Enforcing U.S. immigration laws and regulations is the responsibility
of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The USCIS is a part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The address of the local USCIS district office is:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
John F. Kennedy Building
Boston, MA 02203
Maintaining Legal Status While in the United States
The following is a list of essential things that you, as a foreign
student or scholar, are responsible for to maintain legal status
in the United States:
Maintain required documentation. Ensure that enabling documents
(Form DS-2019, I-20, I-797, etc.) and I-94 are always accurate
Engage only in activities permitted under your program and
Apply for extensions of stay prior to the expiration date on
your visa documents.
Do not engage in unauthorized employment.
Do not travel outside of the U.S. without the proper re-entry
Exchange visitors (J-1 and J-2 visa holders) are required to
obtain sickness and accident insurance and maintain this insurance
throughout the entire period of program participation.
As a foreign national, you have the responsibility to maintain
lawful status while in the United States. Become knowledgeable and
stay informed about information that impacts your status. Refer
to the Immigration website and WHOI Headlines for
up-to-date information and consult with the Foreign National Office
should you have questions.
Important information for J-1 visa holders
Under Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS),
we are required to report that an exchange visitor (J-1 visa holder)
has begun his or her program participation as scheduled within
30 days of the program start date on the Form DS-2019.
If you are not able to arrive in the United States within
30 days from the start date on your Form DS-2019, or if
your plans change and you do not use the Form DS-2019, please contact
the Foreign National Advisor immediately.
The Foreign National Advisor must be notified if an exchange visitor’s
program participation will end prior to the program end date on
the Form DS-2019. Department of State regulations mandate notification,
through SEVIS, when an exchange visitor has withdrawn from or completed
a program thirty or more days prior to the ending date on his/her
Changes in Personal Information:
Foreign nationals other than J-1 or J-2 visa holder are required
to notify the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
on Form AR-11 within 10 days of changing their
address. These foreign nationals must also notify the Foreign
National Advisor within 10 days of the change.
Form AR-11 is available at: http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/ar-11.pdf
A Special registrant, who is monitored through SEVIS, is no
longer required to separately notify the Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) of their change in address or institutional sponsorship.
Notification to DHS through SEVIS serves as notification for the
purposes of NSEERS registration. Special registrants not
monitored in SEVIS, are required to file Form AR-11SR
which is available at http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/ar-11sr.pdf.
Basic Travel Documents
Passports: Your passport is your own country's permit for
you to leave or re-enter your own country. Your passport must be
valid at all times. Consult your own consulate or embassy in the
U.S. to renew your passport.
U.S. Visa: The consular visa stamp solely represents permission
to travel to the U.S. It indicates the date until which you may
enter or re-enter the U.S. It does not indicate how long you may
remain the in U.S. Visas can be obtained only outside the U.S. at
an American Consulate.
Form I-94, Departure Record: The I-94 shows that you have
been lawfully admitted to the U.S. The I-94 is usually stapled onto
the U.S. visa page of your passport. It contains an eleven digit
number (called your admission number) that USCIS uses to keep track
of your arrival and departure from the U.S. There may be a date
written in the upper right-hand corner; you must leave the U.S.
by that date, or you must apply to extend your stay. D/S (duration
of status) written on the I-94 for J status means
that you are allowed to stay in this country for the period indicated
in item 3 of Form DS-2019, plus a 30 day grace period in which to
depart the United States. Duration of status for an F-1
student is defined as the time during which the student is pursuing
a full course of studies at an educational school, or engaging in
authorized practical training following completion of studies.
Visa Categories: B-1, F-1, J-1, H-1B, O-1, TN
B-1/B-2 Visa Status: The B classification
may be used for either business (B-1) or pleasure (B-2). The B-1 category is appropriate for aliens who wish to engage in commercial, business or professional activities related to their employment or business abroad. Some typical uses of the B-1 classification are to consult with business associates, participate in scientific, educational, professional, or business conventions, conferences, seminars or undertake independent research.
Aliens coming to the U.S. exclusively to observe the conduct of a business or other professional or vocational activity may be classified B-1 provided that they pay for their own expenses. Students who seek to gain practical experience must qualify under H, L, or J visa classification, when an appropriate exchange visitor program exists.
F-1 Visa Status: When students present an I-20 Form issued
by an American institution to the American Consular Officer, they
receive an F-1 (student) Visa. On the I-20 Form the International
Student Advisor certifies to the consul and immigration officials
that the student has adequate English language proficiency, adequate
financial resources, and is academically qualified.
