Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a Form I-20, a visa, and a Form I-94?
The Form I-20 shows that you are eligible for "F-1" student immigration status. It is issued by the college you are authorized to attend and indicates how long you may remain in the United States.
The visa is placed in your passport at a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the U.S. An F-1 visa is required to ENTER the U.S. in F-1 student status. The expiration date of your visa is not related to how long you may stay in the U.S. The only reason to be concerned with an expired visa is if you wish to leave the U.S. and re-enter at a later date.
The Form I-94 is your official "Arrival/Departure Record." It is issued when you arrive in the U.S. It indicates your immigration status (F-1 or F-2 for dependents) and an expiration date. Your expiration date should be “D/S”, which means “Duration of Status.” This notation refers to the date you complete your studies or the end date on your Form I-20 (whichever is earlier). You will surrender this card when you depart the U.S., except for visits of less than 30 days to Mexico, Canada, or adjacent islands (excluding Cuba).
What is SEVIS?
The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is a Department of Homeland Security electronic monitoring system for international students. It requires schools to report certain information on each student. Most students seeking F-1 status are subject to a $200 SEVIS fee that must be paid before applying for a visa. For fee payment procedures, please review the “SEVIS Fee Facts & Instructions” handout.
What should I do if I last entered the U.S. with another school’s Form I-20 and have not had my Babson Form I-20 inspected and stamped by an U.S. immigration official?
You must meet with the International Student Advisor (ISA) immediately to see if you are eligible for a transfer.
What should I do if I last entered the U.S. with a B-1 or B-2 Tourist Visa?
You must meet with your International Student Advisor immediately to discuss your options.
How do I maintain legal F-1 status?
- Maintain a valid passport (at least 6 months into the future).
- Currently attend the school whose Form I-20 you last used to enter the U.S., or complete required transfer procedures.
- Be enrolled in a full-course of study during the academic year (12 credits or more per semester), unless an exception is made in advance by the ISA.
- Comply with extension of program procedures. Apply before your Form I-20 expires.
- Comply with procedures for changing from one degree level to another.
- Comply with transfer procedures.
- Engage only in authorized employment.
- Inform the ISA of any address change within 10 days of moving.
Does my Form I-20 really become VOID when I stop going to Babson full-time (i.e. academic suspension, or leave of absence?)
Yes! If you find yourself in a situation where you must stop attending Babson, be sure to inform your ISA prior to withdrawing from classes. Depending on the reason for your departure you may receive a certain window of time to depart the U.S. Your Form I-20 will become void and your record will be terminated in SEVIS.
What do I need if I want to travel outside the U.S. and re-enter as a valid F-1 student?
- A valid Form I-20 signed by an ISA no more than 12 months prior to re-entry
- A valid passport (valid at least 6 months into the future)
- A valid F-1 visa (except Canadian citizens)
- Proof of financial support
How long does it take to get my Form I-20 signed?
It takes 24 hours from the time you drop off your document. Signing the Form I-20 involves verifying your status. You should plan to have your Form I-20 signed well in advance of travel outside of the U.S.
What if I want travel to Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island for less than 30 days and my F-1 visa is expired?
If you have a valid passport, an expired F-1 visa, a Form I-20, and a Form I-94 indicating you have been admitted for “D/S” you can re-enter the U.S. in valid F-1 status as long as your trip is for less than 30 days. You must retain your Form I-94 and tell the border official that you are taking advantage of “automatic visa revalidation.” (Currently, this benefit does not apply to citizens of Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.) In addition, if you decide to renew your visa in Canada, Mexico or any adjacent island, while your visa application is pending and/or if your visa is denied, you may not re-enter the U.S. on automatic visa revalidation.
What if I decide to transfer out of Babson College to attend another school?
You must meet with your ISA prior to starting classes at the new university. If Babson is unaware of your transfer then your new school will not be able to issue you a transfer Form I-20.
I am interested in taking an online course. How many courses am I allowed to take each semester?
You may take one online course or no more than 3 credits of online coursework or distance education per semester which can be counted towards your full course of study.
Can I work in the United States?
On Campus: All F-1 students who are in valid F-1 status are allowed to work up to 20 hours/week on campus. No official work permission is required. You may work full-time on-campus during official college breaks.
Off Campus: Authorization from both the ISA and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is required for off-campus employment. In most cases, off-campus employment must be related to your field of study, and can only take place after one academic year of full time studies.
May I obtain a Social Security number?
A Social Security number is required only for those who will work in the U.S. and get paid. F-1 students may apply for a Social Security number (SSN) if they are authorized for employment or have an on-campus job offer. You will need an on-campus employment letter to verify your eligibility. You must apply in person at the Social Security Office, and it takes approximately two weeks for the number to be issued and mailed to you. Dependents may not obtain a Social Security number because they are not eligible for employment
Should I obtain a Massachusetts Driver’s License?
The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles requires that anyone who plans to live in Massachusetts for more than one year must obtain a Massachusetts Driver’s license within 30 days of obtaining their car. Either a Social Security number or a ‘Denial Letter’ from the Social Security Office is required for a Driver’s License. A “Denial Letter’ will be issued if you are not eligible for a Social Security Number. An official “International Driver’s License” or license from certain countries may be used for up to one year. Please see the Registry of Motor Vehicles for more detailed information.
Do I have to file U.S. tax forms?
Yes! All F-1 visa holders who have been in the U.S. for less than 5 years are Nonresidents for tax purposes and must file the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 8843. Those who have had U.S. source income must also file Form 1040NR or 1040NREZ and some may have to file a Massachusetts State tax form as well.