Immigration Rights & Responsibilities
The information on this site is for use by international students in F-1 status at Saint Anselm College. After reading the information on this page and subsequent pages under "Current F-1 Students," you should have a basic understanding of the important rights or benefits you have in relation to U.S. immigration regulations. You should also have an understanding of your responsibilities for maintaining your lawful immigration status as an international student in F-1 status. You will not, however, have an understanding of the actual procedures which must be followed in order to apply for certain benefits. In order for you to exercise many of your rights it will be necessary for you to meet with and gain assistance from the staff of the Office of International Programs.
Registration, Attendance and Course Load
Registration & Attendance: You must register at and attend the school indicated on your I-20.
Course Load: You must register as a full-time student when school is in session. For undergraduate students, full-time is defined as a minimum of 12 credits. In order to graduate within four years all student should enroll in 16 credits each semester.
Reduction in Course Load: You may register for a lesser course load if a) you will complete your studies by the end of that school term and do not need a full course load in order to graduate; b) the Office of International Programs approves, in advance, a reduction in course load due to special circumstances such as illness, academic difficulties, etc.; or c) you are participating in authorized Curricular or Optional Practical Training.
Within the U.S.: You have the right to travel freely within the U.S. provided you maintain your legal F-1 status and have your passport and immigration documents in your possession.
Outside the U.S. with return planned to the same school: You must consult the Office of International Programs in advance regarding travel authorization and the necessary documentation required to facilitate your reentry to the U.S.
Outside the U.S. with return planned to a different school: You must consult the Office of International Programs in advance regarding your proposed travel and change of schools. If the change is permissible, you must obtain a new Form I-20 from your new school before you attempt to reenter the U.S.
Completion of Study
Upon completion of studies you may have the right to a) continue study at the same school or transfer to a different school for a higher academic degree, certificate or program of academic work; b) apply for Optional Practical Training; or c) take up to 60 days to depart the U.S. If you complete your studies before the expiration date listed on your I-20 you will have 60 days to prepare for departure. If you choose to remain in the U.S. for more than 60 days following the end of your program (without entering a new program or Optional Practical Training), you will be in violation of your immigration status, could be subject to deportation, and/or may be denied entry to the U.S. in the future.
To be eligible for on-campus, employment you must be enrolled in a full course of study and remain enrolled full-time. Students may work "on campus" up to 20 hours per week (each week) when school is in session, and full-time (more than 20 hours a week) during holiday and vacation periods. A new F-1 student who has been issued an initial form I-20 may work up to, but no more, than 30 days prior to the commencement of classes.
If you pursue on-campus employment, you must apply for a Social Security Number.
What is considered on-campus employment?
Type 1: Employment at Saint Anselm College: Any on-campus work for which you receive a paycheck (or other compensation, such as room and board, etc.) from Saint Anselm College.
Type 2: On Campus Work affiliated with an On-Site Commercial Firm on Saint Anselm College Premises. This includes work on the Saint Anselm campus for a commercial firm, if and only if, this work provides direct services to Saint Anselm students. Prior approval from OIP is required.
Maintaining Legal Status
It is important that you maintain lawful F-1 status while in the U.S. There are some simple steps you can take to ensure that your stay in the U.S. remains valid:
1. Check in with the Office of International Programs (OIP) within 30 days of start date on your initial I-20.
2. Report address changes to OIP within 10 days.
3. Maintain full-time study. You must be registered for a minimum of 12 credits.
- Each undergraduate course is weighted at 4 credits thus 3 courses is the minimum course load.
- There are a few exceptions to the full time study rule. You must always obtain in advance permission from OISS prior to reducing your course load.
4. I-20 extension
Be aware of the expiration date of your status. This is not your visa expiration date; it is the end/expected completion date on your I-20 form. If you will not complete your academic program by the end date noted in section 5 of your I-20, you will need to apply for an extension by providing OIP a letter from your academic adviser and evidence of funding to support tuition and living expenses for the remainder of your studies. You must complete the extension process prior to the expected completion date on the I-20.
5. Transferring to Another U.S. School
If offered admission at another college or university, discuss your plans with the OIP to make sure that the required transfer procedure can be accomplished. Notify OIP when transferring to another F-1 program within 60 days of the Saint Anselm College program end date.
6. Employment Restrictions
The F-1 regulations only permit employment under a few specific circumstances. Before accepting an offer of employment, check with OIP to make sure the employment is allowable. Off campus employment requires special permission. See under Employment Authorization or contact OIP to learn more about the employment.
