the US school named on the form. After receiving this document, students may use it to apply for F-1 visas at US consulates abroad, to leave and return to the US, to extend the period of stay in the US or to transfer from one school to another.

IAP-66 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status

This document is used to apply for a J-1 exchange visitor visa at a US consulate abroad, to leave and return to the US, to transfer from one school to another and to extend the period of stay in the US. This form is used by both students and visiting scholars who are sponsored by Wheeling Jesuit University or another agency or institution.

Visa

A visa is either a multicolored stamp or computerized document affixed to a page in the passport by a US consular office abroad. It allows international visitors to travel to the US as long as the visa's ending date has not expired. Once visitors are admitted into the US, the visas are no longer the most important documents governing their status. A visa is used only for travel to the US, but it is not used to determine how long individuals may stay in the US.

Immigration Status

This is the immigration classification INS gives international visitors when they enter the US( such as J-1 status). The status is written on the I-94 card (see below). Under certain circumstances, individuals can apply for a change of immigration status within the United States. Students and scholars who wish to change their status should consult with there is advisor for regulatory guidelines before attempting to do so.

I-94 Arrival- Departure Record

The I- 94 is a small card (usually white) which international visitors receive upon arrival to the US. It contains an eleven digit arrival/ departure number, the person's name, birth date, citizenship, the date of entry into the US, and the immigration status given. This important document is used to establish the duration of the legal status while in the United States. Individuals in J Status should have " D/S" written on their I-94 cards. This refers to the legal ending date of their stay in the US. ( See D/S- Duration of Status below) Visitors will be asked to submit the I-94 card to the airline when leaving the country.

D/S Duration of Status

Individuals in J-1 status are allowed to stay in this country for the duration of their program of research or teaching, as long as they maintain their scholar at all times. Duration of Status (D/S) refers to the period during which the scholar is pursuing full-time research or authorized work in any educational program. The actual ending date is specified on the IAP-66 form for exchange visitors. J-1 scholars are permitted 30 days after the end of their academic program before they must leave the US.

Extension of Stay

If the authorized period of stay is about to expire, scholars must apply for an extension through there is advisor prior to the ending date found in their IAP-66; if not, they may become subject to severe penalties imposed by the federal government.

Travel Outside of the US

Each time students leave the United States for a visit abroad, they must have their IS advisor or sponsor sign their I-20 or IAP-66. If international visitors do not have the proper documents/ endorsements when they try to return, they may be excluded from the US for up to 5 years, according to recent immigration law.

Students with F-1 Entry Visas

In order to leave the country temporarily and return, F-1 students will need to present certain documents to the immigration inspector upon their return to the US. To reenter the US, F-1 students will need:

  • a valid passport.
  • a valid F-1 entry visa stamped in the passport.
  • a complete I-20 form or pages three and four of an I-20 form (previously red-stamped by the INS) with a signature of the appropriate advisor.
  • Financial documentation (especially if applying for a new visa).

Before students leave Wheeling, they should bring their I- 20 form to the ISO to request the signature of an IS Advisor. Unless students have a true emergency, they should bring the form to the office at least one week before they plan to travel. If the F-1 entry visa stamped in their passport has expired, students must return to a US consulate or embassy to obtain a new F-1 visa before trying to return to the US. F-1 visas may not be renewed inside the United States. When students reenter the US and present their passport, entry visa and I-20, the immigration inspector will issue the students a new I-94 card. Students are strongly encouraged to carry evidence of continued attendance at Wheeling Jesuit University (such as pre-registration documents and a copy of their transcript) so that if asked, they can present this proof to the consular officers or inspectors at the airport's immigration desk upon arrival.

Travel to Canada, Mexico & Neighboring Islands

Travel to Canada, Mexico and neighboring islands (except Cuba) is handled somewhat differently than travel to other countries. Upon departure from the US, airline officials will not take the I-94 departure record from the passport. International visitors should be sure to keep their I-94 card in a safe place during their stay abroad. They will need to show the I-94 card, signed I-20 or IAP-66, and a valid passport in order to reenter, if their trip to Canada, Mexico or neighboring islands was for the purpose of tourism and was for less than 30 days. Students and scholars from certain countries will need visas to enter Canada, Mexico and neighboring islands. These individuals may contact the embassy of the country to which they intend to travel and check on entry visa requirements before making travel arrangements.

