Obtaining an F-1 Visa
Most international students who study at Longy will enter the United States on an F-1 visa. An F-1 student is a nonimmigrant who is pursuing a full course of study in order to achieve a specific educational or professional objective at an academic institution in the United States. Once the educational or professional objective has been attained, the F-1 student is expected by the U.S. government to return to his or her residence abroad. Holders of other visa types who wish to study at Longy should contact the Admissions Office for further information.
You must receive a Form I-20 from Longy in order to apply for the F-1 visa. Longy will issue the Form I-20 only after the following documents have been received, reviewed, and accepted:
- The completed application for admission including a TOEFL score report or waiver.
- A clear photocopy of the student's passport from the home country. If a student has obtained a visa from another school, a clear photocopy of the student's previous visa is also required.
- Certified evidence of financial support and a letter of sponsorship where applicable. This should include official, original records of personal or family funds. These records can also include the funds of outside agencies or sponsors. All international students must submit proof of financial support that they, or their sponsors, can cover the cost of attendance for the full program at Longy.
Determining your Cost of Attendance:
In order to receive the Form I-20, international students must provide documents of financial support for costs associated with studying at Longy and living in Boston. Please see link below for a list of these expenses.
Tuition Rates, Fees & Other Expenses
SEVIS AND FORM I-20
SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, is a database maintained by the U.S. government that tracks international students and their dependents. Longy’s Designated School Officials are required to update a student’s SEVIS record whenever the student changes address, program of study, etc.
SEVIS DESIGNATED STUDENT OFFICIALS
Longy’s Designated School Officials (DSOs) for international student affairs are the Registrar, the Director of Student Financial Assistance, the Admissions and Student Services Coordinator, and the Assistant to the Dean of the Conservatory. These advisors are available to help international students understand and comply with all applicable rules and regulations.
I-20 PROCESS FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS OUTSIDE THE U.S.
Upon receiving the completed Form I-20 from Longy, students outside the U.S. should:
1. Pay the SEVIS Fee. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires proof of payment of the SEVIS fee before issuing a visa or approving any benefits of status. F-2 dependents are not required to pay the SEVIS fee. To pay the SEVIS I-901 processing fee refer to: https://www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/.
2. Make an appointment at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country in order to apply for the F-1 visa. It is recommended that appointments be made well in advance of traveling to the U.S. Students should bring all documents relevant to their admission to Longy, including:
Valid passport (must be valid at least six months beyond the date you intend to remain in the U.S)
Completed and signed Form I-20
Certified evidence of financial support (including the same financial documents used by Longy to complete the Form I-20)
Longy acceptance letter (and scholarship award letter where applicable)
Proof of English proficiency, such as a TOEFL report
Travel documents and other forms as specified by the local U.S. embassy
These documents should be retained and may need to be presented when traveling to the U.S. In some cases a person applying for an F-1 visa may be asked to provide evidence of intent to depart the U.S. after completion of studies.
Once a visa application and supporting materials are reviewed and approved, the student will be issued an F-1 visa. Visas can be obtained only outside the United States at a U.S. embassy or consulate. The visa allows a student to enter the U.S. when accompanied by the Form I-20 and is only valid for the purpose for which it was issued. The expiration date on the visa does not determine how long a student may stay in the U.S.; the completion date printed on the Form I- 20 is the determining date.
Unlike the Form I-20, visas may expire while a student is in the U.S. However, before re-entering the U.S. after any international travel, the visa must be renewed.
Citizens of Canada and Bermuda are exempt from the requirement to possess a visa to enter the U.S.; however, they are still required to pay the SEVIS fee before starting their program. Proof of SEVIS fee payment for these individuals will be verified at the U.S. port of entry before they are admitted to the United States in F-1 status.
I-20 PROCESS FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS CURRENTLY IN THE U.S.
The SEVIS fee is not required from international students currently in the U.S. in valid F-1 status. The fee is not required when a student transfers to a new school or changes degree program or level within five months of completing a previous F-1 program.
