The USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) and the USIA (United States Information Agency) have laid out the rules under which a foreign citizen is able to study in the US. These rules and regulations are binding for students with F and J visas and may be different for the respective visa types. The International Student Advisor at International Student Services will help you find your way through these immigration requirements.
Staying in Legal Status
Ultimately it is your responsibility to stay in legal status, but we are here to assist you with whatever we can. You will find that it is not too difficult to do so, if you read the information provided by our office.
One of the privileges of international students is their right to work part-time on-campus (and off-campus under certain circumstances). Whether it is providing initial documentation for F-1 students, explaining terms to you, assisting you in maintaining your status, pointing out and facilitating work opportunities, or helping you to avoid common problems, we are committed to support you in any legal way possible. [Back to top]
International Student Visas
F-1 and F-2
Generally, there are two different visa categories a student can use to study at Andrews University. The most common is an F-1 Student visa. Dependents (spouse and children) will usually get an F-2 visa (unless they each come on their own F-1 visa with all its requirements). F-1 students are required to maintain their status through full-time enrollment in school and will have certain work privileges. F-2 dependents do not have any requirements regarding study. They are allowed to take a few classes as long as they are not registered in an academic program. They must change to F-1 if they want to complete an academic program. They are NOT allowed to work under ANY circumstances.
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J-1 and J-2
Some students come on a J-1 Exchange Visitor visa. The advantage of this visa status is that students may work part-time on or off campus, provided that they have permission from the sponsoring organization. In addition J-2 dependents (of the appropriate age) may apply for unrestricted work authorization. The disadvantage of this visa is that any change of study intent (major, degree, or school) needs to be approved by the sponsoring organization. In addition, some students may have a two-year home residency requirement after finishing their program. This means they must leave the US and return to their home country (or country of last legal residence) for at least two years before applying for another visa. [Back to top]
Changing from a Visitor to Student Visa
Persons holding VISITOR visas (B-2) must apply for a change of status to a student visa (F-1) before they can engage in study. An interim rule published April 12, 2002 prohibits B non-immigrants from enrolling in a course of study unless and until USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) has approved the B non-immigrant's change to F-1. Thus, it is better to apply for a student visa from your home country! Please read carefully the information on changing immigration status. [Back to top]
Work and Visa Waivers
Also, the purpose of WORK visas (A, E, G, H, I, L, O, P) including religious worker (R) is to enable you to work in the United States. Although some work visas may permit you to study also, this is not the purpose of a work visa. In addition, persons coming on a VISA WAIVER are not allowed to study and will NOT be able to apply for a change of status. [Back to top]
The main governmental organization that oversees your immigration status is the United States Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS). The USCIS oversees all aspects of the F-1 visa, and most other visa types. They are also responsible for inspecting your immigration documents when you enter the US. [Back to top]
The USIA (United States Information Agency, an agency of the State Department) administers the Visitor Exchange program for J-1 visas. Thus, only J-1 students are connected to that governmental organization. [Back to top]
Important Immigration Documents
Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status. This is the most important document for potential and current students. The I-20 will be sent to you upon academic and financial approval. With it you can apply for an F-1 visa at a US consulate (except for citizens of Canada, who do not need a visa to enter the U.S.). You need the I-20 in order to depart from and return to the U.S. and to transfer to another school. If you want to travel home or to another country from the U.S., International Student Services must sign the 3rd page of your I-20. We must also endorse it for any practical training or authorized off-campus employment. The I-20 must be valid at all times while you are in the U.S. [Back to top]
Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status. This is the most important document for potential or current students in Visitor Exchange status. It is the document provided by the sponsoring organization. With it you can apply for a J-1 visa at a U.S. consulate (except for citizens of Canada, who do not need a visa to enter the U.S.). You need the DS-2019 form in order to depart from and return to the U.S. If you want to travel home or to another country from the U.S., International Student Services must sign your DS-2019. The DS-2019 must be valid at all times while you are in the U.S.
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A visa stamp is placed in your passport by a U.S. Consular Office abroad when you present the I-20 or DS-2019. The visa is for entry purposes ONLY. Once you enter the country, the validity of the visa is no longer a concern. The U.S. visa must be valid only if you are coming from outside the U.S. and want to reenter the country (except Canada & Mexico and the Caribbean islands, where you can travel for less than 30 days). Do not confuse the validity of your visa with the validity of your I-20 or DS-2019. [Back to top]
I-94 Departure Record
This small white card contains an eleven digit number, your name, date of birth, country of citizenship, the date you entered the U.S., the type of visa you have, and the length of time you can legally stay in the U.S. (usually annotated D/S which means Duration of Status; that is, as long as you are in legal immigration status). This form is evidence of your valid authorization to remain in the U.S. and should be stapled into your passport (Canadian citizens, it is stapled to your I-20) during your stay in the U.S. [Back to top]