The following information is intended as a supplement to F1 and J1 students on immigration
matters that affect them.  If you need legal advise, you are encouraged to seek out
an experienced immigration attorney.

Visa Renewal

The visa stamp in your passport acts as a “ticket” to enter the United States. It
is common for your visa to expire while you are still here and it does not negatively
affect your status, as long as your I-20 or DS-2019 is valid. However, if your visa
has expired and you need to leave the US and re enter, you will need to have your
visa renewed. It is recommended that you allow sufficient time for the renewal as
processing times may vary in each country. To renew your visa in your home country,
you will need to gather the following documents:

  • Endorsed I-20 or DS-2019

  • Financial documents showing proof of necessary funds to cover school costs

  • Evidence showing that you intend to return to your home country upon completion of
    your studies

  • If you are on OPT, bring your OPT I-20 and your Employment Authorization Card.

  • Transcripts from Southeastern and enrollment verification for the following semester.

It is highly recommended that you renew your visa in your home country. If you apply
in a third country, you are unable to return to the U.S. until the visa has been issued.
There have been some occasions where this has taken several weeks. Always check with
the Department of State’s web page for up to date information.

Passport Renewal

The passport that you carry indicates your country of citizenship and identity. It
must remain valid during your stay in the U.S. If your passport will expire while
you are here, you will need to have it renewed within six months of the expiration
date. You may renew the passport by contacting your country’s Consulate or Embassy
in the US. Information regarding international Consulates can be found at

Before your send your original passport to be renewed, please remember the following:

  • Do not send your original I-20

  • Make copies of all application documents and the passport before mailing them

  • Enclose a self-addressed, pre-paid envelope with your application

Change of Address

All foreign nationals must be aware of the Department of Homeland Security’s regulations
on address change notification. All non-U.S. citizens, including lawful permanent
residents, are required to notify DHS of changes of address within 10 days of moving.
The only foreign nationals exempt from this requirement are nonimmigrants in A and
G categories.

Please note that if you are an F-1 or J-1 status holder in SEVIS, you should comply
with this requirement by informing the ISO of an address change within 10 days of
the change instead of sending an AR-11 or AR-11SR directly to DHS.

Also note that if you change your address in LeoNet, this will not be communicated
to the ISO or DHS. Therefore, you must email the ISO at [email protected] once you move with your new address.

The ISO will NOT use this update to change your address in LeoNet. This is the student’s
responsibility to ensure that Southeastern has the most up to date contact information.  

Change of Status to F-1

Acquiring F-1 or J-1 Status by Travel

F-1 or J-1 student status is appropriate for individuals who intend to pursue full-time
studies in the United States. For persons currently in the United States in another
nonimmigrant status, they can obtain F-1 or J-1 student status via travel abroad OR
by applying to US Citizenship and Immigration Services ( USCIS) for a change of status without departing the United States.

Individuals may acquire F-1 or J-1 status by leaving the United States before commencing
their academic programs, obtaining an F-1 or J-1 student visa stamp and reentering
the United States in F-1 or J-1 status.

First, newly admitted students must apply for a Form I-20 (F-1) or Form DS-2019 (J-1).
Second, students will be instructed to pay the SEVIS fee when they receive the Form
I-20 or Form DS-2019 and to use the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 to apply for an F-1
or J-1 visa (stamp) at a US embassy or consulate abroad. The ISO recommends that the
individual apply for the visa stamp in his or her country of citizenship or permanent

Finally, upon entry to the United States, students should present the Form I-20 or
Form DS-2019, passport, visa stamp, and SEVIS fee receipt to the immigration inspector.
They will receive a Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record, indicating F-1 or J-1 status.

Acquiring F-1 or J-1 Status While in the United States

Individuals currently in the United States may apply for a change of status from certain
nonimmigrant classifications to F-1 or J-1 student status. This process does not require
a departure from the United States. USCIS reviews applications for change of status
based on an applicant’s ability to document and justify a change of intent after arrival
to the United States. Applications are approved at the discretion of the USCIS adjudicator.

Please note the applicant’s current non-immigrant status must be valid at the time
the application is received at USCIS and that the current status will continue to
be valid up until the date that the new status is requested to begin. If USCIS determines
that the change would be approved more than 30 days in advance of the program start
date, there is a chance the application could be denied. It is recommended that individuals contact ISO to discuss their eligibility to apply
for change of status and the timing of the application. We may also refer you to an
immration attorney for further advising depending upon your individual situation.

