Basic Rules for International Students in F-1 and J-1 Status
International students in F-1 and J-1 status face added barriers in getting to the US, as well as strict requirements they must meet in order to study and work in the US. They minimally must adhere to these legal requirements for the duration of their studies at NYU. These videos, designed for NYU international students, are also useful introductions for NYU faculty and staff to understand three of the most common immigration-related concerns international students have: how to get a US visa; information for traveling internationally; and work options for international students in the US.
US Immigration Glossary for International Students
Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20 and Form DS-2019)
Non-US citizens who come to the US to pursue a degree, certificate program, exchange program, or scholar status must have a document issued by the US institution where they will participate in their program. For foreign nationals coming to the US in F-1 status (see below), this certificate of eligibility is called an I-20. For foreign nationals coming to the US in J-1 status (see below), this certificate of eligibility is called a DS-2019. These documents are issued within the Office of Global Services (OGS) at NYU. Both I-20s and DS-2019s provide detailed information on the individual, including their name, date of birth, citizenship, program they are participating in, institution they are sponsored by, program expenses, and more. Individuals applying for an F-1 visa must present their I-20 as one supporting document for their F-1 visa application. Individuals applying for a J-1 visa must present their DS-2019 as one supporting document for their J-1 visa application. It is imperative that students not let their forms expire while they are studying at NYU. If they need more time to complete their program of study, they must apply for an extension at least one month before their documents expire. See also the OGS department guidelines for program extension.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Designated School Official (DSO)
The US government requires that any US institution hosting international students have on-staff employees to assist and oversee enrolled international students. A DSO does this but also helps international students avoid immigration problems by providing information on required processes. These processes include working in the US, traveling outside the US, changing their major, program, or degree level, transferring to a new school, taking a leave of absence, requesting a program extension, and more.
F-1 Visa (Status)
F-1 is the most common type of visa used by students who are non-US citizens to study in the US. This visa is for full-time academic and language students who are pursuing a degree program or certificate. This status requires that students study full-time or get OGS permission in special cases for a reduced course load.
J-1 Visa (Status)
J-1 is a visa category that is used by different groups of students and scholars as part of the US Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program to promote international education and cultural exchange in order to develop a mutual understanding between the people of the US and other countries. For NYU, this visa includes the following categories for non-US citizens:
- Degree-seeking students to study in the US and who have a significant portion of their funding that comes from a resource other than personal or family friends;
- Exchange students coming to the US on an exchange program with their home institution for the duration of one or two semesters;
- Research scholars coming to the US for research, teaching, consulting, or observation in education settings;
- Professors teaching/lecturing in the US;
- Specialists coming to observe, consult, or demonstrate their knowledge or skills in a specific field; and
- Short-term scholars researching, teaching, or observing for a duration of 6 months or less.
The I-94 is an official US government record of when foreign nationals enter and depart the US. This record confirms what immigration status the individual entered the US in, and the duration of time the individual can legally remain in the US. For students in F-1 and J-1 status, the amount of time is indicated by the notation “D/S,” which means that the student can legally remain in the US for the duration of their status. Duration of status indicates the length of the student’s program regardless of when their actual visa in their passport is valid until. The duration of the program is tied to the end date that is listed on the student’s I-20 or DS-2019; therefore, if a student is unable to finish their program by the end date listed on their I-20 or DS-2019, they must apply to extend their program at least one month before their document expires. See also the OGS department guidelines for program extension.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
OPT is temporary employment authorization directly related to an international student’s (in F-1 status) major field of study. The student in F-1 status must apply directly to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to be granted this benefit. A student has a potential of 12 months of OPT per academic level of study.
Before an international student comes to the US, their government must issue them a passport, which allows them to leave and re-enter their country of citizenship. The passport should be valid at all times.
STEM OPT is a potential 24-month extension of post-completion OPT that is possible for international students in F-1 status studying within certain fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (see NYU STEM programs) and employed by companies registered in the US government’s E-Verify system.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
USCIS is a federal agency within the US Department of Homeland Security that oversees the US immigration and naturalization system. When international students are applying for certain benefits of their status, including work authorization like Optional Practical Training (OPT), they must apply directly to USCIS with assistance from the NYU Office of Global Services.
The visa is issued by the US Department of State, and represents permission for a non-US citizen or permanent resident to enter the US. Students can only apply for a visa from a US consulate or embassy outside of the US; they cannot apply for a new visa within the US. Once inside the US, a student can remain legally within the US if their visa is expired. The documents that must remain valid for an international student while in the US are the I-20 or DS-2019, passport, and I-94 record. Students from Canada and Bermuda do not require a visa stamp (but they do require an I-20 or DS-2019).