7. Timely Departure or Change of Status
F-1 students have a 60 day grace period for departure following the completion of their program as noted on the I-20 or the approved OPT period. If changing to a different immigration status, such as H-1B, you must submit your change of status application to USCIS prior to the end of your program or OPT end date. If you are authorized to withdraw or take a leave of absence from your program, notify OIP prior to the effective date of the withdrawal or leave.
The Office of International Programs is here to assist international students navigate immigration regulations ensuring they maintain legal status in the United States. The U.S. government has set strict eligibility requirements not only for international students entering the country but also for the right to remain legally in the U.S. while completing their studies.
The Office of International Programs is here to provide international students with guidance, advice, and assistance from your acceptance to Saint Anselm College through to your graduation and OPT.
8. Keep Your Passport Valid
Passports can be renewed by your consulate in New York or Boston. Information about the nearest consulate can be found here. Your passport should be valid for a minimum of six months into the future. If you do not maintain your F-1 status per above, your ability to continue studying in F-1 status may be in jeopardy.
F-1 Curricular Practical Training
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an employment option available to F-1 students when the practical training employment is considered to be an integral part of the curriculum or academic program. At Saint Anselm College, the use of CPT is only available if you will receive academic credit for your proposed CPT employment. The course must be listed in the college catalog, be specifically designed to award academic credit for an employment experience.
Part-time vs. Full-time CPT
CPT can be granted on a part-time or full-time basis. During the academic year, CPT is limited to part-time (no more than 20 hours per week) and you must continue to be enrolled as a full-time student. Full-time CPT (more than 20 hours per week) is generally available to students only during the summer break. If you use 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you will not be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT).
Eligibility Criteria for CPT
- You must have been in lawful F-1 status for at least one academic year.
- You must have an offer of employment that qualifies for CPT by establishing that the proposed employment is either a degree requirement for all students in your program or that you will receive academic credit based on your proposed employment experience.
Applying for CPT
- Contact the Office of International Programs to evaluate your eligibility for CPT.
- If all eligibility requirements are met, submit to OIP the completed CPT Request Form (PDF/280KB) signed by your academic adviser. You must submit your request for CPT before your CPT begins.
- A new form I-20 will be issued denoting the employer and the dates authorized on page three. You can present this new I-20, along with your passport and I-94 record, as proof of employment authorization to your employer.
- Apply for a Social Security Number if you do not have one already.
Multiple Employers and Extensions
CPT authorization must be granted for each incidence of employment for a specific employer and period of time. If you change employers or engage in concurrent employment, you require authorization for each employer and time period. If you are asked to extend your work period for an already approved employment you need to apply for and be granted an extension of your CPT through OIP. Work undertaken after the expiration date of your CPT will be considered unauthorized employment.
Optional Practical Training for Students in F-1 Status
Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows F-1 students to obtain employment in areas related to their academic major. Twelve (12) Months of OPT is available at each higher degree level.
(Note: If you have used more than 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training, you cannot apply for OPT.)
1. Eligibility Requirements
- The proposed employment must be directly related to your major field of study and it must be appropriate to your level of education.
- F-1 students who have been in lawful status for one full academic year may engage in OPT during any of the following times during the course of their study:
- During annual vacation times;
- Part-time (up to 20 hours per week), while school is in session;
- After completion of all course requirements, excluding thesis or equivalent;
- After completion of studies.
After completing one full academic year, students may engage in pre-completion OPT. Pre-Completion OPT may be full time during the summer. During the academic year, pre-completion OPT must be part time. The application process for pre-completion OPT is the same post-completion. Allow sufficient time for USCIS processing.
Effect of Periods of Unemployment on F-1 Status
During post-completion OPT, F-1 status is dependent upon employment. Students may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during any post-completion OPT carried out under the initial post-completion OPT authorization. Students granted a 24-month OPT extension may not accrue an aggregate of more than 150 days of unemployment during the entire 36-month OPT period.
Travel Outside the U.S.
An F-1 student with an unexpired EAD issued for post completion practical training and who is otherwise admissible may re-enter the US to resume employment after a temporary absence. The EAD must be shown in combination with a letter from the employer and an I-20 endorsed for travel and re-entry by the Office of International Programs. OIP signatures for travel and re-entry are valid for six months while on OPT.
