International Flags on display at LCCCThe International Initiatives and Student Services office provides advice, information, and services related to your student visa and immigration status in the United States. Our role in International Student Services is to assist you in maintaining your legal status.

Please be advised that maintaining your legal status is your own responsibility. If you are unsure of the status requirements, contact the international office immediately. You may also consult the SEVIS website for the latest information and updates about student visas.

Advising Availability

International Initiatives staff are available for immigration advising on a walk-in basis or at a scheduled appointment during regular office hours.

An Appointment is strongly recommended. Please call (440) 366-4929 or (440) 366-4069 to schedule.

Student Immigration Topics/Important Information

SEVIS

The U.S. Government under the direction of the Departments of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) maintains and updates a real-time informational database on international students in F1 and J1 status to ensure that they are in a legal status. This database is called SEVIS – the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.

Every F1 and J1 student (and their dependents) must have in their possession a valid SEVIS Form I-20 or DS-2019 at all times while in the United States.

Fulfilling the requirements of SEVIS – A guide for Students in F1 Status

Maintaining F1 Student Status

As an F1 student, your primary purpose for being in the United States is to study. In order to remain in lawful F1 status, you must comply with the following requirements:

  • Keep your passport valid at all times
    Try to keep it valid a minimum of six (6) months beyond the expected completion date on your I-20.
  • Remain a full-time student
    Complete 12 credit hours each semester if an undergraduate student. Exceptions are made for summer semester and the students last semester of study.
  • International students should not drop below full-time enrollment without prior approval
    International students who register for less than a full-time course load, without prior authorization, will be out of status and will be reported to USCIS. This may result in a termination of your student visa.
  • Maintain a valid I-20
    Have your I-20 updated whenever you make any changes to your name, personal information (email, phone number, etc.), your major (i.e. your course of study), and/or your program end date.

    • These changes MUST be made prior to the expiration date on your current I-20.
  •  Maintain good academic standing
    Students who fail to pass their classes or fail the same class multiple times will not be considered to be in good academic standing and will be reported to USCIS. This may result in a termination of your student visa.
  • Have your I-20 signed by a Designated School Official before leaving the United States
    The signature is valid for 12 months from the date of signature. It is strongly recommended that you register for the next semester before you leave the United States and that you carry your new class schedule with you when traveling back to the United States.
  • Do not participate in any unauthorized employment
    If it is discovered that you are working on- or off-campus without the proper authorization, your student status will be terminated immediately.
    To obtain information about lawful employment, please check with the International Initiatives office on the proper steps to take.

Any action resulting in your SEVIS account being terminated negates any grace period. You will need to leave the United States as soon as possible after being terminated unless you are applying for reinstatement.

Authorization to Drop Below a Full Course Load

An LCCC Undergraduate student in F1 status is required by USCIS to complete a minimum academic load of twelve (12) credit hours per semester.
There are certain circumstances that will allow a student to carry a reduced number of credit hours:

  • Concurrent Enrollment: When a student enrolls at LCCC for at least six (6) credit hours, and am additional six (6) credit hours or more at another university or community college. The student must obtain prior approval from LCCC. Documentation of external classes is required.
  • Authorization to Drop Below Full Course Load: A student may be eligible to take less than the required number of credit hours, if approved under USCIS regulations.
    For example: If it is the students final term, the student is experiencing medical problems, or the student is having difficulty due to language deficiencies or improper course placement (first semester only).

All requests to drop below full course load must be approved before the last day to withdraw from a course. If you do not have advance approval to drop below full course load from a Designated School Official in the International office, you will be considered out of status and reported to USCIS. This may result in a termination of your student visa.

Reinstatement of F1 Student Status

On occasion, a student falls out of F1 status and is eligible to apply for reinstatement. When this happens, a student should come to see the program coordinator of International Initiatives immediately. The student can petition USCIS, and may be reinstated ONLY if the circumstances were out of the student’s control and it occurred within five (5) months of applying for reinstatement. A student who is out of status for more than five (5) months is presumed to be ineligible for reinstatement. These students will have to leave the country and re-enter with a new Form I-20 (or petition for reinstatement with proof of payment of the I-901 SEVIS fee).

Change of Status

Anyone who wishes to change their status from a restricted visa category (B1, B2, F2, etc.) to F1 MUST do so prior to beginning their program of study at LCCC. Information on how to obtain F1 visa and F1 status can be found on the SEVIS website.

Change of Program

A current LCCC student will be issued a new I-20 for a change of program. If you wish you change your major, you will need to process this new I-20 within 15 days of beginning a new program or degree.

An email or documentation from your LCCC advisor verifying the change of program may be required.

