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U.S. F-1 Status Rules and Laws

The United States Government rules governing students in F-1 and M-1 status are listed on page 2 of the form I-20 and at http://www.ice.gov/sevis/students/index.htm

 Students with a question concerning Criminal Law or who have been arrested by the police should get BOTH a Criminal AND an Immigration Lawyer's advice.

Included here is a list of FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS and includes answers on how Montgomery College applies F-1 and M-1 rules and regulations for students on our campuses:

01.
Who needs an I-20? 
02.
What is an I-94? 
03.
What is duration of status” or D/S? 
04.
What is the difference between a visa and immigration status? 
05.
What is the meaning of the term "in-status"? 
06.
Is there more than one kind of I-20 for F-1status?
07.
What documents should I bring when I travel outside the U.S.?
08.
What if I want to travel abroad, but my visa has expired, or I only have a tourist visa because I changed status in the U.S.?
09.
Can I transfer from another college or language school to Montgomery College without losing my F-1 status?
10.
Can I transfer from another college or language school if I am already out of status?
11.
What happens if my passport or visa expires while I am in the U.S.?
12.
What happens if I fall out of status”?
13.
What if I am having difficulty that may cause me to lose status?
14.
How much will it cost to study full time at Montgomery College? 
15.
What is the minimum number of credits to be considered a full-time student?
16.
Are there any exceptions to the full-time requirement?
17.
Can I enroll as an F-1 student to study only English as a Second Language?
18.
What if I cannot complete my program by the expiration date of my I-20?
19.
Can I apply for financial aid? 
20.
Can I work on campus?
21.
Can I work off campus? 
22.
If I work on campus or off campus do I pay taxes?
23.
How do I obtain a Social Security Number (SSN)?
24.
How do I report a change of address? 
25. 
What is the difference between an International Counselor and an International Student Coordinator?
26.
Does Montgomery College charge a fee for processing the I-20?
27.
What is an F-3 visa?
01.
Who needs an I-20?
New students - Any non-citizen who wishes to obtain an F-1 (international student) visa or to change an existing immigration status to F-1 must first obtain an I-20 to verify your admission to a qualified school. Most I-20s are requested by students who are outside the U.S. and plan to apply for a student visa. A significant number of I-20s are also requested by individuals already in the U.S. on other kinds of temporary visas - exchange participant, diplomat, employee of an international organization, among others. Generally, applicants with tourist visa may not chance to student status while remaining in the U.S. Please see the international Student Coordinator for further details. 

Transfer students - Students who already have F-1 status with an I-20 from another school must obtain a new I-20 from Montgomery College. Each I-20 is valid only for the school named on the form.

 
02.
What is an I-94?
Your I-94 is a document issued by the USCIS to indicate the conditions that apply to your stay in the United States. An I-94 issued at a port of entry is usually a white card stapled inside your passport. If you change status within the U.S. your I-94 will be printed on a sheet of paper mailed to you. In all cases the I-94 will indicate your immigration status, "F-1" and either show a fixed expiration date for the status or the letters "D/S."
 
03.
What is "duration of status" or D/S?
A few classes of immigration status remain in effect as long as the holder complies with specific conditions. For post-secondary students F-1 status is almost always granted for duration of status, meaning that the status continues as long as the holder is a full time student with a valid I-20 and does not violate a condition of the status. At the port of entry the immigration officer will mark your I-20 and I-94 with the notation D/S, indication duration of status.
 
04.
What is the difference between a visa and immigration status?
A visa is a document or stamp in your passport issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad that permits you to arrive at a port of entry to the U.S.. It is your permission to arrive only. Immigration status indicates the specific category of regulations that will apply to you during your stay in the U.S.. Visas are issued by American embassies and consulates abroad; immigration status is conferred in the U.S. by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
 
05.
What is the meaning of the term "in-status?"
The term simply means that you are complying with the conditions for maintaining your F-1 status as stated on your I-20.
 
