Advising international students bridging the gap between immigration and academic advising
Office of International Student and Scholar ServicesFlorida International University, Miami, FL
Immigration Advising and Academic Advising for international students: Is there a common goal? What is an “international student”? International Student Services: What is that and what do they do there? How do international students maintain legal status in the U.S.? What are the consequences of falling out of status? How can we work together to help international students?
Most would agree that all members of a university community have at least one goal in common: student success. In the case of international students, academic success and maintaining legal immigration status usually go hand in hand. The best outcome for a student is often achieved by the willingness of many offices on campus to collaborate and provide a united effort to serve the needs and best interests of the student. So it is with international student services and academic advising offices…
A non-immigrant holding a student visa (or student status) F-1 Student Visa J-1 Student Visa By far the most More restrictions; common student visa higher reporting for degree-seeking requirements for school students and students Exchange Students in intensive English (non-degree-seeking) language programs Some degree-seeking M-1 Vocational students funded by Student Visa home government and Only at certain schools students sponsored by special programs (e.g. (e.g. flight training) Fulbright)
F-1 and J-1 (and M-1) students are the only non- immigrant students that: have a full-time enrollment requirement have records maintained by an international student services office But there are other foreign students! other visa categories: dependents of foreign workers, diplomats, investors, international organization employees, religious workers, etc. (these students abound in places like Washington, DC for example) just be aware your school may have them and they are not subject to the same regulations Sometimes these students must change status to F-1
723,277 Students Top Three Countries Nationally: China India South Korea Top Three Institutions (largest number of international students): University of Southern California: 8,615 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: 7,991 New York University: 7,988
53,955 Students Alabama: 6,340 Florida: 29,719 Georgia: 15,359 Mississippi: 2,537 Top Three Institutions (largest number of international students): University of Florida: 5,393 Georgia Institute of Technology: 4,943 Florida International University: 2,677
Most popular majors: Business and Management, Engineering, Math, Computer Science Country with largest increase from previous year: China 23% overall / 43% at undergraduate level Women represent 45% of international students $21 Billion to U.S. economy 70% of funding from outside U.S.
It may be dangerous to overgeneralize but some characteristics you will find quite commonplace: From educated and wealthy or middle class families From top of the class at schools in their home countries (often have identity as a “good student” that may come into question if they face language and/or cultural barriers in the U.S.) From an educational system where students do not have much freedom to select their own classes, change their academic path, etc. – often they do not have to take much personal responsibility to plan out their program of study
Many different models No matter what the May be integrated with structure, serves a academic advising vital compliance May be part of an “international function for the school center” or institute, connected Advisors are “DSO’s” – to study abroad office and other Designated School Officials programs, and very involved in (F-1) or “RO’s” – Responsible internationalization activities of Officers (J-1) the school Must report information May be stand alone office about international students May provide significant social to Department of Homeland and cultural programming, may Security through a database not, depending on structure called SEVIS: and funding Student and Exchange Visitor Information System
DSO’s/RO’s must report the following in SEVIS for each international student: Enrollment status (beginning of each semester) Full-time Less than full-time, authorized Less than full-time, not authorized (VIOLATION OF STATUS) Not enrolled (VIOLATION OF STATUS) Dropped classes (resulting in less than full-time enrollment) (VIOLATION OF STATUS) Graduation Change of address or other biographical info Change in academic program (change of major, length of program)
Advising (appointments / walk-in hours) Orientations for new international students Informational workshops: Bring immigration attorneys to campus Provide information sessions on Employment, Travel, Cultural Adjustment, etc. Maintenance of immigration records in SEVIS and issuance of updated immigration documents for international students (I-20 and DS-2019) Authorize - or assist with application for - Practical Training (employment authorization for internships, etc.)