1. When To Apply
Apply early! Do not wait for a job offer. You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT. Allow three months for processing by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), plus additional time for obtaining the Office of the Registrar signature on the OPT Request Form, OIP processing (one week), and mailing to USCIS. You cannot work until you receive OPT approval.
You may submit your application to USCIS as early as 90 days before your program end date and up to 60 days after your program end date. (Your program end date is the last day of your final semester, including final exams week, according to the academic calendar.) Please note that your OPT application must arrive at the USCIS Service Center within 30 days of the OPT I-20 issue date, or the request will be denied.
The Office of International Programs strongly encourages you to apply for OPT three months prior to your program end date. Though USCIS will accept your application up to 60 days after your program end date, you cannot begin work until the application is approved. A delayed application may result in delayed work authorization and/or loss of full OPT eligibility (12 months) due to the three-month processing time by USCIS. Here is a visual timeline to help illustrate the process.
Please read the following instructions carefully. Although we in OIP provide information, the OPT application is your application. We do not approve the application or have the authority to influence the process. If there is a request for information or to correct a problem, we will notify you of the request but it is your responsibility to respond. Please note that if you choose to travel, it could be difficult to respond to requests from USCIS about your application.
2. Preparing Your OPT Application
Step 1: Gather the Following Documents:
- Completed Optional Practical Training Request Form (PDF/200KB)
- Completed I-765 Form on the USCIS website.
- Complete the form electronically and print it out.
- In Box 3, write the Office of International Programs office address: 100 Saint Anselm Drive OIP, Manchester NH 03102. (Do NOT put "in care of" or "c/o" in the address line).
- Enter the correct code in Box 16:
- Pre-completion OPT (c)(3)(A)
- Post-completion OPT (c)(3)(B)
- 24-month STEM Extension (c)(3)(C)
- Photocopy of all previously issued I-20s (pages 1 and 3)
- Photocopy of passport identification page
- Photocopy of F-1 visa page
- Two passport style photographs, with your name written lightly in pencil on the back. Do not staple photographs to your application! We recommend that you place the photos in a small plastic bag and then attach the bag to the application.
- Photocopy of the front and back of your I-94 card, or if you do not have an I-94 card, a copy of your F-1 admission stamp in your passport and a printout of your electronic I-94 information, which can be obtained on the CBP website.
- Photocopy of previously issued EAD (front and back) (if applicable)
- Personal check, Money Order or Certified Bank Check for filing fee made out to the "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" (do not abbreviate). Staple the check to the front/top of the entire packet. Check the current filing fee on the USCIS website.
- Completed G-1145 Form on the USCIS website (optional; it signs you up for email/text message notification of your application's arrival at USCIS).
Step 2: Submit Your Completed OPT Application to the Office of International Programs
- Submit your completed OPT application (except the check) to the Office of International Programs. The Director of the OIP will review your application, will note any items missing or needing to be changed, and will issue a new, updated I-20 with an OPT recommendation printed on the back page. Allow one week for processing.
- You will receive an email from the Office of International Programs to pick up the application materials and new I-20.
3. Submitting Your Application to USCIS & USCIS Processing
Once you receive your new OPT I-20 from OIP, you are ready to mail your application to USCIS.
- You will include a copy of this new I-20 with the rest of your OPT application that you submit it to USCIS. Do not forget to sign your new I-20.
- Make a copy of all application materials for your records and staple them together (attach photos using a paper clip).
- Make sure to send your application via certified mail with a return receipt or tracking number.
- Your OPT application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the issuance of your new OPT I-20.
- Do not mail your original passport, I-94, or I-20.
The application and all of the required documentation must be sent to the USCIS Service Center Lockbox facility. Those with addresses in NH and MA will send their application to the address below. Those with addresses in other states should visit the USCIS website (scroll all the way to the bottom) to learn where to mail their applications.
For USPS (snail mail) deliveries
PO Box 660867
Dallas TX 75266
For Express Mail and Courier deliveries
2501 S. State Hwy 121 Business
Lewisville TX 75067
USCIS will send you a receipt notice (I-797 Notice of Action) confirming receipt of your OPT application, assigning a "receipt date," and assigning a case number. Carefully review the notice to make sure your name is spelled correctly. If it is not, contact your ISS adviser immediately.
You may use the case number on your receipt notice to check the status of your application USCIS website. It is normal for your case status to say "initial review" for most of the 2-3 month processing period.
You may not begin employment until USCIS approves the OPT application and you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Authorized OPT dates will be on your EAD. Be sure to review the reporting and employment requirements you must follow after OPT approval.