06.
Is there more than one kind of I-20 for F-1 status?
Yes. I-20s are designated for specific purposes, including the following:

•  Initial attendance: I-20 for students applying for an F-1 visa for the first time.
•  Transfer: I-20 for students transferring with F-1 status to Montgomery College.
•  Change of status: I-20 to request change from current immigration status to F-1 without leaving the U.S.
•  Reinstatement: I-20 to request reinstatement to F-1 status by USCIS without leaving the U.S.
•  Add dependent(s): I20 to request F-1 visa or status for dependent spouse or minor children.

 
07.
What documents should I bring when I travel outside the U.S.?
To re-enter the United States after a trip abroad, students will need a valid passport with a valid visa and a valid I-20, endorsed on the back by the International Student Coordinator. The signature verifies that the student is in status and is expected to return to the United States to continue study at the school issuing the I-20. Students who have applied for Optional Practical Training should reconsider traveling outside the U.S. while the application is pending. Please see your International Student Coordinator for further details.
 
08.
What if I want to travel abroad, but my visa has expired, or I only have a tourist visa because I changed status in the U.S.?
You must apply for a new visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate, preferably in your home country. You need to plan in advance. Check the website of the Department of State, http://www.state.gov, for information. In many countries you will need an appointment several days, or even weeks, in advance. Check very carefully before planning to request a visa in a third country.
 
09.
Can I transfer from another college or language school to Montgomery College without losing my F-1 status?
Yes. However, you must apply for a new I-20 issued by Montgomery College. You will need proof of completion of high school, of English language level, current financial support, and verification that you maintained F-1 status at the previous school. Please note that transfer applications must be completed by the published deadlines (August 1 for fall semester and December 1 for spring semester) in order to assure students that appropriate courses will be available. Please see your International Student Coordinator for further details.
 
10.
Can I transfer from another college or language school if I am already out of status?
No. You will need to apply for reinstatement to F-1 status at your current school before transfer to Montgomery College.
 
11.
What happens if my passport or visa expires while I am in the U.S.?
A.
Renew your passport before it expires. USCIS regulations require that student visa holder maintain a valid passport at all times.

On the other hand, an expired visa is not a problem as long as you remain in the U.S.. However, you will need a new visa to return to the U.S. after a visit to any countries beyond Canada, Mexico, or the nearby Caribbean Islands. Most students are permitted to travel to these adjacent countries and return with a valid I-20, even though the visa has expired visa. See your International Student Coordinator for further details.
 
12.
What happens if I fall out of status”?
Students who are out of status forfeit all privileges of the status, such as on-campus work, practical training, or the right to reenter the U.S. with a signed I-20 form. To regain your status you will need to obtain a new I-20 prior to travel abroad or apply to the USCIS for reinstatement. Application for reinstatement by the USCIS requires that the student pay a filing fee. If the reinstatement application is denied, the student will be advised to leave the United States until able to reenter with an appropriate status.
 
13.
What if I am having difficulty that may cause me to lose status?
See your International Student Coordinator immediately. In many cases the loss of status can be avoided by timely action. However, once a student has lost status it can only be regained through USCIS, either by application for reinstatement or by reentry to the U.S. with F-1 status.
 
14.
How much will it cost to study full time at Montgomery College?
A. The International Student Coordinator's office must have proof that any sponsor (including the student) is ready, willing, and able to cover BOTH the expenses for education and for living to issue the form I-20.  The cost of tuition and fees is listed each academic year on the College website (International Students are expected to pay the "Out of State" tuition rate).  The total costs include tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation, medical insurance and personal expenses.  These are listed in the Estimated Costs section of this webpage.
 
15.
What is the minimum number of credits to be considered a full-time student?
To maintain status you must complete 12 credits (billing hours) per semester (or 20-24 contact hours for continuing education ESL program). Students who are enrolled full time during fall and spring semesters are not required to take any courses during the summer term.

Note: Montgomery College does not issue new I-20's for the Summer Session.

 
16.
Are there any exceptions to the full-time requirement?
Students who have medical or academic reasons for registering for less than a full course load must contact the International Student Coordinator to see whether the particular circumstances allow an exception. USCIS regulations permit exceptions only under very limited and specific conditions.
 
