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International Student Frequently Asked Questions

Prospective students

Current F-1 students

Current J-1 students

Prospective students

I am currently in the United States on a visitor's visa. How do I change my status to F-1?

It is difficult and time consuming to change your status from a visitor's visa to a student visa unless U.S. immigration inspection noted in your passport that you were a prospective student at the time of your initial U.S. entry. Be aware that the change can be very time consuming and that you are legally unable to begin studies before the approval has been granted. You may want to consider leaving the country and re-entering with a student visa. If you decide you want to attempt the change of status in the country, you should contact ISSS staff to begin the paperwork as soon as you have been accepted by JMU.

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How do I apply for a visa in my home country?

Contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the city in your country nearest your home town to find out what the procedure is for applying for a nonimmigrant visa. You may need an appointment, or walk-in hours may be available. Prior to meeting with Embassy officials you will need to pay a $100 SEVIS fee to the U.S. government. At the time of your interview you will need to take along your passport, I-20 or DS-2019, documentation of your financial ability to support yourself and proof that you have ties to your home country.

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I want to bring my spouse and children with me when I study. What shall I do?

You will need to send JMU proof of your financial ability to support your family while you are a student. Once that has been obtained, JMU will issue an I-20 or DS-2019 with your family listed as your dependents. Your spouse and children will then make an appointment at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, bringing along their I-20 or DS-2019, a copy of your I-20 or DS-2019, a copy of your passport and visa, proof of your financial abilities, and proof of their ties to your home country.

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I have been accepted at JMU and plan to begin in the fall. What shall I bring with me when I come?

You will, of course, want to bring personal clothing, money (but see section regarding bringing money to JMU), photos of your family, and at least one small item of significance to you from home. In addition, we recommend that you bring at least one article of traditional clothing for wearing at special events (we have an international fashion show each year) and, if possible, small items of cultural art to decorate your apartment or room and to share during special occasions.

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I will be staying in a JMU residence hall. What do I need to furnish my room?

Your room will be furnished with all necessary furniture, but you will need bedding and toiletries. However, you may find it less expensive and more convenient to wait until you come to campus and purchase those items at a local store.

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Will I be able to work while I am a student?

You are legally allowed to work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and up to 40 hours per week during school breaks. Unless you have special permission from the Immigration Service, which is granted only in limited situations, you must confine this work to on-campus positions only. We encourage you to concentrate on studies and not seek any on-campus employment for at least one year following your initial entry.

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I have been accepted at JMU and plan to begin in the fall. What should I expect when I go through immigration inspection upon arrival?

You will be asked to produce your I-20 or DS-2019, F-1 or J-1 visa, passport and your I-94 card. Please be very careful in completing that card - make sure that your name matches the way your name is written in your visa. In addition, it is possible that the inspector will ask you for your financial documentation to prove that you have the means to pay for your education. Please have all these documents on your person, and not packed in your luggage. You will also have your fingerprint and photo taken and, if you are identified as a Special Registrant, you will go through an additional check.

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Current F-1 Student FAQs

I plan to travel home on vacation during winter break. What shall I take with me?

You will need your I-20, which has been signed by staff in ISSS prior to traveling. In addition, we recommend that you obtain a copy of your transcript verifying that you have been attending classes full-time, along with a copy of your financial statement from the University Business Office verifying that you have been able to pay your school bills.

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Is it possible for my F-2 spouse to take classes?

Your F-2 spouse may take only classes that are recreational or vocational in nature. S/he may not take classes toward a degree or study full-time without prior approval of a change to F-1 status.

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Is it possible for my F-2 spouse to work?

No, under U.S. immigration law, your F-2 spouse not be allowed to work either on or off campus.

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Is it possible for me to work off-campus during my summer breaks?

You may be able to work off-campus if the employment is a required part of your degree and/or if you have obtained previous approval by USCIS. You must see a staff member in ISSS prior to accepting any off-campus employment for a detailed explanation of the possibilities.

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Is health insurance required while I am a student in F-1 status?

Yes, JMU requires that all international students carry health insurance throughout their education here. We carry a student insurance plan which will automatically be included in your tuition and fees bill, which, when paid, will verify your enrollment in the plan.

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Current J-1 students

Is it possible for my J-2 spouse to take classes?

Your J-2 spouse may take only classes that are recreational or vocational in nature. S/he may not take classes toward a degree or study full-time without prior approval of a change to F-1 or J-1 status.

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Is it possible for my J-2 spouse to work?

Your spouse may apply to USCIS for employment authorization. S/he must provide evidence that his/her employment is NOT necessary to pay your tuition or support you while you study. In addition, s/he may not begin employment unless/until s/he receives the employment authorization card.

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Is it possible for me to work off-campus during my summer breaks?

It is possible for you to work off-campus only under very limited circumstances even during summer breaks. See staff of ISSS as soon as you contemplate employment to find out if there is a legal way for you to obtain permission to accept employment.

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What kind of health insurance is required for me and my family while I am a student?

Both JMU and the U.S. federal government require that all persons present in the U.S. on J visas have health insurance throughout their stay. The requirements for this insurance are very specific and may not be satisfied with insurance that you may have brought from home. JMU offers student insurance which does satisfy all requirements and which you can purchase for your family as well. See staff of ISSS for additional information.

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What is the 2-year home residence requirement?

U.S. law provides that certain J-1 visa holders must return to their home country and be physically present there for two years before being eligible to return to the U.S. in immigrant (permanent resident/green card) status, H (temporary worker) status, or L (intra-company transferees) status. In addition, while in the U.S. persons subject to this rule will not be eligible to change their nonimmigrant status from J to permanent residence or to any other nonimmigrant category except A or G.

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