Any individual wishing to change their current non-immigrant status to either the
F-1 or J-1 should first contact the ISO at [email protected]. We will meet with you to discuss the required documentation and application process.

Both J-1 and J-2 visa holders who are subject to INA Section 212(e), also known as
the two-year home residency requirement
(see below), may not apply to change status within the United States unless they have received
a waiver from USCIS, a waiver recommendation from the US Department of State (DOS),
or have fulfilled the requirement.

Program Extension

Although an F1 student is admitted to the US for “duration of status” to complete
an educational program, the student must actually complete his/her degree program
before the program end date indicated on the I-20. Any student who will not complete
the academic program by that date must apply to the ISO for an extension before the
program end date.

Remember, it is your responsibility to stay informed about your program end date!

Your program cannot be extended on the I-20 due to delays caused by academic probation
or suspension.

If you find that you will not complete your program by the date noted on your I-20,
please make an appointment with the ISO to see if you are eligible for a program extension.
If you are found eligible, your program end date will be extended in SEVIS and you
will be issued a new I-20.

A student who fails to complete his or her program within the time prescribed on the
I-20 and cannot meet the extension criteria is considered out of status and must apply
for reinstatement.

Inviting Family to the United States

Individuals who wish to invite family members to the U.S. to witness their graduation
ceremony or to visit will need to request an invitation letter from the ISO. This
letter will be presented by the family members when they apply for the visa in their
country to show that the person they are visiting in the U.S. is considered to be
a full time student and is currently in status with DHS.

To request the invitation letter, please complete the Invitation Letter Request section
of the Online Student Request form.  Please allow up to three business days for processing.

Transferring from Southeastern to another institution

If you wish to transfer from Southeastern to another academic institution the following
semester, you must follow these guidelines:

  1. Receive your confirmed admission from the new institution.

  2. Meet with the ISO. Bring your acceptance letter from the other school along with their
    SEVIS transfer form their office will give you. If they do not give you a form or
    state that they do not have one, you must ask them for their school’s SEVIS code and
    supply that to us.

  3. Once the ISO has confirmed your eligibility to transfer, we will release your SEVIS
    record to the new school only after the current semester has ended.

  4. You will receive your new I-20 or DS-2019 from the new school after the release date.

F-1 and J-1 Dependents

F-2 Dependents

A person is eligible for F-2 status if they are the spouse or unmarried minor child
(under 21 years of age) of the F-1 student. Each F-2 dependent must have his/her own
Form I-20 which can be obtained from the ISO. They may apply for the F-2 visa stamp
at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas or by applying for a Change of Status in
the United States (please contact the ISO for further details).

If a student is applying for his/her own initial I-20 and will be accompanied by dependent(s),
he/she needs to be sure to include dependent information (along with adequate funding)
by submitting the Dependent I-20 Request Form to the ISO along with their own application documents.

When requesting a dependent I-20 after the student is in the U.S. in F-1 status, he/she
needs to submit the Dependent I-20 Request Form (along with proof of adequate funding)
to the ISO.

Please note that individuals on the F-2 dependent student visa are NOT eligible to
work in the U.S. Additionally, F-2 spouses are NOT allowed to pursue a full course
of study. They may take 1-2 recreational courses, but are NOT eligible to participate
in courses leading toward a degree. However, F-2 children can participate in full-time
elementary or secondary study (kindergarten through 12th grade).

F-2 dependents follow similar travel and reentry procedures as the F-1 status holder,
but should carry copies of the F-1’s most current immigration documents if traveling

J-2 Dependents

A person is eligible for J-2 status if they are the spouse or unmarried minor child
(under 21 years of age) of the J-1 exchange visitor. A J-1 exchange visitor at Southeastern
can be either a “student” or “scholar.” Each J-2 dependent must have his/her own Form
DS-2019 which can be obtained from the ISO by the J-1 status holder. They may apply
for the J-2 visa stamp at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas or by applying for
a Change of Status in the United States (please contact the ISO for further details).

If a student is applying for his/her own initial DS-2019 and will be accompanied by
dependent(s), he/she needs to be sure to include dependent information (along with
adequate funding) by submitting the Dependent DS-2019 Request Form to the ISO along
with their own application documents.

When requesting a dependent DS-2019 after the student is in the U.S. in J-1 status,
he/she needs to submit the Dependent DS-2019 Request Form (along with proof of adequate funding) to the ISO.

