Transitions, Travel, and Taxes

T. Transitions, Travel, and Taxes

There are a lot of items in the T category – changing schools, changing your level of study, travel both within and outside the U.S., how long you can stay after your stay in the country, and filing tax forms every year.

T.1 Transitions

F-1 students must request a new I-20 from GSSS whenever you make a change in degree level and/or declare/change/ add a major or minor at EWU.  Make sure all the information on your I-20 is accurate at all times.

Completing your program at EWU and completing Practical or Academic Training:

  • Your program of studies does not end on your graduation date or at commencement.In most cases, your program of studies ends on the last day of final exams in your last term.
  • Notify GSSS when you finish your academic program (completing your studies is the end of your program, no matter what the end date on your I-20 or DS-2019 says).Your SEVIS record will be updated to reflect your correct end date.Your SEVIS record will also be shortened when GSSS receives notification that you have finished your studies from the Registrar’s office or academic department. If you are returning home, and will be completing the last requirements by distance education, inform you advisor right away.
  • F-1 students who finish their program of studies or degree have 60 days “grace” to apply for Optional Practical Training work authorization, transfer to a new university, change level of study, apply for a change of status, or leave the U.S.If transferring, you must be enrolled in your new program within five months of completing your studies.Grace periods generally start the day after the final date of study.
    • Changes of status must generally be approved before the expiration of your grace period, so it’s best to have a conversation with your immigration advisor about your plans early on, or consult an immigration attorney.
  • J-1 Exchange Visitor students have 30 days “grace” to leave the U.S. after completion of program or post-studies Academic Training employment
  • Grace periods apply only to students who have completed a full course of studies.
  • Completion of OPT period – a student who finishes a period of authorized post-completion (after degree) OPT with less than 90 days of accumulated unemployment time are permitted a 60 day grace period to transfer, change level of study, apply for change of status, or depart the U.S.  If you are transferring, you must be enrolled in your new program within five months of completing OPT. STEM extension applications must be submitted before OPT expires.
  • J-1 Exchange Visitor students and scholars may be subject to the INA 212(e) “two year home residency requirement.” J status visitors subject to 212(e) are not permitted to return to the U.S. in H, L, or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) visa status until after at least two years have been spent in the home country after EV program completion.Return to the U.S. in other statuses such as F-1 may be permitted, but it can be challenging to be approved for a visa. Participating in another EV program can re-set the 212(e) clock. If you are subject to the rule, keep careful records of all of your travel home after you finish your program(s).

Taking a leave of absence during your studies, or withdrawing from your studies:

  • Unauthorized withdrawal – Students who withdraw from classes or stop attending without authorization must leave the U.S. right away or take steps to re-establish F-1 status. Complete an authorized withdrawal process if leaving EWU permanently whether or not you have completed your studies (see below). There is no grace period for unauthorized withdrawal and Unlawful Presence days may begin to accrue immediately.
  • F-1 Authorized Early Withdrawal: (Note: see an immigration advisor before withdrawing), F-1 students who complete an Authorized Early Withdrawal Form are permitted a 15 day grace period to leave the U.S.  Authorized Early Withdrawal may be used by F-1 students both for permanent withdrawal from EWU or when a leave of absence outside the U.S. is needed and a vacation term is not available.  Note that a leave of absence may have an impact on vacation eligibility for a full academic year.
    • Students taking a leave of absence are permitted up to five months to return and resume studies.
    • A leave of absence should be requested by the first day of classes if you are not enrolled, or prior to dropping any classes if the term has started in order to permit return on the same SEVIS record.
    • Students wishing to return from a leave of absence should contact an immigration advisor as soon as possible, as government reactivation of immigration records can be time-consuming.
    • Failure to depart after your authorized early withdrawal will be considered a violation of status.Note that your SEVIS record cannot be reactivated if you do not depart in a timely manner. You will have to apply for reinstatement with USCIS or re-enter with “new” F-1 status to rectify your status.
  • J-1 Exchange Visitor Authorized Early Withdrawal: ( Note: see your immigration advisor or Program Sponsor before withdrawing) EV students who need to withdraw early are not permitted a “grace period” under the regulations, so it is important to coordinate with your immigration advisor and/or Program Sponsor on the date of your withdrawal and departure from the U.S.

T.2 Transfers

Transfers involve two separate parts – academic and immigration. GSSS helps you with the immigration part by transferring your SEVIS record, if appropriate, to the new school so they can issue an I-20 or DS-2019.  Students should request transcripts and other academic records from the Registrar’s office.  Students are also responsible for dropping any classes.

  • F-1 students intending to transfer to another university must submit an EWU - GSSS Transfer Out Request Form along with proof of admission to the new school to request that their SEVIS record be transferred.
  • F-1 students who complete a program of studies can transfer their SEVIS record up to 60 days after the last day of the last term of studies in most cases. Please see a GSSS advisor for help understanding when you can transfer.
  • If you are transferring during the academic term but before you actually complete your program of studies, you must remain enrolled and attend classes at EWU until your transfer takes effect to maintain your status.
  • Immigration advisors will complete transfer clearance forms from other institutions as time permits, but we cannot transfer your SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019 record based on another school’s transfer form.
  • J-1 EV students wishing to transfer should discuss with your program sponsor or immigration advisor; some programs and sponsors do not allow transfers.When transfers are allowed they require close coordination between the new school and EWU.

T.3 Travel

Inside the United States, U.S. Border Patrol has the authority to search vehicles without a warrant within 100 miles of the U.S. Border.  That covers most of Washington State, including Spokane.  The law requires nonimmigrants (F and J visa statuses) to provide information on immigration status if asked by a legitimate DHS officer (you may ask for ID and a badge number).  Anyplace outside of the immediate campus area, you should carry at least a copy of your passport, I-94 information, and I-20 or DS-2019 to prove legal presence in the U.S.

