F-1 Students


APPLYING FOR AN F-1 VISA

  • You will receive an email from the F-1 Principal Designated School Official (PDSO), Beverly Tarver, once your I-20 has been issued. This email will include all of the information you need to pay your SEVIS fee. (See more on the SEVIS fee below.)
  • After you pay the SEVIS fee, you can schedule an appointment with the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country to apply for an F-1 visa. 
  • The Form I-20 you received consists of pages numbered 1-3. You will submit the Form I-20 in its entirety to the United States (U.S.) embassy or consulate in your home country so that you may request an F-1 student visa. You must submit the original Form I-20. A photocopy is not allowed.
  • The following documents are recommended or required for an F-1 student visa application at a U.S. embassy or consulate:
    - Original Form(s) I-20 for you (and your dependents)
    - Currently valid passport(s)
    - Currently dated financial documentation
    - Letter of acceptance from Augusta University
    - Other required information, such as current photographs and proof that you will be returning home after completion of your academic program
    - SEVIS fee payment receipt

MAKING TRAVEL PLANS

  • If possible, you should wait until after the issuance of the F-1 visa before making travel plans. 
  • The Augusta Regional Airport at Bush Field is located 7 miles from downtown Augusta on Doug Barnard Parkway (56 spur) south of Bobby Jones Expressway (I-520). You will probably fly into Augusta from Atlanta, Georgia or Charlotte, North Carolina. Columbia, South Carolina, another airline hub, is 1.5 hours west of Augusta. Travel arrangements and payment for travel arrangements are the responsibility of the F-1 student.
  • If you will not report to your Augusta University program within 30 days before the date listed on your Form I-20, please notify the academic department and the International and Postdoctoral Services Office as soon as possible. The Augusta University academic department/college requesting the document must determine if it is appropriate to request a change of your arrival date in SEVIS. If the academic department/college determines that it is appropriate, and IPSO determines that it is possible to change the date, the department should request the change of the arrival date at least 7 days before the original arrival date. If the department does not request a change of the arrival date and the student arrives in the U.S. after that date, SEVIS will automatically invalidate the non-immigrant student’s record. In that case, the United States Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry may not allow the student to enter the U.S. on the Augusta University Form I-20.

MONEY

  • You should bring or have immediate access to $2,000 to $4,000 (U.S. dollars) in cash and traveler’s checks to get you settled during your first few days at Augusta University.
  • If you have an offer of on-campus employment, you will need enough funds to address your expenses until you receive compensation. You are required to secure a Social Security number (SSN) and card before you proceed though the Augusta University payroll process. Obtaining a SSN and card may take anywhere from a few days to a few months. If you are unable to secure a Social Security number and card, you are responsible for your expenses. Bring sufficient resources as preparation for either situation. 

PREPARING TO TRAVEL 

  • Before leaving your country, confirm that your passport and nonimmigrant visa are still valid for entry into the United States. The passport should be valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected stay.
  • Check to see that your visa accurately reflects your correct visa classification.
  • If the visa states the name of the institution you will attend, verify that this information is accurate as well. If your review indicates any discrepancies or potential problems, visit the U.S. embassy or consulate to obtain a new visa.
  • Students entering the United States for the first time under their respective nonimmigrant visa classification may request entry up to 30 days prior to the program start date.
  • When you receive your U.S. nonimmigrant visa at the embassy or consulate in your country, the consular officer may seal your immigration documents in an envelope and/or attach it to your passport. Do not open the envelope or remove from your passport. The Customs and Border Protection Officer at the U.S. port of entry will open the envelope or remove from your passport.
  • When you travel, you should carry some specific documents on your person. Do not check them in your baggage! If your baggage is lost or delayed, you will not be able to show the documents to the Customs and Border Protection Officer and, as a result, may not be able to enter the United States.

    Documents you should carry on your person:
    - Passport valid for at least six (6) months after the day you request entry to the U.S.
    - Valid F-1 (or F-2 dependent) nonimmigrant visa
    - Augusta University SEVIS Form I-20
    - Evidence of financial resources

    In addition, it is recommended that you also carry the following:
    - Evidence of student status (admissions offer letter or email, recent tuition receipts, transcripts)
    - Name and contact information for Designated School Official (DSO) at your intended school or program
    - Pen

ARRIVING IN THE U.S.

