FAQ about F-1 Status Rules
1. Who needs an I-20?
New Students – Any non-citizen who wishes to obtain an F-1 (international student) visa or to change an existing immigration status to F-1 must first obtain an I-20 to verify your admission to a qualified school.
Transfer Students – Students who already have F-1 status with an I-20 from another school must obtain a new I-20 from Sierra States University.
2. How long will it take to get my I-20?
Once you have been admitted, tuition is paid and additional documentation is received, it generally takes 1-3 weeks for an I-20 to be processed and received by an applicant. When sending your admission letter and I-20 abroad, you will be notified of your tracking number and SEVIS number.
3. Can I have my I-20 sent through express mail?
Yes, we may be able to send you I-20 through express mail with additional cost.
4. Can I change my major or program before I am admitted?
You must inform our office by or on the first day of classes if you choose to change programs.
5. What is an I-94?
Your I-94 is a document issued by the USCIS to indicate the conditions that apply to your stay in the United States. An I-94 issued at a port of entry. It is a white card staled inside your passport.
6. What is duration of status or D/S?
F-1 status is granted for duration of status. At the port of entry the immigration officer will mark your I-20 and I-94 with the notation D/S, indicating duration of status.
7. What is the difference between a visa and immigration status?
A visa is a document or stamp in your passport issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad that permits you to arrive at a port of entry to the U.S. Immigration status indicates the specific category of regulations that will apply to you during your stay in the U.S.
8. Is there more than one kind of I-20 for F-1 status?
Yes. I-20s are designated for specific purposes as following:
Initial Attendance: I-20 for students applying for F-1 visa for the first time.
Transfer: I-20 for students transferring with F-1 status to Sierra States University.
Change of Status: I-20 to request change from current immigration status to F-1 without leaving the U.S.
Reinstatement: I-20 to request reinstatement to F-1 status by USCIS without leaving the U.S.
Add dependents(s): I-20 to request F-1 visa or status for dependent spouse or minor children.
9. What documents should I bring when I travel outside the U.S.?
To re-enter the U.S. after a trip abroad, students will need a valid passport with a valid visa and a valid I-20, signed on the back by the international student advisor. The signature verifies that the student is in status and is expected to return to the U.S. to continue study at Sierra issuing the I-20.
10. What if I want to travel abroad, but my visa has expired or I only have a tourist visa because I changed status in the U.S.?
You must apply for a new visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate, preferably in your home country.
11. Can you transfer from another college or language school to Sierra States University without losing my F-1 status?
Yes. But, you must apply for a new I-20 issued by Sierra States University. You will need proof of completion of high school or GED or transcript from previous school, current financial support, and verification that you maintained F-1 status at the previous school. Please submit required documents.
12. Can I transfer from another college or language school if I am already out of status?
No, you will need to apply for reinstatement to F-1 status at your current school before transfer to Sierra States University.
13. What happens if my passport or visa expires while I am in the U.S.?
Renew your passport before it expires. USCIS regulations require that student visa holder maintain a valid passport at all times. On the other hand, an expired visa is not a problem as long as you remain in the U.S. But, you should have a valid I-20 even though the visa has expired.
14. What happens if I fall out of status?
Students who are out of status forfeit all privileges of the status, such as on-campus work, practical training, or the right to reenter the U.S> with a signed I-20 form. To regain your status, you will need to obtain a new I-20 prior to travel abroad or apply to the USCIS for reinstatement. Application for reinstatement by the USCIS requires that the student pay a filing fee. If the reinstatement application is denied, the student will be advised to leave the United States until able to reenter with an appropriate status.
15. How much will it cost to study at Sierra States University?
The cost of tuition and fees is listed in our website.
16. What is the minimum number of units to be considered a full-time student?
To maintain status you must complete 12 units per quarter for undergraduate students and 8 units per quarter for graduate students. Students who enroll in three quarters in a row, students are eligible to take a vacation for a quarter.
17. Are there any exceptions to the full-time requirements?
Students who have medical or academic reasons for registering for less than a full course load must contact the international student advisor to see whether the particular circumstances allow an exception. USCIS regulations permit exceptions only under very limited and specific conditions.
18. What if I cannot complete my program by the expiration date of my I-20?
Students who are unable to complete their program by the date indicated on the I-20 must have a compelling academic or medical reasons to apply for an extension of stay. A request for an extension must be discussed with the international student advisor at least 60 days before the expiration date on the I-20.
19. Can I apply for financial aid?
Sierra States University currently does not offer federal financial aid.
20. Can I work on campus?
Yes, F-1 students are allowed to work on campus, up to 20 hours/week as long as you intend to enroll full-time for the program. But, on-campus jobs are very limited. You may check on website for job opening.
21. Can I work off campus?
Off campus employment for F-1 students is restricted and requires an application process with your international student advisor. Be extremely careful about working without permission. Some students may receive immediate departure orders from USCIS for unauthorized work. Furthermore, reinstatement by USCIS is generally impossible if you have been discovered to be working without authorization.
22. If I work on campus or off campus do I pay taxes?
Yes, your employer will almost certainly withhold federal state income taxes. All F-1 students with any earned income in the U.S. are required to file a federal income tax return each year.
23. How do I obtain a Social Security Number (SSN)?
You are required to have a job offer or authorized employment authorization from USCIS to be eligible for a Social Security Number. If you are offered an On-Campus job, your international student advisor will provide you with a letter to the Social Security Administration.
24. How do I report a change of address?
You must contact the office of admission or international student advisor and report within 10 days after a change of address. And change will be reported to the UDSCIS through the SEVIS system.
25. Does Sierra States University charge a fee for processing the I-20?
Please contact our international student advisor for information. UDSCIS also charges a $200 SEVIS FEE that must be paid once a form I-20 is issued and a SEVIS record is created.