J-1 Visa Status: A J-1 Visa is issued to a participant in
an Exchange Visitor Program approved by the U.S. Department of State.
Participants can be in one of a variety of categories, including
student, research scholar, and professor. Acceptance to a program
is indicated by receipt of a Form DS-2019 which is then presented
to an American consul abroad when applying for a J-1 Visa.
F-2 and J-2 Visa Status: Spouses and children of students
on F-1 Visas receive an F-2 visa. F-2 Visa holders are not
allowed to work in the U.S. under any circumstances. Spouses and
children of J-1Visa holders receive J-2 Visas. J-2 Visa holders
may apply for permission to work if they can prove that the income
from work will not be used to support the J-1 Visa holder.
H-1B Visa Status: An H-1B Visa is issued for a professional
to engage in temporary work in a speciality field for a maximum of
O-1 Visa Status: Available to applicants who have extraordinary
ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics
which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international
acclaim and coming temporarily to the US to continue work in the
area of extraordinary ability.
TN Visa Status: TN status is for professionals from Canada
and Mexico. The visa is obtained at the border and is issued for
one year at a time.
Visa Waiver Program: The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States for business (WB) or pleasure (WT) for 90 days or less without obtaining a U.S. visa
Foreign nationals in the U.S. need to be certain that they have
the documents and visas needed to enter the country they propose
to visit. Current valid documents are also needed to re-enter the
U.S.; for example, a J-1 visa holder must have a valid form DS-2019
endorsed for entry by the Exchange Program Responsible/Alternate
Responsible Officer, and the U.S. visa must show valid dates. Documents
and procedures vary, depending on the foreign national's citizenship
and the country they intend to visit.
Documentation Required for Travel and Re-entry
If you plan to travel outside the U.S., you will need the following
documents to re-enter:
J-1 Exchange Visitors
A valid passport (unless exempt from passport and visa requirements)
A valid visa
A valid Form DS-2019 endorsed for re-entry by the Exchange Program
Responsible/Alternate Responsible Officer.
H-1B and O-1 Visa Holders
The original I-797 Approval Notice from the USCIS
which is valid beyond the travel period.
A valid H-1B or O-1 visa stamp in the passport
A current letter from the employer verifying employment. (Not
necessary, but may help to facilitate re-entry).
A valid passport (unless exempt from passport and visa requirements)
TN Visa Holders
Canadian. The original I-94 card valid beyond the travel period and proof of citizenship
Mexican. Valid TN visa, original I-94 card valid beyond the travel period
It is advisable that all important documents are photocopied
before your trip and kept in a safe place in case the originals
Most aliens seeking admission to the U.S. in nonimmigrant status
must have a passport valid for at least six months beyond the date
of your anticipated stay in the U.S. Certain countries have agreements
extending the passport for six months beyond the expiration date. A list of countries with passport agreements can be found at: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/travel/faq_f2.htm#_Toc81222004
Effective January 23, 2007, all persons including citizens of the United States, are required to present a passport, or other accepted secure document that establishes the bearer's identity and nationality, to enter the United States when arriving by air from Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. It is anticipated that this requirement will extend to all land and sea border crossings effective January 1, 2008.
If you need a new visa to return, consider:
In the past, a nonimmigrant (F, M, J and Q-2 status only),
could travel to Canada or Mexico on an expired visa, and could
re-enter and be considered extended, or in the case of a nonimmigrant
who had a change of status, be considered converted to the proper
visa category as long as the stay was for less than 30 days. This
was referred to as “Automatic Revalidation”.
Effective April 2002, automatic revalidations are no longer available
for citizens of “state sponsors of terrorism”, currently
designated by the State Department as: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya,
Sudan, North Korea and Cuba. In addition, any nonimmigrant that
chooses to apply for a new visa stamp while in contiguous territory
will no longer be eligible for the “automatic revalidation”,
but would rather have to wait until the new visa stamp is granted
in order to re-enter the U.S. If for any reason, they are denied
a new visa stamp, the foreign national will have to return to
their home country to obtain a visa stamp to re-enter the U.S.
Individuals who are not residents in the consular district
are known as third-country nationals and must have an appointment
for an interview. It is recommended that you consult the website
of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply for appointment
scheduling and visa processing information. Be aware that individuals
may be more likely to encounter difficulties at the time of the
interview when applying for a visa outside of their home country.
Individuals who have ever been out of status because they have
overstayed their visa or the period authorized on the I-94 are
not eligible to apply at a border post and must apply in the country
of home nationality.
