Global Engagement

Maintaining International Student Status

Below is some important information concerning maintaining, extending, reinstating, and changing your international student status in the U.S. Use the links below to go to specific topics.


Visa versus Status

As an international student in the US you may be asked from time to time about your “visa” or your “status”. While in most situations in the US the two are interchangeable, it is a good idea for you to know the difference.

Visa

A visa is a stamp in your passport issued by a US Embassy or Consulate (they cannot be obtained in the US).  The purpose of the visa is to allow you to be taken to a US port of entry to determine whether you are eligible for admission to the United States.  After you have been admitted to the US, the visa in your passport does not need to remain valid for you to be in the country legally.

Should you travel outside of the US, a valid F-1/J-1 student visa may be required for your re-entry. For more information on travel and visas, please visit the Travel and Visa Section of this page.

Status

As an international student, you are granted status upon clearing inspection at a US Port of Entry (airport). Your status can be found on your I-94 card, the small white card given to you at the airport. This card grants you permission to remain in the US while pursuing your degree as long as you maintain your immigration status. Your I-94 card will have a stamp showing the date of entry into the US, while your status, F-1 or J-1, will be handwritten. You will also notice the abbreviation “D/S” written on your I-94 card. "D/S” stands for “Duration of Status.” This means that your immigration status will remain valid while you pursue your degree as long as you maintain your status (see below).

Please make photocopies of your visa, I-94 card, I-20, and passport and keep them in a safe place. Should your original documents be lost or stolen, they are easier to replace if you can provide copies.


Maintaining Your Immigration Status For F-1 & J-1 Students

Making the decision to come to Clemson to pursue your academic goals is a big step and we understand that reaching those goes is your top priority. In addition to your books, lectures, and lab work, there is one more subject you will need to “study” to ensure success during your time at Clemson, how to maintain your F-1 or J-1 status. Please review the information below. If you have any questions or concerns about how to maintain your status, please contact our office by email at is@clemson.edu or telephone at +1 (864) 656-3614.  

  1. Always remain enrolled as a full-time student during the academic year. Please check with your academic department to verify what is considered full-time for your program of study.  
  2. Always keep your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 current. If you plan to continue studying in the US beyond the date in item #5 of your Form I-20 (F-1 students) or in item #3 of your DS-2019 (J-1 students), you must apply to International Services (IS) for a “program extension.”  Note: You remain in student status 60 days beyond the day you complete your program if you are an F-1 student; 30 days if you are a J-1 student.
  3. If you are transferring into Clemson from another school, ask IS to complete the transfer procedures for you. It is your responsibility to notify your previous school of your intent to study at Clemson. The transfer of your immigration status to Clemson must be completed by the 15th class day. If you plan to transfer out to another school, make sure you notify IS of your intention so we may begin the transfer procedure.  
  4. Complete the level transfer/field of study change procedures at IS if you change from one educational level to another (e.g., MS to PhD), or from one major to another (e.g., Business to Biology) as soon as this change has been approved by your college.  
  5. Never work off-campus without authorization from IS and/or the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).  
  6. Limit employment, both on-campus and off-campus, to a total of 20 hours per week while school is in session unless otherwise authorized by IS and/or USCIS.  
  7. Have a valid passport at all times. IS suggests that if your passport will expire in six (6) months that you contact your nearest consulate or embassy to inquire about renewal procedures.  
  8. IS and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services must have your current residential address at all times. You must report any change in residential address to OIA within 10 days of moving. (Residential Address is the actual physical address of where you live in the US. A departmental address or P.O. Box is not acceptable.) You may notify IS of your new address by sending the information by submitting the Form IS-10, Address or Name Change Report.  You can submit the form in person, via e-mail or fax. Please note, you will still need to update your address in the Student Information System: SIS systemChanging your address in SIS Web does NOT update your address with IS.  Students subject to Special Registration will need to complete a Form AR-11 SR and return it to the US Department of Homeland Security.  

If you are unable to maintain your status, resulting in its termination, you will be required to apply for reinstatement. See the reinstatement information below. 

Individuals holding a status other than F-1 or J-1 may wish to meet with an international student advisor for information on maintaining your legal status. Please note, however, there may be an immigration status for which we cannot provide information based on certain circumstances.


