The U.S. government maintains and updates a real-time informational database on international students in F-1 and J-1 status to ensure that they are in legal status. This database is called SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. Every F-1/J-1 student and their dependents in the U.S. must have in their possession a valid SEVIS Form I-20 at all times.
MAINTAINING F-1 STUDENT STATUS
As an F-1 student your primary purpose for being in the U.S. is to study. In order to remain in lawful F-1 status, you must comply with the following requirements:
- Keep your passport valid at all times (Try to keep it valid a minimum of 6 months beyond the expected completion date in Section 5 of your I-20).
- Remain a full time student: Complete 12 units each semester if an undergraduate student, or 9 units if a graduate student, except for summer or the last semester. Note: BGSU Graduate Assistants are required to enroll in 12 units each semester.
- International students should not drop below full time, without prior ISS approval. International students who register for less than a fulltime course load, without prior ISS approval, will be out of status and will be reported to USCIS.
- International students are not able to concurrently enroll at another school without prior ISS approval.
- Complete a timely transfer within 15 days of first day of classes when you transfer to BGSU or begin a new program of study.
- Maintain a valid I-20. Have your I-20 updated by ISS whenever you have any changes to your major, name, and/or program end date. Note: These changes must be made prior to the expiration date on your I-20.
- Do not participate in any unauthorized employment.
- Maintain good academic standing.
- Have your I-20 signed by a Designated School Official before leaving the U.S. The signature is valid for 12 months from the signature date on page 3.
Failure to comply with the regulations cited above is a violation of your F-1 status and may result in serious consequences, including termination of your program of study.
AUTHORIZATION TO DROP BELOW A FULL COURSE LOAD
A student in F-1 status is required by the USCIS to complete a minimum academic load of 12 units per semester if an undergraduate, or 8 units per semester if a graduate student. All requests must be approved before the last day to add a course. Certain circumstances that would allow a student to carry a reduced number of units:
- Concurrent Enrollment: When a student enrolls at BG for at least 6 units, and an additional 6 units or more at another university or community college. Student must obtain prior approval from ISS.
- Authorization to Drop Below Full Course: A student may be eligible to take less than the required number of units, if approved by ISS under USCIS regulations. For example: If it is the student's final term, the student is experiencing medical problems, or the student is having academic difficulty due to language deficiencies or improper course placement (first semester only).
- Thesis or Project Only: A graduate student who has less than the required number of units, or is working on a thesis or project during the semester and is not registered for any units must submit a letter from the academic advisor prior to the end of requested period, on BG letterhead indicating that the student is considered to be a full-time student.
Remember: You must receive advance approval (prior to the last day of the add period) from a Designated School Official to take less than the required unit load! To request authorization complete and return the Authorization to Drop Below a Full Course Load Form (PDF)
EXTENSION OF PROGRAM
In order to maintain status with USCIS, international students are expected to complete their studies in a given time. If the student is unable to complete all degree requirements by the program end date on the I-20, an extension must be granted before the completion date on the I-20. This is called an Extension of Program (EOP). To request an EOP, complete the Extension of Program Form (PDF) and return it to ISS at least one week prior to the program end date on your current I-20. Note: Your program extension needs to be authorized in SEVIS before the program end date in item #5 of your Form I-20.
F-1 students who are planning to travel to another country must have their I-20 signed for re-entry by a designated School Official prior to leaving the U.S. The signature on page 3 of the I-20 is valid for 12 months after the date it was signed.
The Designated School Official's signature on the I-20 is necessary for re-entry into the U.S. It is also necessary to have a valid F-1 visa for re-entry. If the current visa expires before the re-entry date, or a student changed to F-1 from another visa status while in the U.S., the student must apply for a new F-1 visa while outside the U.S. All students and their family members who are applying for a new visa should see a Designated School Official before traveling.
The automatic revalidation of visa benefit allows certain F/J nonimmigrants to re-enter the United States after a 30-day or less visit to "contiguous territory" (Canada, Mexico) and the "adjacent islands other than Cuba" without having to obtain a new visa prior to re-entry, and provided the student is in status and all other documents are valid: passport, I-20, and I-94. However, if the student chooses to apply for a new F-1 visa while in the contiguous territory they will no longer be eligible for the "automatic revalidation" benefit during the course of that trip, but would have to wait until the visa is granted in order to re-enter the United States. If the visa application is denied, the student may not reenter the U.S. and will have to return home to apply for a new F-1 visa before returning.
To avoid delays, please come see a Designated School Official and have your I-20 signed at least 1 week prior to your travel date.
CHANGE OF PROGRAM OR LEVEL
A current BG student will be issued a new I-20 for a change of program or degree level. ISS will need to process this new I-20 within 15 days after beginning of new program or degree.
TRANSFERRING TO BGSU
International students may transfer from one school to another to complete a degree or begin a new program. To do so, a student must acquire admission, and a new Form I-20. The student must be enrolled within 5 months of admission to the new program. The student will be required to have the previous school release the student’s record in SEVIS. To initiate this process, a student needs to complete the BGSU Transfer Eligibility Form (PDF) .