You should consult the Foreign National Advisor prior to travel
if you have a file pending with USCIS
and are unsure of travel regulations.
Since September 11, 2001, the Department of State has implemented
a number of new security measures that have resulted in increased
scrutiny and review of visa applications resulting in delays in
The Department of State is subjecting foreign nationals from
certain countries to additional security clearances. Special registrants
are required to be processed under a special registration program
known as National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS).
Special Registrants must depart the U.S. using specific ports.
More information can be found at: http://www.ice.gov/pi/specialregistration/index.htm.
The Department of State requires all nonimmigrant males between
the ages of 16 and 45, regardless of nationality and regardless
of where they apply, to complete Form DS-157 (Supplemental Nonimmigrant
Visa Application). This form is in addition to the usual and customary
documentation needed to apply for a visa. Further, U.S. embassies
and consulates may subject any nonimmigrant visa applicant to
this requirement at their discretion.
Individuals involved in research in fields on the Technology
Alert List (TAL), the Department of State is required to conduct
a security clearance prior to issuing a visa. Clearance may take
one to several months.
When you travel you may encounter:
Delays in flights due to heightened security measures at airports
and along the Canadian border.
Inquiries and increased review of documents at all ports-of-entry
Multiple inspections by several immigration or customs officials
Possible photocopying of documents by USCIS
officials and possible videotaping of USCIS, customs or FBI interviews
Inspection of personal belongings, luggage, pockets or other
Social Security & Tax Information
Social Security Number: If you are employed in the U.S.,
you will need a Social Security number even if your pay is exempt
from Social Security withholding (F-1 or J-1 status). To get a number,
take your passport, DS-2019 or I-20 and I-94 card to the regional
office of Social Security Administration located at 48 Research
Road, Falmouth Technology Park (off Thomas Landers Road). Tel: 508-548-8150.
Tax Responsibility: Your tax status is determined by your
visa status and the amount of time you are physically in the U.S.
There are two types of tax status: nonresident and resident; determination
of which category you are will determine the amount of money withheld
from your paycheck. Resident aliens are taxed on world-wide income
while non-resident aliens are only taxed on income "effectively
connected" with their stay in the U.S. Your tax status also determines
whether you will pay all three income taxes: federal, state, and
The U.S. has signed tax treaties with some countries which may
exempt certain individuals from taxes. For details you should obtain
IRS publication #901; since every treaty is different, it is important
that you find out the specifics of your treaty. Although a tax treaty
may exempt you from paying income tax, you are still required to
file an income tax return on the appropriate forms.
Useful publications by the IRS you may want to consult are
Publication 901 "U.S. Tax Treaties"
Publication 519 "U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens"
Publication 520 "Scholarships and Fellowships"
Publication 515 "Withholding of Tax Non-resident Aliens and
You can call the following numbers to receive free copies of the forms,
instructions, and publications: Federal forms, call 800-829-3676,
State 1NR forms, call 617-727-4392.
Leaving the United States
The U.S. government requires assurance that foreign nationals leaving
the U.S. do not owe any taxes. Before departing the U.S., aliens
must get a "Certificate of Compliance" (also called a "sailing permit"
or "exit permit") issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as
evidence that they have paid all taxes. Information on tax requirements for internationals can be found at: http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/international/index.html
The Foreign National Advisor must be notified if an exchange
visitor’s program participation will end prior to the program
end date on the Form DS-2019. Department of State regulations
mandate notification, through SEVIS,
when an exchange visitor has withdrawn from or completed a program
thirty or more days prior to the ending date on his/her Form DS-2019.
A Check-Out Sheet must be completed
prior to leaving the Institution. Employees and Guests must sign
out with Human Resources. Students, Scholars and Fellows must
sign out with the Academic Programs Office.
The Check-Out Sheet is used to document the return to the Institution
of books, keys, credit cards, I.D. cards, etc., and provides evidence
of satisfactory settlement of any outstanding indebtedness, e.g.,
travel advance, education loans, personal purchases, etc.
Continuation and/or conversion privileges of health and life
insurance plans are available to Regular employees who leave the
Coverage under the group health plans will normally stop at
the end of the month in which the termination is effective. However,
under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986
(COBRA), insured employees and their eligible dependents that
have coverage in the group medical insurance plans may continue
their coverage by paying the COBRA premium cost. Specific questions on eligibility can be
addressed with the Benefits Specialist at the time of check-out.