Advising F-1 and J-1 Students
The definition of "international student" can vary widely. For purposes of this website, "international student" refers generally to any student who holds a nonimmigrant visa while studying in the U.S.
In cases where a student's nonimmigrant visa is sponsored by Rutgers University, ALL members of the Rutgers community who assist and advise that student share in the University's responsibility of meeting--and legal liability of NOT meeting--federal regulatory requirements related to that student. While the Center for Global Services handles the regulatory requirement of tracking and reporting data to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) via the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), the Center can only meet that requirement if academic advisers (undergraduate deans and graduate program directors) provide both the student and the Center with timely and accurate information as needed.
Because SEVIS is a real-time database, academic institutions now have very little leeway in how they choose to administer student and exchange visitor programs. The SEVIS database program sets parameters that either prohibit or greatly complicate many of the academic program adjustments that are otherwise straightforward to non-international students, e.g., change of degree level, change of major, extension of stay, and other adjustments. Further, SEVIS allows for absolutely no negotiating of regulatory deadlines, and the SEVIS system will automatically "terminate" records of students who miss certain deadlines. It is essential that faculty and staff working with international students keep these issues in mind when the Center requests information for both routine and exceptional matters.
There are only two visa classifications that Rutgers can use to sponsor an international student:
F-1 -- this is the more common visa used to sponsor international students. The F-1 is designated by the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security as the "student visa" and is intended for use by most foreign nationals who are in the U.S. for the primary purpose of full-time study. Students holding this status must pursue a full course of study every semester.
- J-1 -- at Rutgers, this visa sponsorship is reserved for three types of students: (1) full-time visiting students participating in a formal exchange program; these students must pursue a full course of study every semester while at Rutgers; (2) "special visiting students" who will not register for any credits at Rutgers, but will come to conduct advanced graduate research as part of their home-country degree programs and (3) "student interns" who may or may not register for courses, and who will work on an agreed upon internship plan that is integral to studies at an institution abroad.
Some international students at Rutgers hold other (non F-1 or J-1) visa classifications because they came to the U.S. for another purpose--often as the visa dependent of a parent or spouse who is working in the U.S.--but have chosen to use their time in the U.S. to pursue academic studies. Such students are subject to regulations affecting their own nonimmigrant classification, however, and are not required to study at all, let alone enroll full-time. Indeed, regulations governing certain nonimmigrants actual prohibit them from academic study entirely--in particular, those holding any of the following nonimmigrant statuses are not permitted by federal regulation to pursue academic study at all: B-1, B-2, WT, WB, and F-2. An individual holding any one of these status will become an "illegal alien" if he or she registers for academic coursework.
Although international students enjoy many of the same rights and benefits as their American peers, some of these rights are superceded by federal regulations. It is important for academic advisers to be familiar with the basic regulations affecting F-1 and J-1 students' academic endeavors--and, particularly in this post-9/11 environment of increased federal monitoring, to assist them in remaining in compliance with the relevant laws and regulations that govern their academic pursuits in the U.S.