F-1 Visas

The following information is in accordance with the laws of the United States and is intended for SUNY Morrisville’s international students.

This information is for students who will apply for an F-1 student visa at a US Embassy or Consulate. This does not apply to Canadian citizens. We advise you apply for your visa well in advance of the date you will begin your studies, but no more than 120 days before the program start date listed in section five of your I-20. Applying early will give you extra time if there are delays at the embassy, or if you wish to reapply in the event of a denial. To increase your chances of a favorable decision on your visa application, have all required documentation and be well prepared for the interview.

  • Step 1: Most of the procedures and requirements for applying for F-1 student visas are standardized for all U.S. Embassies/Consulates abroad. However, some procedures can be specific for the particular country. For detailed information on requirements, procedures, and the location of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest you, please visit www.usembassy.gov.
    • If you cannot find answers to your questions about visas on the Embassy’s website, you may contact the Education USA Advising Center nearest you, or visit https://educationusa.state.gov/. Studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students is also a great resource.
    • We recommend you apply for your visa at the U.S. Embassy located in your country of citizenship. If you wish to apply in a different country, you should contact the embassy to inquire if they will process visas for “third country nationals.” Please be advised that “third country nationals” have a higher rate of visa denial.
  • Step 2: When you receive your I-20, check the following:
    • The spelling of your name. Is it on your I-20 exactly how it appears on your passport?
    • Are your date of birth, country of birth, and country of citizenship all listed correctly?
    • Is it signed by the Designated School Official (DSO) on page one? The I-20 must be signed using blue ink. (Note: The I-20 will not be signed by the DSO on page two as the signatures on page two are only for reentry into the USA.)
    • Please read the instructions on page three of the I-20 and sign page one. Signing the I-20 means that you understand the regulations of F-1 visa status. Use blue ink!
  • Step 3: Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee ($350 USD). Go to www.ice.gov/sevis/i901 for information on the SEVIS fee. Students from most countries can pay the fee online with a credit card at www.fmjfee.com. Once you pay the fee, print your receipt and keep it with your other visa application documents to take with you to your visa interview.
    • If you do not have a credit card, or are from certain countries from which credit card payments are not accepted, you can follow the instructions for the Western Union Quick Pay option at the aforementioned website.
  • Step 4: Make an appointment for the visa interview by following the specific instructions listed on the U.S. Embassy’s website and gather all of the necessary documentation. Most embassies will have you pay the visa application fee at a local bank in order to schedule your interview. It is important to follow the visa application procedures precisely to help avoid delays or denials.
  • Step 5: Prepare for the visa interview. Due to the volume of applications received, all consular officers are under considerable pressure to conduct quick and efficient interviews. Keep your answers short and to the point. Written documents you present must be concise, easy to read and easy to evaluate. Remember that the interview takes only a few minutes and the officer must decide, for the most part, on the impression he/she forms during the first minute of the interview. Anticipate that the interview will be in English and not in your native language.

The following are potential areas that you may receive questions:

  1. Your educational plans. You should be able to explain precisely what you wish to study and why you chose SUNY Morrisville for your education. Be prepared to explain why you chose to study in the U.S. rather than in your country.
  2. Reasons why you intend to return home after studies in the U.S. Emphasize ties to your home country such as employment, family obligations, property, or investments that you own or will inherit, and clearly explain how you plan to use your education to help your country or pursue a career upon your return.
  3. Financial ability to pay for your education and living expenses. You must show that funding is sufficient and available throughout your program. If you have financial aid from SUNY Morrisville, present your award letter. Provide solid and recent evidence of your sponsor’s finances. If someone other than your parent(s) are sponsoring you, it is possible you will need to explain your special relationship with this person(s).
  4. Remain calm and answer all the Consular Officer’s questions openly and honestly. Be prepared to give your information quickly and completely.
  5. Applicants from countries suffering economic problems or from countries where many students have remained in the U.S. as immigrants tend to have more difficulty getting visas. More often, these applicants receive questions about job opportunities at home after completing their studies in the U.S.

