Immigration Regulations and Employment
Do not be deceived into buying immigration benefits, and be aware of services that offer to file immigration documents on your behalf. If solicited by such services, inform your International Student Advisor immediately.
United States immigration law is established by the U.S. Congress. It is implemented and enforced by the Department of Homeland Security. The central Department of Homeland Security (DHS) office is located in Washington, D.C., with regional offices located throughout the United States. Salisbury University (SU) is located in the jurisdiction of the Baltimore District Office.
The Baltimore Immigration Office is located downtown near the Inner Harbor and across from the Convention Center. The address is: George H. Fallon Federal Building, 31 Hopkins Plaza, Baltimore, MD 21201. The office is open Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. For information, please call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.
DHS also has an office at Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI). Because Baltimore is a port of entry into the United States, DHS inspectors at BWI must also be available to check the visa documents of all persons entering this country on international flights and ships arriving in Baltimore.
U.S. government regulations are subject to frequent change and revision. Recent reforms in U.S. immigration procedures affecting F-1 international students have caused some concern and confusion. Therefore, it is important that you consult the International Student Advisor if you have questions concerning your immigration status. DO NOT rely on advice from friends, faculty, or other staff members. Unfortunately, ignorance of the law does not exempt a student from his or her responsibility to abide by DHS regulations.
Like students, SU has certain responsibilities and obligations set forth by the U.S. Immigration Service. In return for DHS's authorization to enroll non-immigrant F-1 students, the University is required by law to provide immigration assistance and advisement, and to issue the appropriate documents needed by F-1 students to maintain their status in this country. In addition, the University must maintain records on F-1 students and provide certain types of information to DHS upon request.
The University President has assigned this responsibility to the International Student Advisor, who in turn has been delegated by DHS as the "Designated School Official" (DSO) for SU. At Salisbury University that Designated School Official is:
International Student Advisor/Associate Director
Center for International Education
1101 Camden Avenue
Salisbury, MD 21801
Phone: (410) 677-5495
Fax: (410) 677-6563
Please be aware the DHS requires universities to keep track of all international students, their name and address changes, as well as academic, work related and judicial activities.
It is important that you keep ALL documents issued to you. You should obtain a folder (they are available in the University bookstore, called The Book Rack) and keep all your DHS records together (with the exception of your I-20 that you are required to carry with you). You should also make a photocopy of all documents you submit to DHS. This way, if something is lost or questioned, you have a copy of the documents and information you submitted.
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As an F-1 student, you must comply with certain immigration laws governing your stay in this country. To maintain your legal status, you must follow the rules below. If you do not abide by these laws, DHS will consider you "out of-status" and therefore in violation of the conditions of your F-1 immigration status. You will then have to apply for re-instatement and run the risk of being required to leave this country. In order to remain in status you must:
- Maintain a full course of study during each semester (12 credit hours for undergraduate students; 9 credit hours for graduate students and 6 credit hours for graduate students who have assistantships provided by SU) at the school listed on the currently valid I-20 Form. Attend classes regularly and make satisfactory progress toward completion of your degree program.
- Make sure that any changes are appropriately listed on your I-20 (name, major, academic level, sources of funding).
- Do not transfer schools without authorization. The name of the school you are authorized to attend is written on your I-20. If you do transfer schools, make sure that your new ISA makes a notation on your new I-20 within 10 days of starting the program.
- Do not accept off campus employment without official authorization. The work authorization dates for any off-campus employment must appear on your I-20.
- If you work on campus, you may work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session, and 40 hours per week during all breaks and vacations. DHS considers every employment under 20 hours as part time, and every employment over 20 hours as full time.
- Always keep your passport valid at least 6 months into the future.
- Do not travel outside the United States, even briefly without the proper documents.
- Apply for "extension of stay" BEFORE your authorized stay expires.
- If you move, report your new address to the DHS within 10 days after you change it. Send the DHS a postcard with your name, old address, eleven-digit I-94 card (arrival/departure) number and new address.
- Always maintain medical, repatriation, and medical evacuation insurance.
- Abide by rules requiring disclosure of information and prohibition of criminal activity.
