Frequently Asked Questions
The Office of International Education is your most important contact for you concerning your student status. The following, will answer some of the questions you may have concerning your international student status.
1. My visa is valid for three years. Is that how long I can stay in the U.S.?
2. My I-94 says D/S. What does that mean?
3. So how long can I stay here?
4. Do I have to go to school full time?
5. What happens if I violate status?
6. What do I need to do if I want to leave the U.S. temporarily?
7. Can I work as a student?
1. My visa is valid for three years. Is that how long I can stay in the U.S.? (return to top)
Not necessarily. Your visa permits you to enter the United States. It does not authorize you to stay. Therefore, a three-year visa does not mean you can stay in the United States that long. You have to look at your I-94 and your I-20 to determine how long you are permitted to stay in the U.S.
2. My I-94 says D/S. What does that mean? (return to top)
D/S means Duration of Status. You are permitted to stay in the U.S. for the duration of your status as full-time student, pursuant to your I-20
3. So how long can I stay here? (return to top)
Your I-20 shows how much time you have to complete your program. If you drop out or graduate early, you are considered to have completed your F-1 status. You are allowed 60 additional days (grace period) to leave the U.S. after you complete your studies, leave your studies, or finish your optional practical training.
4. Do I have to go to school full time? (return to top)
Yes. You must maintain full-time student status, or INS will determine you have violated your student status. Full-time varies: for undergraduate it is 12 semester hours, for graduate programs it is 6 to 12 semester hours.
5. What happens if I violate status? (return to top)
You need to be reinstated either by filing for reinstatement with INS or leaving the country and re-entering the U.S. INS will reinstate you only if you have violated your status for reasons beyond your control, which are rare from the viewpoint of the INS.
6. What do I need to do if I want to leave the U.S. temporarily? (return to top)
Come by the International Student Services Office and have your I-20 or DS-2019 signed by the Designated School Official.
7. Can I work as a student? (return to top)
In some cases. F-1 and J-1 student status permits working on and off-campus with permission from the Designated School official (DSO). On campus jobs are limited and Belmont does not guarantee that positions will be open every semester. The circumstances under which you might be allowed to work are:
1. On campus employment:
Immigration law allows F-1 and J-1 students to work on campus up to 20 hours / week during the school term and up to 40 hours / week during the summer. Students wishing to work must obtain a Social Security card and complete an I-9 employment eligibility form. The ISS office can assist with this process.
2. Curricular Practical Training (CPT):
Allows F-1 students enrolled for a full academic year to work off campus if the job is 'an integral part of an established curriculum'. Examples are: internships, co-op (cooperative education) or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered through cooperative agreements with the university. Students must continue to maintain a full course of study in F-1 status during the period of employment, however some exceptions for CPT do exist. The ISS Office must assist with this process.
F-1 students may also be eligible for 12 months Optional Practical Training. OPT is defined as 'temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study'.
OPT can be done during summer vacation or during the school session (provided it does not exceed 20 hours / week) but is usually done upon completion of studies.
To be eligible for OPT students must have been lawfully enrolled full-time for nine consecutive month (certain exceptions apply to graduating seniors). OPT must be in the student's area of study. OPT done before completion of course work counts against the 12 months that are allowed upon completion.
Students must apply for OPT before completion of studies (USCIS must have your completed application in their possession by the program completion date listed on your I-20), but are encouraged to apply as soon as their names are on graduation list. If you engage in practical training, you may remain in the U.S. throughout the validity period of your employment card. The ISS Office must assist with this process. For additional information consult the USCIS website for Form I-765, and information about new photo requirements for the application.
4. Severe Economic Hardship:
F-1 students who experience severe economic hardship due to changes in their financial support may be eligible to work off campus. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must approve severe economic hardship work permission. Students must 'prove' in the application to work that they need to work out of economic necessity. Reasons which DHS will consider for work permission under severe economic hardship are: loss of financial support due to family circumstances, currency devaluation, loss of scholarships, funds, and other demonstrated need.