Chatham University

International Affairs

Immigration Information
Frequently Asked Questions

Click on any of the questions below. If you have any further questions please contact Ms. Yamoah at (412) 365-1267 or vyamoah@chatham.edu.

+What are my responsibilities for maintaining F-1 status?

It is your responsibility to maintain your lawful nonimmigrant status at all times as outlined below. Failure to maintain your lawful student or scholar status can result in your having to end your program prematurely and leave the U.S.

  • Attend the university you are authorized to attend (i.e. the school that issued your Form I-20).
  • Keep your passport valid at all times. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months into the future on the day you return to the U.S. from a trip abroad.
  • Make sure your I-94 card is current and accurate. The I-94 card, a small white card that is usually stapled to the visa page in your passport, tells you how long you may remain in the U.S. For Chatham University students, you should see D/S, which means that as long as your I-20 is valid, you are allowed to remain in the U.S.
  • Be in good academic standing and make progress towards an academic program.
  • Extend your I-20 prior to its expiration date if you are unable to complete your academic program by the original completion date (see section 5 of your I-20).
  • In the event of change of academic program or level, update your I-20 in a timely fashion in accordance with immigration regulations.
  • Maintain full-time enrollment during the academic year.
    • Undergraduate students must enroll for 12 credit hours each semester.
    • Graduate students must enroll for 9 credit hours each semester.
    • NOTE: The "audit" courses do not count toward the full-time enrollment requirement for immigration purposes.

NOTE: The "audit" courses do not count toward the full-time enrollment requirement for immigration purposes.

Suspension, dismissal, expulsion, or any other similar action, which prevents enrollment, may have an effect on legal immigration status. See an immigration advisor in the OIA.

Limit on-campus employment to 20 hours per week during the academic year.

Do not work off campus without prior authorization.

If you plan to leave your program before the end date of I-20, see your immigration advisor.

Maintain a valid home (must be outside the US) and mailing (must be your US residential address) with your immigration advisor. Addresses must be updated within 10 days of moving.

+Do I have to be a full time student?

F-1 visa holders must maintain a full course of study at all times. Federal regulations require undergraduate students generally to take the equivalent of 12 credit hours per semester at the undergraduate level. (The Chatham University equivalent translates to a minimum of four 3-credit courses per semester.) Full-time student status in the graduate and professional schools is set by each school, but is usually a minimum of three courses per semester. Please consult your department or OIA if you have questions about this requirement.

+Do I need to obtain permission prior to dropping below a full course of study?

Yes. U.S. federal regulations require you to pursue a full course of study, which is typically 12 credits or 9 credits depending on your level. You cannot deviate from this full course of study requirement without prior permission from OIA, and that permission is possible only under very limited circumstances.

If you are considering dropping below a full course of study, you must consult with your academic advisor and OIA must approve the reduction in course load.

+Can I work on Campus?

Yes. Students in F-1status may work no more than 20 hours per week on-campus while school is in session. You cannot work off-campus without receiving PRIOR authorization from OIA.

+I need to take a leave of absence or leave the University. What should I do?

Occasionally a student or scholar will leave the University early or unexpectedly for personal reasons or because of an early completion or graduation, leave of absence, withdrawal or suspension. You must meet with the International Student Services Coordinator before you do anything else. In each of these cases, you must inform OIA that you will be leaving Chatham University before the expected completion date on your immigration document (I-20.)

+I've decided to transfer to another school.

If you are leaving Chatham University and transferring to another U.S. school, you must complete an official immigration transfer by first notifying OIA of your intention to transfer from Chatham University. OIA will release your SEVIS record to your new school, which will issue a new I-20.

+What do I need to do to return to my country during the semester break?

You must have a valid passport, a valid visa stamp and a valid I-20 (F) or DS-2019 (J Exchange Visitors) with a recent OIA signature to re-enter the U.S. after a trip overseas. Before you travel out of the U.S., check with OIA that all your documents are in order. If you need to apply for a new U.S. visa, make certain to allow sufficient time for the application and interview process. As interviews are now required for most visa applicants, it can take several weeks. The best way to be prepared for possible visa issuance delays is to check the information on the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply.

+Can my spouse and/or children join me at Chatham?

If you are here as a student or scholar and your spouse and/or dependent children will join you in Pittsburgh, make sure they hold the appropriate non-immigrant status, e.g. F-2 for dependents of F-1 students and J- 2 for dependents of J-1 exchange visitors. OIA will give you the dependent I-20 or DS- 2019s.

Persons holding F-2 status cannot work in the U.S.; J-2 dependents can work, but only with the authorization from the immigration service (USCIS). Please visit OIA for instructions on applying for J-2 work authorization. Other family members or friends will most likely need tourist status to visit you here. Only spouses and dependent children are eligible for F-2, J-2 or H-4 dependent status.

+I've moved, is there anything I need to do?

Report any change of local (current residential) address within 10 days. OIA, in turn, is required to notify SEVIS within 21 days of your change of address.

+Do I need to file a US tax return even though I have not worked in the US?

All international students and scholars in the United States are required to file an 8843 U.S. tax form, even if you did not have any income from a U.S. source.  Directions will be provided during the tax season. 

+What is the difference between a visa and status?

Visa vs. Status
A visa is a physical document that permits you to apply for admission to a particular country for a particular purpose, such as doing business, tourism, or becoming a student. It is NOT a guarantee that you will be allowed to enter, just a permit to request entry. If you are allowed to enter the US on a particular student or exchange visitor visa, that visa may expire during your residence here without any negative consequences; it has already fulfilled its function in allowing you to apply for entry as a student or exchange visitor. If you think of a visa as a key, and the United States as a building - once you enter the building, it does not matter if you lose the key or the locks are changed, so long as you remain inside the building.

Once you use your visa and enter the United States, you have a status, which matches the visa you use. If you use an F-1 Student visa, you will be given F-1 status, if you use a B2 Tourist visa (or use the visa waiver program), and you have B-2 status, and so forth. How long you may stay in that "status" depends on what the immigration officer at the port of entry wrote on your I-94 Arrival/Departure form. If you were admitted as a F-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor, you should have been admitted for the Duration of Status or "D/S" - which means you may stay as long as you follow all of the rules for that category, and you don't allow your other paperwork to expire. Other visitors to the US are given a specific date on their I-94 cards and must leave, or ask for an extension, by that date.

You may also "change status" within the United States without having to obtain a visa. For instance, if you are here because your parents brought you as a dependant on an L or H visa, you may request a change of status, and become the primary holder of an F or J status, in order to continue your stay here in another category -- regardless of whether your parent stays in the US. For more information on changing your status, please contact your Immigration Advisor.