J-2 dependents are eligible to apply for employment authorization from the USCIS as
long as the employment is not for the purpose of supporting the J-1. Please see the
ISO for further information.

J-2 dependents follow similar travel and reentry procedures as the J-1 status holder,
but should carry copies of the J-1’s most current immigration documents if traveling

Permanent Residency

This information outlines the several ways that it is possible to become a permanent
resident of the United States. For more information about permanent residence in general,
the ISO recommends consultation with a qualified immigration attorney.

A person who has permanent resident status in the United States has the right to live
and work in the US. This right may last for a lifetime, or it can be ended in some
circumstances by an uninterrupted absence from the United States of more than a year
or two.

Permanent residents are said to have immigrant status in the US, in contrast to foreign
nationals who are here temporarily in nonimmigrant status, such as F-1 students, J-1
scholars or H-1B temporary workers. A permanent resident is said to have a green card, an outdated reference to the permanent residence identification card, which used
to be green but is now a pale red, white and blue. Permanent residents are also often
said to have PR.

Permanent residence is not the same as citizenship. Permanent residents of the US
remain nationals of their home country. They do not hold US passports and they do
not owe allegiance to the US. They may not vote in elections, and they may not hold
elective office. After a certain period of physical presence in the US (five years
in most cases, three in some), permanent residents can apply for US citizenship if
they choose, but it is not necessary to become a citizen to retain the right of permanent

There are several avenues for acquiring permanent resident status in the United States.
Following is a brief summary of the options. For more information about permanent
residence in general, the ISO recommends consulting a qualified immigration attorney.

The laws governing immigration in this country of immigrants have changed drastically
over the years. At present, legal immigration is tightly limited, with preference
given to close family members of US citizens (and permanent residents) and the professionally
skilled and highly talented who come to the country to take up specialized or high
level jobs. Within these limits, various provisions of current immigration law attempt
to insure equity and national diversity in the continued flow of new residents to
the US.

It is possible, at present, to become a permanent resident of the US in any of five
ways: through the petition of a close relative, by a successful application for political
asylum, through the petition of an employer, by winning the annual green card lottery,
or through self-sponsorship.

  • Family-Based PR: If you have a mother, father or spouse who is a citizen or permanent resident of
    the US, that relative may be able to file a petition with USCIS to obtain permanent
    residence for you. If you have a child or sibling who is a US citizen and is at least
    21 years old, that relative can also petition for permanent residence for you. Depending
    on the relationship between you and whether your relative is a citizen or permanent
    resident, it can take several months to more than 10 years for you to obtain permanent
    residence in this way.
  • Asylum: If you can prove to the satisfaction of immigration officials that you have a well-founded
    fear of persecution should you be forced to return to your home country, you may be
    able to obtain permanent residence in the US through an appeal for asylum. Applications
    for asylum must generally be filed within one year from last entry to the US. An asylum
    application often takes years to complete and is best done with the aid of an attorney.
    The majority of asylum applications are eventually denied, although applicants from
    countries whose governments are considered by the US to be hostile to the United States
    have often experienced a higher approval rate.
  • Diversity Lottery: After several prior experiments in making permanent residence available through
    a lottery system, Congress instituted the diversity lottery program in 1993. This
    program allots 55,000 green cards every year under a complex formula that favors nationals
    of countries that have contributed fewer immigrants to the US in recent years.  Millions
    of people apply for the annual diversity lottery. Regional allocations for the diversity
    lottery will change every year in response to changing immigration patterns. Registration
    for the diversity lottery, which usually takes place for a thirty-day period in Fall
    each year, is simple and does not require an attorney or agent of any kind. Please
    see for information on applying for the Diversity Lottery.
  • Employment-Based PR: If you have a permanent, professional level job in the US, and if your employer
    can prove that there are no qualified US persons available for the position, you may
    be able to obtain permanent residence through the petition of your employer. A second
    employment-based option is the Outstanding Professor/Researcher petition, in which
    an employer demonstrates that the employee meets criteria which show that he or she
    has risen to the very top of his or her field of expertise.A professional worker may
    obtain permanent residence when first entering the US to take up a senior position.
    More often, however, an international scholar will begin working with authorization
    based on his/her F-1/J-1 nonimmigrant student status or as a temporary worker in H-1B
    status. At some point – a point that may come almost immediately or only after several
    years – the employer may be able to petition successfully for permanent residence
    for the worker. The employment-based application process can take anywhere from a
    few months to several years from start to finish, depending on the filing location
    and the length of a variety of processing backlogs that can come into play.
  • Self-Sponsorship: Certain highly accomplished scholars may find two routes to permanent residency
    available to them without having to have a permanent job offer, or any job offer for
    that matter. The first possibility is for an alien who can be documented to be of
    extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education and business. This category
    is reserved for those who are at the very top of their field. When a job offer is
    not involved, the scholar must demonstrate his or her intent to continue work in his
    or her field. Only faculty and researchers of international reputation – who can document
    that reputation – will qualify for permanent residency under this category. The second
    possibility for a scholar to sponsor himself/herself for permanent residency is through
    the national-interest waiver application. The national-interest waiver may be filed
    either by the alien or by the employer. If it can be demonstrated that the work being
    done is (1) in the national interest and that (2) the scholar’s continued presence
    is crucial to the on-going work, the scholar – acting on his or her own – or the employer
    acting on the scholar’s behalf may be able to obtain permanent residence through a
    national interest waiver. A letter from an interested US government agency recommending
    the waiver is very useful when applying for a national interest waiver.

