International Students

If you are entering the U.S. for the purpose of study and are not a U.S. citizen, you are required to get a Certificate of Eligibility Form I-20 from the university that you will be attending.  You will need to get this document processed prior to your entrance into the United States in order to be granted student status by the U.S. government.

FAQ’s Regarding Sevis

Niagara University, and all colleges and universities in the U.S., must maintain specific information on international students and must report this information to the U.S. government in a manner prescribed by law.  The information is reported through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) which is a web-accessible database used by the Department of Homeland Security to collect, track and monitor information regarding exchange visitors, international students and scholars who enter the United States on F, M or J visas.  The goal of SEVIS is to “track” each student and his/her dependent(s) from the moment of entry to the U.S. until the student departs.

SEVIS is a data tracking system for international students in F, M, and J status. When the system is complete, each school, each INS Office, each INS port of entry and each U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas, will be electronically connected to a central INS data processing system. The goal of SEVIS is to “track” each student and his/her dependent(s) from the moment of entry to the U.S. until the student departs. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had been slowly developing this program during the last several years but has pushed for a quick completion since the 9/11/01 tragedy.

  • Student and dependent’s full name (as they appear in passport)
  • Student/dependent current address (may not be a post office box and any changes to your home or local address)
  • Visa classification and date of visa issue
  • Academic status (full-time / part-time)
  • Country of birth and birth date
  • Country of citizenship
  • Port of entry and date of entry
  • Date you begin your studies
  • Degree program and level
  • Whether you enroll each semester, or fail to enroll
  • Number of credits completed each term
  • Change in status from FT to PT (for Canadian Commuters only)
  • Drop below FT status with authorization
  • Withdrawal from studies
  • Completion date of program
  • Any curricular / optional training
  • Disciplinary action due to criminal convictions
  • Termination date and reasons

Some examples of failure to remain status include dropping from full-time to part-time enrollment without prior approval from the DSO, attending a school other than the one a student is authorized to attend, failure to apply for a timely transfer or I-20 extension or change in level of study, unauthorized employment, and failure to report a change of address.

The student’s record will be updated with SEVIS every semester. Students who fail to maintain status lose the privileges of their student visa and become subject to deportation. Specific consequences may include denial of re-entry to the U.S., inability to move from undergraduate to graduate status, denial of requests for Practical Training, denial of requests to change visa status, and possible denial of all future visa applications.

If a student drops below a full course of study without prior approval from the DSO, that “event” would be reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), via SEVIS, and he or she would be out of status. The student may apply to US Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) for reinstatement if the violation resulted from circumstances beyond his or her control. Reinstatement is intended to be a rare benefit for exceptional cases. The student may not apply for reinstatement under any circumstances if he or she is out of status longer than five months. If ICE does not reinstate the student, he or she may not appeal that decision.

Data moves faster through an electronic system than through a paper system. Students can expect that USCIS forms will be produced faster, applications for benefits such as Practical Training will be approved more quickly, and visas will be granted without the usual long delays.

  • Any changes in information will be posted on this website. Changes in immigration or visa procedures sometimes happen quickly. Information is posted as soon as we have reliable facts.
  • Understand the immigration regulations and learn how to maintain lawful status in the U.S., and refer any questions or problems immediately to the experts. The four words we hate to hear are: “But my friend said…”
  • Be proactive: Students should plan their course schedules carefully so that they maintain full-time enrollment.
  • Make travel arrangements early, and anticipate delays at consulates and border crossings.
  • Keep all documents up-to-date.
  • Changes in degree level, extensions, and travel validations must be done in a timely manner and on SEVIS documents.
  • Allow time for processing new forms.
  • Feel free to come to us for assistance. NU is a better place because you are here, and we are committed to your success!
  • Be sure that your finances are in order. You will not be able to register for classes if you have an outstanding student account balance.
  • If you do not register for classes for a fall or spring semester (summer registration is optional), you are required by US regulations to depart the United States.

Additional information about SEVIS and other immigration related issues is available on the "Additional Resources" page of the International Students website.

The Designated School Officials (DSO) are the individuals at Niagara University who are authorized to issue and sign I-20 documents as well as access and enter information in SEVIS.

Niagara University’s Designated School Officials are:

Sarina Munzi, DSO
Records Office, 716-286-8728
smunzi@niagara.edu

Elizabeth Broomfield, PDSO
Records Office, 716-286-8726
eab@niagara.edu

Be Aware of the Following

Entry and Exit from the U.S.:

  • New students may enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the start date on the I-20
  • Students who withdraw from school with approval from a DSO at Niagara University have a 15-day grace period to leave the U.S. before they fall out of status.
  • If NU did not authorize the withdrawal, the student has no grace period to leave the U.S. and is immediately out of status.

Distance Education (Online Courses):

  • Students may only take one class (3 credits) of distance learning per term towards their fulltime status according to F1 student visa regulations.

