International Student Services
F-1 Status and Visa
As an international student, your immigration “status” is F-1 (nonimmigrant student). Your status is your reasons for being in the country, as well as your responsibilities during your stay. If you were admitted into the U.S. on an F-1 visa in your passport (or were granted a change of status by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services [USCIS] after entering the country with a different visa) with the primary goal of pursuing an education, you were probably admitted in F-1 status. Throughout your time in the U.S., you must “maintain status” by abiding by the terms of your F-1 status. Failure to maintain status can carry serious legal consequences.
The terms visa and status are often mistaken to be interchangeable; this is incorrect. Your F-1 visa is distinct from your F-1 status. A visa is simply a stamp in your passport that allows you to request admittance into the U.S. at a legal port of entry. In itself, it does not confer or guarantee F-1 status. While one may hold a passport with multiple visas simultaneously, one can only hold one immigration status in the U.S. Since your visa is only used for requesting admittance, you may remain in the U.S. with an expired visa as long as you uphold the terms of your F-1 status. Violating the terms of your F-1 status, however, carries severe consequences.
Maintaining F-1 Status
In order to remain in the U.S., you must maintain your F-1 status. Some actions you must take to maintain status include:
- Respond promptly to all communications from your DSO.
- Enter the U.S. no more than 30 days prior to the program start date listed on your form I-20.
- Maintain an accurate form I-20 at all times, notifying your DSO of any changes to important information. You should also retain all previous versions of your form I-20 for your records.
- Maintain full-time enrollment at the institution listed on your form I-20.
- At the beginning of each semester, you must meet with the CISS (Coordinator of International Student Services) (or designee) to certify your enrollment.
- Notify the CISS BEFORE changing your major, class schedule, or expected date of graduation.
- Notify the CISS if you plan to travel or move to a new address, leave the country, leave school or start a new program of study.
- Do no unauthorized work; notify the CISS before starting any job.
- If employment is authorized, work no more than 20 hours per week during the semester.
- Provide most recent I-94 to DSO immediately upon entry or re-entry from travel abroad.
- Within 60 days of your program end date you must either:
- Leave the county, or
- Change your education level, or
- Apply for a change of status.
International students who hold F-1 status can hold on-campus jobs, with certain restrictions. Your position must be provided by the university (not an outside company) and involve providing services to the student population. You may work no more than 20 hours per week. Appropriate on-campus employment for F-1 students is defined by the Code of Federal Regulations as follows:
“The work must take place either at your school or at an educationally affiliated (associated with the school’s established curriculum or part of contractually funded research projects at the postgraduate level) off-campus location:
- On the school premises
- Work that takes place at your school location could be for an on-campus commercial business, like a bookstore or cafeteria, as long as the work directly provides services for students.
- Employment located on campus that does not directly involve services to students (such as construction work) does not qualify as on-campus employment.
- Educationally affiliated off-campus location
- Working with an employer who is contractually affiliated with the school is on-campus employment, even if the work site is not located on the campus (such as a research lab affiliated with your school).”
State & Federal Income Tax
All F-1 students, regardless of whether they earned income through employment or other means (stocks, gambling, etc.), must file both state and federal tax returns.
- EVERYONE must file IRS Form 8843 (pdf), regardless of whether you had income during the tax year.
- If you had no income, then you need only file Form 8843 by the appropriate deadline for the year.
- If you had income, you must complete both Forms 1040-NR (pdf) and 8843. You must complete and submit both of these forms together. This form can be complicated, see options below.
- If you had income during 2021 (in New York State) you must complete NYS Form IT 203 and IT2 by April 15, 2022.
- If you had no income, you do not need to file any NYS tax return forms.
To complete these forms, you'll need your W2 (if you worked and received income). You will also need either a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
As you can see, doing your taxes can be a lot of work! Many Americans use online services to save time and effort doing their taxes. Of course, using these services costs some money. Sprintax is a popular online tax service for international students. Sprintax also allows you to file state and federal taxes at the same time. I recommend using Sprintax if you don't think you can understand these forms and instructions on your own. Check out their Youtube channel. Even if you use Sprintax, you will still need to print your completed forms and mail them in prior to the due date!
Social Security Number
To be hired for an on-campus job, you will need a social security number (SSN). Once you’ve been offered a job on campus, inform the CISS by scheduling a meeting with the CISS via email. You will be provided with a verification form to be filled out by your employer. Once your verification form is complete, you may visit the Social Security Office located at 31 Main St. Suite 1, Oneonta, NY 13820. You will be asked to provide your form I-20, form I-94, your passport, and a letter from the CISS confirming your offer of employment. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the services are only available by appointment by phone at 1-877-628-6581.
To obtain a New York State (NYS) driver’s license from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), international students must complete the following steps:
- Review the NYS Driver’s Manual;
- Gather your “six points” worth of supporting documents to verify your identity;
- A social security card (if you already got one for work), or a letter of denial from the social security office (if you have not needed a social security card for work) (3 points)
- Student ID + Enrollment Verification/Official Transcript (2 points)
- U.S. Bank Statement (1 point)
- Credit/Debit Card (1 point)
- Health Insurance Card (1 point)
- US Pay Stub (1 point)
- US Utility Bill (1 point)
- In addition to the documents listed above, you will also need your passport and copies of your most recent forms I-20 and I-94 to prove your F-1 status. When you have collected all of these materials, you may visit the DMV and complete the application for permit, license or non-driver ID form (pdf);
- Pay the driver's license and learner permit fee;
- Complete the written test and eye exam at the DMV;
- Complete 5-hour pre-licensing course at the DMV;
- Schedule and complete a road test at the DMV.
All international students are automatically enrolled in the Student Health for SUNY, provided by United Healthcare (UHC). At the beginning of your first semester, you will receive a digital insurance card via email. In the U.S., the cost of healthcare without insurance is very high, so it’s important to take advantage of the generous coverage provided by your insurance policy. The basics of your health insurance plan will be covered during orientation, but for more information visit UHC’s website for your policy details.