Know Your F-1 Student ‘Immigrants Rights’

No…. F-1 students, if you run out of money before finishing your program your only option is not to “depart the United States”.

Well-meaning university and college Designated Student Officers (“DSO”) fail to inform international students of their immigration “rights”. This short article post outlines your U.S. Immigration rights in the event your student visa status ends or, you or someone you know hits a financial, medical or other snag causing continued enrollment in school to be impossible.  

Change of Status. An F-1 student should consult with legal counsel on how to change to an alternative status BEFORE one’s I-20 status is terminated by his or her school. DSOs and school Immigration specialists are not allowed or qualified to give legal advice. Their primary role is to keep you enrolled and to safeguard the school’s status with the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), to operate an international student program. The requirements are strict for the colleges and universities.   

The requirements most often conflict with an international student’s interest in remaining in the country when hardships arise. Your immigration rights are safeguarded when you are legally advised on all visa alternatives.   

Visa options include, but are not limited to:  

  • Visitor Visa Bridge. B-1/B-2 visitor visas are a great option to bridge a student’s status in the United States. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS) accepts a variety of reasons to approve a change of status into this category. Valid reasons such as: to look for a new financial sponsor, less expensive school, embark on job interviews, or take time out for medical needs are eligible factors. It’s important to note, a visitor visa is not limited to tourism or pleasure as is often misconstrued.   
  • Medical issues. While studying in the United States a client of ours suffered kidney failure. She had to immediately stop studying. We were able to check her university’s student visa policy manual, and the federal regulations to allow medical leave without a violation in her status. There are also humanitarian options. An experienced U.S immigration lawyer can help you protect your status while dealing with medical crisis in the United States.  
  • Hostile OPT or CPT Work Environment. If you or someone you know is in his or her Optical Practical Training(“OPT”) work authorization period of F-1 status, it’s important to know that all U.S. Labor laws apply to international students.  

We recently had a client who had completed her PHD in cyber security. During her OPT her brother went missing in Ukraine. This caused severe mental health issues; and the shock caused her to need time off work. Her employer declined, and even became hostile. The student reported the problem to the school, and still no action was taken.    

We checked the Employment Assistance Program (“EAP”) for the student’s employer, and the federal regulations. We found grounds for the student to stop work without a status violation; and our firm successfully bridged her to an alternative status.”  

There are many other scenarios where F-1 students can remain the United States without accruing unlawful presence before termination occurs of F-1 status. Understanding who is your advocate during these stressful times is essential. In sum, a DSO cannot give you legal advice. Consulting with your own confidential immigration attorney dedicated to protecting your status, and finding visa options in your interest is your ‘immigration right’.

To schedule a consultation, you may email us at or call / text (703)966-0907. B&E Capital – Vassell Law Group,PC | | | Members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association for over 20 years.