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Helpful international resources and tips

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New SEVIS fee requirement

Federal I-901 SEVIS Fee F-1 and J-1 visa applicants are required to pay a one-time fee of $200 to supplement the administration and maintenance costs of the Student and Exchange Information System (SEVIS). The following information specifically addresses fee issues for F-1 students.

Who pays the SEVIS fee?

  • You must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee if you are seeking an initial F-1 visa from an embassy or consulate abroad for initial attendance.
  • You must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee if you have previously been enrolled at a U.S. school, but you are no longer enrolled and you have been outside the United States for more than five months, even if you have unexpired F-1 visa on your password.
  • You must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee if you are a Canadian citizen, and are therefore exempt from the U.S. visa requirement, before you can enter the United States.
  • You must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee if you are already in the United States prior to submitting a change of non-immigrant status application to F-1 or J-1.
  • Applicants for F-2 visas are NOT required to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.

When do I pay the SEVIS fee?

The fee must be paid at least three (3) business days prior to applying for your visa, or applying for admission at a US 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.

How do I pay the fee?

Currently, there are three payment methods.

  • payment in U.S. dollars by credit card over the Internet, OR
  • payments in any country's currency through an agen of Western Union "Quick Pay."  There are agents in more than 130 countries world-wide, OR
  • payment in U.S. dollars by check, money order or bank draft, drawn on a U.S. bank, and mailed to an address in the United States.

Payment of the fee may be made by you, or by any other individual, either in the United States or abroad, including family or friends.  However, anyone paying the fee on your behalf will need to have a copy of your I-20 and informaiton form your passport, or a completed copy of Form I-901.

Payment Procedures

  1. Obtain form I-20 from National American University.
  2. Access form I-901 on the internet at http://www.fmjfee.com.
  3. Complete form I-901, answering all questions (you must have an I-20 from National American University in order to complete form I-901).  Be sure that you enter your personal information exactly as it appears on the I-20.
  4. Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee according to one of the following methods:

    Internet

    Once you have received your I-20, you can make the fee payment by submitting form I-901 on-line using a credit card.  The web address is http://www.fmjfee.com

    MasterCard, Visa, or American Express debit or credit cards are accepted.  It does not matter if the card was issued in the United States or overseas.  Follow the on-line instructions, include the required credit card information, and print out the payment screen to verify your payment.  The printed receipt should be presented at the visa interview or at teh U.S. port of entry as proof of payment.  When paying the fee on the internet, it is essential that your printer be ready before starting the payment process.  Do not exit the receipt page until you have successfully printed the receipt.  You will not be able to return to the receipt page.

    Western Union "Quick Pay"

    Agents who accept Western Union Quick Pay are located in the cities in 130 countries world wide.  For detailed instructions on this payment method and to locate an agent near you, visit: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/wu_instr.htm

    Mail

    To pay by mail, you must download and print form I-901 from http://www.fmjfee.com.  Fill out the form and mail it with your payment to the address below.

    Your payment must be in U.S. dollars by check, money order or bank draft, drawn on a U.S. bank.  Your check, bank draft or money order should be made payable to: "I-901 Student/Exchange Visitor Processing Fee."  Also, be sure to print your name and SEVIS ID number in teh lower left-hand corner of the check, money order or bank draft.

    The need for a check, bank draft or money order in U.S. dollars drawn on a U.S. bank does not mean that only a U.S. bank can issue the document.  Many foreign banks are able to issue checks or money orders drawn on a U.S. bank, because they are chartered in the United States, or because they are foreign subsidiaries of a U.S. bank, or because they have arrangements with a U.S. bank to issue a check, money order, or foreign draft that is drown on a U.S. bank.

    Mail the payment and form I-901 to:

    I-901 Student/Exchange Visitor Visa Processing Fee
    P.O. Box 970020
    St. Louis, MO 63197-0020 USA

    To send by courier, use the following address:

    I-901 Student/Exchange Visitor Processing Fee
    1005 Convention Plaza
    St. Louis, MO 63101
    United States

    Phone Number: 1-314-418-8833 (United States Country Code 011)

    Once the form and fee are processed, a paper receipt will be mailed to you.  Return courier service is available for an additional $30.