Extension of Program

In order to maintain status with USCIS, international students are expected to complete their studies in a given period. If the student is unable to complete all degree requirements by the program end date on the I-20, an extension must be granted before the completion date on the I-20. This is called an Extension of Program. To request an extension, contact the International office at least one week prior to the program end date on your current I-20.

Your program extension MUST be authorized in SEVIS before the program end date on your current I-20 or you will not be able to extend your program.

Travel

F-1 students who are planning to travel to another country must have their I-20 signed for re-entry by a Designated School Official (DSO) prior to leaving the United States. The signature page on page 2 of the I-20 is valid for 12 months after the date it was signed. In addition to your passport, you must also have your I-94.

The DSO’s signature on the I-20 is necessary for re-entry into the United States. It is also necessary to have a valid F-1 visa for re-entry. If the current visa expires before the re-entry date, or a student changed to F-1 from another visa status while in the U.S., the student must apply for a new F-1 visa while outside the United States. All students (and any dependents) who are applying for a new visa should see a DSO before traveling.

The automatic revalidation of visa benefit allows certain F1/J1 non-immigrants to re-enter the United States after a 30-day or less visit to a ‘contiguous territory’ (Canada, Mexico) and the ‘adjacent islands other than Cuba’ without having to obtain a new visa prior to re-entry, and provided the student is in status and all other documents are valid (i.e. passport, I-20, and I-94). However, if the student chooses to apply for a new F-1 visa while in the contiguous territory, they will no longer be eligible for the automatic revalidation benefit during the course of that trip, but would have to wait until the visa is granted in order to re-enter the United States.

If the visa application is denied, the student may not re-enter the U.S. and will have to return home to apply for a new F-1 visa before returning.
To avoid delays, please see a Designated School Official and have your I-20 signed at least 1 week prior to your travel date.

Visa, Lost Passports, Travel and Re-Entry Procedures

The visa which was issued to you by an American Embassy or Consulate in your home country is the essential document which gains you entry into America. The I-20 document which is issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/ISCIS/ICE is what allows you to stay in America while completing your studies. Oftentimes the visa and I-20 validation dates are different from one another.

You must be aware of the termination dates for both; if you wish to use these documents beyond these dates, you must do what is necessary to renew them.

If you lose your passport, check the website of your home country’s embassy in America for instructions on how to replace it.

Page 2 of your I-20 has four spaces where the Designated School Official (DSO) of Lorain County Community College must sign once per year. Be sure to obtain the required signature prior to leaving the country.

With a few exceptions, most international students will need a Canadian Visa to visit Niagara Falls or anywhere else in Canada. Apply online for a Canadian Visa

Employment Regulations

F-1 visa students may only work on-campus. They are not allowed to work off-campus unless it is an authorized part of CPT or OPT tied to their course of study. The SEVIS website has information about work authorization requirements.

On-Campus Employment

All students who wish to work on-campus must make an application for each office that hires international students. Non-immigrant visa students (F-1, J-1) are not eligible for financial aid. Some of the LCCC offices that hire international students are: Enrollment Services, the Bookstore, the Department of Physical Education, the Student Life Office, the Library, and Computer Labs.

For more information and assistance, please speak with someone in the International Office, who will be able to assist you in getting an appointment with Career Services.

Social Security Card

Once a student has been given a job offer, the student must ask for verification from the International office in the form of a letter of hire which identifies the student, the job title, the rate of pay, and the number of hours fewer than 20 hours per week from an LCCC department. The student is then eligible to apply for a U.S. Social Security Card. Once the application is made, the card is usually issued in two weeks.

You must have a job offer before you can apply for your Social Security Card. Please see the International Office for assistance with this.

CPT

Curricular practical training is defined as an internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum, which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.

A student must have completed one academic year of full-time enrollment to be eligible to apply for CPT. If you participate in full-time CPT for twelve (12) months, or more, in the aggregate, you are not eligible for post completion of study practical training opportunities.

How to Apply

  1. Contact the work-based learning coordinator, Office of Career Services, who will describe the necessary protocol or consult the work-based learning website for more information.
  2. Obtain an employment offer letter from the company/organization you wish to be employed with. Letter must include job title, job description, and beginning and end dates.
  3. With the assistance of the work-based learning coordinator, register for a 1-3 credit class related to your employment.
  4.  

Bring the following documents to the Office of International Student Services for Processing

  1. You current original Form I-20.
  2. Confirmation of class name and number from the Work-Based Learning Coordinator.
  3. Employment Offer Letter.

If a student qualifies for CPT, the International Initiatives office will authorize it and note the employment authorization on Page 2 of the student’s I-20.

Per USCIS regulations, all students planning to do CPT must apply for and receive official approval from the Designated Signature Officer (DSO) before beginning employment.

