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International Student Support

Immigration and SEVIS

Immigration 

One of International Student Support’s most important roles is to assist incoming international students in navigating the complexities of immigration regulations and helping them achieve and maintain legal status. The U.S. government requires all international students studying in the United States to meet stringent eligibility requirements for not only entry to the country, but also for the right to remain here legally while they pursue their studies.

The Office of International Student Support is here to provide you with guidance, advice and assistance from the time of your acceptance to Merrimack through the time you graduate and pursue optional practical training.

More on Immigration

Student and Exchange Visitor Information System

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s electronic database. As mandated by federal regulation, SEVIS tracks and monitors nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors during their stay in the United States. Specifically, SEVIS tracks:

  • Biographical information (date of birth, country of citizenship, etc.).
  • Local and overseas addresses.
  • Academic information (including enrollment status, academic program level, major, start and end dates of programs).
  • Employment authorizations and recommendations.
  • Visa eligibility document issuance.
  • Extensions of stay.
  • Transfers to and from other U.S. educational institutions.

SEVIS requirements apply to all international students, scholars and their dependents in the U.S. with F or J nonimmigrant visa classifications. Changes in any of the factors above, without notifying the Office of International Student Support and/or receiving advance authorization for those changes, are a breach of SEVIS requirements with serious consequences. So, it is important that you understand the factors that affect SEVIS compliance.

SEVIS Compliance

International Student Support will assist you in complying with these regulations. Keep in mind, however, that it is your responsibility to make sure you are successfully following all of the immigration regulations.

International Student Support is required to comply with immigration regulations governing your student status and must submit information every semester, as required by Homeland Security.

Students who violate their immigration status may be subject to removal from the U.S. Violations of status will result in the need for reinstatement or re-entry to regain legal status. Losing your legal status will seriously impact or potentially end your studies at Merrimack College.

Resources for SEVIS Advice and Assistance

International Student Support advises students on the complexities of immigration compliance, and mediates with various U.S. government agencies. International Student Support maintains and updates the SEVIS system and advises students on all issues related to SEVIS and maintaining valid student status. Whenever you have a question relating to your legal status or any aspect of compliance, come to International Student Support. We’re experts, and we’re here to help.

Maintaining Immigration Status

By maintaining immigration status and keeping school administrators and sponsoring officials well-informed, students and exchange visitors residing in America have the opportunity to benefit from the outstanding academic and cultural programs of the United States.

Failing to maintain your status could result in serious consequences and may affect your ability to remain in or return to the United States. Violation of status also can affect the prospect of readmission to the United States for a period of time. 

If you’re an international student or exchange visitor studying in the United States, know your responsibilities. Work with your designated school officials or exchange visitor responsible officers to ensure that your data in SEVIS is accurate and current. In addition, these officials can help you better understand the requirements governing your immigration status and help you avoid making choices that might jeopardize your status.

International Student Responsibilities

To remain eligible for all F-1 student benefits, such as on-campus employment, curricular practical training and optional practical training, F-1 students are responsible for following the regulations below:

  • Attend the school for which you are authorized. Use only your most recent Merrimack College I-20 to enter the United States.
  • Keep your passport and I-20 valid at all times. Request a new I-20 when any of the information on it changes: name, major, sponsor, etc.
  • Check the expiration date of your I-20 regularly; you may extend your I-20 30 days before it expires.
  • Carry a full course of study every term. Undergraduates must carry a minimum of 12 credits. Graduate students, a minimum of eight credits.
  • Request a new I-20 when continuing from one education level to another within the college, i.e., associate degree to bachelor’s degree, or bachelor’s degree to master’s degree.
  • Limit on-campus employment to a total of 20 hours per week while school is in session.
  • Apply for immigration authorization before working off campus. Please visit the Office of International Student Support to learn about eligibility requirements.
  • Obtain a signature on the back of your I-20 from a member of International Student Support to re-enter the United States when traveling abroad. Make sure you have all necessary travel documents before leaving the country.
  • Report a change of address to International Student Support and the USCIS, within 10 days of the change.
  • File an income-tax return on or before April 15 each year you reside in the United States. Both working and nonworking students must comply with this regulation.

Important: If SEVIS does not receive a timely report each semester confirming that you are enrolled, your SEVIS record will be automatically terminated by the government and you will be expected to either apply for reinstatement to lawful F-1 or J-1 status, or leave the U.S. within 15 days. 

Immigration Documents

Passport

A valid passport must be maintained while in the United States. It should be valid for a minimum of six months beyond your period of stay in the U.S. You must have a valid passport to apply for an I-20 and a visa. If the name shown on your passport has changed for any reason, carry official name-change documentation with your passport, i.e., an original marriage certificate documenting a name change. If you need your passport renewed, passport renewal is conducted at the embassy of the student’s home country.

F-1 Visa 

An F-1 visa is the certification issued by the United States consulate or embassy granting foreign nationals legal permission to present themselves for inspection for admission at a port of entry to the United States. It is represented by a multicolored stamp in your passport. It is important to note that immigration officials at any United States port of entry can deny admission to any foreign national with a valid visa issued by a United States embassy. The visa may be issued for single or multiple entries up to the date of expiration indicated. An American embassy or consulate abroad must renew a single entry visa to re-enter the United States. With a multiple-entry visa, departure and re-entry to the United States is allowed up to the expiration date indicated on the visa. In addition to a valid visa, you must always travel with a valid I-20 that has been signed by the designated school official. 

No visa is extended or issued from within the United States. You should obtain a NEW VISA from your home country if you plan to reenter the United States after your visa has expired, or if your visa status has changed while you have been in the United States.

I-20 Form

The I-20 indicates that an international applicant has been accepted as a full-time, degree-seeking student to study at a U.S. academic institution. The I-20 is used to obtain an F-1 or F-2 visa. The information on your I-20 must be kept current at all times. If it needs to be renewed or adjusted due to a change of major, contact International Student Support. The USCIS requires that before traveling, you must have your I-20 signed by a designated school official at the Office of International Student Support.

I-94 Card 

Form I-94 is the DHS Arrival/Departure Record issued to aliens who are admitted to the U.S., who are adjusting status while in the U.S., or who are extending their stay, among other reasons. The visitor must exit the U.S. on or before the departure date stamped on the I-94.

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 airports and sea ports of entry. The paper form will no longer be provided to a traveler upon arrival, except in limited circumstances. Travelers will be provided with a CBP admission stamp on their travel document. Copies of I-94 forms (record of admission) for verification of alien registration, immigration status or employment authorization can be obtained online.