Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Maintaining F-1 status for International Students

The following are general rules that F-1 students must follow in order to maintain legal status. Always contact the Office of International Student Affairs if you have questions about your status!
GO TO SCHOOL FULL-TIME: F-1 Students are required by law to attend school full-time. If you are a credit college student, this means you must be registered for at least 12 credits (020 and 030 ESL courses count toward total credits) for the fall and spring semesters.
You must not drop below full-time status during the semester. If you feel you need to drop below full-time, you must first speak with an advisor in the Office of International Student Affairs. Occasionally, it is possible to temporarily go to school part time. This is rarely possible, and must be documented and reported in the SEVIS tracking system.
KEEP YOUR  I-20 VALID: It is the students' responsibility to make sure that the I-20 is valid. You are required to apply for the extension on your I-20 prior to its expiration date. You should submit your application at least 30 days before the I-20 expires so that the process can be completed in a timely manner.
KEEP YOUR PASSPORT VALID: It is your responsibility to make sure that your passport is kept current. If you need to extend your passport, you must contact your country's consulate in the United States.
NOTIFY THE ISA OF ANY CHANGES TO YOUR I-20: You are required by INS regulations to inform the ISA Office of any changes to your I-20 prior to the changes taking effect. These changes include: change in major, change in degree level and change in legal name. You will need to apply for a new SEVIS I-20 at the time these changes take effect.
NOTIFY THE ISA OF CHANGES IN NAME AND ADDRESS: Students are required to notify the ISA of any legal changes in name and address within 10 days of the change so that they may be reported to the USCIS. The address provided must be the physical location where the student resides. If the student is unable to receive mail at the physical location, the student must provide both a mailing address and a physical address.
ALWAYS INFORM THE ISA OF ANY TRAVEL PLANS: If you plan on traveling outside the U.S. you will need a signature on the back of your I-20 in order to re-enter the country. If you have an expired visa stamp you will have to apply for a new one at the U.S. consulate/embassy in the country you will be visiting. If you plan on traveling, you should contact the ISA two weeks prior to your departure.
NEVER ACCEPT EMPLOYMENT WITHOUT CONSULTING THE OFFICE OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENT AFFAIRS: Before you can accept employment off campus, you are required to first obtain authorization from the USCIS. Working without authorization is a deportable offence. You may work part-time on-campus without BCIS authorization.
TRANSFER STUDENTS MUST SUBMIT A COMPLTED I-20 APPLICATION TO THE ISA PRIOR TO REGISTERING FOR CLASSES: If you are coming to NCC from another U.S. institution you must notify the ISA immediately so that we can process your I-20 correctly. You will be given a new I-20 within the first two weeks of school.
YOU HAVE 60 DAYS FROM YOUR TIME OF COMPLETION OF STUDIES TO NOTIFY THE USCIS OF YOUR PLANS: The BCIS allows you a 60 day grace period from the time you complete your studies to be admitted into a new program change your non-immigrant status or depart the U.S.

ALWAYS TALK TO THE ISA FIRST ABOUT YOUR IMMIGRATION STATUS: During your stay in the U.S. you will hear a lot of rumors concerning immigration from your peers. Before making any assumptions regarding your immigration status, you should always visit the ISA first. It is best to call and make an appointment in advance, so that we can serve you better.

Monday, March 31, 2014

OPT - International Graduates, May 2014

May Graduation is just short of three months away, and students completing their coursework in May of 2014 will need to attend to the OPT application in the upcoming weeks. You will need to choose a start date within 60 days of the date you complete your coursework. Once that has been noted, you can count back 90 days to get an idea of when you would need to send off your OPT application. Wait no longer than the second week in April to submit your application. It can take anywhere from 60 – 90 days for your application to be processed and an EAD card issued.

