F-1/J-1 visa students must comply with the regulations stipulated by the United States Bureau of Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS). All students are responsible for maintaining their immigration status. Briefly, you must follow these ten regulations:
All F1 and J1 visa students at the University of Puget Sound are enrolled in the USCIS’ Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). SEVIS is an electronic reporting system that is required by the U.S. government. The university is required to report information about international and exchange students and scholars to the USCIS on a regular basis, including, but not limited to:
For more details about the SEVIS system and a complete list of information that the university is required to report to the USCIS, please contact the International Student Advisor.
If you have questions about immigration matters, please make sure you follow the advice below.
This information will provide you with a basic understanding of (1) the limitations placed by regulations of the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) upon the length of time you may be enrolled in a program of study and (2) the procedures you must follow if you require additional time to complete program requirements. Consult with the International Student Advisor if you believe the time limitations placed upon your study are insufficient to allow you to complete your current program.
Most international students at Puget Sound have been admitted to the U.S. for "duration of status," which is defined as:
The USCIS grants duration of status to F-1 students by entering the notation "D/S" in the upper right corners of both the "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status" (USCIS Form I-20) and the "Departure Record" (USCIS Form I-94).
The "completion of studies" date in item #5 on the most recent USCIS Form I-20 you were issued is the date by which the USCIS expects you to complete requirements for your current program. If you are unable to complete your program of study by that date, consult with the International Student Advisor at least 30 days before reaching the I-20 completion date. If you are eligible for an extension of your time limit, the Advisor will assist you to comply with extension requirements.
You may apply for an extension of your study program if:
If your completion of studies date has expired or if you do not meet the eligibility requirements to apply for program extension, you may need to apply for "reinstatement" to lawful F-1 status. In this case, immediate consultation with the International Student Advisor is necessary.
You must apply for an extension within the 30-day period before the completion date on your I-20. You should contact the International Student Advisor at least 30 days before your I-20 completion date so that you will have sufficient time to prepare your application. If your completion date has already passed, please contact the International Student Advisor immediately.
For information on application procedures, contact the International Student Advisor to make an appointment.
It is your responsibility to comply with all immigration regulations which apply to F-1 students, including the extension of study program regulations. The Office of International Programs will assist you to do this. If you fail to comply with your responsibilities, you may not be eligible to continue your studies in the U.S., or apply for benefits provided to F-1 students (on-campus employment, scholarships, assistantships, school transfer, practical training, etc.). In some situations, you may be subject to deportation.
Additional information on your permission to remain in the U.S., as well as counseling and assistance, is available from the Office of International Programs. The International Student Advisor and the Director of International Programs will be pleased to offer information, counseling and assistance on all federal regulations related to maintaining your student status.
It is important that you have valid immigration paperwork at all times during your stay in the U.S. The USCIS requires you to carry you passport, I-94 and visa with you at all times. You will be fined if the USCIS discovers you do not have the documents with you. Some students are not comfortable carrying their passport with them, but rather prefer to keep it in a secure place at home. These students carry a photocopy of their immigration paperwork in their wallet. They may still be fined if they are stopped, but they weigh that risk against the risk losing their passport, or having it stolen.
With certain exceptions, any alien applying for a U.S. visa or seeking admission at a U.S. port of entry must have a passport. The most common exceptions encountered in educational institutions are Canadian nationals who are entering the U.S. from within the Western Hemisphere, and natives and residents of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands who have proceeded in direct and continuous transit from the Trust Territory to the U.S.
The passports of all non-immigrants must be kept valid at all times.
Foreign passports may be renewed in the U.S. by the designated representatives of a foreign government's embassy in Washington, D.C., or by officials of the consulates located in various U.S. cities. If you need to revalidate your passport, you should consult your embassy or consulate to determine what procedures are required to secure validation. Among other things, you may need a letter from an official of your educational institution, certifying your status. The Office of International Programs or the Registrars can provide this for you.
With certain exceptions, all aliens applying for admission to the U.S. must hold valid visas. The exceptions to this requirement are generally the same as the exceptions to the passport requirement.
A person's visa need not remain valid once he or she has used it to gain admission to the U.S. As long as you have "Duration of Status" and your I-20 is still valid, you can remain in the U.S. with an expired Visa. Travel to Canada and Mexico with an expired visa is permitted, however if you travel internationally outside of North America, you will be required to renew your visa before re-entry.