Extending Your F-1 or J-1 Status

As an F-1 or J-1 student at Clemson University, you are eligible to request an extension of your non-immigrant status if the need for additional time is based on established academic reasons such as a change in level or field of study, research concerns, or documented medical reasons. You can determine if you require an extension of your I-20 or DS-2019 by looking at the expiration date found in Section 5 of the I-20 or Section 3 of the DS-2019. Requests for extensions of status can be made no earlier than 60 days prior to the expiration of your current document and may be requested for one year intervals. Please note, a request for an extension of your status must be made before your current I-20/DS-2019 expires.

To apply for an extension of your F-1/J-1 student status, you will need to submit Form IS-120, Request to Amend I-20, to IS with supporting documentation.  Your advisor must complete the section of the form that asks for the reason for the extension.  Program extensions can only be granted for because of a valid academic or medical reason.  You will also have to provide IS with proof of funding for the duration of the extension.  Funding can come from an assistantship, personal funds, family funds, or a combination of these.  All funds must be liquid (i.e. available to you) at the time of the extension request. 

PLAN AHEAD! Please remember, your request for an extension of your status must be submitted prior to the expiration of your current I-20/DS-2019. Any requests submitted later than ten business days prior to the expiration of your current document cannot be guaranteed to be processed in time to prevent the loss of your status. If you are unable to extend your status in a timely manner, you will need to request reinstatement of your status through an application to the USCIS.


Travel and Visas

To re-enter the US, or to apply for a new entry visa, please review the information below to make sure you prepare the necessary documentation:

F-1 Student:

  1. a valid and signed I-20 with a recent travel signature (less than six months old is recommended)
  2. a valid passport
  3. a valid F-1 visa *
  4. proof of registration (print out your class schedule from iRoar)
  5. your Tiger 1 Card
  6. if you are applying for a new visa: original bank statements, a letter verifying your assistantship (if you have one), a letter from your sponsor (if you have one)
  7. if you have an F-2 dependent, they will need items a, b, c (F-2 visa) listed above
  8. For more information on travel outside of the US, visit the ICE website

J-1 Student:

  1. a valid and signed DS-2019 with a recent travel signature (less than six months old is recommended)
  2. a valid passport
  3. a valid J-1 visa *
  4. proof of registration (print out your class schedule from iRoar)
  5. your Tiger 1 Card
  6. if you are applying for a new visa: original bank statements, a letter verifying your assistantship (if you have one), a letter from your sponsor (if you have one)
  7. if you have an J-2 dependent, they will need items a, b, c (J-2 visa) listed above

F-1 on OPT:

  1. a valid and signed I-20 with a recent travel signature (less than six months old is required while on OPT)
  2. a valid passport
  3. a valid F-1 visa *
  4. a valid EAD card
  5. proof of employment/job offer letter
  6. if you are applying for a new visa: original bank statements, a letter verifying your assistantship (if you have one), a letter from your sponsor (if you have one)
  7. if you have an F-2 dependent, they will need items a, b, c listed above

* If you are a citizen of Canada and hold a Canadian passport, an entry visa is not required to enter the US from Canada.

Automatic Visa Revalidation (AVR): An expired US entry visa is considered to be automatically extended to the date of re-entry as long as that visa has not been cancelled, and that an application for a new visa has not been submitted. AVR is applicable to travel to Canada, Mexico, and the adjacent islands (excluding Cuba) for a period of less than 30 days.  Be sure to check the entry requirements of your destination country to determine if an entry visa for that country is required. 

  1. do not surrender your I-94 card when you leave the US (if the officer requests your I-94 card, politely explain to them that you are taking advantage of AVR)
  2. only travel for less than 30 days to the territory where AVR is applicable (travel to PR China via Canada does not qualify for AVR)
  3. citizens of Mexico must have a valid visa to re-enter from Mexico
  4. citizens of Iran, Syria, Sudan or Cuba may not take advantage of AVR

Obtaining a new visa: A visa to the US may only be obtained at a US Embassy or Consulate outside of the United States. When applying for a new visa, please contact the consulate you will visit to determine if an appointment is required, if you are eligible to apply for a visa at that location, what documentation is required for the application, and if you need an entry visa to visit the country where the US Embassy is located. You may find the websites of all US Embassies and Consulates by visiting: http://usembassy.state.gov.

