Advising International Students

 

As a faculty adviser, you will at some point advise international students who bring diverse cultures, perspectives, and goals to the advising conversation. Because of US government regulations, most international students also have special academically-related considerations, even constraints. Although you typically will not know an advisee's immigration status, many of our students have the same classification, thus we're providing information below that should be generally helpful in your role as adviser.  Please refer students to the Office of International Student Affairs (OISA) for regulatory advising.  You may also call us for clarification.

Most of our non-immigrant students (180+) hold F-1 status1 and are subject to reporting through SEVIS2. The following issues will impact academic decisions F-1 students make:

  1. A student’s declared major will impact employment options after graduation, if the student elects to stay in the US.  For example, Pre and Post-completion employment options for F-1 students are limited to work directly related to the student’s major.  In addition, students with S.T.E.M.3 majors benefit from access to a longer post-completion employment benefits (17 additional months, subject to specific conditions).  Visa renewal can also be impacted by a student’s major field of study, depending on their home country and U.S. relations with that nation.
  2. F-1 students must maintain full-time enrollment (a minimum of
    12 credits) with limited exceptions.  Any drop below full-course-load
    must be documented and approved by the OISA (and entered into SEVIS)
    prior to the reduction of courses.  Potential exceptions include: academic
    / linguistic difficulties in the first term; mis-advising; documented
    medical conditions; or if fewer courses are needed during the final
    academic term.
  3. F-1 students must make ‘normal progress’ toward degree completion.  A program extension requires regulatory approval, processed through the OISA.
  4. F-1 students may typically participate in off-campus study or internships abroad. There may be unique visa and employment issues to consider, so advanced planning is very important.
  5. F-1 students may hold an on-campus job, working up to 20 hours
    per week during the school year. They may
    work "full time" on-campus during breaks or over the summer.  They may
    not hold a student employment position during the summer following their
    commencement. (note: There are some international students, holding other visa classifications, who are not allowed campus employment.)
  6. F-1 students may not accept employment (internships or research) that results in payment (wages, stipends, fellowships, housing, etc) from a source other than Grinnell College, without first securing employment authorization.  The primary options are Optional Practical Training (OPT4or CurricularPractical Training (CPT5).  Both require that the employment be “directly related to the student’s major field.”  Students must consult with the OISA well in advance of needing employment authorization.  Summer internships that are funded entirely through Grinnellink or Grinnell’s grant fundingare ideal for our F-1 students, since the stipends for these educational experiences come solely from the College and Employment Authorization will not usually be required.  Unpaid experiences (with no wage, stipend, housing, etc) may not require Employment Authorization, however, the work-site may have a different interpretation of this scenario.  Working closely with the OISA is advised.
  7. All F-1 students are required to file a Federal Tax Return, even if they don’t have taxable income. The OISA provides basic support (or referral) for students to comply with this immigration regulation.
  8. Criminal arrests, even misdemeanor charges, can have very serious consequences for non-immigrant visitors.  The OISA can advise students on these matters, or can refer them for consultation with area attorneys who specialize in immigration and/or criminal law.  We also caution non-immigrant students about participation in political activism.
  9. F-1 Seniors receive guidance from the OISA about their next steps through a Senior Packet, group information sessions, and individual appointments.  They typically have the following options: 1) “transfer” their SEVIS record to a graduate program in the US; 2) apply for employment authorization through Post Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT); or 3) leave the US within an authorized grace period (60 days).  F-1 students who remain in the US for OPT or for the 17 month STEM Extension maintain F-1 status and are required to report through the OISA during the post-completion employment period.  We provide handouts on these options, tips on presenting their status during employment interviews, basic information about the H-1B6 petition, and we also speak about Re-Entry Shock Theory for those who will return home.

If you receive related questions from students, please refer them to the OISA (specifically they may wish to speak with Brenda Strong or Karen Klopp Edwards or call ext. 3703).  Faculty should feel free to contact us as well!