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Passport: Your passport is your basic travel document issued by your home government. It attests to your identity as a citizen and includes a photograph and biographical information. It has blank visa pages that will be stamped by consular or immigration officials of the countries you visit. While you are in the U.S., your passport must be valid for at least 6 months into the future. IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to keep track of the expiration date of your passport, and to submit it to your government's embassy in Washington, D.C. when it needs to be renewed.
Visa: In order to enter the U.S. to study, you must apply for a travel visa. The visa is a travel document issued by the U.S. Department of State from a consular office outside the United States (generally in your home country). Your visa is stamped on a page in your passport and includes your name and visa classification (F-1), place and date of issue, visa expiration date and the number of entries into the U.S. permitted on that visa (single or multiple) and the school you are authorized to attend.
The visa DOES NOT grant permission to enter or remain in the U.S. It DOES allow the holder of the visa to apply to enter the U.S. at a port of entry, such as an airport. At your port of entry an immigration officer will review your documents, and providing they are satisfactory, issue an I-94 and attach it to your passport. It is the I-94 (see "I-94" below), your VISA STATUS (Immigration Status) that allows you to enter and remain in the U.S. Once DHS admits you to the U.S., the visa no longer matters unless you decide to travel abroad with the intention of re-entering the U.S. As long as you remain in the U.S., no one, including the law, cares if the visa expires. NOTE: Canadian citizens are not required to have a visa. They must show their I-20 at the US port of entry when entering from Canada.
If you plan to travel abroad and reenter the U.S., the International Student Advisor must check your travel documents before you leave. If your visa is still valid, you need only to present your passport, I-20 and proof of financial resources at your port of re-entry. If your visa expired during your stay in the U.S. or is otherwise invalid, you will need to apply for a new visa at an American embassy or consulate abroad in order to re-enter the U.S.
Form I-94 VISA STATUS (Immigration Status): This is a small "Arrival/Departure" card issued by an immigrations officer at your port of entry into the U.S. This officer will inspect your passport (with the F-1 visa issued in your country), your I-20 and your evidence of financial support. After the officer determines that you are academically and financially prepared to pursue full-time study in the U.S. and that you intend to return to your home country after you complete your studies, you will be granted an I-94 with an F-1 "student" VISA STATUS (Immigration Status) and allowed to enter the country. It is this I-94 card in your passport along with your I-20 that allows you to remain in the U.S.
The I-94 will be attached to your passport by the immigration officer at your port of entry. It contains your name, DHS admission number, birth date, citizenship, date and port of entry into the U.S., immigration status and the length of time you may remain in the U.S. (your "authorized" stay). This card is a temporary document. When you leave the U.S., it will be taken from you at your port of departure. A new I-94 must be issued to you by an immigration officer when you re-enter the U.S.
Do not confuse your VISA with your VISA STATUS (Immigration Status). An F-1 visa is issued by a U.S. embassy official in your home country and will allow you to arrive at a U.S. port of entry and APPLY TO ENTER this country as a full-time student. The F-1 VISA STATUS (Immigration Status) is issued by an immigrations official at a port of entry into the U.S. and WILL ALLOW YOU TO ENTER and stay in the country as a full-time student. When DHS grants permission for you to enter the U.S., an ADMISSION NUMBER will be written on your I-20. YOU MUST CARRY YOUR I-20 WITH YOU WHILE IN THE U.S. AS IT IS PROOF OF YOUR LEGAL DHS (F-1) VISA STATUS (Immigration Status).
Form I-20: The Citizenship and Immigration Service's Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant "F-1" Student Status) is issued to a prospective student by a college/university, after the school has evaluated the student's application documents and admitted him/her. The I-20 is one of the documents used to apply for the F-1 visa, form I-94, permission to leave and re-enter the U.S. as an F-1 student, transfer from one school to another, or a change in classification. Change of immigration status, such as from B-2 Tourist/Visitor to F-1 Student, is granted by DHS (not a university) and has become increasingly difficult to obtain without leaving and re-entering the U.S.