Obtaining a US Visa in Canada or Mexico: You may be eligible to apply for a US Visa in Canada or Mexico. The locations of US Consulates in Canada include: Calgary, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa (embassy), Quebec City, Toronto, Vancouver. The locations of US Consulates in Mexico include: Ciudad Juarez, Matamoros, and Tijuana.  Special note for Mexican Consulates: you can apply for a new visa of the same type in Mexico, but Mexican embassies no longer allow you to apply for a visa of a new type.  For example, an F-2 dependent can no longer go to Mexico to apply for a visa to change status from F-2 to F-1. 

You may schedule an appointment by telephone:
1-900-443-3131 (from the US) 
1-900-451-2778 (from Canada)
As this is a ‘900’ number, a charge is applied to your phone bill. Calls cannot be made from a cell phone, public phone, or by using a calling card.  

You may schedule an appointment by Internet: http://canada.usembassy.gov/visas/visas/scheduling-an-appointment.html (you will need a valid credit card). Each appointment will cost approximately $15.00 (fee subject to change).

For information on entry visas to Canada and Mexico, please contact the respective consulates of those countries:

Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Consulate General of Mexico in Atlanta 

Note: The Canadian Consulate in Atlanta does not issue visas.

Travel Signatures for F and J Status:

F-1/J-1 Students:

  1. submit your I-20/DS-2019 to IS to request a travel signature
  2. requests can be made during Document Drop-off and there is a 3-5 business day processing time
  3. please inform IS if you will be applying for a new visa so we can verify that you will be taking the correct documents
  4. submit your request at least two weeks before you wish to travel
  5. a travel signature is valid for one year if you are a currently enrolled student and six months for students on OPT or OPT Extension.

Domestic Travel: No I-20/DS-2019 signature endorsement is required for domestic travel.  However, for domestic travel we always recommend you bring your passport, DS-2019 or I-20 form, and I-94 Departure Record card with you to avoid any unnecessary confusion about your identity and/or reason for being in the U.S.  (Also, don’t forget to keep copies of all of your immigration documents in a safe place in case the originals should ever be lost.)

 


 

Dependants of F & J Students

International Services can assist an international student in F-1 or J-1 status in inviting their dependents to US in F-2 or J-2 status. Please note: a dependent is defined as a spouse or an unmarried child under the age of 21. 

Dependents entering the US in F-2 status are not permitted to pursue degree-seeking courses or obtain employment authorization while in the US. Children in F-2 status, however, may attend primary, middle, or high school in the US as long as the F-1 maintains their status. If you are in F-1 status and wish to invite your dependent, please make sure that they are aware of these stipulations.

Dependents entering the US in J-2 status may pursue part- or full-time degree-seeking coursework and may apply for employment authorization from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

To invite your dependent to the US, please submit Form IS-190, Request for Dependent I-20, with supporting documentation. The current monthly living expense for a spouse is $500 and $365 per child. If you are in F-1 status, you are required to demonstrate funding for one academic year. If you hold J-1 status, you will need to demonstrate funding for you and your dependents for the entire period of your DS-2019.

When the I-20/DS-2019 for your dependent has been processed, you will then send it to them with original financial documents to show complete financial support so they may apply for their F-2/J-2 visa. Please note, the financial documents submitted to IS will not be returned to you.


Reinstatement of Your Immigration Status

(Please note, the information below is for F-1 students only. Students in J-1 status who need to be reinstated must see an international student advisor.)

Should you accidentally violate your status in a manner that results in the termination of that status, submission of an application for reinstatement must take place. Common actions that require reinstatement include, but are not limited to:

  1. unauthorized under-enrollment of credit hours
  2. failure to extend/request an extension within a timely manner of the student’s Form I-20 prior to the expiration date
  3. a transfer student fails to complete the transfer of their status within the required timeframe

Unfortunately, violations that occurred more than five months in the past cannot be reinstated in the US.

