Immigration Matters

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ImmigrationThe International Student Services (ISS) Office will help you understand Immigration and visa regulations and avoid Immigration problems. Though we work closely with immigration authorities, we are not enforcers of Immigration law. It is our job to explain the regulations to you and help you understand what your options are in any situation.

Students on F-1 Visas

Reporting Requirement

You are required to report to the Director of ISS within 10 days of your first arrival at UH Hilo. Attending the required meeting for new international students during orientation satisifes this requirement.

Full-Time Enrollment

You are required to enroll full-time while you attend UH Hilo. For undergraduate students, full-time is 12 or more credit hours. For graduate students, full-time is 6 or more credits. If for some reason you are thinking about dropping below full-time status, you must see the Director of ISS to request permission prior to dropping below 12 credits or you will be out of status. You may take one online class each semester (however, certain scholarships may require that you take all of your classes at UH Hilo).

Summer Sessions: Enrolling in summer session is optional (except for students who are admitted to UH Hilo for the first time during the summer session). If the summer session is your first term, you must enroll full-time for at least 6 credits.

Address

You must inform ISS within 10 days if your address changes. Fill out and print this Change of Address form and submit it to the ISS office, or submit your change of address electronically. You should also update your address in MyUH.

Travel/Leaving the U.S. for Vacation

If you are planning to leave the U.S. for a short while (less than 5 months) and return to school at UH Hilo, you need to have the signature of the Director of ISS on your I-20 to certify that you have been properly maintaining your F-1 status. The signature for re-entry purposes is valid for 6 months. Fill out and print the Request for Signature on I-20 Form for Travel form and submit it with your current I-20 Form to the ISS office at least one week before you are planning to leave Hilo. If you will need to renew your visa while you are away, please see the Director for information.

Passports

Your passport should be valid for at least six months into the future at all times. Click here for a passport application for the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Click here for a passport application for the Federated States of Micronesia and here if you need an affidavit form for a lost, stolen or damaged FSM passport.

Visas

It is OK if your F-1 student visa expires while you are enrolled at UH Hilo. You do not need to renew your visa unless you will leave and return to the U.S. If you need assistance with renewing your visa, make an appointment to see the Director of ISS.

Form I-94

Form I-94 is a record of your arrival to and departure from the U.S. Until April 2013, an immigration officer would staple a paper Form I-94 into your passport when you arrived in the U.S. and an airline official would remove it when you departed. Since April 2013, however, travelers are provided with an admission stamp on their travel document. If you need a copy
of your I-94 for verification of alien registration, immigration status or employment
authorization, it can be obtained online here. For more information on Form I-94, refer to this Fact Sheet.

Employment

The purpose of an F-1 student visa is to admit a person to the U.S. to study. Because it is not a work visa, employment opportunities while you are in F-1 status are limited. You may work on-campus part-time (up to 20 hours per week) when school is in session and full-time (up to 40 hours per week) when school is not in session. To learn how to find a job on-campus, click here. If you experience problems with the online Student Employment & Cooperative Education website, contact the Director of ISS or the Career Development Services office: [career@hawaii.edu or (808) 932-7777]. Students on F-1 visas are not eligible for Federal Work-Study ("FWS") jobs.

You do not need permission to work on-campus, although certain employers may require you to submit an Application to Accept On-Campus Employment form signed by the Director of ISS.

Students on F-1 visas are not permitted to work off-campus, except in certain limited circumstances: Curricular Practical Training or pre-completion Optional Practical Training (see below). The Director of ISS may also be able to authorize you to work off-campus if you are experiencing severe economic hardship, through the Special Student Relief Program, or through certain employment sponsored by international organizations.