The I-20 includes such information as your name, citizenship, date and country of birth, major field of study, required arrival date on campus, and the expected date of graduation. It also includes information about your English language proficiency, an annual estimate of tuition and living expenses, and verification that you have submitted the required academic and financial support credentials to the school. The I-20 is signed by a designated school official (International Student Advisor at SU,) certifying that you are enrolled, or intend to enroll, in a full-time course of study. Information on the I-20 is retained in DHS computerized data base system.
Your signature on the I-20 form indicates that you have read the immigrations rules that apply to F-1 students and agree to comply with them. Your signature also authorizes the school to release certain information about you to DHS if it is requested.
NOTE: The Confidential Declaration of Finances must be updated if your source of funding changes (for example, if you receive a graduate assistantship or a scholarship).
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NOTE: It is important that you DO NOT WORK before you speak with Agata Liszkowska (International Student Advisor). DHS has very specific regulations governing employment for international students and failure to follow these regulations will render you out of international student status and could result in DHS revoking your immigration status and sending you home.
With one exception, international students are required to submit authorized DHS forms to the Citizenship and Immigration Services before beginning to work in a paid position. The one exception is "on-campus employment". International students are not required to file forms with DHS to work on their campus, but must check with the International Student Advisor before they begin their employment to be certain they will not violate any DHS regulations.
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As long as F-1 students have maintained their student status and intend to register for the following school term, they may engage in on-campus employment for no more than 20 hours per week (including all jobs combined) while school is in session. F-1 students may work full time (40 hours per week) on-campus during all breaks and vacations.
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I. Curricular Practical Training
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is employment which is an integral part of the students' established curriculum. It is available to F-1 students who have been lawfully enrolled as a student on a full-time basis for at least nine consecutive months. Students who have maintained their student status may be authorized to engage in off-campus employment for no more than 20 hours per week while school is in session, and over 20 hours a week during holidays and school breaks:
- If the student's major requires employment in their field of study as a requirement for their graduation, the student may participate in CPT as long as s/he satisfies all other requirements of student status.
- If the student's major allows an employment opportunity which is an important part of the program of study and which is credit-bearing (that is, the student will earn course credits toward graduation) the student may participate in CPT as long as s/he satisfies all other requirements of student status.
NOTE: any student who accumulates a total of 12 months of full-time CPT, will not be eligible for Optional Practical Training (see next explanation).
II. Optional Practical Training
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment in the student's field of study for the purpose of gaining practical experience. Students who have been in F-1 status for at least nine consecutive months are eligible for Optional Practical Training.
F-1 visa students are allowed 12 months of OPT for each degree program. Students may use all or part of their allowable OPT before they complete their degree program, or they may save part or all of their OPT for use after they complete their program. If a student has not used any OPT before completing their degree program, they may engage in OPT for 12 months after the completion of their program. Students should ask the International Student Advisor regarding details for application procedures.
Under NO circumstances should a student begin working off-campus (which includes Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical Training) before speaking with the International Student Advisor and completing and filing the required DHS forms.
III. Economic Hardship
Some students are eligible for Economic Hardship benefit. Those students must have been in F-1 status for one full academic year, and must be able to prove to DHS that employment is necessary due t severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond their their control that arose after obtaining F-1 status.
Economic Hardship is granted by DHS in increments of one year at a time, or until the program end-date, which ever is shorter (authorization ends if a students transfers schools). This authorization is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session but can be full time during official school breaks.
Student must apply for an EAD from DHS after DSO updates SEVIS with recommendation.
IV. Employment with an International Organization
This F-1 employment benefit allows F-1 students to work for recognized international organization within the International Organizations Immunities Act. For this kind of work, student is eligible as soon as she or he is in F-1 status, but before completion of the educational objective. An application must be filed for an EAD card from DHS, and the card must be received before employment begins. This employment is granted in increments of no more than one year, or until expected date of employment completion, which ever is shorter. Although employment does not have to be related to to the student's course of study, international organizations usually hire students for positions in their field of study.
Use of this category of employment does not affect eligibility for practical training or on-campus employment; Employment with an International Organization may be approved for full-time work. For application details, please see the International Student Advisor.