One of the most important responsibilities you will have as an international student at the Institute is maintaining your visa status as an F-1 or J-1 student.
When you entered the U.S., your immigration documents were stamped and you were admitted as an F-1 of J-1 student. In immigration terms, you obtained F-1 or J-1 status in the United States. You now have a responsibility to maintain your immigration status.
Rules for Maintaining Visa Status
Register for a full-time course load
You are required to be a full-time registered student during each of the academic terms. You are not required to be a registered student during break periods (i.e., summer or winter break). Maintaining your immigration service status means you are pursuing a full course of study toward your educational objective.
If you are unable to register for a full-time course load or you drop classes that bring you below the minimum units required, please complete the Reduced Course Load form.
If in your last academic semester you require less than the minimum units in order to graduate, you are not required to register for more units than needed for graduation.
Do not exceed your authorized period of stay
You must not remain in the U.S. beyond your authorized period of stay. You were admitted to the U.S. as an F-1 or J-1 student for what is termed Duration of Status (D/S). This means you are authorized for a limited stay in the U.S. for the duration of the study program indicated on your I-20 form (F-1 students) or DS-2019 (J-1 students). There are two issues to be aware of regarding this requirement:
You need to be sure that your I-20 or DS-2019 is current. The date on item #5 of the I-20 form, or item #3 of the DS-2019 , indicates the period of time you are allowed to pursue your educational objective. This date can be extended, if necessary, by coming into the Office of Immigration Services. You will need to extend your I-20 or DS-2019 BEFORE it expires. Please contact our office at least two months before the expiration of your I-20 or DS-2019 in order to process an extension.
Your authorized period of stay ends when you complete your program of study or otherwise stop being a full-time continuing student, even if your I-20 or DS-2019 has not expired. When you complete your program of study, you are allowed to remain legally in the U.S. for an additional period of time—60 days for F-1 students and 30 days for J-1 students.
You must not engage in unauthorized employment
Generally speaking, if you are in valid F-1 or J-1 status and are a full-time continuing student, you are eligible to be employed on the MIIS campus without any special authorization. All off-campus employment requires some form of documented authorization issued by either Student Services or USCIS, depending on the nature of the employment. Employment (both on and off campus combined) is restricted to 20 hours per week or less while school is in session, but can be full-time during the break periods. Information on off-campus employment authorization can be obtained at the Office of Student Services.
Failure to Maintain Status
Failure to maintain status can affect you in a variety of ways. The first is that you you would be technically illegally in the U.S. and, while it is very unlikely, you could be asked by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to leave the United States. More likely, being out of status (violating your immigration service status) will cause problems for you in participating in the benefits of your immigration service status (e.g., employment) or making later changes in your plans in the U.S. (e.g., applying to change your immigration service status or transferring schools). Once out of status, you can only be reinstated back to a legal status through USCIS or the U.S. State Department (for J-1 status holders). Therefore, it is imperative that you are aware of what is required of you to maintain a legal immigration service status in the U.S.
Resources for Maintaining Status
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement provides oversight and enforcement of the SEVIS program as well as the regulations governing international student status and benefits.
U.S. Department of State provides useful information about studying in the U.S. as well as applying for a visa.
Taking a Leave of Absence
F-1 students who are making plans to take a leave of absence from the Institute should consult with your academic advisor and your international student advisor before submitting your leave of absence petition to ensure that your best interests are protected.
A student may register for a leave of absence (LOA) for up to two years after successfully completing at least one semester, remaining in good academic standing, and with all financial obligations due to the Institute paid in full. To begin the LOA process, pick up an LOA petition from the Records Office. Once you have all of the required signatures, bring a copy of the completed form to the Office of Student Services.
If you return home or go somewhere else outside of the U.S., please note the following:
A student in F-1 immigration status has 15 days to remain in the U.S. after the LOA petition has been approved.
If your LOA will be less than 5 months and your F-1 visa will be valid upon your return, you only need a valid signature on your current Form I-20.
If your planned LOA will be 5 months or longer, you will need a new Form I-20 for re-entry into the U.S.
If you remain in the U.S., you must do one of the following:
Transfer to another school. You are required to have a Form I-20 from the school you will be transferring to. In order to maintain your F-1 status, the transfer process needs to be initiated prior to leaving the Institute. You need to report to the new school no later than 15 days after the first day of classes.
Participate in a paid or unpaid internship in the U.S. You are required to change your immigration status to accommodate the internship program. Please consult with the supervisor of the internship to see what type of visa is required in order for you to participate in the internship.
Change your visa status. You will need to apply for a change of status with the Immigration Services while in the U.S. or apply for a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Return to your studies at the Middlebury Institute. You are required to change your status back to F-1 by either re-entering the U.S. on an F-1 visa or applying for a change of status back to F-1 within the U.S. Please note that no F-1 eligibility for off-campus employment (CPT or OPT) will be given to you unless you have accumulated one year of F-1 status.