Note: Canadian nationals entering the U.S. from outside the Western Hemisphere must have a passport, but not a visa.
If you need to renew your visa, do it at home! You cannot renew it in the U.S. While it may be possible for you to renew it in Canada or Mexico, you may have a difficult time if you try to renew it in a country other than your own. In addition to proving your eligibility for an F-1 visa, you may have to convince the consul that you have a legitimate reason for making your renewal application outside your own country. In many instances the consul in the third country will find it necessary to check with the consular office in your place of residence and home country, this can be costly in terms of time and charges if information is requested by cable rather than by diplomatic mail. If your visa renewal request is denied, you may not be allowed to re-enter the U.S.
Renew your visa at home!
The documents needed for visa renewal are a valid passport, a current photograph, a valid I-20 signed by a Designated School Official, and proof you are able to finance your education. It is also suggested that you carry a copy of your academic transcript and proof of English proficiency. Contact the International Student Advisor if you have questions.
For easier replacement in case of loss or theft, make copies of all immigration paperwork upon arrival at Puget Sound.
The holder of an expired F-1 or J-1 visa may be allowed to re-enter the U.S. provided he:
Furthermore, a person who entered the U.S. in a classification other than F-1 student, but whose status was subsequently changed to F-1 student, may be considered to have his previous visa automatically revalidated and converted to an F-1 visa if he meets the conditions stated above.
Under these circumstances an F-1 student whose visa has expired not need to apply for a new or renewed visa at a consular post outside the U.S. Contact the International Student Advisor if your visa has expired but you would like to travel to Canada, Mexico, or territories contiguous to the U.S.
Every alien entering the U.S. temporarily (with a few exceptions, such as Canadian tourists and some Mexican nationals with U.S. border crossing cards) is issued a white card that is called an Arrival-Departure Record, or Form I-94. It is usually stapled into the alien's passport on the same page as the one on which the visa has been stamped. Some ports of entry now issue I-94s which can be read electronically, and may not be on the standard white 3x5 paper.
The Form I-94 shows the alien's immigration classification and endorsements made by immigration officers indicating the place and date of admission to the U.S., the initial period of stay authorized, and any extensions of stay authorized. The I-94 is an important document that should be kept with your passport at all times.
To replace a Form I-94 which has been lost or mutilated, apply to USCIS/INS on Form I-102. This is subject to a fee. Check with the International Student Advisor for an application and the most recent application fee. (Some USCIS/INS officials will accept a photocopy of your lost I-94 submitted with Form I-102, which may make the replacement quicker.)
It is not uncommon in the United States for college students to transfer from one school to another, either to pursue a new level of study (for example, a master's degree after completion of a bachelor's degree) or perhaps just to complete the same degree at another institution. If you transfer to another school, or even remain at your present school but change your level of study, you must request a transfer of your SEVIS record. Please visit the Office of International Programs for details.
An F-1 student who has overstayed the authorized period of stay granted by the USCIS/INS, or who has otherwise failed to maintain F-1 student status, may, at the discretion of the USCIS, be reinstated to lawful F-1 student status only if the student:
The student must establish that failure to maintain status resulted from circumstances beyond his or her control or that failure to receive reinstatement to lawful status would result in considerable hardship to the student. The International Student Advisor can provide F-1 students with reinstatement applications and information.
J-1 students who are out of status must contact the International Student Advisor for more information on reinstatement procedures.
To re-enter the U.S. from Canada or Mexico after a temporary absence of less than 30 days, you must have:
To re-enter the U.S. from Canada or Mexico after a temporary absence of more than 30 days, or to re-enter the U.S. from any other country, you must have:
For travel to or transit through Canada you may need to obtain a Canadian Visitor's Visa. Visit the Canadian Visitor Visa webpage for information. The Canadian Consulate is located at 412 Plaza 600, Sixth & Stewart, Seattle. Phone: 206.443.1777.
International students in F-1 or J-1 status can work up to 20 hours a week on campus with the approval of the Office of International Programs. Employment off-campus is only possible if authorized if authorized by the Office of International Programs & USCIS. Contact the International Student Advisor if you are interested in working. For more detailed information concerning off campus employment through CPT or OPT, visit this webpage.