REINSTATEMENT TO STUDENT STATUS
On occasion a student falls out of F-1 status and is required to apply for reinstatement. When this happens, a student should come to see the Manager of Student Immigration Services, immediately. The student can petition to USCIS, and may be reinstated only if the circumstances were out of the student's control and it occurred within 5 months of applying. A student who is out of status for more than 5 months is presumed to be ineligible for reinstatement. These students will have to leave the country and re-enter with a new Form I-20 or petition for reinstatement with proof of payment of the I-901 SEVIS Fee.
CHANGE OF STATUS
Any one who wishes to change their status from a restricted visa category (B-1, B-2, F-2, etc.) to F-1 must do so prior to beginning their program of study at BGSU.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT SERVICES FEE
A NON-REFUNDABLE and NON-NEGOTIABLE services fee is assessed each fall and spring semester to all nonimmigrant international students and scholars who enroll in one or more credit hours at Bowling Green State University. The fee is automatically charged to the student's bursar account. The fee helps support specialized services related to immigration and visa advising; immigration compliance and reporting as required by the federal government; personal and cultural counseling and advising; educational, cultural, and social programming; employment counseling and authorization; and tax assistance. The fee is assessed to all international students, irrespective of the extent to which services are utilized. Visit the Office of the Bursar for current fee rates.
The J Visa Status
BGSU complies with 22 CFR Part 62 in compliance with regulations governing the J-1 visa status for nonimmigrant exchange visitors. The J Visa is a nonimmigrant status for individuals who may participate in work, study, and/or cultural based exchange visitor programs. There are several categories in the J visa status such as Research Scholars, Professors, and students who are funded by their home country government specifically for study and cultural exchange.
Admitted student with over 50% of their funding from their government may be eligible for the J-1 visa. Please follow the directions on this form if you believe you are a candidate for the J-1 visa as a student.
Two-year Foreign Residency Requirement
Certain J-1 exchange visitors are subject to the U.S. Department of State Two-year Foreign Residency Requirement, INA 212(e).
The two-year Foreign Residency Requirement does not prevent the holder from re-entering the United States with F-1, B-1, B-2, or J-1 student category. However, it will prevent the individual from obtaining an H-1B employment visa or Permanent Residency status until the requirement is met or Waived.
If a J-1 exchange visitor wishes to change their visa status to one of the eligible categories, they may do so by
- Change from within the United States
- Follow the directions to submit the I-539
- Clearly state in cover letter the request is being made for legitimate purpose
- Obtain a new visa type outside the United States and reentering
- Follow the Consular process for the new visa type
DOCUMENTS AND REGULATIONS:
- Form DS-2019: Prior to coming to Bowling Green State University, you were issued a Form DS-2019 which you used to apply for your J-1 visa at the United States Embassy. Upon entry into the U.S., the border official stamped and then returned this form to you.
- Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record Card: This is the small white card given to you at your U.S. port of entry. During your stay in the U.S., you must make sure that your Form DS-2019 and Form I-94 remain valid. These documents permit you to remain in the United States legally. If either is lost, you should contact International Student Services immediately to apply for a replacement. You need these forms for traveling, extension of stay, practical training and for employment authorization.
- Passport: Your passport must be valid for at least six (6) months into the future at all times. If your passport is about to expire or if you have lost it, please contact your embassy for instructions. The easiest means of contacting your embassy is via the internet.
- Visa: This is placed in your passport by a Consular Officer when you applied for the J-1 visa at an American Embassy. The visa can ONLY be renewed at an American Embassy or Consulate. It is NOT possible to renew the visa within the U.S. Once you are in the United States, your visa may expire. This is not a problem. The next time that you travel outside the U.S. you will need to go to an American Embassy or Consulate to have it renewed. A valid visa is only required for entering the United States.
Special Note: Canadians are not subject to the passport and visa requirements; however, the Form DS-2019 and Form I-94 must be valid.
MAINTENANCE OF STATUS
All J-1 students/scholars must maintain status by engaging only in activities authorized for their program and their category. This includes filing timely and appropriate transfer and extension requests, refraining from unauthorized employment, maintaining full-time registration, and the required health insurance coverage.
EXTENSION OF STAY
J-1 students/scholars receive the notation "D/S" ("Duration of Status") on the Form I-94. D/S does have an expiration date; it is valid until the completion date shown in section #3 on the Form DS-2019. Please be aware of the expiration date of the Form DS-2019. If an extension of stay is needed, please contact International Student Services. If the program is completed before the expiration date on the Form DS-2019, the remaining period of time on the Form is voided.
Following completion of studies, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) permits J-1 students/scholars an additional grace period of 30 days beyond the expiration date of the form to leave the U.S.
When planning a trip outside of the United States, students/scholars will need to have the Form DS-2019 validated by International Student Services. Please bring your form at least three (3) working days prior to your departure. This will provide sufficient time if additional documents are needed prior to the endorsing of the form.
