Frequently Asked Questions about Immigration

What is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services?

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), is in charge of immigration matters within the United States.

What is SEVIS?

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) created the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), an internet-based system that maintains current information on non-immigrant students, exchange visitors, and their dependents (i.e. all those in the F or J visa status). SEVIS tracks F and J visa holders from the time they receive their documents (I-20, visa, etc.) until they complete their programs. SEVIS serves as a link between colleges and universities, U.S. embassies and consulates, U.S. ports of entry, the Department of State, and exchange visitor programs.

What is a DSO?

A Designated School Official (DSO) is a person approved by USCIS to serve as a liaison between USCIS and the international students at institutions throughout the U.S. While Presbyterian College’s Director of International Programs will be the person you will primarily see for immigration matters, Ms. Liz Dille and Ms. Vicky Wilson are also approved DSOs for Presbyterian College.

What is an I-20?

An I-20 is the official document issued to you by Presbyterian College. It lets the consular officer reviewing your visa application at the embassy know that you have been accepted to PC and meet the requirements necessary to become a student at our institution. You will need to take this and your official acceptance letter when you apply for your visa.

What is the D/S?

The Duration of Status (D/S) is marked on the I-94 card that you are given upon your entry into the U.S. It is the amount of time you will need to complete your program, plus 60 days for F-1 visa holders and 30 days for J-1 visa holders.

What happens if I go out of status?

You are responsible for maintaining your status while in the U.S. If you go out of status, you will have to apply for reinstatement. It can be very difficult to be reinstated, and if your application is not approved, you will have to return home immediately. If you are concerned that you may go out of status, please consult with Presbyterian College’s Director of International Programs as soon as possible to discuss your options before going out of status.

What if I can’t finish my program before my I-20 expires?

Your I-20 gives an estimated program completion date in section 5. Your D/S is valid to this date or until you complete your program, whichever comes first. If you will not complete your degree program(s) within the estimated time period you must apply for an extension of stay before reaching the completion of studies date.

What if my visa expires shortly after I arrive in the U.S. to begin my studies?

As long as your I-20 has not expired, you are still in status. However, if you leave the U.S. you will need to apply for a new visa in order to reenter the country. Ensure that a DSO signs your I-20 before you leave.

What if my passport will expire while I am in the U.S.?

If your passport will expire during your stay in the U.S., contact your country’s embassy or consulate in the U.S. for instructions on how to renew it. This process can take several months. Start applying for a renewal six months prior to the expiration date. The best way to do this while in the U.S. is to contact the Embassy or Consulate nearest you. In most cases, the closest consulates are in Atlanta or Miami.

Can I go home over breaks?

Absolutely! Ensure that a DSO signs your I-20 before you leave, and show it to the immigration official upon reentering the U.S..

How many credit hours must I take to remain in status?

F-1 students must maintain 12 credit hours per semester to maintain status. Amity and visiting scholars on J-1 visas need to refer to their J-1 sponsor, as regulations may differ by category of program.

Can I work?

It is illegal to work in the U.S. without proper authorization. Curricular Practical Training, Optional Practical Training, and Work Permits are special authorizations that you can apply for. Do not accept a position and begin work without proper authorization.

What kind of insurance must I have?

Due to the high cost of health care in the U.S., immigration law requires that all international students in the U.S. have insurance to cover them and any dependents while in the U.S. Your insurance must cover illness or accident, medical evacuation, and repatriation of remains to your home country in case of death. Please visit the Office of International Programs for a list of reputable companies that provide health insurance specifically designed for international students.

I am not on an F-1 visa; will the Office of International Programs help me with changing status and other issues that may come up?

Absolutely! The Office of International Programs is here to serve all PC students. While our office typically deals with F-1 and J-1 status students, we have access to a wealth of information and contacts we can utilize to assist you with a variety of issues.

Additional questions? We’re here to help!