NOTE: The embassy will digitally scan your fingers. You will undergo another finger scan when you enter the U.S. for comparison. Additionally, your name will be submitted for a security clearance. Citizens of some countries, or students who will study certain disciplines related to science or technology, are subject to additional screening, called Administrative Processing, which can take several weeks. There is no way to “expedite” administrative processing. Visa issuance procedures and processing times vary greatly at U.S. Embassies around the world.

Your Visa Application is denied: If you are refused a visa, the Consular Officer is required to give you the reason for the denial in writing. Often times, this explanation is in the form of a pre-printed sheet of paper, with the reason for the denial circled on the list. You have the right to apply a second time, but if you reapply, you will need to provide compelling new documentation to overcome the reason for the initial denial.

This information is intended only for students who are citizens of Canada and does not apply to non-Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada.

Canadian citizens do not need visas to participate in an educational program in the U.S. However, Canadian students do need to obtain an I-20 Certificate of Eligibility from the college, and request F-1 visa status at the port of entry.

Though you do not need a physical visa, all other F-1 immigration regulations apply. You must ensure you enter the U.S. as an F-1 student and not a visitor when you arrive for school. If you enter as a visitor, you will need to return to Canada and reenter the U.S. in F-1 status in order to begin your studies at Morrisville.

Step 1: When you receive your I-20, check the following:

  • The spelling of your name. Is it on your I-20 exactly how it appears on your passport?
  • Are your date of birth, country of birth, and country of citizenship all listed correctly?
  • Is it signed by the Designated School Official (DSO) on page one? The I-20 must be signed using BLUE ink. (Note: The I-20 will not be signed by the DSO on page two as the signatures on page two are only for reentry into the U.S.)
  • Please read the instructions on page three of the I-20 and sign page one. Signing the I-20 means that you understand the regulations of F-1 visa status. Use BLUE ink!

Step 2: Pay the SEVIS I-901 registration fee ($350 USD) online at www.fmjfee.com. More information on the SEVIS fee can be found at www.ice.gov/sevis/i901. Once you pay the fee, print your receipt and keep it with your I-20.

Step 3: When entering the U.S., you will need to provide the immigration officer at the port of entry with:

  • The original Morrisville-issued I-20 certificate signed in BLUE ink
  • SEVIS I-901 fee receipt
  • Valid Canadian passport
  • Proof of financial support to cover one full year’s cost of attendance, including scholarship letter if awarded, bank statements, loan statements, etc.

Be prepared to answer questions regarding your purpose for entering the U.S., where you are studying and why, how you will financially support yourself, and what your plans are after you graduate.

What is SEVIS?

SEVIS (the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) is the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Web-based system for maintaining information on international students and exchange visitors in the United States.

What is a DSO?

A DSO is a Designated School Official who has access to SEVIS and updates student records in compliance with Federal immigration requirements.

What does SEVIS monitor?

Your name, date of birth, country of birth/citizenship, address, program dates, major/minor, course load, funding, employment authorization, entry and exit from the U.S., etc.

Why is your SEVIS record important?

Your SEVIS record is part of your permanent immigration record in the U.S. It can never be erased, so it is important to always follow the regulations in order to maintain your status.

Falling out of status as a student could affect your eligibility for all future visa applications.

Student Responsibilities

  • Keep your immigration documents in a safe and secure place
  • Keep your passport and other immigration documents up-to-date at all times
  • Inform the PDSO immediately if you lose any of your documents
  • Bring any new immigration documents to the PDSO so a copy can be made for your file
  • Be knowledgeable of, and abide by, all immigration regulations relating to your status, including deadlines

Passport

  • Your passport must be valid at all times
  • If your passport will expire while you are in the U.S., contact your country’s nearest embassy for information on how to renew your passport
  • If you are traveling outside of the U.S., your passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of reentry

I-94: Arrival/Departure Record

Your I-94 is your record of entry and departure from the U.S. All students entering the U.S. through an airport will not receive a paper I-94. Instead, you will receive an entry stamp in your passport that should be notated with “F-1 D/S.” After entering the country, you should visit www.cbp.gov/i94 to print a copy of your electronic I-94. If you enter the U.S. at a land crossing, you will receive a paper I-94 that should be stapled in your passport.