Longy will provide a student coming from another U.S. school with a SEVIS Transfer Form to be completed by an official at the previous school so that the student’s SEVIS record can be transferred to Longy and a new I-20 issued.
FIVE-MONTH ABSENCE POLICY
The SEVIS fee must be paid by students who have studied in the U.S. in F-1 status in the past but have departed the U.S. for longer than a five-month period or changed to another immigration status, whether or not a new F-1 visa is needed.
Maintaining F-1 Status
MAINTAINING F-1 STATUS
It is extremely important for a nonimmigrant to maintain his or her status while in the United States. Failure to maintain the terms and conditions of nonimmigrant status is grounds for deportation from the United States. Maintaining status involves:
- Reporting to a Designated School Official (DSO) no later than the second week of the semester, so that the student can be registered in SEVIS.
- Reporting any change of name or address to a DSO within 10 days of the change.
- Pursuing a full course of study at the school listed on the Form I-20 during every academic session or semester except during official school breaks, or unless approved under a specific exception, in advance, by a DSO.
- Making normal progress toward completing the course of study and finishing studies before the program completion date on the Form I-20.
- If poor academic performance or other academic problems result in academic suspension or a mandatory reduction in course load, immigration status will be impacted. Suspension will prevent the student from enrolling. Mandatory reduction in course load following poor academic performance will also be viewed as a failure to pursue a full course of study, unless it can be authorized under one of the reduced course load provisions.
Academic probation and suspension are not acceptable reasons for program extension. A student placed on academic probation who is not able to complete his or her program by the program completion date may not be eligible for an extension of stay, unless other “compelling academic or medical reasons” exist to support the extension request.
A student must abide by the rules requiring disclosure of information and prohibition on criminal activity. A student must abide by any special requirements, such as Special Registration requirements.
An F-1 student must not work off-campus, unless specifically authorized for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) after one year of study or Optional Practical Training (OPT) upon graduation. A student must abide by the aggregate unemployment rules while on post-completion OPT.
REDUCED COURSE LOAD EXCEPTIONS
The Dean of the Conservatory, in consultation with a student’s department chair and the Principal Designated School Official (PDSO), has the authority to determine whether a student is eligible for an exception to the full course of study requirement. Students must submit a written request and provide documentation if they feel they meet one of the conditions listed below. A decision about reduction of enrollment will be made after review of the student’s situation. The student is expected to return to full-time enrollment the following semester.
Exceptions to the full course of study requirement:
- Documented illness or medical condition (12 months maximum per program).
- Unfamiliarity or difficulties with U.S. teaching methods or English. This is permissible only during the first year of study.
- In their final term, students may drop below full-time. Once an international student’s I-20 has been updated to indicate final term of study, further extensions are not possible.
- As a result of improper course-level placement, the Dean of the Conservatory may approve a reduced course load. Students must resume a full course load the following term.
F-1 DURATION OF STATUS (D/S) AND GRACE PERIODS
An F-1 student will normally be admitted to the United States for duration of status, noted as “D/S” on both Form I-94 and the student’s Form I-20.
An F-1 student may be admitted for a period of up to 30 days before the start of the course of study. An F-1 student who has completed a course of study will be allowed a 60-day period to prepare for departure from the United States or transfer to a different program at the same or another educational institution. No employment is permitted during the 60-day grace period.
An F-1 student authorized by the DSO to withdraw from classes will be allowed a 15-day period for departure from the United States.
An F-1 student who fails to maintain a full course of study or otherwise fails to maintain status is not eligible for an additional period for departure.
TRAVEL OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES
When traveling outside the U.S., students should take with them all documents relevant to their study at Longy. Passports and visas should be valid for re-entry, and students should ensure that the DSO’s signature on page 3 of the I-20 is not older than six months. Before traveling to a country other than a student’s home country, the student must check with that country’s embassy or consulate to see if a visa is required.
