Maintaining and Changing Status
International students and scholars should maintain their lawful nonimmigrant status at all times. Failing to fulfill the requirements of one’s nonimmigrant status or violating one’s status through an overstay, unauthorized employment, etc., will result in a serious and sometimes costly immigration consequence. While OIS advisors are not responsible for “policing” international students or investigating scholars, the law does require the termination of a SEVIS record for certain events or incidents. Circumstances, actions, or lack of actions that are brought to the attention of an OIS advisor that require termination of a SEVIS record will be taken in a timely fashion, but not before an attempt is made to contact and alert the student.
A SEVIS termination cannot be reversed and could ultimately result in a student’s having to leave the country voluntarily or involuntarily. The student or scholar immediately loses all employment benefits and must be terminated from any employment position. The law also prohibits any non-resident who has violated the terms and conditions of their status to change to another status.
Most common examples of termination reasons that international students encounter:
- Unauthorized employment – working off campus without pre-approval in SEVIS, working more than 20 hours per week on campus when classes are in session, working before or past authorized dates of employment, not having all on-campus employment specifically authorized in advance (J-1 only)
- Failure to maintain full-time enrollment; unauthorized withdrawal, failure to enroll (or No-Show), retro-active withdrawal; failure to make normal academic progress (or otherwise intentionally delaying the completion of program) (See Enrollment section)
- Academic Suspension or termination of admission/program (or criminal conviction)
- Allowing critical immigration documents (foreign passport or program dates on Form I-20 or DS-2019) to expire; failure to complete a program extension in SEVIS on time
- Failure to report to OIS a “reportable event” within ten calendar days. Events include change of address, change of name, change of nonimmigrant status, change of level or curriculum, change in employment status while on post-completion OPT. Students should consult this website or an OIS advisor before taking any of these actions since these events may require additional documentation (proof of funding, advisor’s recommendation for a new end date, or legal documents) before the SEVIS record can be updated. The change of address notification is done by updating “physical address” in the MyPack Portal for enrolled students.
Students should consult with an OIS advisor to discuss any variation of full-time enrollment, employment over 20 hours per week, violation of nonimmigrant status, or other maintenance of status issue in order to avoid costly consequences.
In order to be eligible for a change of status, applicants must already be in a lawful nonimmigrant status in the US. Those outside the US (and who therefore have no current nonimmigrant status), who are unlawfully present in the US (e.g., those who overstayed their lawful period of stay or violated their previous status), or are otherwise not eligible to change status (most commonly those on a visa waiver or those who are subject to the 2 year home residency requirement) must physically leave the US (along with their dependent family members in a derivative status), apply for a new visa at a US Embassy/Consulate overseas, and re-enter the US in order to obtain the new status.
Those who are in a lawful status and wish to apply for a change of status without leaving the US – and meet all eligibility requirements – may apply to the USCIS for a change of status and remain in the US while the application is pending (typically 2 to 5 months). The most frequent change of status applications that OIS assists with involve those changing from H-1, H-4, F-2, or E-2 to F-1. Sometimes those in F-1 status will request a change to F-2 if they no longer wish to study and if their spouse is in F-1 status. Employees changing to H-1B, TN, or O-1 must speak with a representative of the International Employment Office at NC State, if NC State is the employer. Those in J-1 or J-2 status who wish to change their status should consult with an OIS advisor. OIS does not support changes to the J-1 visa category or assist with immigration advice regarding permanent residency or employment visa questions.
A change of status application and supporting documentation is processed at the regional USCIS Service Center (based on the US physical residence of the applicant). An immigration attorney is generally not necessary for a simple change of status application, but is strongly recommended in difficult cases or if follow-up or representation is necessary.
NC State students and applicants who wish to apply for a change of status should make an appointment with an OIS advisor to discuss their situation and receive guidance on how and when to best apply for their change.
Students and scholars who change their nonimmigrant status (to H-1B, pending permanent resident with use of advanced parole or an EAD, dependent status, etc.,) must inform OIS immediately so we can close out the relevant SEVIS record. Students and scholars can simply submit supporting documentation (e.g., I-797 Approval, EAD, new I-94, etc) to OIS in person or via e-mail (email@example.com). OIS will close out the SEVIS record and update the University records. No appointment with an advisor is necessary unless the student or scholar has questions and needs further advice.