International Student Information
Receiving Your I-20 and Applying for a Visa
Once you have been accepted at New England Law | Boston and have paid the required deposits, the Office of Admissions will forward to the Registrar your application for a form I-20. This application must include an attachment (bank statements, etc.) which shows your ability to finance your first year at New England Law (including tuition, insurance and other fees, books, and living expenses). After the Registrar has reviewed this application and the documentation and deemed it satisfactory, he will enter your personal information into SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) and print out your form I-20, which will have your SEVIS identification number on it. The I-20 will be mailed to the address you provide on the application.
Upon receiving the I-20, you will need to make an appointment to apply for a student visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. Changes in U.S. visa laws and regulations have increased the amount of time it can take to get a visa so processing times will vary. Typically they will require your valid passport, letter of admission, I-20 form, official copies of your financial support documents, and other supporting materials as needed. We recommend that you schedule an appointment at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as possible. However, please note that you cannot have your visa issued more than 120 days prior to the start date on your I-20 form. The website of your particular consulate or embassy can be found at http://usembassy.state.gov/. Select the city and country where you will apply for a student visa (“non-immigrant” section) to learn what the procedures are for your particular consulate. The following state department website also has information:
- Citizens of Canada are NOT required to obtain a U.S. visa to enter the United States. However, a U.S. Immigration official will inspect your papers upon entry. You must have proof of Canadian citizenship, your Certificate of Eligibility (I-20 form) and proof of financial support.
- If you are a newly admitted international student entering the U.S. for the first time and a first-time F-1 visa applicant, you must pay the SEVIS fee. When you receive your I-20 go to https://www.fmjfee.com to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee online or to get information about other payment options. Print your receipt as proof of payment.
- If you have previously attended another school in the United States, you should not apply to New England Law for a new I-20. When you have completed your program at the prior school, you will need to have that school’s SEVIS I-20 record transferred to New England Law | Boston. You should contact your international office or appropriate department to request the transfer of your I-20 and SEVIS record to New England Law.
- A U.S. address is required by the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). Please be sure to send your most current local address to the Registrar, so that it can be updated on your official SEVIS record. This should be emailed directly to the Registrar: email@example.com
- You must have your I-20 signed once each year by the Registrar. Failure to do this, especially if you are traveling, may result in your being held up at the U.S. border.
- Your passport must be valid for 6 months past the completion date on your I-20. For example, if your I-20 expires on May 31, 2017, your passport should be valid until November 30, 2017.
- You must maintain full-time status for your division and remain in good academic and financial standing while here at New England Law. Academic Dismissal by the law school will result in your having to leave the United States. Similarly, unpaid tuition that results in Administrative Withdrawal from the law school may cause your lawful status to be in jeopardy.
Obtaining Employment in the United States
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is offered to students who have completed one year of study and who are in good academic standing. OPT allows you to work in the U.S. provided the job is directly related to your field of study. Students with F-1 visa status may apply for one year (12 months) of Optional Practical Training, during which time employment is authorized in the United States.
Think of OPT as a bank account. In that account is 12 months of full-time Optional Practical Training. If, for example, you would like to work full-time for three months one summer before you graduate, that is a three month “withdrawal” of full-time employment. You will still have nine months to use after you have completed your academic program.
Types of OPT
There are two types of OPT available to F-1 students: Pre-completion OPT and Post-completion OPT:
Pre-completion OPT. Students who wish to work in their field before graduation may apply for pre-completion OPT, after they have successfully completed one full year of study. The application process is listed below. Students who are granted an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) for pre-completion OPT may work no more than 20 hours per week when school is in session. On school breaks and over the summer, students may work a full-time 40-hour week. Please note that any time spent working on a pre-completion OPT will be subtracted from the 12 months allotted for post-completion OPT. Part-time (20 hours/week) OPT is deducted at one-half the rate of full-time OPT. So, if you work part-time for 2 months, only one month will be subtracted from your allotted 12 months.
Post-completion OPT. Most students save their 12 months of OPT for a post-completion OPT, after the student has completed their program of study. Again, the OPT must be in the field of law. Students on post-completion OPT may work full-time (40-hour weeks).