Outside the United States

  • If you will be traveling outside the U.S. and intend to return to the U.S. in the same visa category to resume your studies or Exchange Visitor program activities, you need:
    • Form I-20 or DS-2019 endorsed for travel within the last year,
      • Travel signatures for yourself and any dependents are given on page 2 of your I-20 or bottom of your DS-2019 before departing the U.S. The most recent signature should be no more than one year old on the day you return to the U.S.We can sign every six months or so if you feel more comfortable or if you have a visa appointment during your trip.
      • J-1 EV students must have the signature from the Program Sponsor that issued the DS-2019 and may need additional steps; please contact your immigration advisor or Program Sponsor for guidance as soon as possible.
    • A current passport, valid for at least six months when you return to the U.S.,
    • Visa for your destination country, if required for your nationality,
    • A valid visa for return in the correct status (unless you are Canadian or participating in Automatic Revalidation (see note below), and
    • F-1 students participating in post-completion OPT also need their EAD and proof of employment.
  • Recommended, but not absolutely required:
    • Proof of financial support to pay living expenses and tuition,
    • Contact information for the designated school official at the SEVP-certified school you attend, GSSS's main number is 509-359-2331 the 24 hour on-call number is 509-389-7575,
    • Transcripts (official is better, but unofficial is okay) and a schedule for next academic term to show that you are a serious student, and
    • I-901 SEVIS fee receipt (retrieve from https://fmjfee.com/i901fee/ ).
  • Always allow for plenty of time between arrival in the U.S. and your flight to your final destination.4 hours or more is best.Customs and Border Protection (CBP) delays for anyone pulled into “secondary inspection” can be lengthy.
    • Being pulled into secondary inspection is often a case of the Customs officer at the line not being able to determine whether or not to grant entry within 60 seconds.If you are pulled into secondary inspection, stay calm and polite, and know that it may take a while to resolve, but it does not mean that you are in trouble – only that Customs and Border Protection needs more information before making a decision.
  • Bring your I-20 or DS-2019 to GSSS as early as possible to request a signature, or as soon as you know you might be traveling.You do not need to have specific travel plans to request a signature.You may also come to travel clinics held near the end of each quarter for same-day signatures.
  • Do not wait until the last minute to request travel authorization. You must be maintaining your status in order for the immigration advisor to sign your document; your status has to be confirmed and validated before a DSO can sign, so signatures are rarely available on a same-day basis, except on travel clinic days.An I-20/DS-2019 can be mailed to you at your expense if you’ve submitted the request too late to get a signature before departing, or left your signed document in the U.S. accidentally or lost it at home.Please request replacement early.
  • U.S. F and J visas are valid for entry right up to the day they expire unless they are cancelled. If you need to renew your visa, U.S. visas and extensions for U.S. visas are not available in the United States.All U.S. visas must be obtained abroad. We strongly recommend visiting U.S. Consulates in your home country whenever possible; third country applications are often difficult.Come in and discuss your questions about visa renewals with an immigration advisor.
  • It is important to be aware that visas are automatically “provisionally revoked” when a foreign national in the U.S. is arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or is convicted of any drug offense.Even if you were never convicted, served no jail time, and did not need to pay a fine, your visa has probably been canceled.A notification is supposed to be sent to the email address used to apply for your visa --you may or may not get that notification. Any arrest or conviction on domestic violence charges can also prevent re-entry to the United States. The process for getting cleared for a new visa under these circumstances is lengthy and challenging. If you have an arrest record of any kind, please discuss it with your immigration advisor before traveling.
  • Any admission of using, buying, or trading any illegal drug, including marijuana, can also result in denial of admission to the U.S. and your visa being cancelled.
  • Automatic Revalidation of Visas --If you are in valid status, are continuing your studies, and have an expired visa but want to go to Canada or Mexico or a few of the “adjacent islands” for less than 30 days, it is possible to use “automatic visa revalidation.”  Please come talk to your immigration advisor before doing this.  Adjacent islands eligible for this benefit are currently defined as Saint Pierre, Miquelon, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French, and Netherlands territories or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea, but NOT Cuba.  If you apply for a visa on your trip, that nullifies the automatic revalidation benefit.  Note: this process does not apply to nationals of U.S. Department of State designated state sponsors of terrorism. https://www.state.gov/j/ct/list/c14151.htm

T. 4 Taxes

Taxes – All individuals present in the U.S. during a calendar year must submit tax information to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for that year, whether or not you have been employed.  Submitting tax information does not necessarily require you to pay U.S. income tax; for most students it means filing a form showing you are not required to pay U.S. taxes or file a tax return at this time.  GSSS provides free access to tax software designed for nonimmigrants to help you, but you are responsible for filing your tax forms each year. 

  • You will be subject to the tax filing requirement even after program/degree completion and departure from the U.S.Access codes to the software will be sent to your Eagles email address when available the following spring.
  • Non-resident aliens for tax purposes have automatic 14% withholding on taxable scholarships (anything other than tuition, academic fees, and books) and EV scholars have 30% automatic withholding on honoraria.
  • If you have been in the U.S. for in previous years but never filed tax forms, you can file forms for the missing years – and you should do so. The tax software we purchase can help you with that for an extra fee that you pay directly.
  • Unless you have firm confirmation that you are a “resident alien for tax purposes” according to the IRS, we recommend that you do not use commercial services (H&R Block, TurboTax, and similar products or companies). Authorized IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site that is trained for non-resident alien taxes specifically are good sources of assistance and information.
  • You should always keep a copy of any tax documents you file with the U.S. government. You may need them to apply for an immigration benefit in the future.