At the port of entry into the U.S.:

  • You will be required to present the original Form(s) I-20 (all three pages), a valid passport and a valid F-1 visa (F-2 visa for your dependents attached to your F program) to a USCBP officer. USCBP officer will enter your (and your dependents') information into SEVIS.
  • If everything is in order the USCBP officer may stamp the F student or dependent passport Class “F-1” or “F-2” and Until “D/S” or “duration of status”.
  • Review your documents prior to exiting the inspection area. Check to be certain that the status “F-1” or “F-2” (written or stamped) is in the correct passport and that the stamp lists “D/S”. If there are errors, wait until the officer finishes with the next entrant before you return to the counter and ask courteously if the officer would check your documents for accuracy.

Who pays the SEVIS fee?

  • Prospective students with “initial attendance” Forms I-20 who are applying for an initial F-1 visa from outside the United States.
  • Prospective students with “initial attendance” Forms I-20 who are applying for a change to F-1 status from another visa category.
  • Current F-1 students in the United States filing for reinstatement after being out of status more than 5 months, and who are issued a Form I-20 for reinstatement. 

What about F-2 dependents?

F-2 dependents do not have to pay the fee.

Do I have to pay if I transfer to another school, travel outside the United States or renew my visa?

The SEVIS fee is not required when transferring schools, changing to another degree program or level, requesting a program extension, renewing an F-1 visa or using F-1 program benefits such as practical training. If you are in status when you travel internationally and are not physically outside of the U.S. for more than five months, you will not be required to pay the fee.

When do I pay the SEVIS fee?

The fee must be paid at least 3 business days prior to applying for your visa, or applying for admission at a U.S. port of entry for those exempt from the visa requirement. The fee must be paid prior to submission of a change of status petition or reinstatement application.

Can I pay the SEVIS fee at a university, consulate or port of entry?

No. At this time the SEVIS fee can only be processed by the Department of Homeland Security via mail or online.

How do I pay the fee?

The fee can be paid to the DHS by mail or online and must be accompanied by a Form I-901. It can be paid by you or by a third party, inside or outside the United States.

To pay online (recommended)

1. Find the Form I-901 at Student and Exchange Visitor Program website.

2. Complete the form online and supply the necessary Visa, MasterCard or American Express information. Write your name exactly as it appears on your Form I-20.

3. Print a copy of the online receipt. 

4. Make copies of your receipt, and keep it with your other important immigration documents.

A third party such as a friend, family member, or other interested party can pay the fee on your behalf through the same means described above.

Will DHS keep a record of my payment on file?

Fee payments should be entered into your permanent immigration SEVIS record but it is strongly recommended that you retain a copy of your fee receipt Form I-797 to use as needed.

Is the SEVIS fee transferable?

Yes. DHS has confirmed that fee payment made on one SEVIS ID number (i.e. Form I-20) can be applied to another SEVIS ID number issued to the same individual.

What do I need to do to apply for an F-1 visa, change of status or reinstatement?

Obtain the appropriate Form I-20 from a DHS-approved school.

Pay the SEVIS fee by mail or online (recommended).

Keep a copy of the receipt for your records.

Submit a copy of the receipt with your visa, change of status or reinstatement application.

Students who are exempt from visa requirements, such as Canadians, should take a copy of the SEVIS fee receipt to present at the port of entry with the appropriate Form I-20. It will not be possible to pay the fee at the port of entry.

For change of status or reinstatement applications, if you previously paid the SEVIS fee while attending a different school, you should submit a copy of that school’s Form I-20 with your application.

What if my F-1 visa application is denied?

The SEVIS fee will not be refunded. However, if you reapply for a new F-1 visa within 12 months of the denial, you will not have to pay the fee again.

Note: DHS will not refund the SEVIS fee if the F-1 student is not granted a visa or chooses not to come to the United States after their visa is granted.

 

When you arrive, please request an appointment for F program registration. Failure to report to International and Postdoctoral Services Office upon your arrival at Augusta University may result in automatic cancellation of your F-1 program and further action by the United States Department of Homeland Security.  Cancellation of your F-1 program may make you ineligible to participate in your stated F-1 program activities (including Augusta University employment) until your F-1 program is re-instated.

 

General Requirements

According to United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regulations, once admitted to the United States in F-1 status, students must meet certain obligations in order to maintain status. 