Unauthorized employment does not qualify for reinstatement. In cases such as these, you will need to obtain a new I-20 for “Initial Attendance”, depart the US, obtain a new visa, and return.

During the period of time you are out of status, you are not eligible for immigration benefits, such as employment, until your status has been reinstated. Please remember, full-time enrollment is required during the reinstatement process.

You will need to prepare the following documents to apply for reinstatement:

  1. completed Form I-539 (available at IS website and online at http://www.uscis.gov/), indicating the purpose of the application as REINSTATEMENT (written in red ink) in Section 2
  2. two original financial documents, less that six months old (departmental funding letters that are less than six months old are acceptable) – one copy remains with IS to process the I-20 for reinstatement, the other is sent to the USCIS
  3. request a new I-20 for reinstatement purposes from IS.  Use Form IS-160, Request for F-1 Status Reinstatement.
  4. make copies of all previous I-20s (even if from a school other than Clemson)
  5. make a copy of the biographical page of the passport, visa page, and front/back of paper I-94 card or computer print-out of your electronic I-94 card
  6. obtain a money order/cashiers check (no personal check) for $290.00 made payable to the US Department of Homeland Security (fee subject to change)
  7. a letter addressed to the USCIS Inspector (“Dear Inspector”) addressing the following areas:
    1. when you first entered the US in F-1 status and the reason for entry
    2. how you violated your F-1 status
    3. that you have not committed any deportable actions other than failing to maintain your F-1 status
    4. that you are not employed in the US
    5. that you are currently pursuing a full course of study at Clemson University
    6. a brief explanation of the hardship you would encounter if this request is denied

Please make copies of all documentation prior to sending the request to the USCIS, IS will not keep copies of your reinstatement application. Please send your documents to:

USCIS Vermont Service Center
Attn: I-539
75 Lower Welden Street
St. Albans, VT 05479

IS will receive notification via SEVIS when the reinstatement has been approved and your record will be activated in SEVIS. When you receive the reinstated I-20, please visit IS so we may make a copy for our records.


Change of Status to F-1 or J-1

A change of non-immigrant status to an F-1/J-1 student is possible in the US if you have been maintaining your current status and that status permits a change while in the US. Please understand that the application for a change of status to F-1/J-1 is a decision made by you and is not a University-sponsored application. The Clemson University International Services (IS) will provide you with information on the steps and can make suggestions for a successful application. The ultimate decision as to whether the application is approved is solely at the discretion of the USCIS. As a change of status application is submitted to the federal government, please allow sufficient time for the approval process. It is not uncommon for the request to take up to six (6) months to be approved. If you are in a status that does not permit enrollment in classes or on-campus employment, you will not be able to begin your studies until the approval notice has been received. You may also obtain F-1/J-1 status through departure and re-entry into the US with a Form I-20/DS-2019 issued by IS and a new F-1/DS-2019 visa. If you wish to exercise this option, please meet with an IS international student advisor for assistance.

To apply for a change of status to F-1/DS-2019, the following materials will need to be submitted to the USCIS:

  1. A check or money order for $290.00 made payable to the “US Department of Homeland Security” (fees are subject to change)
  2. The Form I-20/DS-2019 issued by Clemson University for the purpose of changing your status to F-1/J-1 (please see the financial document requirements below).  To request the I-20, use Form IS-110, Change of Status to F-1, and submit it with supporting documentation. 
  3. Once you have received the I-20/DS-2019, you will be able to pay the “SEVIS Fee” by visiting: http://www.fmjfee.com , please include a copy of the receipt with your application.
  4. Form I-539 Application to Change/Extend Non-Immigrant Status – available at OIA or by visiting http://www.uscis.gov
  5. Four photocopies of page 1 of the Clemson I-20/DS-2019 issued for your change of status application
  6. A photocopy of the front and back of your paper I-94 card or computer print-out of your electronic I-94 card
  7. A photocopy of the biographical (picture) page of your passport – if you have renewed your passport, include a copy of the renewal page.
  8. A photocopy of your most recently used US entry visa
  9. Financial documents (documents must be original and less than six months old). You may use one or a combination of the following:
    • personal bank statement bank statement of sponsor with letter of support
    • bank letter verifying account balance
    • proof of assistantship with tuition waiver
  10. Personal letter to the USCIS requesting a change of status. The letter should address the following:
    • Why you did not enter the US in F-1 Status.
    • Why you are requesting a change to F-1.
    • How studying in the US will benefit you, or be better than studying the same subject in your home country.
    • The hardship you will encounter if your request for a change of status is denied.

