While you are a student in the United States you need to know and understand the immigration terms and regulations which affect you. OCU's International Admissions Office can give you information and help with immigration matters.
Every international student must have an immigration file in the International Admissions Office. New students must bring their I-94 card (white - stapled in passport), form I-20, and passport to International Admissions Office when they come to enroll.
If you have any problems or questions about immigration or any of your documents (I-94 card, I-20, or visa), see an International Admissions Counselor. The adviser can handle most common immigration matters for you. If you have a more serious problem, the adviser can refer you to an immigration attorney.
Obtaining Your Visa
Students must submit their I-20, admission letter, financial statements, and proof of payment of the SEVIS I-901 fee to the US consulate in their home country to apply for a U.S. visa. To pay your SEVIS I-901 fee, please visit the DHS website: www.fmjfee.com
Entering the United States:
All students must have the following documents to enter the U.S.:
- valid passport,
- valid U.S. visa (Students from Canada are not required to have a visa stamp to enter the U.S.)
- a SEVIS I-20 form
At the time of entry to the U.S., students will be given an arrival/departure card called an I-94. This card shows how long students are allowed to stay in the U.S. I-94 cards for F-1 students and F-2 dependents should be marked "D/S" (duration of stay). This means an individual is allowed to remain in the US while pursuing a full course of study or while in authorized practical training.
International students must be enrolled full-time during the academic year (fall and spring semesters). The minimum requirement is 12 credit hours per semester for undergraduate students and 9 credit hours for graduate students. Summer study is optional. However, students who have an I-20 to start their program during a summer session must enroll in that summer session.
Students must also make satisfactory progress toward completion of a specific program in order to remain in good student status. Students in F-2 status (dependents) do not have an enrollment requirement and may not study in any academic program.
Visas are issued for various amounts of time depending on the student's country of origin and the program the student will be studying in. Some students are issued single-entry visas for only a few months, and other students are issued multiple-entry visas that are valid for years. F-1 Students are allowed to stay in the United States and pursue a full course of study (full-time enrollment) for as long as they are making normal progress toward completing their degree.
Students must have a valid visa to enter the United States; however, once they are in the U.S. and enrolled, the visa can expire. Students MUST maintain a valid passport during their time in the United States - passports must be renewed no less than 6 months before they expire. Students MUST also maintain a valid I-20 during their time of study. The I-20 cannot be allowed to expire and students should contact the International Admissions Office at least one month prior to their I-20 expiry.
When a student wants to transfer from one U.S. school to another, the new school handles the process. To transfer, the student must be "in status." The following steps are for international students wishing to transfer to OCU:
- Complete the application process and gain admission to OCU
- Submit the International Student School Transfer Request with the assistance of the student's current International Student Advisor. If you plan to transfer from OCU to another university, please complete this form and contact your International Admission's Counselor for more information.
- Submit a formal request to the current school to electronically transfer the student's SEVIS I-20 record.
- A new I-20 will be available upon arrival at OCU.
Students who are not "in status" and want to return to full-time study or students who wish to study and do not have student status must seek approval by the local USCIS office by doing the following:
- Consult with a International Student Advisor
- Complete form I-539
- Obtain a new I-20 from the International Admissions Office
Please Note: You must work with an International Student Advisor to request a reinstatement.
The International Student Advisor will send the required reinstatement documents to the local USCIS office. Reinstatements are sent to USCIS for processing and normally take 3 months or more to process.
Students may need enrollment verification and a Good Standing Letter: to apply for a new visa, to provide proof to their sponsor or embassy that they are currently enrolled, to verify their status with USCIS, or to send to their bank at home. International Students can apply for Good Standing Letters in the Registrar's office.
Students will need to request a new I-20 for several reasons: Your I-20 has been lost or destroyed (there is a $10 charge to replace a lost I-20), your major has changed, or to extend the completion date on your current I-20 (you must provide a letter from your academic advisor stating the new date of completion and extend your I-20 BEFORE the expiration date).
If you have lost your I-20, if it has been damaged, or if you need to make an edit to your I-20, please see the International Admissions Office for assistance
If you are planning to travel outside the U.S. while studying at OCU, you MUST bring your form I-20 to International Admissions Office to be signed by an International Student Advisor at least one week before your travel date. There will usually be an advisor (DSO) available to sign your I-20. If you will be traveling outside of the U.S. over winter or summer breaks, you will be required to enroll for the following semester before your I-20 can be signed.
Note: Do not wait until the last day before you plan to leave the country to make your request! The University is occasionally closed for holidays, so please allow several days before you travel to get your signature.
Practical training is an important part of education in the United States. F-1 Student regulations grant students one year of Optional Practical Training (OPT) after completion of their degree program.
A student must obtain approval from USCIS for OPT. The application must be made through International Admissions Office. Students can apply for OPT up to 90 days prior to graduation and no more than 60 days after graduation. DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE!! Students cannot begin working until OPT approval is received. Approval often takes about three months.
- Practical training is available after each degree level is completed(example, bachelor’s, graduate, doctorate).
- Practical training is for 12 months.
- No job is required to apply for OPT. However, status during OPT is dependent on employment. Students are required to find a job in their degree feild. Students must not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment during the one year duration of their OPT. Failure to maintain employment during OPT may result in a negative impact on future immigration benefits.
- Students may apply up to 90 days before graduation and up to 60 days after graduation.
How to Apply:
- Pick up the OPT application packet at the International Admissions Office. Get a signature from your academic advisor or department head recommending OPT. Print unofficial transcripts from your online student account.
- Submit the OPT application packet, unofficial transcript, and I-20 to International Admissions Office for approval and processing.
- Return in 2 days to pick up the approved application and new I-20. Note: It is very important that you get a new I-20 with an employment request notation on page 3.
- Mail application and attachments to USCIS according to the instructions.
Note: USCIS approval can take up to 90 days. Once your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) has been received you may begin working off campus.Traveling outside the U.S. while on practical training:
- You must have a valid EAD Card (OPT card)
- You must have valid travel authorization on the third page of your I-20 by a International Student Counselor, signed within the last six months.
- You must have a valid passport.
- You must have a valid visa.
- Be prepared to show proof of employment when returning to the United States.