 The F-1 non-immigrant student must:

  • Maintain a valid passport, unless exempt from the passport requirement.
  • Attend the school he or she was authorized to attend. (F-2 dependents are not authorized to attend school except on an incidental basis.)
  • Continue to pursue a full course of study (12 credit hours for undergraduates, number of credit hours approved by The Graduate School for graduate students, and the number of credit hours approved by their respective colleges for professional students).

    *A note about enrollment in online or distance learning classes:
    - Only one online or distance learning class of 3 credit hours or less can count toward a full course of study for an F-1 student during each term or semester. 
    - An online or distance learning course for the purpose of student regulations means a course that is primarily offered through technology and does not require the student's physical attendance for classes, examinations, or other purposes integral to the completion of the class.
    - At Augusta University an online or distance learning course is any course that does not require physical attendance at least once per week each week during the term. 
    - Most Augusta University programs that offer 50% or more of the coursework online do not meet the requirements for F program sponsorship.
  • Leave the U.S. within 60 days after the program completion date listed on the Form I-20 or obtain a timely extension if the student must remain in the U.S. longer than the length of time estimated for completion of the educational program as stated in part five on the initial Form I-20 issued to begin the program of study.
  • Follow prescribed procedures to continue from one educational level to another (e.g., from the bachelor's to the master's level) at the same school.
  • Follow prescribed procedures to transfer to a school other than the one originally authorized to attend.
  • Limit part-time on-campus employment to a total of no more than 20 hours each week while school is in session, including during examination periods. (F-2 dependents are not authorized to work.)
  • Refrain from unauthorized employment.
  • Report a change of residence to the Department of Homeland Security and International and Postdoctoral Services Office within 10 days of the change.

 Exceptions to full course of study:

  • Annual vacations in curriculum (must be approved by Augusta University department)
  • Documented medical problems (aggregate total of 12 months)
  • Engaged in on-campus employment pursuant to a scholarship, fellowship or assistantship deemed to be part of the academic program of a student otherwise taking a full course of study
  • Undergraduates completing programs during the current term
  • Valid academic reasons for enrolling less than full time, such as initial difficulties with English language or unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods. (May be approved for only one semester during an academic program.)

You are advised to notify the International and Postdoctoral Services Office within 10 days if you: 

 

The most important employment issue that you always need to keep in mind is the issue of legal (or "authorized") versus illegal (or "unauthorized") employment. You must always make sure that any employment you plan to engage in is legal employment. Any unauthorized (i.e. illegal) employment - even for one day, or even if you did not know it was illegal - poses a grave threat to your ability to remain in or return to the United States. You must always make sure that you have the necessary employment authorization before you begin work, since starting work without prior authorization - even if you receive authorization later - constitutes illegal employment.

You should always consult with an IPSO advisor before beginning any employment. This is the best way to avoid unknowingly engaging in illegal employment, with all of its adverse consequences for your future in the United States.

Eligibility Requirements

Different requirements exist for each type of F-1 employment, but there are basic requirements that must be met for any F-1 employment:

  • You must be enrolled for a full course of study.
  • You must be authorized by USCIS or IPSO to attend Augusta University.
  • Once employment is authorized you must maintain eligibility or you will lose your right to continue employment, even if it was authorized in writing.

Definition of Employment

Employment is any type of work performed for services provided in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, food or any other benefit or compensation.

Categories of F-1 Student Employment

On-Campus Employment

Work on the Augusta University campus is usually permissible if it meets certain requirements.

  • Authorization for on-campus employment is obtained from IPSO.
  • Work on-campus is limited to no more than 20 hours each week when school is in session but may be full-time during holiday and vacation periods.

USCIS defines on-campus employment as the following:

Type 1: Employment at Augusta University: Any on-campus work for which you receive a paycheck (or other compensation, such as room and board, etc.) from Augusta University or Augusta University Health.

Type 2: Employment on campus with a Augusta University-affiliated on-site commercial firm on the Augusta University premises is allowed if the work provides direct services to Augusta University students. This includes work on the Augusta University campus for a commercial firm.

Type 3: Certain employment off campus is allowed where there is an official educational relationship between Augusta University and the off-campus employer. USCIS regulations allow work at an off-campus location provided the: 

  • location is educationally affiliated with Augusta University
    • Educational affiliation means the location is associated with your school's established curriculum or is related to a graduate level research project which your school has contracted to perform, and
  • work is an integral or important part of your program of study

The Augusta University academic program or school and IPSO must approve all off-campus employment.