Transfer to Another Institution

If students or scholars decide to transfer to another institution for any reason, they should contact there is advisor at Wheeling Jesuit University and the advisor at the new institution for details on the transfer process, which includes notification to the INS.

Extension of Stay

The length of authorized stay for F-1 and J-1 individuals is indicated on the I-94 as D/S (duration of status), and refers to the ending date in item 5 on the I-20 and item 3 on the IAP-66. Those who need additional time should see their INS advisor at least 30 days prior to the expiration of their authorized length of stay.

Legal Issues

Immigration Problems

If students or scholars have an immigration problem of any kind (such as a loss of immigration status), they should first talk with an IS advisor who can assist them in finding a resolution to their difficulty. They should first talk with an IS advisor who can assist them in finding a resolution to their difficulty. They should keep in mind that some immigration problems can take several weeks to resolve.

Sometimes international students and scholars have problems which may require legal assistance. International students and scholars should talk to one of the advisors before going to a lawyer. Using a lawyer may cost several hundred dollars and some problems can simply be solved by an IS advisor. If you want to speak with a lawyer for guidance, make it very clear that you only want to pay for a consultation. This assures that you will only pay the lawyer for one hour's Consultation (lawyers charges between $100.00 and $150.00 per hour). You are under no obligation to use the lawyer's services after the consultation meeting unless contracts have been drafted, agreed upon and signed. Please speak with your IS advisor for more information about how to look for an attorney.

Abiding by US Law

Everyone present in the US is subject to its laws. Obviously, laws in the United States may be quite different from laws in other countries, therefore no one should take any chances. International visitors should remember that ignorance of the law is not a valid excuse for breaking it. If students or scholars find themselves in trouble with the police or with any other legal problem, they should contact there is advisor immediately. The advisor will provide basic advice about legal rights or help locate a lawyer if necessary.

If any Wheeling Jesuit University international visitors are arrested, the police must read them their rights and must allow them to make at least one telephone call. They also have the right to consult a lawyer free of charge before making any statements to the police.

Maintaining Valid F-1 Status

Students entering the United States using an I-20 form should be admitted in F-1 status. As such, they must follow specific INS regulations that pertain to the F-1 category. Students, not the school or their IS advisor, are legally responsible for maintaining their status by understanding and complying with these regulations. If you are not sure of a particular aspect of maintaining your status, consult with your IS advisor. 

Upon arriving in the US, students should check to see if their documents were properly processed by the INS inspector at the border. Pages 1 and 2 of the I-20 form should have been taken by the immigration inspector, and pages 3 and 4 returned with a red stamp in the upper right-hand corner. The inspector should also have stamped and written "F-1" and "D/S (duration of status)" on the I-94 and returned it to the student. These forms indicate the type of status, the length of time authorized to stay in the country and the authorized school of attendance. Be sure to keep these documents in a safe place during your stay in the United States. 

F-1 students should adhere to the following guidelines in order to maintain legal status: 

  • Students must register every semester (except summer) at WJU. If not registered, students will automatically lose their legal F-1 status.
  • Students must register as full-time students every semester. Full-time for undergraduates means minimum of 12 credit hours each term. For graduate students, full-time means at least 9 credit hours per term, unless coursework has been completed and the student is registered for thesis research. It is important for students to contact there IS advisor if they plan to drop below the minimum number of required hours. F-1 students should not depend on their professors or academic advisors for information about immigration regulations and course  loads. Immigration regulations take precedence over academic policies. Also, failure to maintain full-time status will make students ineligible for any work privileges.
  • Students cannot seek employment off-campus without written authorization. They must see their IS advisor for information on how to become authorized to work. If needed, students must apply for an extension of stay before the expiration date of the I-20 form. 
  • Students must notify their IS advisor whenever there is any change in their academic program, including a change in program level, major or leave of absence. If students are moving from one academic institution to another, they must report to their new international student advisor within the first 15 days of classes at their new school.

INS will consider students who do not follow all F-1 regulations, as "out of status," meaning in violation of their immigration status. Penalties for violating status can be serious and may affect a student's entire academic career.


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