Duration of Status (D/S)

You were given the annotation D/S on your entry stamp and electronic I-94 (or paper I-94 for those who entered at a land crossing). This means that you are permitted to remain in the U.S. even if your visa has expired as long as you are maintaining valid F-1 status and are either:

  • Engaged in a full-course of study
  • Engaged in authorized practical training (employment authorization)
  • In your “grace period”

Grace Period

F-1 students have 60 days from the date of their program completion or final day of authorized practical training to prepare to depart the U.S. During your grace period you can:

  • Prepare to depart and depart the U.S.
  • Begin a new academic program (i.e. graduate school)
  • Apply for Optional Practical Training (if you just completed your academic program)

During your grace period, you cannot work, study, or leave and reenter the U.S. with the same I-20.

I-20

  • You must keep your I-20 up-to-date at all times
  • You must request an updated I-20 from the PDSO within 10 days of the change if:
    • You declare or change your major, and/or add a second major or minor
    • There is a change in your funding or name
  • If you will not complete your program in the time given on your I-20, you must request an extension at least 30 days before your I-20 expires

SEVIS Registration

During the first week of every semester, you are required to report to the PDSO for SEVIS registration. During this one-on-one appointment with the PDSO, all of your immigration documents are reviewed and your SEVIS record is “registered.” Failure to attend your SEVIS registration appointment will result in the termination of your SEVIS record.

Full Course of Study

You are required to enroll full-time in the fall and spring semesters. Full-time enrollment is a minimum of 12 credits. Enrollment is not required during the summer or winter breaks which are considered vacation periods. Only one (1) online or distance learning class can count toward a full course of study for an F-1 student each semester.

Reduced Course Load (RCL)

There are only a few reasons why F-1 students would be permitted to drop below full-time enrollment without falling out of status.

  • Academic or English Language Difficulties (1 semester only- usually only first semester)
  • Medical Condition (Up to 12 months)
  • Last semester of study

An RCL will only be approved in accordance with SUNY Morrisville policy and in coordination with your Academic Adviser and Administrative Dean. All RCL requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Travel Outside of the U.S.

Before traveling outside of the U.S., verify the following:

  • Your passport is valid for at least 6 months from the date of your reentry
  • Your visa is still valid (not applicable for Canadian citizens)
    • If your visa has expired, you will need to renew your visa for reentry to the U.S., unless you qualify for “Automatic Visa Revalidation.”
  • Page 2 of your I-20 has been signed within one year of the date of your reentry by a DSO. This is called a “travel signature.” Travel signatures are valid for one year.
    • If you need to renew your visa before your reentry to the U.S., you will need a brand-new travel signature even if the previous signature is still valid.

Upon reentry to the U.S., you must bring your new I-94 to the PDSO to be verified and copied for your file.

Renewing your F-1 Visa (Not Applicable for Canadian Citizens)

If you are traveling outside of the U.S. and are not traveling to Canada, Mexico, or the “adjacent islands” or do not qualify for Automatic Visa Revalidation, you will need to renew your F-1 visa for reentry to the country. Please note that it is highly recommended that you only apply for a visa in your home country or country of legal permanent residence. It is not recommended to try to renew your visa in Canada.

In order to renew your visa, be sure to:

  • Make sure that your I-20 is up-to-date and gives accurate information about your current program and funding
  • Get a new travel signature on your I-20 regardless of if the previous signature is still valid
  • Bring proof of your current studies and progress towards your degree (transcripts, class schedule, letter from academic adviser, etc.)
  • Bring proof of financial support (financial aid letter, bank statement, etc.)
  • Follow the procedures of the US Embassy/Consulate in regard to your nonimmigrant visa application very carefully to avoid delays/denials

Upon reentry to the U.S., it is extremely important that you report to the PDSO so that your new visa and I-94 can be verified and copied for your file.