    Payment by mail is not the recommended process for fee payment from abroad, as it can take as long as four weeks from the day you mail in the fee to the day that you receive the required receipt in the mail if you are applying from the outside the United States, unless you pay for courier service. 

PROOF OF SEVIS FEE PAYMENT

You must be able to prove that the fee has been paid when you appear for your visa interview, and when you enter the United States.  This is done by presenting a printed receipt, either from the internet if you made an on-line payment, or a mailed receipt if you paid by mail.

Visa officers and U.S. port of entry inspectors should be able to verify SEVIS fee payment electronically three business days after payment is processed.  But, in case of problems, having a printed receipt is the best evidence of fee payment.

A visa will not be issued unless verification of the SEVIS fee payment can be made.

For detailed information on the SEVIS fee payment process and for a list of frequently asked questions, visit: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/index.htm.

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Maintaining full-time course of study

Federal regulations require that students in F-1 status be registered for a full-time course of study except during their vacation period. Students who fail to meet this requirement will be subject to loss of their F-1 immigration benefits such as being eligible for both on or off campus employment.

Full-Time Course Load

  • Undergraduates - Minimum of 12 credit hours per quarter
  • Post-Graduates - Minimum of 9 credit hours per quarter

Students may only count 4.5 credit hours of distance learning courses towards the minimum full-time requirement of undergraduate or graduate studies. This means that undergraduate students MUST take at least 8 credit hours of on-campus courses.

There are some limited exceptions to the full-time requirement including initial difficulties with the English language, unfamiliarity with American teaching methods, inappropriate course placement, or having a documented medical condition that requires less than full-time attendance.  All of these exceptions require documentation and must be approved by the international advisor BEFORE a student drops to below full-time attendance.

One additional exception to the full-time requirement applies to the final term of studies before graduation (or completion of studies). A student may register for less than a full-time course load if he or she knows this will be his/her last term of attendance.  However, if the student does not graduate and was less than full-time, he/she will be in violation of immigration regulations governing F-1 students.

If you have any questions, please contact us.

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Maintaining F-1 student status

Keep your passport valid at all times.

Report to the campus international advisor any of the following.

  • Change of address.
  • Change of major field of study or level of study.
  • Change in financial situation.
  • Change in enrollment status (full-time vs. part-time).
  • Termination of studies.
  • Transfer to another school.
  • Completion of studies.
  • On-campus employment (Needs additional authorization and limited to 20 hours per week when classes are in session.)
  • Off-campus employment (Needs additional authorization.)
  • Optional practical training (Needs additional authorization.)
  • Program extension (Needs additional authorization.)

You must also…

  • Attend the school that you are authorized to attend as indicated on your I-20.
  • Pursue a full course of study.
  • Refrain from off-campus employment without proper authorization.

If you have any questions, please contact NAU International Relations.

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Immigration assistance

NAU can provide assistance with the following commonly requested immigration procedures or applications for eligible F-1 students.

  • Program Extensions
  • Optional Practical Training
  • Curricular Practical Training
  • Transfer Procedures
  • Reinstatement
  • Change of Status
  • Change of Program or Level
  • Change of Address
  • On-Campus Employment
  • Off-Campus Employment - Severe Economic Hardship
  • Special Student Relief
  • Internship with International Organization

Some applications or procedures can be done by the university and do not require additional approval by immigration services.  Other applications will require the approval of immigration services; therefore, the university can only provide assistance in organizing the application packet with the student.

If you have any questions, please contact NAU International Relations.

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Immigration reporting

In order to comply with immigration regulations, National American University must comply with reporting requirements for each F-1 student enrolled.  The following information will be maintained in each student's file as well as reported into the immigration electronic monitoring and tracking system named SEVIS (Student & Exchange Visitor Information System).

