The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) tracks and monitors international students electronically through SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. Colleges and universities are required to report specific events through the SEVIS system.
With these requirements, it is very important that you understand and abide by the regulations for international students. The Office of International Student Services is well-equipped to advise on all international student requirements, and federal regulations.
It is our responsibility to know the rules and explain them to you, but it is your responsibility to follow the regulations. You may be confused by the many forms, numbers, and deadlines, but if you understand and meet the following requirements, you will be able to maintain your legal status in the U.S.
- Passport: Record of your legal citizenship which must be valid at all times while in the United States. You must maintain the validity of your passport at all times. When entering the U.S. from abroad, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months into the future. Please contact your country’s embassy or consulate for information about renewing your passport.
- Visa: Allows you to request permission to enter the U.S. and must be presented at the port of entry. Your visa may expire while you are in the U.S., but it must be valid in order to re-enter from abroad (exceptions may include Mexico, Canada and some Caribbean Islands–see the Automatic Revalidation rule).
- I-20: Legal document stating educational institution, personal and degree information. Your I-20 must be valid for as long as you participate in an academic program. The information on the I-20 should be checked regularly to ensure accuracy. Please schedule an appointment with an ISS advisor if you need to update your I-20.
- I-94: The I-94 is a record of your entry into the U.S. to show that you entered under the correct immigration status. Each time you enter the U.S. you will receive a new stamp in your passport showing the day you entered the country and the mark “F-1” and “D/S”. Your I-94 record can be found and printed here.
- SEVIS Fee Receipt (I-901): Paper or electronic receipt for the SEVIS registration payment. May be required for future visa interviews and it is recommended you carry it with you during international travel. The SEVIS fee can be paid here.
Maintaining International Student Status
- Enroll in a full-time course load, each semester.
For undergraduate students at Nicholls, a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester is considered full-time. For graduate students, a minimum of 9 credit hours per semester is considered full-time.
If for any reason you fall below a full-time course load, please contact International Student Services.
- Keep your local U.S. address up-to-date.
Students must inform international student services of a change of address within 10 days of moving to a new location.
- Work ONLY with proper employment authorization.
Student are permitted to work up to 20 hours a week during the school semester. Off-campus work can be authorized only under certain circumstances.
- Stay for the time indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019, and understand your completion date.
Your I-20 or DS-2019 is your “living” document, and is only valid as long as you are a continuing, full-time student in your degree program, or on your approved post-completion training.
- Attend the school indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019.
Students who attempt to enter or re-enter the USA with an I-20 or DS-2019 for a school they do not plan on immediately attending may incur serious immigration difficulties.
- Before international travel, contact International Student Services (ISS).
Obtain a travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019, in order to re-enter the USA.
- Understand your grace period after completion.
F-1 students have a 60 day grace period following the end of their program of study or authorized OPT Post-Completion Training. They may use this period to depart the USA, continue studies via a change of program, transfer to another school, or apply for Post-Completion OPT.
J-1 students have a 30 day grace period following the end of their program of study, or Post-Completion Academic Training. Any transfer or post-completion training requests must be submitted BEFORE the end of your program of study.
- Do NOT violate the Student Code of Conduct, or U.S. Laws.
If an F-1 or J-1 student is academically dismissed (upon suspension or termination), there can be severe immigration consequences. Your SEVIS record can be terminated, and this would require you to leave the USA. Please view the Nicholls Student Code of Conduct here.
In the event that a student is arrested for an alleged crime, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will determine whether additional action is required. An arrest or conviction that does not result in disciplinary action may still be reported by law enforcement officials to ICE; in which case, ICE officials would have the same discretion to determine whether additional action is warranted.