Automatic Visa Revalidation

If your visa is expired and you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, or the “adjacent islands,” and will be outside of the U.S. for less than 30 days, you can reenter using your expired F-1 visa unless:

  • You applied for a new visa and it has not been issued
  • You applied for a new visa and were denied
  • You have a terminated SEVIS record indicating that you are out of status
  • You have been out the United States for more than 30 days
  • You are a citizen of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Syria

If you plan to travel using Automatic Visa Revalidation, it is recommended that you meet with a DSO before departing the U.S.

On-Campus Employment

International students are permitted to work on campus up to 20 hours per week. Students must receive a Social Security Number (SSN) through the Social Security Administration to do so. Speak with your PDSO as soon as you consider on-campus employment.

Off-Campus Employment

International students are not permitted under any circumstance to work off-campus without prior authorization. Working off-campus without authorization is a major violation of your immigration status.

There are three options for off-campus employment authorization: Economic Hardship Employment, Curricular Practical Training, and Optional Practical Training.

1) Economic Hardship Employment

This type of employment authorization is difficult to obtain. You must be able to prove to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that employment is necessary due to severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond your control that arose after obtaining F-1 status, and you must have been in F-1 status for at least one full academic year. If granted, you would be permitted to work off-campus part-time while school is in session and full-time during breaks.

2) Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

CPT is employment authorization for a specific employer that is directly related to your field of study and forms an integral part of the established curriculum of your program. CPT requires the recommendation of your academic adviser and must be tied to your enrollment in a related course. You become eligible for CPT after your first year of enrollment at Morrisville. While the amount of CPT you can apply for is unlimited, using more than 365 days of full-time CPT will cause you to be ineligible for OPT.

3) Optional Practical Training (OPT)

OPT is employment authorization for any employer in your field of study granted by USCIS. There are three types of OPT: Pre-Completion, Post-Completion, and STEM Extension. You become eligible to apply for OPT after your first year of enrollment at Morrisville. You have the opportunity to have a total of one year of OPT unless you qualify for a STEM Extension. You must file an application (Form I-765) with USCIS for which the processing time is approximately three (3) months. Upon approval, you will be issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) which will indicate the period of approved employment.

  • Pre-Completion OPT can be taken only before you graduate and may be part-time or full-time. If you choose to apply for Pre-Completion OPT in order to work during the fall or spring semesters, your employment must be approved by Morrisville and you must continue to maintain full-time enrollment. In most cases, Curricular Practical Training can be used instead of Pre-Completion OPT.
  • Post-Completion OPT can be taken upon your graduation. As long as you are otherwise eligible, you may apply for Post-Completion OPT as early as 90 days before you graduate and until the end of your grace period. Post-Completion OPT must be full-time (20 hours or more per week).
  • STEM Extension is a 24-month extension of Post-Completion OPT available for students with a DHS-approved STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) major. The STEM Extension application must be filed within the 90 days before your Post-Completion OPT period, as indicated on your EAD, ends.

Public Charge

International Students are NOT permitted to take part in any public assistance programs, such as, but not limited to, welfare, government health programs (Medicaid, etc.), food stamps, and subsidized housing/heating/phone. Receiving government assistance could negatively impact your application for a visa renewal, an H-1B visa, or Permanent Residency.

Taxes

You are required to complete the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 8843 every year, regardless of if you have worked in the U.S. If you have worked or have a taxable financial aid award, you will also need to file the 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ. If you are employed on-campus, you will receive a tax packet from Accounting with instructions on how to complete your taxes. If you worked off campus (CPT or OPT), you should receive a wage statement (W-2) from your employer and will need to use that to file your own taxes. The deadline to file all tax forms each year is April 15.