J-1 Two Year Home Residency 212(e)

Some J-1 exchange visitor students may be subject to the 212(e) rule. This means that your home country requires you to return home for at least
two years after the J program has ended. This rule would prevent you from changing
your visa status within the boundaries of the US to most other statuses. You may apply
for the F-1 student visa at a US Consulate or Embassy outside the US for a new academic
degree program. However, it is not guaranteed that you will be issued an F-1 visa
to enter the US to pursue another US degree. Should you be issued an F-1 visa, it
does not eliminate the 212(e) requirement for you to return home for 2 years; it merely
postpones the requirement until after your F-1 program.

Part of being an exchange student may entail returning home after the program and
apply the knowledge and experience you have gained through the program by bringing
it back to your home country, as may be required by the US Department of State and
some sponsors.

Students may refer to their J-1 visa stamp and/or the information in the lower left
box of the DS-2019 form to determine if they are subject to the 212(e) requirement.

There is a process to apply for a waiver of the 212(e) requirement if you are subject;
however, it is not guaranteed that it will be waived. You should set up an appointment
with the ISO to get more information. It is difficult to obtain a waiver if there
was government money involved in your exchange sponsorship.

Waiver of 212(e) information can be found at

I-94 Admission Number

In order to increase efficiency, reduce operating costs and streamline the admissions
process, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has automated Form I-94 at air and sea
ports of entry.  The paper from will no longer be provided to a traveler upon arrival,
except in limited circumstances.  The traveler will be provided with a CBP admission
stamp on their travel document (passport, I-20, or DS-2019).  If a traveler needs
a copy of their I-94 for verification of alien registration, immigration status, or
employment authorization, it can be obtained from For detailed information,
please see the
Form I-94 Fact Sheet.


Replacing Lost or Stolen Documents


For F-1 or J-1 students, unless funding situations have changed, after verifying your
identification and immigration status maintenance, the ISO will assist you in obtaining
a replacement I-20 or DS-2019. Please contact the ISO at
[email protected] to request the replacement.


Contact or review the web site information for your country’s embassy or consulate
in the U.S. to find out how to obtain a new passport and to make notification of your
missing passport to guard against fraudulent use.

  • Contact information for foreign embassies in the U.S. can be found at
  • Web site addresses for foreign embassies in the U.S. can be found at
  • If you have lost all of your photo identification, contact your country’s consulate/embassy
    to find out what alternate documents you may need.

EAD Card for F-1 Students on OPT

Form I-765 is needed to apply for a replacement EAD card for OPT. Follow the OPT Instructions provided by the ISO, including the fee payment, with the following exceptions:

  1. Check box for Replacement of lost Employment Authorization Document at the top of
    Form I-765
  2. Send photocopies of all I-20’s and a copy of the new I-20 with current OPT Recommendation,
    in addition to the other documents required.

Social Security Card

You will need new documents and have current authorization for work in the U.S. in
order to apply for a new Social Security Card. If you think someone is using your
Social Security Number, call the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213.
Note: If you already have a Social Security Number, you usually do not need to show
it to anyone. Generally, you only need to know the number for tax filing purposes
and for providing to your employer. If you do not know your number, you should check
with any previous employers, schools, or other institutions (such as your bank) that
may have it on record or on copies of tax forms you previously filed.