Employment for International Students
Curricular Practical Training
Longy School of Music of Bard College allows qualifying international students to work off-campus in approved positions through Curricular Practical Training (CPT). The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) states that CPT must be "an integral part of an established curriculum" and define it as "alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school." Positions must, therefore, support students' academic programs and be approved by the Academic Affairs Office. Students must provide documentation from potential employers to the Academic Affairs Office before employment is scheduled to begin. Students must register for CPT for .5 credits per semester and may be asked to provide written documentation of their CPT experiences to the Dean of the Conservatory. International students enrolling at Longy directly from residency in their home country are ineligible for CPT during the first academic year.
Optional Practical Training
Longy School of Music of Bard College allows qualifying international students to apply for work permission, for approved positions, through Optional Practical Training (OPT). The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines OPT as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study." Students should apply for OPT approximately three months before the graduation or course completion date. OPT is granted for a twelve-month period, and any OPT completed prior to graduation counts against the total time permitted. OPT following graduation/course completion is only available on a full-time basis. To apply for OPT, students must schedule a meeting with the appropriate DSO and provide copies of all required documentation. While students are no longer enrolled at Longy during their OPT, Longy is responsible for reporting any updates and/or changes in status to the USCIS.
Reporting Requirements and Maintaining Status while on Post-Completion OPT
While on post-completion OPT, a student must continue to report changes in name or address to a DSO within 10 days of the change. The DSO is obligated to update SEVIS within 21 days of receiving the update from the student.
Periods of unemployment may put a student's F-1 status at risk. During post-completion OPT, F-1 status is dependent upon employment. Students may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during any post-completion OPT. Each day during the OPT authorization period that the student does not have qualifying employment counts as a day of unemployment.
SEVIS allows a 10-day exception to the counting of days while someone is between jobs, saying that "periods of up to 10 days between the end of one job and the beginning of the next job will not be included in the calculation for time spent unemployed."
The student cannot be outside of the U.S. more than 120 days while on post-completion OPT. Time spent outside the United States while unemployed will count towards the 90/120 aggregate during the OPT authorization period, i.e., a student cannot "stop the unemployment clock" simply by exiting the country. If a student travels while employed either during a period of leave authorized by an employer or as part of their employment, the time spent outside the United States will not count as unemployment.
The student must report any period of unemployment to the appropriate DSO.
Types of Work that Constitute Employment while on OPT
- Regular paid employment
- Payment by multiple short-term multiple employers. Students, such as musicians and other performing artists, may work for multiple short term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide a list of all gigs.
- Work for hire. This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.
- Self-employed business owner. Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must work full time. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to the student's degree program.
- Employment through an agency. Students on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.
- Volunteers or unpaid interns. SEVP says, "Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this does not violate any labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-completion OPT. These students must be able to provide evidence from the employer that the student worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment
Students may be denied future immigration benefits that rely on the student's valid F-1 status if DHS determines that the student exceeded the limitations on unemployment. Additionally, the government may examine SEVIS data for an individual, a selected group, or all students on post-completion OPT and terminate a student's record if it fails to show the student maintained the proper period of employment.
Social Security Numbers
To work on- or off-campus, students must have a Social Security number or a taxpayer identification number issued by the government. You must apply in person at the Social Security Administration Office (http://www.socialsecurity.gov); the nearest office is located at 10 Fawcett Street, Cambridge (take the #78 bus west and get off at the Concord Avenue/Fawcett Street stop).
If you are in international student, you must present the following documents to apply:
- Passport with your visa
- A letter from your designated school official that identifies your employer and the type of work you will be doing. This letter can be obtained from the Student Services Office.
- A letter from your employer that provides evidence of your employment. The Student Services Office has a form letter that we will print for you. You must bring this letter to your supervisor to sign and date.
All documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. Photocopies or notarized copies of documents are not acceptable.