In addition to the information listed above, your current non-immigrant status may require the submission of additional materials. Please see the chart below to determine what else you must include with your application.

Current Status:

Additional Documents Needed

F-2

a. photocopy of spouse’s I-20
b. photocopy of front and back of spouse’s I-94 card
c. photocopy of biographical (photo) page in spouse’s passport
d. photocopy of spouse’s most recent US entry visa
e. a photocopy of your marriage certificate, notarized and translated into English for a spouse, birth certificate for a child

J-1

a. if subject to 212(e), copy of the “no objection” of waiver from USCIS
b. if you are a J-1 Scholar, a letter from your department verifying that you have been maintaining your status

J-2

a. photocopy of spouse’s DS-2019
b. photocopy of front and back of spouse’s I-94 card
c. photocopy of biographical (photo) page in spouse’s passport
d. photocopy of spouse’s most recent US entry visa
e. if spouse is subject to 212(e), copy of the “no objection” of waiver from USCIS
f. a photocopy of your marriage certificate, notarized and translated into English for a spouse, birth certificate for a child

H-1

a. photocopy of the front and back of your I-797 Approval Notice
b. a letter from your current employer verifying that you have been maintaining your H-1 status

H-4

a. photocopy of the front and back of your I-797 Approval Notice for your H-4 status
b. a letter from the H-1’s current employer verifying that he/she has been maintaining his/her H-1 status
c. photocopy of front and back of spouse’s I-94 card
d. photocopy of biographical (photo) page in spouse’s passport
e. photocopy of spouse’s most recent US entry visa
f. a photocopy of your marriage certificate, notarized and translated into English for a spouse, birth certificate for a child

B1/B2

Not eligible for a change of status to F-1/J-1 unless your visa and I-94 card specifically state that you entered the US as a “potential student”

Once you have prepared your application, please make a copy for your records. The original application should be sent using an express service or certified mail to:

USCIS
Vermont Service Center
Attn: I-539
75 Lower Weldon Street
St. Albans, VT 05479 

Please note, while your waiting for your change of status to F-1/J-1 to be approved, your current immigration status may have some restrictions in terms of study/on-campus employment. Please meet with an international student advisor to have a better understanding of these issues.


Transfer From Clemson University to Another School in the US

International students in F-1 and J-1 status may request that their SEVIS record be transferred to another institution in the US if they meet the eligibility requirements set by the USCIS. To request a transfer of your status, you must submit a copy of your admission letter from the new school and an IS-101 Request to Transfer Out form. Please contact the international student office at your new school for any forms they may need from our office.

Graduate students with assistantships must be cleared for transfer by the Graduate School prior to IS releasing your immigration record in SEVIS. This clearing is obtained through the completed IS-101 Form.

Once your status has been released to the new school, you are no longer eligible for immigration-related benefits at Clemson University, including employment. 

Transfer requests can be submitted during Document Drop-off hours and take 3-5 business days to process.


South Carolina Drivers License

As an international student, you may apply for a special South Carolina Drivers License through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Office in Seneca: 13009 S. Radio Station Road, Seneca, SC 29678. Information on the documentation needed to apply for a South Carolina Drivers License can be found at: http://www.scdmvonline.com/DMVNew/forms/mv-94.doc. You should review this information carefully and be sure to bring all the required documentation.

Students who are eligible for a Social Security Number (SSN) will need to provide the number on their drivers license application and bring the card with them when they apply. Those who are not eligible for a SSN will need to request a Form L-676 from the Social Security Administration in Anderson, SC stating that they are not allowed to work in the U.S. 

You may prepare for your drivers license exam by obtaining a copy of the Driver License Manual at http://www.scdmvonline.com/DMVNew/forms.aspx (scroll down to the Drivers License Manual section).

Please also refer to the drivers license information here.