What do international students need to do? Keep immigration documents up to date Do not engage in any unauthorized employment Maintain good academic standing and make “satisfactory progress” toward completion of degree AND Maintain full-time enrollment, when required** **This is the most essential component of maintaining student status and it is here that academic advisors can provide much needed assistance
May depend how the institution defines “full-time” Same load as for athletes, scholarship recipients etc. Usually 12 credit hours for undergraduate students (Usually 9 credit hours for graduate students) Student must enroll full-time in Fall and Spring Summer optional Student must enroll full-time in Summer if it is student’s first semester at that school International students transferring in summer from another school in the U.S. often get confused about this regulation
ONLINE CLASSES: Student may take only 3 credits of online coursework that will count toward full-time requirement That means: At least 9 credits must be in-person/on-campus Student may not take all online classes in final semester
CONCURRENT ENROLLMENT: Undergraduate students may take up to 6 credits (half- time) at another school as long as credits will transfer back to home institution to count toward degree requirements Full-time requirement and online rule still apply each fall and spring (and during the summer if the student’s first semester)
Students MUST obtain DSO/RO approval beforeenrolling less than full-time or before dropping aclass. Circumstances that may allow for thisauthorization are VERY LIMITED: • Academic Difficulties (first semester only) • Medical Conditions • Final Semester/Completion of Program
IMPORTANT: Students are eligible for employment ONLY if they are in valid F-1 or J-1 status. Students who fall out of status must interrupt any previously approved employment.MOST COMMON TYPES OF EMPLOYMENT On-Campus Employment – F-1 and J-1: 20 hours or less per week during Fall and Spring (may be more than 20 hours per week during Summer and school breaks) Curricular Practical Training (CPT) – F-1: Authorization for internships that are part of student’s academic program Optional Practical Training (OPT) – F-1: 12 months of general work authorization allowing student to work off-campus in their field of study either before or after graduation
Curricular Practical Training (CPT): employment benefit available to F-1 students who will complete a required internship or an internship that is an “integral part” of their academic program There is little guidance in the regulations about specific procedures schools should use to authorize this type of employment Wide variation among schools in the policies and procedures used by ISS offices in relation to CPT – check with ISS at your school and always refer an international student planning to do an internship to that office It should be determined that the student is eligible for CPT before pursuing internship options (before application or placement in a position) NOTE: CPT employment authorization is required whether the position is paid or unpaid
ACADEMIC REASONS Less than full-time enrollment (no authorization) Dropped class(es) Too many online classes (equivalent to less than full-time) Academic dismissal Which do you think are moreNON-ACADEMIC REASONS common?! Employment (paid or unpaid) without authorization Failure to request program extension before expiration date on I-20 or DS-2019 Failure to properly complete immigration transfer from one U.S. school to another
The violation is reported to DHS – it may not cause immediate consequence (likely the student will NOT be deported) but future problems with travel, visa renewal, etc. May cause significant stress and personal issues If previously authorized to work, student must stop working immediately; student will not be eligible for employment benefits while out of status May cause financial hardship May cause academic interruption if unable to complete a required internship There are procedures to regain student status – an out-of-status student should visit the ISS office as soon as possible to initiate the process Sometimes requires the student to travel – disruptive and financially burdensome All procedures to regain status incur a cost
Proactive advising model Account for full-time enrollment requirement Develop ways to identify international students Plan several semesters ahead Lock-step programs or high level of sequencing Programs with high number of online offerings Balancing high- vs. low-availability courses Be resourceful – use all available options, be creative Concurrent enrollment Summer enrollment Strategize with student to effectively allocate courses
Always refer international students to your ISS office when they face decisions or experience circumstances that may affect their status, for example: Failing a class: To drop or not to drop? Problems at home: Need to take a semester off Financial difficulties that may affect enrollment Internship or job opportunity has come up Poor grades have resulted in academic dismissal
Building Relationships Become familiar with the staff and services of other offices establish a regular contact – know who to call when there is a problem or you have a question ISS: regular outreach to academic advising offices trainings or meetings to discuss international student issues Academic Advising: invite ISS staff to your general or annual meetings or forums; disseminate relevant information
Regular Communication and Assistance Most formal approach: Designate liaisons between ISS and Academic Advising Most simple/universal rule: When in doubt, call and ask Reinforcing information: Make sure all advisors are on the same page so that the student receives ONE message When we work together we instill confidence in each other and in our students
We welcome your questions, your suggestionsand your feedback!Thank you!
Dr. Ana Sippin, Director International Student & Scholar Services Florida International University, Modesto Maidique CampusTed Randall, Associate Director International Student & Scholar Services Florida International University, Modesto Maidique CampusJessica Larsen, Coordinator International Student & Scholar Services Florida International University, Modesto Maidique Campus
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