17.
Can I enroll as an F-1 student to study only English as a Second Language?
Possibly. The College can issue I-20 for non-credit ESL for student currently in the U.S. ONLY. However, the student MUST submit the Montgomery College admission application form with the application fee and MUST take the Montgomery College English Assessment test PRIOR to be considered for an I-20 form. We DO NOT issue I-20 for non-credit ESL if the student is outside the U.S. Please be aware that the opportunities for full time non-credit ESL study at Montgomery College are limited to students with a specific range of scores on the Montgomery College English Placement Test (for Non-Native Speakers of English). See Workforce Development & Continuing Education at Rockville Campus for further information about course availability and procedures http://www.montgomerycollege.edu/wdce/ce/esl.html.
 
18.
What if I cannot complete my program by the expiration date of my I-20?
Students who are unable to complete their program by the date indicated on the I-20 must have a compelling academic or medical reason to apply for an extension of stay. A request for an extension must be discussed with the International Student Coordinator at least 60 days before the expiration date on the I-20.  Documentation of need and of new financial support may be required. 
 
19.
Can I apply for financial aid?
Students with F-1 status do not qualify for federal financial aid, nor for most state programs. However, some private scholarships are open to all. For further information see a financial aid counselor.
 
20.
Can I work on campus?
Yes. F-1 students are allowed to work on campus, up to 20 hours/week during the fall and spring semesters and full-time during vacation periods (summer, winter, and spring breaks), as long as you intend to enroll full-time for the following semester. If transferring from Montgomery College to another school, you may or may not continue to work here during the break between semesters. On-campus jobs are very limited.  Students can find information through eJobs on MyMC about available "Student Assistant" positions on campus.  Please see your International Student Coordinator for further details.
 
21.
Can I work off campus?
Off campus employment for F-1 students is restricted and requires an application process with your International Student Coordinator.  There is an information session the First Friday of each month of the regular academic term on the Rockville Campus (see MyMC for details)  Be extremely careful about working without permission. Some students have received immediate departure orders from USCIS for unauthorized work. Furthermore, reinstatement by USCIS is generally impossible if you have been discovered to be working without authorization.
 
22.
If I work on campus or off campus do I pay taxes?
Yes. Your employer will almost certainly withhold federal and state income taxes. However, if you work only part- time most of the taxes will be returned to you when you file an annual tax return. Also, note that F-1 students generally are not required to pay for Social Security benefits. All F-1 students with any earned income in the United States are required to file a federal income tax return each year.
 
23.
How do I obtain a Social Security Number (SSN)?
You are required to have a job offer or authorized employment authorization from USCIS to be eligible for a Social Security number.   If you are offered an On-Campus job, your International Student Coordinator will provide you with a letter to the Social Security Administration.  You must have received proof of authorization for any off-campus work before applying for an SSN, your International Student Coordinator will give you instructions when you are working with them on the legal authorization.
 
24.
How do I report a change of address?
• Contact the Office of Admissions, Records, and Registration to change your computerized Montgomery College record.  This must be done WITHIN 10 (TEN) DAYS AFTER ANY MOVE
• The change will be reported to USCIS through the College system.
 
25.
What is the difference between an International Counselor and an International Student Coordinator?
International counselors will assist you with academic advising and broader issues affecting your academic success. Your International Student Coordinator will issue your I-20 and advise you on immigration matters related to your enrollment at Montgomery College.
 
26.
Does Montgomery College charge a fee for processing the I-20?

No, however, USCIS charges a $200 "SEVIS fee" that must be paid once a form I-20 is issued and a SEVIS record is created*.  Students must show the receipt for this fee to apply for an F-1 or M-1 student visa or to apply for F-1 or M-1 status.  Instructions are given with the I-20.  The website for the fee payment and with additional information is www.fmjfee.com

*A new record must be created if a student is outside the U.S. for five calendar months. 

 
27.
What is an F-3 visa?
F-3 is a new category of visa established for commuter students from Mexico and Canada. It would not apply to students at Montgomery College.
 


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