Maintaining valid documents is your responsibility. International Student Services will assist you in maintaining valid documents; however, ultimately it is your responsibility. If a deadline is missed, it can present serious consequences for you.
How to Invite Family to Visit F-1 or J-1 Status Students
Family members who are not the children or spouse of the F-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor must apply for a B-1/B-2 visitor visa to gain entry into the United States. Family members from certain countries may be eligible to travel to the U.S. to visit for stays of up to 90 days without obtaining a B-1/B-2 visa through the U.S. Department of State Visa Waiver Program.
Documents Needed to Apply for B-1/B-2 Visa
The following documents are required to apply for a B-1/B-2 visitor visa:
- Valid passport
- Photographs (passport style; taken within 30 days). Upload during Online application below.
- Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 – Learn more about completing the DS-160. You must: 1) complete the online visa application and 2) print the application form confirmation page to bring to your interview.
- Visa application forms
Additional Recommended Documents
B-1/B-2 visa applications are sometimes denied. To help strengthen your B-1/B-2 visa application, we recommend that you provide additional documents to clarify that the visit is temporary and/or is for a specific occasion (e.g., graduation ceremony), and that the visitor will be supported financially while visiting the U.S.
Most importantly, the additional documents should show proof of ties to the home country to prove that the visitor does not intend to immigrate to the U.S. Proof of ties to the home country may include proof of economic, social, family, or other commitments that will help demonstrate that the family visitor intends to return home after a temporary stay in the U.S. Examples include:
- Proof of employment – The best document would be a letter from the employer indicating that this individual is currently employed and is taking time off, but is due back at his or her job on a specific date.
- Proof of property ownership, such as a house, an apartment, or a business, if such a document exists.
- Proof of contact with other family members in the home country.
- Proof of finances – Proof that your family member can support himself/herself during his/her entire stay in the U.S. without working. Examples include:
- A bank statement
- Proof of assets such as stocks or property
- If you are funded as a Graduate Student, you may provide a copy of your contract or a letter from your academic department indicating the amount of your financial support
- Proof of a scholarship or fellowship
- If you are an employee at the University, a document which shows your position and salary
- Proof of your family member's salary, employment, and/or income
- A formal letter of invitation (written by you as the F-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor) indicating the specific reason for the visit (e.g., graduation, wedding, illness, birth of a child).
- An Enrollment Verification Letter or a Letter of Graduation Verification from the BGSU Office of Registration and Records (located at 110 Administration Building)
- A copy of your valid DS-2019 or Form I-20
**Special Notice about B1/B2 Visa Holders**
The B1/B2 Visa is not for students. Visitors are not permitted to accept employment or work in the United States.
For more information about B-1/B-2 visas, refer to the U.S. Department of State Visitor Visas.
Most citizens of foreign countries need visas to enter the United States. A visa is a permit for a person to apply to enter the United States. The U.S. Department of State (DOS) is responsible for visa adjudication at U.S. Embassies and Consulates outside of the U.S. A consular officer decides whether you are qualified for a visa.
A U.S. visa allows the bearer to apply for entry to the U.S. in a certain classification. Most non-immigrants at The Bowling Green State University are holders of F, J, and H-1 visas.
F-1 visa is granted to aliens who come to the United States temporarily to pursue a full course of study in an approved program in either an academic accredited U.S. college or university or to study English at a university or intensive English Language Institute.
J-1 visa is for people who come to the United States temporarily as a participant of the Exchange Program administered by the U.S. Department of State for the purpose of teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, or receiving training.
A visa does not authorize entry to the U.S. A visa simply indicates that your application has been reviewed by a U.S. consular officer at an American embassy or consulate, and that the officer has determined you are eligible to travel to the port-of-entry for a specific purpose
Visa Expiration Date is shown on the visa. The visa can be used from the date it is issued until the date it expires, for travel for the same purpose. The period from the visa issuance date to the visa expiration date is called visa validity. The visa validity is the length of time you are permitted to travel to a port-of-entry in the United States to request permission of the U.S. immigration inspector to enter the U.S. Although your visa may still be valid, it is the decision of the border official whether or not to admit you to the U.S. and in what visa status.
Depending on the alien’s nationality, visas can be issued for any number of entries, from as little as one entry to as many as multiple (unlimited) entries, for the same purpose of travel.
The visa expiration date should not be confused with the authorized length of your stay in the U.S. The authorized period of your stay is indicated on the Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94 as D/S (duration of status).
Once you are admitted into the US on F-1 or J-1 visa and the form I-94 indicates D/S, you may stay in the country as long as you maintain your visa status and your immigration documents (your passport, the form I-94, and the I-20/DS-2019) are valid. You may stay in the U.S. on an expired visa. You need to renew it only if you travel outside the U.S. and plan to come back to continue your study, or practical training. The exception: You can travel for less than 30 days to Canada, Mexico, or Caribbean Islands with an expired visa without having to renew it. However, this exception does not apply to citizens of certain countries.