Maintaining Status/SEVIS

To ensure that you properly maintain your status while attending college in the United States, please carefully read the information provided here.  Many processes and procedures have strict deadlines, and failure to adhere to these regulations could result in termination of your status as an international F-1 or J-1 student.

What is SEVIS?

SEVIS, or Student Exchange and Visitor Information System, is the name of the U.S. Government’s foreign student computer information tracking system.  The information collected by the foreign student advisor is reported using the SEVIS system and is routinely updated for accuracy.  Biographical information includes items such as: name, address in the home country and in the United States, country of birth and country of citizenship.

What must I do to stay in status?

Listed below are some of the highlights about the regulations that must be followed for all international students on an F-1 or Exchange visitors on a J-1 visa:  

1. The international student advisor or DSO (Designated School Official), or RO (Responsible Official) must routinely monitor the SEVIS system to update your SEVIS record.  There are mandatory time frames for reporting changes.  There are several DSO officials (International Admission Advisors), RO/ARO officials in the Office of Enrollment Services at the College at Old Westbury. 

  • Your class registration must be filed on SEVIS within 30 days of the start of class.  Report to your DSO/RO at the start of each semester.
  • Changes in address, telephone must be reported on SEVIS within 10 days. Please let DSO/RO know of change to e-mail address as well.
  • A change of major must be reported within 30 days. Failure to maintain status must be immediately reported to SEVIS.
  • Failure to maintain status must be immediately reported to SEVIS.

2. Always enroll full-time during the academic year.

  • F-1 and J-1 students must maintain full-time student status every semester.  For undergraduate students, full-time means you must register and complete at least 12 credits each semester.

3. Keep you immigration documents valid and current.

  • You should make photocopies of your immigration documents and keep copies and originals in a safe place.  (Passport--personal information page and page containing U.S. visa stamp, visa, both sides of I-94 card, I-20--all three pages or SEVIS DS-2019-- all two pages).
  • You should keep your passport valid for at least six months in to the future while you are studying in the U.S.  
  • Consult your country’s consulate or embassy in the U.S. to renew your passport.  You can find the contact information at: http://travel.state.gov.

4. NEVER work off-campus without prior authorization.

  • Employment opportunities for international students are restricted by law.  In general there are two types of employment:  on-campus employment and off-campus employment
  • On-campus Employment:  Enrolled F-1 Students are permitted to work on campus for a maximum of 20 hours per week during the academic year and 40 hours per week during summer and winter breaks.
  • Off-campus Employment:  This type of employment is any type of work or services not on campus.  You must have authorization for this type of work.  There are few reasons for approval for this type of employment.  See your DSO for more details.

 5. Registration:

  • You must be advised by an academic advisor.  You advisor must sign your course selection sheet indicating that they advised you.
  • The classes and course numbers must be indicated on course selection sheet.  
  • In order to register you need to show your course selection sheet to the international student advisor who will sign it and remove your registration hold
  • Registration holds will be put on for registration each semester.

6. Travel:

  • In order to re-enter the U.S., the DSO must sign your I-20 or the RO/ARO must sign your SEVIS DS-2019.  The signature is valid for twelve months.
  • You may need to receive a new copy of your SEVIS I-20 signed by a DSO, or a new copy of your SEVIS DS-2019 signed by a RO/ARO indicating approval for travel outside the United States and your expected date of return.  You should notify the DSO, RO/ARO as soon as travel is being considered.  This will ensure that they will be available to issue the new I-20 or SEVIS DS-2019.  Always be prepared with information when you travel.  
  • When traveling bring the following with you:  a copy of current semester’s transcript or registration list of courses for the upcoming semester, a copy of financial statements, passport, visa stamp, I-20 or SEVIS DS-2019, school ID card and any other important documents.
  • Check with DSO, RO/ARO to inquire about any extenuating circumstances that he or she  should know about before re-entering the United States.
  • Remember several countries conduct background security checks before they allow you to exit the country.

7. Extensions:

  • Must be filed 30 days prior to the expiration date on your I-20, or SEVIS DS-2019.  There are few valid reasons for approval of program extensions.  The DSO, RO/ARO will discuss them with you prior to the extension request.

8. What to do when approaching graduation:

  • Make sure that you have filed for graduation.  There is an official form that is filed with the Office of the Registrar mid-way through the second-to-last semester of attendance.  Know the deadline for filing this form, and meet with your academic advisor to make sure all graduation requirements have been met.
  • Alert the DSO, RO/ARO of your future plans to make sure you do not miss any filing deadlines.
  • After graduation options:  OPT (Optional Practical Training), transfer to another college for a higher level education or return to your home country (60 day grace period).

9. Optional Practical Training (OPT)

  • Must be submitted up to 90 days prior to graduation
  • Full-time work upon completion of studies
  • Part time OPT is allowed if employment is near the college 
  • The maximum time allowed for OPT is 12 months.  Certain Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) majors may qualify for an additional 17 month extension.  For more information, visit http://www.uscis.gov.  
  • An Employment Authorization Card (EAD) is issued.
  • Forms for OPT can be picked up at the DSO’s office.

10. Dropping below full-time status:

  • If you do not need 12 credits for your last semester you must get approval from the DSO, RO/ARO to drop below full-time status.  This is true even if your academic advisor says you may do so.
  • Permission to drop below full-time status must be given by the DSO, RO/ARO prior to the first day of classes for that semester.  
  • Failure to do notify your DSO, RO/ARO will result in the termination of your status.

11. Transferring:

  • Students must obtain a new I-20m, or DS-2019 to continue their studies at another college or to pursue a higher level degree.  Even if you plan to attend the same college for a Master’s degree, you will need a new I-20 or DS-2019.  
  • The new I-20 or DS-2019 will be issued upon acceptance (remember to inform the DSO, RO/ARO about your plans to do this prior to graduation).  The SEVIS record will be updated and the new institution will be responsible for maintaining your SEVIS record after the release date on the current I-20 or DS-2019 has expired.  
  • Speak with your DSO, RO/ARO about this transfer date.
  • F-1 status students have 60 days upon program completion to complete the transfer process; J-1 status students have 30 days upon program completion to complete the transfer process.

Other important facts:

  • The International Advisor/DSO/RO is located in the Office of Enrollment Services-Campus Center, Room I-202.
  • The Office of Enrollment Services is here to assist you with making sure that you have all that is needed to graduate on time and enjoy your experiences at SUNY College at Old Westbury.
  • Your I-20/SEVIS DS-2019 is what establishes you status in the United States.
  • Your visa is what allows you to come into the United States; your visa can expire while you are here.  It is only when you are leaving the U.S. and need to return that you must be sure that you have a valid U.S. visa stamp to re-enter the U.S.
  • For F-1 students, the “completion of studies” date under item 5 on your I-20 Form is the end date of your immigration status. 
  • Exchange visitors have 30 days to leave the U.S. after completion of program.
  • Exchange, under certain circumstances, subject to the two-year home country residence requirement, which obligates some J-1 visa holders to return to their country of nationality for at least two years upon completion of their program [Code of Federal Regulations 22 514.31(a)(1)]