  • Name
  • Date and place of birth
  • Country of citizenship
  • Address (permanent and local)
  • Status (full-time or part-time student)
  • Degree program and field of study
  • Whether the student has been certified for practical training, and the beginning and end dates of certification
  • Termination date and reason, if known
  • Documents required for issuance of I-20
  • Number of credits completed each semester (term)
  • Photocopy of the student's I-20

At any time, immigration services may request this information for any student or class of students at National American University.  The university will respond accordingly.

If you have any questions, please contact NAU International Relations.

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Employment

F-1 students are restricted on employment while studying in the U.S.  Students must receive authorization before beginning an employment situation.  There are four types of employment generally available to F-1 students.

  1. On-campus employment
  2. Employment authorized because of severe economic hardship
  3. Certain employment sponsored by international organizations
  4. Practical training:
    1. Curricular Practical Training
    2. Optional Practical Training

It is necessary for F-1 students to contact International Learner Services Coordinator to better understand the eligibility and process for the above-mentioned employment categorieies.

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CPT – Curricular Practical Training

Any international student enrolled in a college, university or seminary whose academic program is "an integral part of an established curriculum" may apply to the international student advisor for approval of curricular practical training. Such training is defined as alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required training/internship offered by the program of study.

Requirements

You can apply for CPT approval if you have met the following criteria.

  1. You are maintaining lawful F-1 student status.
  2. You have completed at least nine (9) months of full-time study.
  3. CPT must either be a major requirement, a specific course requirement, or part of a cooperative education agreement between NAU and a company. It cannot be used to fulfill elective requirements.
  4. Students are only allowed to intern 20 hours or less per week and only allowed to intern for the credit hours required for the course. Students are allowed 40 hours during their summer vacation or when school is out of session.

Application Process

Complete the CPT Request form (add hyperlink to the CPT request) and meet with your International Student Advisor with any documents listed in the form.

Important Note: You cannot start a paid internship/curricular training without a prior approval from your DSO/International Student Advisor. If you worked without approval, it is considered illegal employment and you are considered out of status. For additional information, contact your DSO/International Student Advisor.

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OPT – Optional Practical Training

OPT is intended for students to gain real employment experiences in their chosen profession for a period of 12 months at every level. It must be recommended by your DSO/International Student Advisor and approved by the USCIS. When your application is approved, an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) is issued to you for the duration of your OPT.

Eligibility Requirement

  • Enrolled as full-time for nine (9) consecutive months.
  • Be in valid F-1 status including valid passport and SEVIS I-20.
  • Be in good academic standing.

Important Note: You can only begin employment upon receiving your Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

Planning your OPT Application

F-1 students can apply for 12 months OPT for every level of a degree program. Once OPT is granted by USCIS, it will be extremely difficult to withdraw or cancel regardless of subsequent occurrences such as inability to find an appropriate job or loss of job or delay in completing requirements.

Different types of OPT

  1. Pre-Completion OPT
    1. Full time summer vacation period application.
    2. Part time during academic session.
    3. Full-time enrollment for the preceding nine (9) months before applying is required and the student must continue to remain enrolled for 12 credits, while on OPT.
  2. Post-Completion OPT
    1. After completion of studies and submission to USCIS before date of graduation

Limit on Unemployment

A job offer is not required to be eligible for OPT. However, if approved, you must secure a job that is related to your major field of study within 90 days of approval. If you cannot find a job within 90 days of OPT approval, you may be able to fulfill this requirement by volunteering in a position that is related to your major field of study.

Change of Employer

You may be able to change your employer after your employment has begun provided the new job is related to your major field of study.

Travel outside the US

It is risky to travel outside the US while your OPT application is still pending at the USCIS. Once you have received your EAD card, you can travel outside of the US with the following documents.

  • SEVIS I-20 signed in the past 6 months and SEVIS information updated
  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card
  • A valid F-1 entry visa
  • Have a letter from your employer. If your OPT has been approved and you depart before you get a job, your OPT ends and you cannot reenter. If you have a job, you may travel and re-enter to resume work at the same job

Note: You can verify your application status by using your LIN number which you will find in your Notice of Action receipt. To verify your application status, go to the US Immigration website. Your receipt will also have a phone number you can call to verify your application status.