When to Submit Your OPT Application
For students who intend to do OPT after graduation, you may apply for OPT up to 90 days prior to your academic program end date, and no later than 60 days after your academic program end date. We strongly advise applying before your academic program ends. Consult the law school’s Registrar, who is the Principal Designated School Official (PDSO) about the exact end date of your program.
Please note that OPT must be approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, so plan ahead to ensure a timely receipt of your application. If your OPT application is received by USCIS more than 60 days after you complete your program, you will not be eligible for OPT.
Please note: Authorization for OPT is limited to a total of twelve (12) months combined, and all OPT must be completed within fourteen (14) months after the end date of your academic program.
Other Points of Note
- Part-time OPT (20 hours or less per week) is deducted from available practical training at one-half the full-time rate.
- Many students do not fully understand the mechanics of obtaining and preserving OPT options. For example, many students obtain authorization for OPT, and then start looking for a job. Please bear in mind that the authorization period is based upon the OPT start date that you requested, not the date a job is obtained. Once you are approved for OPT, the "clock starts ticking," whether or not you have secured employment. Consequently, students can lose valuable time by ignoring this key detail.
- Furthermore, many students apply for OPT authorizations and later change their minds, or pursue other options. Yet, if the application for authorization is not officially withdrawn, the OPT may still be approved. Just because OPT is not used, this does not mean that the authorization for OPT has expired. Therefore, any student desiring to potentially explore his or her OPT options is strongly advised to consult with the law school’s Principal Designated School Official (the New England Law Registrar), well in advance of the need for OPT, so that the student fully understands all of the common pitfalls associated with OPT.
Periods of Unemployment (Post-Completion OPT)
Once your OPT application is approved, continued F-1 status and post-completion OPT work permission are dependent on active employment. Students authorized for the standard 12-month OPT period are limited to a cumulative total of 90 days without employment. If you are unemployed for an aggregate of more than 90 days during your approved OPT period, your work permission will be terminated and your F-1 status is ended In this case, you will need to take immediate steps to settle your affairs and leave the U.S. or otherwise change your status. All periods of unemployment must be reported to the New England Law Registrar immediately.
Responsibilities of F-1 Students on OPT
While on post-completion OPT, you are still an F-1 student visa holder through New England Law | Boston. This means that you are responsible for communicating the following information to the PDSO (the New England Law registrar) during your OPT time:
- Any change of name,
- The name and address of your employer when you get a job and when you change jobs,
- Any period of unemployment while authorized for OPT,
- Any change in your U.S. or home-country address,
- If you change your address while on OPT, you must update your address with the PDSO (Registrar) at New England Law and with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. A change of address must be filed within 10 days of that change. You may email the address change to the registrar (firstname.lastname@example.org) who will then update your SEVIS record. You must also change your address with USCIS. You may download an address-change form online at: www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis.
Traveling Outside the U.S. While on OPT
Please read this section carefully. If you do not follow these guidelines, you may be refused reentry into the United States, should you travel outside the U.S. while on OPT:
NOTE: You must obtain a travel signature from the New England Law Registrar on your I-20 every six months while on OPT.
If you plan to travel abroad, be sure to have:
- Passport valid for at least 6 months
- Valid U.S. F-1 visa
- I-94 information form
- EAD card, and
- a letter from your employer.
You may travel outside the United States while the OPT application is pending, if you can present the USCIS Processing Center receipt, proving that the application for employment has been filed.
However, once the EAD card for OPT is issued to you, if you decide to travel outside the U.S., you may only re-enter the United States to resume employment. DHS has clarified that the F-1 student does not need to have already started actual employment before leaving, as long as the student has a job offer to which to return.
If you must travel abroad, we strongly advise F-1 students who are an OPT and have received the EAD card to make sure that there is documentation from your employer confirming the employment or job offer. Otherwise there is a real risk that you may not be allowed to reenter the United States.
Before you travel, you should also go onto the U.S. Consulate website in your home country to see if there are other requirements: http://travel.state.gov.
Applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT)
You are not authorized to begin Optional Practical Training until you receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service/Department of Homeland Security. Current policy for submitting applications to receive an EAD stipulate that international students must apply no earlier than 90 days prior, and no later than 60 days after, the end date of their academic program. Completed OPT applications may be submitted to New England Law's Principal Designated School Official (the registrar). We suggest allowing 7-10 days for processing by the registrar and for any delays in the U.S. mail delivery. The Registrar will submit your application at the correct time(s).
Application Instructions for OPT
You are not authorized to begin Optional Practical Training until you receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service/Department of Homeland Security. Completed OPT applications may be submitted to New England Law's Principal Designated School Official (the Registrar) for review. We suggest allowing 3-4 days for review by the Registrar. The Registrar will also make a copy of the application packet for your permanent file.
How to Apply for your EAD (Employment Authorization Document)
Information and resources about the application process for an OPT can be found online at www.ice.gov/sevis/practical-training/. Be sure to read the "OPT Policy Guidance (PDF)" located at the bottom of the of the page.
Please note: U.S. government Internet links change frequently. The Registrar checks the links listed here every semester before publication of the course registration information on the Registrar's website. The Registrar has verified that the Internet links listed in this section are accurate as of January 19, 2017. If links are not working properly for you, please see the Registrar for assistance.
1. Download and complete INS form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization). This form is available at: http://www.uscis.gov/i-765.
2. Bring the following items to the Registrar:
- A completed form I-765
- 2 color photos, 2 x 2 inches, showing full face, frontal view. For complete photo specifications, visit the USCIS’s I-765, Application for Employment Authorization webpage and click on the Download Instructions for Form I-765 link. Go to Page 6 and under "Required Documentation" you will find additional photo requirements.
- Check for $410.00* payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (*Fee as of December 23, 2016. Students should check the USCIS website for fee changes),
- The original of your most recent I-20 form
- A copy of any previously issued I-20
- A copy of your I-94 information
- A copy of the photograph page of your passport
- Copies of any previously issued EAD cards.
3. At the New England Law Office of the Registrar, fill out a Student Request Form, requesting the OPT. Be sure to give the dates for your OPT request on the Student Request form, and (if known), the name and address of your employer.
Once your application and supporting materials have been reviewed by the PDSO (New England Law Registrar), the PDSO will enter your OPT request online on the SEVIS website. You may then submit your application and all necessary supporting materials to the Immigration Service Center for final processing. You may also ask the New England Law registrar to submit it for you.
If you choose to mail the application yourself, you should send it to:
- USCIS Dallas Lockbox
- For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Deliveries:
PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266
- For Express mail and courier deliveries:
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067
After your application and supporting materials have been mailed and received:
- If your application is complete, the INS will mail you Form I-797. This is not your employment authorization. It is merely a receipt notice, confirming that your completed application has been received and is in process.
- After having received your application, the INS will process it. The Service Centers have seen an increase in the volume of applications, so plan as far in advance as possible. If your application is approved, your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) should be mailed directly to you. In some instances, however, you may be required to appear at a local INS office to receive your EAD card.
- You can check the status of your OPT request after receiving the I-797 by logging onto the USCIS Case Status online website at: https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/jsps/index.jsp
- Plan carefully. Once your application has been submitted and entered onto the SEVIS website, making changes to OPT requests can be difficult. The Service Centers cannot be contacted by telephone and are often unresponsive to letters from students and/or the registrar.
You may not begin working until you have received your EAD card. Working without an EAD card is a serious violation of your F-1 status.
Student Reporting Requirements
- Students are required to report any change to their current name or address to the PDSO (New England Law Registrar) within ten days of the change,
- Students are required to report any changes in employment information (including periods of unemployment) to the Registrar within ten days of the change,
- Students on post-completion optional practical training cannot be unemployed for more than a total of 90 days in the aggregate during the 12-month period of post-completion Optional Practical Training. The first day that is counted for this purpose is the start date on your Employment Authorization Card, unless your job begins on that date.
Please direct any questions to the Registrar. You may contact the Registrar by email (email@example.com) or make an appointment by calling (617) 422-7215 or by writing to the Registrar’s mailbox at firstname.lastname@example.org.