Social Security Numbers: If you get offered a job, the Director of ISS can authorize you to apply for a free U.S. social security number. You should bring a document showing proof of a job offer to the Director of ISS, who will then give you a letter authorizing you to apply for a social security number. Then, bring the letter along with a completed application form, passport, a copy of your I-94, and your I-20 Form to the Social Security Administration office located at the Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo (open Monday-Friday 8:30 am-2:30 pm, except Wednesdays when the office closes at 11:30 am). You will be given a letter at the Social Security Administration office, which you should bring to the Career Development Services office on campus so that you can begin working. Only students who work can be authorized to obtain a U.S. social security number. Click here for the steps to follow to obtain a social security number.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

After you have been in the U.S. in F-1 status for one academic year, you are eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT). CPT usually takes the form of an internship in your major field of study where you earn acedmic credit for your experience and may earn money as well. Using full-time CPT for one year or more eliminates eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Make an appointment to see the Director of ISS if you are interested in applying for CPT.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Pre-Completion: After you have been in the U.S. in F-1 status for one academic year, you are also eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT is paid work off-campus in your field of study. You may work 20 hours per week while classes are in session and 40 hours per week during vacation periods. If you do OPT before you graduate ("pre-completion" OPT), you need to be aware that only 12 total months of standard OPT are available. OPT done before a degree is completed will count against that 12-month total and reduce time available after the degree is awarded.

Post-Completion: Most students decide to save their OPT until they have completed their degree and graduate. If your application for OPT is approved, you will be allowed to work in the U.S. in a job directly related to your major field of study for up to 12 months. Students whose major field of study is in certain STEM (science, technology, engineering ad math) fields may be elgibile for an additional 17 months of OPT. You can apply for OPT up to 90 days before you graduate and up to 60 days after you graduate.

Make an appointment to talk with the Director of ISS if you are interested in applying for pre-completion or post-completion OPT. The fee is $380.

Extension of Stay

As a student in F-1 visa status, you are authorized to stay in the U.S. only until the date in section 5 of your I-20 Form (your "complete studies" date). If you allow the "complete studies" date on your I-20 Form to pass without extending it, you will be out of status. If you believe you may need more time to complete your program and graduate, make an appointment to see the Director of ISS at least 4 weeks before your I-20 Form will expire. You will need your academic advisor to support your request for an extension by completing the Advisor Recommendation for Extension form. Please take the form to your academic advisor and ask him/her to fill it out.

Transferring to Another School

If you decide to transfer to another college or university, you will need to ask the Director of ISS to help you transfer. TheDirectorwill have to transfer you out of UH Hilo in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) so that the next school will be able to transfer you in.

Financial Difficulties

All F-1 students are required to show sufficient funding to meet the costs of attending UH Hilo before we can issue an I-20 Form or admission. However, we understand that sometimes circumstances change. Perhaps the currency back home has been devalued or your original source of funding is not available. Unfortunately, only limited financial assistance is available for international students at UH Hilo. Some scholarships based on excellent academic performance may be available. If you have a financial problem, schedule an appointment with the Director of ISS to seek advice and possible solutions.

Reinstatement

If you violate any regulation and fall out of status with U.S. immigration regulations, you will need to apply for reinstatement with the U.S. immigration authorities. This application costs $300 and reinstatement is not guaranteed. If reinstatement is denied, a person must leave the U.S. Thus it is best to comply with the regulations and avoid falling out of status. If you have any questions about F-1 student regulations, please talk with the Director of ISS.

Students from the Compact of Free Association Nations

Students from the Compact of Free Association (COFA) nations (Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, and Palau) are not required to obtain a visa to enter the U.S. You are eligible to work on-campus and off-campus without a visa. You do not need an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to work in the U.S., although you may obtain an EAD for free.

Social Security Number: Students from COFA nations may obtain a free U.S. social security card in the U.S. To apply for a card, fill out the application form and bring it with your passport to the Social Security Administration office located at the Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo. The Social Security office is open Monday-Friday from 8:30 am-2:30 pm (except Wednesdays, when it closes at 11:30 am).

I-94 Forms: An I-94 form is a record of your arrival to and departure from the U.S. In the past, an I-94 was a small white card that was stapled into your passport when you arrived in the U.S. and then removed by the airlines when you departed. Now, I-94 forms are electronic. If you need a copy of your I-94 form, you can print it by visiting the I-94 Admission Number Retrieval website.

Passports: Your passport should be valid for at least six months into the future at all times. The ISS office has passport application forms, but you may also access passport application forms and instructions at the following websites:

Palau

Marshall Islands

Federated States of Micronesia - Passport Application Form

Federated States of Micronesia - Affidavit for Lost, Damaged or Stolen Passports