In order to enter the United States and study at FMU legally, international students must comply with U.S. immigration laws and regulations as dictated by the United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS – A Bureau of the Department of Homeland Security)and the U.S. Department of State (DoS).
In order to enter the United States and study at FMU legally, international students must comply with U.S. immigration laws and regulations as dictated by the United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS – A Bureau of the Department of Homeland Security)and the U.S. Department of State (DoS). To assist with these matters, FMU has several staff members who serve as Designated School Officials (DSO) who may provide information and authorization to the student on some immigration issues. Current staff members serving as DSOs include Ms. Dru Russell (FMU Admissions Office), Mr. Garth Thomson (International Student Affairs).
Student and Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS)
SEVIS is a computer database operated by the USCIS that maintains information on all international students in the United States holding F-1, J-1, or M-1 visas. All students with these Visas are required to be registered in SEVIS and to possess an I-20 form generated by SEVIS. Currently, FMU may issue I-20 forms for students seeking F-1 visas.
Student Visa (F-1)
Students must be admitted to the university before applying for an F-1 visa, which may be granted at a U.S. consulate or embassy to an individual who is qualified to pursue a full course of study at an academic or language institution authorized to admit foreign students. At the embassy or consulate, the individual will be required to submit the following items:
• A SEVIS I-20 form (issued by Francis Marion University, consists of three pages with signatures from the Designated School Official)
• Proof of adequate funding for one year of study (or the length of the program if less than one year)
• Application for a nonimmigrant visa (OF-156)
• Proof that he or she intends to enter the United States for educational purposes only
• Proof of permanent residence in a foreign country and strong family or business ties which he or she has no intention of abandoning.
It is extremely important for a student on an F-1 visa to maintain legal status throughout the program of study in the U.S. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act places a particular emphasis on the need for students to take responsibility for maintaining F-1 student status. Please refer to the section titled “Maintaining Legal Status” to review the basic immigration regulations governing F-1 students.
Tourist Visa (B-2)
An individual who enters the U.S. in B-2 visitor status should be engaged in the following types of activities: visits with friends or relatives, travel, sightseeing or medical treatment. A B-2 visitor will be admitted for a minimum period of six months, and may be eligible to apply to the BCIS for extensions of stay in increments no longer than six months each.
A student who plans to study at Francis Marion University should not attempt to enter on a tourist visa. The immigration officer at the port of entry will refuse entry if he or she determines that an alien is entering on a B-2 visa for purposes other than tourism.
We strongly recommend that a new student contact the FMU Admissions Office if he or she is having trouble obtaining an F-1 or J-1 student visa. To enter the U.S. on a tourist visa is not a viable solution.
Maintaining Legal Status
There are basic requirements for maintaining student status in the United States. It is very important that international students follow the guidelines listed below to ensure they remain in good standing with the USCIS:
• Keep passport valid at all times.
• Attend the school noted on the I-20.
• Update all personal information with the Designated School Official for the SEVIS program.
• Maintain full-time enrollment each semester.
• Do not engage in studies beyond the completion date listed on the I-20 or IAP-66. If more time is needed, report to the ISA Office to seek information about a program extension before the completion date has passed.
• Report a change of address or phone number to International Student Affairs Office.
• Report changes of major or degree level to the ISA Office.
• Report intentions to transfer to another school or leave FMU to the ISA Office.
• Do not work without obtaining proper employment permission from the BCIS. Limit on-campus employment to a total of 20 hours per week (even if you have more than one job) while school is in session. Prior to accepting any employment, it is recommended students report to the ISA Office for assistance.
For more complete information on U.S. Immigration laws and regulations, it is recommended that international students visit the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services web site at www.uscis.gov.
Travel and Reentry
Prior to leaving the United States, international students must ensure they have all the documents you needed to reenter (Visa, passport, I-20, I-94).
1. Have the I-20 endorsed by the international student adviser or designated school official on campus.
2. Verify that the information on your I-20 is still accurate.
3. Check your U.S. entry visa (which is stamped in your passport) to be sure that it is still valid for additional entries. If it is not, you will have to get a new entry from the U.S. embassy or consulate while you are abroad.
When traveling to the United States, you must have these documents on your person and available for inspection by the U.S. Customs Officials.