Frequently Asked Questions about the I-20 and F-1 Visa

FAQ 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
  • The 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
  • The completion date of the 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
  •  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.

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
International Student Advisor/SEVIS Coordinator
International Relations and the Brennan Center, 716-286-8728

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Additional information about SEVIS and other immigration-related issues is available at Additional Resources.