1. How do I get a student visa?
Once you have been admitted to OBU and have presented financial guarantee documents showing that you have adequate resources to support your studies at OBU for one academic year (with the understanding that resources will be available to you for each year of study thereafter), the International Office will issue the Form I-20 or the Form DS 20-19. You must take the form you have been issued together with your Letter of Acceptance, financial guarantee documents and a valid passport to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate having jurisdiction over your place of permanent residence and apply for a student visa to study at OBU. In addition, you must also pay the new SEVIS fee before going to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Information about the new SEVIS fee may be found by clicking on the following link: http://www.ice.gov/graphics/sevis/i901/index.htm
Only the United States Government is authorized to issue student visas. OBU is not authorized to issue a student visa or any other type of visa. OBU can only issue the documents required for applying for a student visa. Please check “10 Tips on Getting a U.S. Visa” for more information.
2. How do I maintain my visa status?
Maintaining your visa status allows you be granted immigration benefits, such as Optional Practical Training (OPT). Obtaining a visa with a specific expiration date is not an assurance that you will be able to stay in the United States. Your right to stay in the United States may be forfeited at any time if you violate the regulations of your visa status.
In order to maintain your status you must:
- Maintain a valid passport at all times
- Receive written authorization to make changes to your I-20 or DS-2019 activity
- Complete a full course of study each fall and spring semester
- Obtain permission before accepting any employment in the U.S.
- Complete your course of study on or before the completion date in section 5 of your I-20 or in section 3 of your DS-2019. To request permission to extend this date, you must apply to the OBU International Office one month before the completion date.
- Obtain a new signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 before traveling out of the U.S.
- Update your U.S. local address and phone number in “info.obu.edu” within 10 days of the change. (You can only use this webiste after you are admitted to OBU.) Changes in your Home Country address must be reported to the International Office within 10 days from the change as well.
- Maintain contact with the International Office by checking all e-mail correspondence at least once per week using your official OBU e-mail address
- Maintain health insurance coverage for yourself and any dependents while in the U.S.
- Obey all federal and state laws
- Leave the U.S. when your I-20 or DS-2019 expires, or you graduate, or you have ended or suspended your OBU program
- Meet with an OBU International Student Advisor for an exit interview one month prior to your final day of class
- If you are subject to Special Registration, you are responsible to maintain all Special Registration records and reporting
- Complete one semester at OBU before you are eligible to transfer to another school
- Complete the appropriate tax forms for the IRS every year
The US Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) website provides additional information about maintaining status, as well as information on other immigration topics.
3. What is SEVIS?
The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is a government, computerized system that maintains data about foreign students and exchange visitors during their stay in the United States. SEVIS enables schools and program sponsors to transmit information and event notifications via the Internet to BCIS and the Department of State. OBU is required to register students and scholars in SEVIS every semester. For this reason, every student/scholar must report to the International Office at the beginning of every semester to be registered in SEVIS.
Some of the events that OBU must report via SEVIS are as follows:
- Change of Name
- Change of Major
- Change of Address
- Change of Education Level
- Change of Program Dates
4. How do I get a U.S. Social Security number?
International students and scholars in F-1 or J-1 status may obtain a U.S. Social Security number if they are eligible.
A U.S. Social Security number is a U.S. government-issued identification number. International students and scholars in F-1 or J-1 status are eligible to receive this number. It costs nothing to apply. However, students must have a job in order to receive this card. Please be advised that any type of employment must be approved by the OBU International Programs Office before one can begin working.
When you visit the Social Security Office, you must bring the following documents with you:
Completed Social Security number application
Letter of employment
Letter from the OBU International Office
Your I-94 card
Your Form I-20 or IAP-66
We have been notified that the following businesses do not require a Social Security Number in order to obtain their services:
– Bank of America
- Wells Fargo
- Bank One
5. How do I get an Arkansas Driver’s License?
In most cases, you must apply for a Arkansas driver’s license in person at the Arkansas Revenue Department. The Revenue Department is located at 615 Clay Street, Arkadelphia, AR. The phone number is 870-246-6733. You must bring all immigration documents including your I-94 card and your valid passport. Click here to access the official Arkansas State website.
6. As a holder of a student visa, what are my options for working?
Please remember that you have been issued a student visa to be a full-time student and make timely progress toward the completion of your program. You were NOT issued a student visa to work in the United States. However, you do have some options if you have maintained your visa status.
Please link to information on this website that explains each option:
- For F-1 Visa holders:
- On-campus employment
- Curricular Practical Training
- Optional Practical Training
F-2 visa holders cannot work under any circumstances. J-2 visa holders may work only if they have received permission to work from the U.S. government.
7. What are the procedures for having an immediate family member or members come to visit me or to join me?
An immediate family member is defined by the U.S. government as a child under the age of 21 or a married spouse of the F-1 student or the J-1 exchange visitor. In order for someone to join you at OBU, they will be required to apply for an F-2 or J-2 visa rather than a visitor’s visa. F-1s must obtain a new Form I-20 by showing that additional money is available to support your immediate family member(s) in addition to yourself. J-1s must also provide evidence of having additional money available to support the immediate family member(s). If you wish your immediate family member(s) to join you, please visit with an International Student Advisor.
8. Can my passport expire?
No. You must not allow your passport to expire. If your passport expires, you will be out of status, and the International Programs Office must report you to the federal government through the SEVIS system.
We recommend that you allow at least six months for your passport to be renewed. Depending on the country, the renewal process may take a great deal of time.
9. My visa has expired. What do I do?
If your visa has expired, your legal status in the United States is not affected. Your status is linked to the validity of your passport, the I-94 card, and your I-20 or DS-2019 expiration dates. Please note that your I-94 card is marked “D/S”. This means that you were admitted to the United States for duration of status and that your status expires when you reach the expiration date on your Form I-20 (line item #5) or DS-2019 (line item #3).
The visa (F-1 or J-1) is an entry/re-entry permit and only needs to be valid if you travel out of the United States and must return to continue your program. If this is the case, and your visa has expired, you must have your visa renewed outside of the United States at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
10. Do I have to file an income tax return and pay taxes to the U.S. Government?
International students and visiting scholars, regardless of whether or not they work and earn income while in the United States, must submit an appropriate tax return to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) each year. Every student must file Form 8843 whether you have worked or not by April 15th. The form is available by clicking here on the IRS website.
Some money earned in the United States may not be taxed if the country you are from has a tax treaty with the United States. Information about tax treaties is available from the Payroll Office at OBU. The International Programs Office presents a tax workshop each year during the spring semester.