Internship with an International Organization

If you are offered employment in the form of an internship by a recognized international organization, you may accept such employment upon receipt of authorization from the Immigration Service. Examples of recognized organizations include the United Nations, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, etc. For more information consult with an IPSO advisor.

Curricular Practical Training

Certain work experiences, which are an integral part of your program of study may be the basis for Curricular Practical Training employment authorization. These experiences may include alternate work/study programs, internships, cooperative education programs and practicum experiences which are either (1) a required part of your academic program, or (2) work for which you receive academic course credit.

The Augusta University academic program or school and IPSO must approve all off-campus employment. 

For CPT endorsement, complete the CPT form and then request an appointment with IPSO.

Optional Practical Training

F-1 students are eligible for 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT provides an opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge obtained in an academic program to a practical work experience. This employment opportunity must be directly related to your major field of study.

It may, in certain circumstances, be full- or part-time and may take place anywhere in the U.S. You may apply to use OPT during your vacation periods, during the academic year or when you complete your studies. Students in masters and PhD programs with thesis and/or dissertation requirements can apply for OPT upon completion of all coursework. OPT must be endorsed by IPSO but also requires authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services before you can start to work.

To be eligible for OPT, the F-1 student must be enrolled in a full course of study for at least one full academic year. Applications for OPT may be submitted up to 90 days prior to the completion of your program of study and must be received at the USCIS Service Center not later than the completion date of your program. It typically takes 90 days to obtain your employment authorization. You cannot begin working until you have received the USCIS authorization.

F-1 students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees included on the STEM Designated Degree Program List, are employed by employers enrolled in E-Verify, and who have received an initial grant of post-completion OPT related to such a degree, may apply for a 24-month extension. (See USCIS FAQ enclosed.)

OPT Information

STEM OPT information

Contact the International and Postdoctoral Services Office for additional information on OPT.  

Economic Hardship Employment

In some instances, a student who is able to prove severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond his or her control, which arose after obtaining the F-1 students status, may be eligible for permission to work off-campus. Students must have been in student status for one full academic year, and must be able to document the circumstances causing the economic need. Authorized off-campus employment based on severe economic hardship is limited to no more than 20 hours per week when school is in session and full-time during the break or vacation periods. Applications must be endorsed by IPSO and submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for approval. This application may take up to 90 days or more to process. See an IPSO adviser for more information.

Social Security Numbers and Taxes

If you plan to work in the U.S. (including on-campus) you will need a Social Security Number (an Augusta University student ID is not a Social Security Number. A Tax Identification Number (TIN) is not a Social Security Number.) The Social Security Administration will process your application and a number will be sent to you in about one month.

 

If you are planning to travel outside of the United States (for less than five months*) and return to the U.S. then you must, at a minimum, have the following documents with you when you return to the U.S: 

  • A valid, unexpired passport as required by your program. The passport should be valid for at least six months after your return to the U.S.
  • A valid, unexpired visa on the day you re-enter the U.S.
  • Copy of Electronic Form I-94 that shows that you have not overstayed. NOTE: F visitors should have an “Admit Until Date” of “D/S” or duration of status on the printout;
  • Proof of your current financial support; and 
  • A valid Form I-20 endorsed for travel within the 30 days prior to your departure. 

Before you leave the U.S., you should complete travel endorsement. This can be done up to 60 days before your departure date. Follow the steps below.

1. Advise the appropriate person for your academic department/college or academic advising of:

  • your intention to travel outside of the U.S.;
  • your dates of travel;
  • your travel itinerary;
  • your contact information while you are away; and 
  • any family members who will accompany you.

2. Request a letter from the Augusta University department/college (signed by the program chair or department head) or from academic advising. (For graduate studies: The dean or the dean’s representative should write and sign the letter.)  The letter should:

  • be addressed to “to whom it may concern:” 
  • state that your Augusta University department/college administrator or academic advising has been advised of your travel plans;
  • include your expected departure and return dates; and
  • state whether you are a student and/or employee in good standing and expected to return to continue your program.
  • Print an unofficial copy of your most recent transcript from Augusta University Pounce. Have the document available for review if requested upon your return to the U.S. at a port of entry.

3. Request a travel endorsement appointment with IPSO and bring the following to your appointment:

  • the original signed letter from your college/department or academic advising
  • your passport (with current visa stamp)
  • current Form I-20
  • current Form I-94 (printed from the Customs and Border Protection website)