The I-765 form along with its respective instructions and the G-1145 E-Notification Form can be found on the web athttp://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=73ddd59cb7a5d010VgnVCM10000048f3d6a1RCRD&vgnextchannel=db029c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD. Items for submission (to Deb) with the application include:

ü I-765 (one page application)
ü Original new I-20 (A fresh I-20 will be issued once a start date for OPT has been determined and you have submitted to Deb the completed I-765 packet.)
ü Copy of passport
ü Copy of visa
ü Copy of I-94 (both sides if you have a card)
ü 2 passport style photos taken within the past 6 months, on white background only. (Please write your name lightly on the back of photos.)
ü Check or money order for $380.00 payable to The Department of Homeland Security.
ü Copy of previous EAD (Employment Authorization Document), if any, front and back. If you still have the mailer, that would be useful to copy as well.
ü G1145 Email Notification (optional, if you would like E-Notification that your Form I-765 has been accepted at a USCIS Lockbox facility)
*The above checklist has been adapted from the Optional Practical Training I-20 Application and Document Checklist found on this International Education web page:http://www.twu.edu/international-education/forms.asp.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tax Returns for International Students

International Students or Foreign Students in F1, J1 visas are considered Non Residents for Tax purposes and their taxation laws are different than US citizens. Another important thing to understand about international student taxation is that the International Students pay only Federal and State Taxes. They do not pay Social Security and Medicare Taxes to the IRS like the United States citizens. This means if as a F1 international student or an optional or curriculum practical training student, you had filed Social Security and Medicare taxes to the IRS, you can get tax refund by filing Form 843.

Social Security number (SSN) is required by International Students to file their 1040NR EZ taxes. If International Students do not have SSN, they can also apply for ITIN Tax ID Number (Individual Tax Identification Number)
International Students in F1, J1 Student visas are non-resident for tax purposes for a period of Five years as long as they are a student in the United States. International Students should file Non Resident Tax
Forms like Form 1040NR EZ, (http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040nre.pdf)

International Students Tax Treaty Benefits

International Students can claim Tax Treaty benefits between their country and the United States, if a tax treaty agreement exists. The Tax Treaty reduces the tax owed to the IRS.
Please see in the list below, if a tax treaty exists between your foreign country and the United States; http://www.visataxes.com/tax_treaty.php

International Student Tax Forms - F1 J1 OPT visa taxes

1. Form 1040NR-EZ
2. Form 1040NR
3. Form 8843
4. Form 843
5. Form W-7
6. Form 8840 & Form 8833

Monday, February 24, 2014

3 Steps for International Students to Start Saving for College

International students wanting to study in the United States have a unique challenge compared to their American counterparts: They have to prove they have the funds to attend college before starting the school year. The fear is that if international students don't have the money to complete their education, says Peggy Blumenthal, the Institute of International Education's (IIE) senior counselor, they won't be able to afford to complete their degree and accomplish their goals. Since the vast majority of international undergraduate students, according to Blumenthal, pay for their education out of personal and family funds, it's important for families considering a U.S. education to estimate costs and start saving for college as soon as possible.

Here are three tips for estimating college costs and beginning the process of saving for college:

1. Estimate costs to attend U.S. schools: EducationUSA, the U.S. Department of State-supported advising network of advising centers in 170 countries, offers free help to international students to find the school that's the best fit, academically and financially. Students wishing to study in the United States should start by going to the EducationUSA website to find contact information for their local advising center. During their appointment they can get help estimating costs to attend U.S. schools and get information on scholarships and other financial assistance.
Students can also find a variety of resources online. They can go directly to university websites to find international student information. CollegeWeekLive offers free online college fairs, collegeboard.org offers information on college pricing, and students can come to usnews.com to read articles on paying for college.

2. Coordinate savings efforts among family members: Students and parents should have a family meeting to discuss what they can afford to save as soon as possible, Blumenthal says. It's important that other relatives that may want to contribute also attend. In India and China, it's not uncommon for grandparents and parents to pool resources, Blumenthal says. No matter how much families can afford to save, says Blumenthal, the most important action is setting a regularly scheduled savings amount as early as possible. For example, $100 per month saved for 10 years adds up to $12,000, not counting any interest earned. Although exact fees vary by country, saving less than $21 per month for one year could pay for TOEFL test fees, a common test for international students seeking admission to U.S. schools.