Students who are doing CPT must meet the following requirements:

  • Whether doing part-time or full-time CPT, the student must carry a full course load during the academic year (12 credit hours per semester for undergraduates and 9 credit hours per semester for graduates).
    For example: if an undergraduate student is doing a three-hour internship, he/she must be registered for an additional nine credit hours to meet the minimum 12-credit hour requirement.

OPT

Optional Practical Training is defined as real-world work experience related to the students field of study.

While a Designated School Official (DSO) recommends OPT in SEVIS, it is the student who must apply for the work permit with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If the OPT is approved, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

The student must not begin working before the start date on the EAD.

Complex rules and guidance apply to OPT. Any OPT requests entered into SEVIS must comply with federal regulations. Please see a DSO in the International Initiatives office for more details.

  • For students engaged in post-secondary schools or at conservatories. Twelve months of Regular OPT is available for each higher level of study. (For example: a student may have 12 months for a bachelor’s degree and another 12 months for a master’s degree).
    Pre-Completion OPT: Any portion of OPT used before the student’s Program End Date. It may be part-time or full-time.
  • Post-Completion OPT: Any portion of OPT used after the student’s Program End Date. It must be full-time.
  • 24-month (STEM) OPT Extension: For students who majored in designated Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) degrees approved by DHS. This type of OPT is a 24-month extension of OPT.
  • Cap-Gap OPT Extension: For students whose prospective employers filed a qualifying H-1B-cap subject petition.
    A student is eligible for OPT if:
  • The student has been a full-time student for one academic year in an SEVP-certified:
    • College
      University
      o Conservatory
      o Seminary
  • The student is not studying English as a Second Language.
  • The student’s proposed employment relates to the student’s major area of study. For more information see SEVP Policy Guidance: Practical Training – Determining a Direct Relationship between Employment and a Student’s Major Area of Study.
  • The student has not used all optional practical training available at the current level of study.
  • The student has not been authorized for 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT).

Full-time CPT at a previous school at the same program level counts toward the CPT 12-month total affecting OPT. CPT at another program level does not affect OPT.

How to Apply

Student follows school processes to submit an OPT request to the DSO.

  • DSO confirms eligibility, enters the request in SEVIS and prints the Form I-20.
  • The DSO signs the Form I-20.
  • The status of the OPT request in SEVIS immediately changes to Requested.

Any OPT status updates to SEVIS are automatic and will require no action on the part of the DSO.

Required paperwork:

  • The student signs the Form I-20.
  • The student completes an Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765). The Form I-765, fee, and supporting documentation must be filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within 30 days of the DSO’s recommendation.

The Form I-765 is available on the USCIS website. The web site provides submission instructions.

  • Upon receipt of the I-765, USCIS issues a Receipt Notice (Form I-797) that contains the receipt number assigned to the case.
  • Through an interface with USCIS, the status of the OPT request in SEVIS changes to Pending.
  • If USCIS needs more information, the student will receive a Request For Evidence, which states what information is needed and the deadline for submitting it. The student must respond by the deadline.
  • USCIS then makes a decision on the application:
    • If the application is approved, USCIS issues an EAD and the OPT Request status in SEVIS changes to Approved.
    • If the Form I-765 is denied, the OPT Request status in SEVIS changes to Denied.
  • The student receives the EAD and can begin work once the authorized date arrives.
  • When the student is hired, the student reports the employer information to the DSO.

While on OPT, the student must report to the DSO within 10 days any changes in the student’s name or address, and employment information.

The DSO must update SEVIS within 21 days with the employment information and any name or address changes.

Form I-765 Filing Deadlines Once DSO Requests OPT in SEVIS

Day 1 Day 30 After Day 30

Day 1 Day 30 After Day 30
• DSO requests OPT in SEVIS
• 30-day countdown begins
• 30-day countdown ends
• USCIS must receive the application
• Applications received by USCIS after day 30 will be denied

 

If the student does not file a Form I-765, the DSO will cancel the OPT request in SEVIS.

While students are not required to have an employer when OPT is requested in SEVIS, students authorized for post-completion OPT are expected to be employed. A student on post-completion OPT can be unemployed for a total of 90 days. If unemployed for longer than 90 days, your OPT will be terminated and your SEVIS account will be deactivated.

If your OPT request is denied, you will have a 60-day grace period in which you may transfer to another institution to continue your education, or make plans to leave the country and return home.

Income Tax Requirements

All students who have worked during the previous calendar year are required to submit federal, state, and local tax returns. The LCCC Payroll Office issues each employee a U.S. Federal Government/Department of Internal Revenue W-2 form each year before the end of January. The W-2 lists the employee’s wages as well as all tax withholding amounts. Though a student may not owe any taxes, he/she is still required to file tax reports for federal, state, and city entities. For more information on these requirements and tax forms, please visit the websites for the Internal Revenue Service and the State of Ohio Department of Taxation.