Concurrent Enrollment:

  • Students who are also enrolled at a second university in addition to N.U. must provide the DSO with copies of their class schedules from both schools to verify combined full-time enrollment each term. NU must receive the class schedule no later than 15 days after the NU semester has begun.

Reduced Course Load:

  • Students may only reduce their course load below full time for 2 reasons: academic or medical. In both cases, they must first obtain written authorization from a DSO before they drop any classes.
  • Academic reasons (such as initial difficulty with English or reading requirements, unfamiliarity with American teaching methods, or improper course level placement) permit the DSO to authorize the student to reduce his/her course load to 6 hours for one term only per academic level. Such students must resume a full course load the next term, including summer. Students are not eligible for a second authorization by the DSO for academic difficulties.
  • Students who fall ill may be authorized by the DSO to reduce their course load or take no classes at all for up to 12 months total per academic level. Such students must provide the DSO with a letter from a licensed Medical Doctor, Doctor of Osteopathy, or a licensed Clinical Psychologist before dropping courses. The DSO must re-authorize reduced course load for illness before each term begins with new documentation from the medical provider, up to a total of 12 months.
  • Students must notify the DSO at the beginning of the term in which they return to class full time after taking a reduced course load to avoid falling out of status.
  • Students may take a reduced course load in their final term if only one or two classes are needed to complete the degree.

Transfer of SEVIS Record:

  • A student may transfer to another US college or institution and request their SEVIS records be transferred to that school.
  • A student has 60 days from the completion of a program to request a transfer of their SEVIS record to another US school.
  • Students who have fallen out of status are ineligible for transfer, they must either apply for reinstatement from USCIS or depart and re-enter the US with an initial I-20 for a new program.
  • Students wishing to transfer should notify the DSO of the date they wish to transfer and the name of the new school.

Employment

On Campus

  • On-campus employment may not begin earlier than 30 days prior to classes starting.
  • Students may work no more than 20 hours per week while school is in session (Fall/Spring) except during breaks, holidays & vacation periods.
  • Students may not work off campus unless authorized for CPT or OPT. (See a DSO)

CPT

  • The regulations state that curricular practical training must be “an integral part of an established curriculum.” They define curricular practical training as “alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.”
  • Students must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis at an approved school for one academic school year before being eligible for CPT. Exception exists for graduate students whose programs require immediate curricular training. Available only while student is in F-1 status, before completion of the educational objective.
  • Students may engage in CPT only for a specific employer, location and period approved and recorded by the DSO on the Form I-20 ID.
  • Duration of CPT depends on the specific period granted by the DSO.
  • CPT can be approved for part-time (20 hours or less) or full-time (over 20 hours).
  • Must be an integral part of an established curriculum, in the student’s course of study.
  • Must have an offer of employment from an employer offering work that qualifies as curricular practical training.
  • Use of full-time CPT for 365 days or more eliminates eligibility for Optional Practical Training. Use of part-time CPT does not affect eligibility for Optional Practical Training.
  • Must receive written CPT authorization from DSO, who records authorization on Form I-20 before work begins. USCIS approval is not required.

OPT

  • Students may be eligible for 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT) for each degree level
  • OPT applications must be received by the USCIS no later than 60 days after the completion of the student's degree requirements.
  • Students should schedule a meeting with DSO no later than 30 days after their program end date (60 days prior to completion is recommended).
  • Students on OPT must report any changes of name/address and interruption of employment to the DSO for the duration of authorized OPT or fall out of status.
  • OPT is automatically terminated when students transfer to another school or begin study at a different academic level.

Reinstatement:

  • Reinstatement applications to USCIS must be filed within 5 months of the status violation, unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated by the student.
  • The status violation must have resulted from circumstances beyond the student’s control – which may include injury, illness, closure of school, natural disaster, or oversight or neglect on the part of the DSO.
  • If the student has been employed without authorization, no reinstatement is possible.

Name / Address Reporting:

  • Students must notify the DSO of new name/address within 10 days after the change. The DSO must then update SEVIS within 21 days.
  • Students registered with DHS for Special Registration must also submit an address change form to DHS as mandated by that program.
  • Students must provide the school with their physical address in the US. If you are not able to receive mail at that address, you must ALSO provide a mailing address.

School Reporting:

NU must report in SEVIS within 21 days of the occurrence:

  • Students who fail to maintain status or complete program
  • Students/dependents name and/or address change
  • Students graduating prior to I-20 end date
  • Disciplinary action taken against students convicted of a crime
  • Any other request made by SEVIS re: student status

Each term, no later than 30 days after registration ends, NU must report to ICE:

  • If students are enrolled, dropped below full course of study without DSO authorization, or failed to enroll
  • Current address of all enrolled students
  • Start date of students’ next term