F-1 Students: New Q&A Section on MDC & Common Issues12 Apr 2013
Foreign students have many questions about their status and related issues. The number of questions received by the Murthy Law Firm from F-1 students has been growing over the past few years. In an effort to assist these students, MurthyDotCom answers a frequently asked question specifically for F-1 students each week, which is posted under the FAQ tab on our homepage, or View All FAQs. This NewsBrief introduces readers to our helpful resource, as well as guidance on some of the best practices for maintenance of F-1 status.
Your Questions on F-1 Student Matters Answered
All student FAQs on MurthyDotCom have been submitted or inspired by our clients and those who consult with Murthy Law Firm attorneys. Readers are welcome to submit questions to be answered for the benefit of others in similar situations. Please send your student questions to law[at]murthy.com for consideration.
F-1 Status Problems May Crop Up Later
In the past few years, many requests for assistance have come into our firm from current and former F-1 students with concerns related to findings of status violations. These problems tend to surface during the processing of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) applications and petitions. For example, the USCIS may question the validity of F-1 status when a student applies for Optional Practical Training (OPT). In other situations, status violation issues may not arise until much later, such as when a student applies for a STEM OPT extension or for a change of status to H1B or H-4. It is also possible for the problems with F-1 status maintenance to arise for the first time when a current or former student applies for a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. consulate abroad, or presents him/herself at a port of entry when returning to the United States.
Common Reasons for F-1 Status Violation
Status violation findings commonly result from matters including:
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT) that was authorized in the first year of study when there is no evidence that immediate participation in training was required by the program of study
- CPT that was not an integral part of the program of study
- OPT that was authorized after less than a full year of study
- Taking more than one online course per semester
- Dropping below the full-time course load without receiving authorization from the Designated School Official (DSO)
- Exceeding the 90-day limitation on unemployment during the initial OPT period (120-day limitation during both the initial and STEM OPT)
- OPT employment that was not in the student’s field of study
As should be evident from the above, these are violations of the core F-1 status maintenance requirements. The government scrutinizes these areas closely. Therefore, it is essential that F-1 students understand the legal requirements to maintain status in order to avoid potentially serious problems in the future.
Problems with Some Private Universities / Schools
We at the Murthy Law Firm have seen a recurring pattern with a number of private, for-profit colleges and universities. Unfortunately, some of these schools do not properly follow the requirements for administering the F-1 program on their campuses. These schools may recruit students with promises of easy CPT authorization, employment placement, and extensive online coursework. While many reputed schools offer online course work, the F-1 program contains limitations on the number of on-line courses permitted. We have seen a tendency of such schools to be more likely to allow students to drop below a full course load without authorization, or to otherwise mis-advise students on the general requirements of maintaining F-1 status.
Tips for Maintaining F-1 Status with Lesser-Known Schools
When choosing a university, a prospective F-1 student should look for clues to identify schools with potential problems. In order to administer the F-1 program, a school does not have to be accredited. Rather, it only has to be certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). In fact, most of the notorious F-1 program violators are schools that have not been accredited or that have had their accreditation suspended or terminated. While a lack of accreditation does not necessarily mean the school must be avoided, this should at least prompt the foreign national to investigate further. The background information about most schools in the U.S. is readily available on the internet.
F-1 students should learn basic status maintenance requirements in order to be able to recognize problems before they arise. If a student’s DSO acts in a manner that does not appear to meet these requirements, the student should not hesitate to ask for an explanation of the basis for these actions and/or seek professional advice from a knowledgeable immigration attorney to resolve any potential problems.
Many F-1 status problems may be prevented if the student understands and is conscientious about status maintenance. Failures in this area can have severe consequences in terms of future eligibility for U.S. immigration benefits. Foreign national students should make an effort to investigate the schools they are interested in attending, and avoid enrolling in those schools that appear to engage in questionable F-1 practices. If, however, a problem arises, attorneys at the Murthy Law Firm are able to provide professional advice and assistance based on our extensive experience with F-1 student matters.
This NewsBrief was updated 15.May.2017 with the new location for finding student FAQs on MurthyDotCom.
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