3. Check on availability of tax-advantaged accounts: If a savings or investments account offers a tax benefit such as tax-free earnings on college savings, experts say, that's more money for students to use toward their education. For instance, the U.K. offers Junior ISAs, accounts that parents can open for kids under 16. Junior ISAs can be cash Junior ISAs or contain stocks and shares. Any growth from these savings accounts or investments isn't taxed. According to a spokesperson from Her Majesty's Treasury, the deposit limit is up to £3,600 British pounds (approximately $5,600 as calculated on Aug. 1) per tax year. The funds can be withdrawn tax free for anything, including studying in the United States, starting when the child is 18. All parents are eligible, regardless of income, says Mark Hoban, financial secretary to the Treasury. Canada's tax-advantaged accounts, known as Registered Education Savings Plans, are specifically for education and can be used at approved U.S. universities. Canadians wanting to find out if a U.S. school qualifies for tax-free distributions can call the Canada Revenue Agency at 800-959-2221. If you don't live in the U.K. or Canada, IIE's Blumenthal suggests asking your EducationUSA adviser if a special savings account option exists in your country.

Monday, February 17, 2014

How International Students Get Hundreds in Scholarships

Other than getting accepted into the international school of your dreams, one of the hardest parts of becoming an international student is getting the financial aid that you need. Whether you've been applying to scholarships since you've been accepted or aren't sure where to start, learn a few secrets on how international students get hundreds in scholarships.
Dedication: Getting a scholarship takes time. It will require you to spend a few hours searching for scholarships and sifting through the eligibility requirements. However, it’s worth the work. Scholarships are free money so putting in a few hours of work to receive them are well worth it. After you find a few scholarships that you are eligible for and think you have a good chance at receiving, dedicate yourself to each individual application as though it is the only one you are applying for.
Creativity: Stand out from the crowd! Scholarships typically have hundreds if not thousands of applicants. Find ways that you can be creative and stand out to the judges.
Attention to Detail: Double check the requirements of the scholarship and what needs to be included, if an essay is required then take note of the required topic and word count. All submitted documents should be proof-read by a friend before it’s submitted. Keep in mind that missing just one required document such as a transcript or essay could mean you will be disqualified from receiving the scholarship. Ensure that you include you everything that needs to be submitted by the deadline.
Don’t Put Your Eggs in One Basket: Instead of applying only to a couple of scholarships that have the potential to cover your entire year of school, apply to many scholarships that offer a variety amounts. Scholarships that offer a large award amount are typically more competitive and have more applicants. Apply to scholarships that offer less of an award amount, which can help increase your chance of winning.
Get Specific: If you have a hobby or talent like choir, sculpting, cycling, fencing or volunteering- find a scholarship that is willing to give you an award for that hobby. Scholarships that have interest specific requirements will have a smaller application pool, and is one of the top tips for how international students get hundreds in scholarships.

Start your search for scholarships by narrowing down where you are from, where you are going and what you are studying in this scholarship database.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Newly Implemented Immigration Rules

U.S. Customs and Border Protection have announced the publication of an Interim Final Rule in the Federal Register that has automated Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record to streamline the admissions process for individuals lawfully visiting the United States. Form I-94 provides international visitors evidence they have been lawfully admitted to the U.S. which is necessary to verify alien registration, immigration status, and employment authorization. The automation means that affected visitors will no longer need to fill out a paper form when arriving to the U.S. by air or sea, improving procedures and reducing costs.
To gain access to your I-94 record and print out a copy of the I-94 you may go to http://www.cbp.gov/i94  and enter the following information : 

  •  first name
  •  last name
  •  date of birth
  •  passport number
  •  country of issuance
  •  date of entry
  • class of admission ( visa status : F-1 or J-1)

A few more details:

When you use the I-94 for documentation, you will also have to show the entry stamp in your passport. When you leave the U.S., your I-94 information will no longer be available on the website. When leaving by air or sea, you will not have to turn in an I-94 card if you entered on the electronic system. If you have a paper I-94 card now, you will turn it in when you leave. If you get a new passport, and your entry stamp is in the old passport, the entry stamp is still valid.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Immigration Rules...

There are some changes that will take effect in the near future concerning procedures at the Port of Entry.  One of those changes concerns the I-20 that will not be stamped anymore when you arrive in the U.S.  Additionally, the I-94 cards are being gradually phased out.  Although details of the timeline for implementation have not been released, the preparation for these changes is indeed already in motion. 

In the meantime, as you move in and out of the country, please make sure to “police yourselves” by checking the entry stamps that are made on your immigration documents.  Things to look for are legible stamp markings with Port of Entry and Date of Entry, along with your visa status and a “D/S” noted by hand.  When possible, ask those reviewing your documents to make the necessary changes before leaving their desk.  To ask for adjustments days or weeks in the aftermath is possible, but it is much more time and energy-consuming.