International Students

In order to assist you in your transition to Lander, we have compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions. While this list answers many questions we encourage you to contact our office if you have other questions or if further explanation is needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean to maintain fulltime status? What if I have a good reason for not enrolling fulltime?

To maintain F-1 student status, international students must be enrolled in a full course of study each fall and spring semester (summer enrollment is optional).

Minimums:
Undergraduates = 12 hours
Graduate students = 9 hours (if no assistantship)

There are valid academic and medical reasons for enrolling less than full-time. Before dropping below full time hours please contact the Office of International Programs for advisement as this can seriously affect your stay in the Unites States. Do NOT drop to less than full-time without first receiving approval form the Office of International Programs.

What do I do if my I-20 is about to expire? I’m not finished with my degree, so does it matter if the I-20 expires?

YES! It does matter. You must apply for a program extension. You can do this as early as 90 days before the current end date on your I-20 (See #5 on page 1 of your I-20 to find this date).

Your first step is to set up a meeting with the Office of International Programs. Please be advised that program extensions MUST be requested BEFORE the I-20 end date. Because your academic advisor’s recommendation is also needed as part of this process, students must allow sufficient time for processing and for dealing with any problems that may arise. An extension is granted up to one year at a time; you must reapply for another extension if needed.

I’ve heard that I can go to Mexico or Canada to renew or change my visa. Is this true?

While it is possible to apply in a Third Country such as Mexico or Canada, it is very risky. If the consular office finds cause to deny your request, you would need to be prepared to continue your travels to your own home country as you will not be allowed to return to the United States. However, some students have been successful in their visa renewal or visa status change quests.

What if I decide to transfer to a different university?

As part of your admissions process at the other university, you may be asked to bring us a form to verify that you have maintained your status while at LANDER UNIVERSITY. We can fill out as many of these forms as needed.

However, once you are admitted to one or more universities, you will need to decide on one. You will need to let us know within 60 days of your last day of study at LANDER UNIVERSITY by filling out the Transfer Release Authorization. By filling out this form, you are giving us permission to release your SEVIS record from LANDER UNIVERSITY to the other institution. Please read this form very carefully before it is submitted.

I am taking a semester break from studies, who do I need to notify?

Under the F-1 visa, you are required to be enrolled full-time during the fall and spring semesters. If you decide to take a semester (fall or spring) break and return to your home country you will break your F-1 or J-1 status. If this happens, you will need to re-establish 9 months of F-1 status after you return before you will be able to apply for work benefits, such as CPT, OPT or Economic Hardship in addition you will need to re-apply for admission.

How long will it take to get my requested document from the Office of International Programs?

We ask that you allow at least 5 working days for documents and requests to be processed.

My visa is about to expire, will I be out of status?

No. It is legal for you to be in the United States and possess an expired visa so long as your program end date on your 1-20 is still valid; your visa is only needed to re-enter the United States. If you will be traveling outside of the United States and have an expired visa, you MUST get it renewed before returning to the United States. We recommend that you travel during the summer and Christmas breaks, which are longer, so that you will have a better opportunity to renew your visa in time to return to your studies.

I am a special registrant. What do I need to do when traveling?

  • Carry all required immigration documents, as well as other supporting documents of your activities as an F-1 student
  • Have your I-20 
  • Make sure the airport you exit through is a Designated Point of Departure approved for special registrants 
  • Locate an immigration official at the Point of Departure who can assist you with registration 
  • Be sure your address information is correct in Bearcatweb. (Or if you are on OPT, e-mail jconstant@lander.edu with your address changes.)

If you do not register when leaving the country, you will have difficulty re-entering and may be forced to return to your home country to apply for a new visa.

My passport will be expiring soon, what should I do?

Each passport has an expiration date listed. As a student it is your responsibility to keep your passport valid at all times. If your passport expiration date is approaching you must contact your embassy or consulate to determine the best way to get your passport renewed.

I have just completed my program of study or OPT, what is the length of my grace period?

After you have completed your studies at each degree level you will have a grace period of 60 days after your program end date (listed on your I-20 document) to either change your status, transfer to a new degree program or leave the country. If you are a student on OPT you will have 60 days from the OPT completion date to change your status, transfer into a new degree program or leave the country.

What documents do I need to renew my visa?

You will need to contact the U.S. Consulate in your home country for a complete list of requirements, but you will certainly need the following: your current I-20, a current financial statement, and a passport valid for at least 6 months.

What will happen if I am absent from the U.S. for 5 months or more?

The five month rule states that if an F-1 student leaves the United States for 5 consecutive months or more the United States Customs Immigration Services considers the student to have abandoned their F-1 visa status and may lose their eligibility for any benefits. In this case you will have to apply for a new student visa and will have to be issued an initial I-20 document to return.

How do I find a local immigration attorney?

An immigration attorney may be found through the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) by visiting the Immigration Lawyer Search section of their website.