As a condition of their admission in the U.S., international students are required to obey all federal, state and local laws. Your visa status does not protect you from prosecution under the law. Ignorance of the laws does not protect you from prosecution. It is to your benefit to know the local, state and federal laws, since being convicted of a misdemeanor may result in deportation. Students who regard their stay in the U.S. as a "vacation" from the rules of their home country will not do well academically, nor will they serve as good ambassadors of their home countries.
Laws relating to purchasing, consumption and sale of alcohol differ from country to country and, in the U.S., from state to state. Since most of your time will be spent in the state of Washington, you need to know that the legal age to buy or drink alcohol is 21. If you are under 21 (a "minor"), it is illegal for you to drink alcohol. If you are 21 or over, it is illegal for you to furnish alcohol to those under 21. Establishments selling alcohol will require valid photo identification with your date of birth. Accepted identifications include: an International Driver's License, Department of Motor Vehicles Identification (if you do not drive) or a Washington State Driver's License would be accepted. Your university identification will not be accepted.
The university policy governing alcohol use on campus is posted in The Logger. In general, those who are of legal drinking age may consume alcohol in areas which are defined as private, such as the interior of Union Avenue residences and inside university-owned homes. A student's assigned room and some specifically designated lounges are private. Public areas where no drinking may occur are defined as the main lounges near a building entrance, hallways and foyers. The sale of alcohol on university property - public or private - is prohibited.
Possession, use or sale of illegal drugs (e.g., marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hashish) is prohibited anywhere in the U.S. Penalties generally include: fines, jail sentences, and possibly deportation.
Do not drink and drive!
Washington State has strict laws to punish drunk drivers. If your blood-alcohol level exceeds .08 you are considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (referred to as "DUI"). If you are convicted of a DUI, you face mandatory fines, mandatory jail time, and possible deportation. Depending on your height and weight, your blood alcohol can be .08 after as little as one glass of wine or one shot of hard alcohol. Your international student status does not protect or exempt you from American laws.
If you are going to drink, please do it responsibly. Either get a designated driver (someone who decides not to drink that evening) or take a taxi or bus to get home. For your own safety, never get into the car with someone who has been drinking.
Americans are known to rely heavily on having individual transportation, and many new international students quickly decide that they, too, would like to have a car. Before buying a car, please consider the following points:
All drivers must have a valid driver's license. You may drive with an international driver's license obtained prior to your arrival, or a Washington State Driver's License. You are expected to be familiar with the laws for driving in the state of Washington. A Driver's Guide may be picked up from the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL). (See Appendix IV.)
If you apply for a Washington Driver's License, remember to take your identification (passport, I-20 or DS -2019, home country driver's license, university identification card) with you. You must also take a copy of your SEVIS registration page in a sealed envelope. Three tests are required: vision, knowledge of laws, and driving. The fee for a new license is currently $45.00. Currently you do not need a Social Security Number (SSN) to obtain a driver's license, however, you may need to complete a "Social Security Declaration Form", in which you declare you have no social security number. If you receive a SSN at a later date, you will need to inform the DOL immediately.
If you need to learn to drive, you will need a learner's permit. Study the driving handbook and pass the written test first. You can then be issued a learner's permit. This enables you to drive with anyone who has had more than five years of driving experience. The learner's permit is good for one year from the day of issue, and should give you enough time to prepare for your driving test.
Purchasing a Car
You may purchase a car from a recognized dealer who sells new and used cars or buy from an individual advertising through the newspaper. It is best to take an international student who has had the experience of buying a car, or an American friend with you!
If buying a used car it is best to take it to a reputable mechanic and pay to have the car checked. He can usually tell whether the price that is being asked is reasonable, whether the car needs repairs and, approximately what the repairs will cost. It is possible to check on-line to determine whether a car was previously in an accident. Having this information, you are better prepared to decide whether or not this is a reasonable deal for you.
Vehicle insurance in our state is required by law. The cost of insurance varies based on the year of the car, its make and model, and the driver's age, gender, and driving history. Sports cars are always the most expensive to insure. Unmarried males under the age of 25 in the U.S. also pay more because statistically they have the highest accident rate. When deciding on a car, keep these factors in mind.