4. Reporting Requirements While on OPT
- You may only begin employment once you have the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in your possession and you have reached the start date on the card. USCIS' email confirmation will not suffice as evidence of eligibility for employment. You may only work within the dates printed on the card. Graduating students are not permitted to work on campus after graduation unless the job directly relates to your field and falls within the dates on the EAD.
- Your job must be directly related to your academic field of study. Undergraduates need to be able to make logical connection between studies and employment. For example, a professional position that requires a minimum educational level of a BA, regardless of major.
- Employment must be a minimum of 20 hours per week, paid or unpaid, to maintain legal F-1 OPT status.
- Limitation on Unemployment for Post-Completion OPT. Students approved for post-completion OPT may not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment during the approved OPT dates. Time spent outside the United States, if not employed by a U.S. employer, is counted towards the 90-day period of unemployment. A student should be able to provide evidence, acquired from the student's employer, to verify that he or she worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.
Reporting Requirements for the Student
While on OPT you may change employers after you have begun authorized employment. You may only change employers provided the new job is (1) directly related to your major field of study and (2) appropriate for someone having your level of education. See below for your and your employer's responsibilities for reporting changes to the Office of International Programs.
Within 10 days, a student on OPT must report to the Office of International Programs if any of the following changes:
- Legal name
- Living and mailing address
- Email address
- Employer name
- Employer address
- Job title or position
- Supervisor name and contact information
- Employment start date
- Employment end date
- OPT Changes
- Change of status (i.e. to H1-B)
- Transfer to another F-1 status
The student must report to the Office of International Programs every six months (via email to email@example.com) confirming the information above even if there have been no changes. The requirement to report continues if the student's 24-month STEM extension is further extended by automatic cap-gap extension.
Reporting Requirements for the Employer
The employer must report to the Office of International Programs the termination or departure of the student. An employer must consider a student to have departed when the employer knows the student has left employment or if the student has not reported for work for a period of five consecutive business days without the employer's consent.
Keep Records of your Employment
Keep records of your employment history for your personal file, to present as evidence of maintaining lawful status should you apply for future immigration benefits.
Examples of records to keep:
- offer letters
- payroll stubs
- letters describing volunteer activity and hours
5. Traveling While on OPT
Once you have graduated, you are required to show your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) along with your other immigration documents (see list below) in order to re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status. In many cases, students will also need to apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a new F-1 visa stamp before returning to the U.S.
If you need to leave the U.S. before you receive your EAD, speak with an OIP adviser.
If your employer has filed for H-1B on your behalf, check with your employer about any travel plans as leaving the U.S. while an H-1B application is pending may jeopardize your application.
Required documents to re-enter the U.S. while on F-1 post-completion OPT
- Valid I-20 - Page two should list your employer's information and be signed by an OIP adviser within the last six months.
- Valid F-1 Visa Stamp - If your F-1 visa is expired, you must apply for a new one at a U.S. embassy or consulate prior to you return. (Note: Canadian citizens do not need a visa stamp.)
- Valid Passport - The expiration date should be at least six months into the future at any given time.
- Valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
- Evidence of a job offer or resumption of employment. If you are returning to the U.S without evidence of a job offer, you may be questioned at the port of entry.
6. STEM Extension
F-1 students with degrees in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) may be eligible for an extension of their Post-Completion OPT work permission. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published new expanded regulations which took effect on May 10, 2016. Before making any plans to be employed on STEM OPT please speak to Jane Bjerklie-Barry Director, Office of International Programs.
For a 24-month STEM OPT work authorization extension to your Post-Completion OPT:
The F-1 student must:
- Be on a period of standard Post-Completion OPT
- Hold a degree in a field of study (indicated on the I-20), which qualifies as STEM eligible according to the official STEM Designated Degree Program List [PDF on ICE website]
- Have a job offer from an employer enrolled in E-Verify
- Demonstrate the job is directly related to a STEM field
- Prepare and sign the Training Plan (Form I-983)
- Apply before your current Post-Completion period of OPT expires.
The employer must:
- Be enrolled in E-Verify
- Have a Federal Employer Identification Number
- Agree to the terms of STEM OPT by completing their sections of the Training Plan (Form I-983)
When to apply, how to apply, and additional information is available by downloading, How to Apply for STEM OPT Extension (PDF/410KB), prepared by the Office of International Programs.