Application for Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Application for OPT is authorized by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for employment directly related to a student's major area of study. You can apply before or after completion of studies. It is limited to a total of 12 months at 40 hours per week at every level of your studies. For example: after completing your AA degree, you will be recommended for a 12 month OPT and after completing a bachelor's degree, you will be recommended for another 12 month OPT. A job offer is not required to apply for OPT.

Application Deadline

Application for OPT must be submitted to your DSO/International Student Advisor for recommendation to USCIS. Please give yourself about 60 to 90 days for approval from USCIS. If you are applying for post-completion OPT, you can apply to USCIS up to 90 days before graduation and need to have your complete OPT application mailed and received by USCIS within 60 days of completing your studies. If not, you will lose your OPT benefit. Please meet with your advisor to discuss your OPT plans and bring along the following documents.

  1. I-765 form www.uscis.gov/I-765, on line 16 of the form put (C) (3) (A) if applying for Pre-Completion OPT or (C) (3) (B) if applying for Post-Completion OPT. Do not sign until the DSO provides the I-20 recommending OPT.
  2. Two photos (passport size) with your name and SEVIS ID number printed on the back
  3. Transcript
  4. Photocopy of current passport
  5. Photocopy of both sides of the I-94 card even if the back side is blank if you have the paper-version. Print out of the electronic I-94 and copy of the admission stamp from your passport if you were not issued a paper I-94.
  6. A copy of previous EAD card (if issued previously)
  7. Photocopies of all previous I-20s.
  8. Photocopy of F-1 visa in passport (if available)

If you meet all the eligibility requirements, the advisor will issue you a SEVIS I-20 recommending for OPT and submitting your information into SEVIS. You will need to sign the I-20 and the form I-765.

Then you will mail the following documents (do not staple) to USCIS no later than 30 days from the date your DSO signed the SEVIS OPT I-20 and no later than 60 days of completing your studies at NAU.

  • SEVIS I-20 with DSO and your signature
  • I-765 form (item #1 above) signed by you after the DSO provided the SEVIS OPT I-20
  • A check or money order in the amount of $495 payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Items 2-8 listed above.

It's recommended that you keep copies of all the documents you submitted to USCIS and send the documents via traceable mail (request a tracking number at the Post Office, UPS, FEDEX, etc.) to protect you in case they are lost.

OPT Decision from USCIS

USCIS will either approve or deny your OPT request. You cannot work until you are approved for OPT AND Receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

If you have any questions, please contact NAU International Relations.

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Immigration links

Most students and scholars will come in contact with the three bureaus managed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). While you will work most closely with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), each arm of the DHS maintains its own website. Please be aware that the SEVIS database is maintained by Immigration & Custom Enforcement (ICE), and if you are a special registrant, through National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), further information regarding that program can be found on the ICE website. Below are the links to these immigration agencies.

USCIS forms and filing instructions can be found on their website when applying for immigration benefits, such as optional practical training. Students and scholars wishing to monitor the status of their cases may do this through USCIS' Case Status Service website.

Please note that USCIS frequently reviews procedures for monitoring the F-1 and J-1 programs. Please be aware that during your tenure at NAU policies and regulations may change many times and without notice. It is your ultimate responsibility to maintain your F-1 or J-1 status.

In addition to using our office and the links on our website as a resource, you have access to the actual laws that govern your programs. This is called the Code of Federal Regulations, and access to this information is free. Titles pertaining to F/J non-immigrants are Title 8, Aliens and Nationality and Title 22, Foreign Relations.

If you have any questions, please contact NAU International Relations.

International forms

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U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services

Visit the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov/I-765
or contact the USCIS
National Customer Service Center
at 1-800-375-5283
for the most current information about
where to file this benefit request.

For TTY (deaf or hard of hearing)
call 1-800-767-1833