International Student and Scholar Services

Tax Time- Important information for International Students

February 3, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Did you know that as an international student, you are still responsible for filing a yearly tax return? It’s true! Even students who did not work or receive any taxable income must still file paperwork with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You can find some information about it in our post from last year as well as important information and downloadable forms below.

FOR STUDENTS/SCHOLARS WHO WORKED IN 2013:  The tax filing period for fiscal year 2013 begins now and runs through April 2013.  You may request a WINSTAR code and instructions from us to access the Windstar Foreign National Tax Resource (FNTR ) Software.  This is for:

  • Persons who have not been in the US for more than 5 years as of the end of fiscal year 2013
  • Persons (including their visa dependents,  F2 & J2) who worked in 2013

FORM 8843 FOR STUDENTS/SCHOLARS WHO DID NOT WORK:  If you have not been in the US for  more than 5 years as of the end of fiscal year 2013 and you did not work, you will not use FNTR.  But you are still required to file a tax return, Form 8843. See attached

Form 8843 to familiarize yourself. (Negative consequences of NOT filing the Form 8843:  filing the Form 8843 will be significant if you plan to apply for a green card at some point in the future.  At that time you will be asked for copies of you U.S. tax returns for the previous three years. (You should also file this return because the IRS says you should.)  There is a Form 8843 guide attached.

The cost for an access code is $7.  [Exact] cash and checks made out to OITA, ISSS in subject line, are accepted at the front desk.

NOTE:  Staff at International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) is not trained or licensed to answer questions concerning your tax returns or offer tax advice.  We are providing a TAX FAQ information sheet to answer questions you may have.  

Downloadable information and forms:

TAX FAQs

8843

A Guide for Filling Out The Form 8843

WINSTAR ACCESS CODE REQUEST FORM

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New Recommendations for Travel Outside the US

December 9, 2013 · No Comments · Uncategorized

During this season, many students are traveling. On top of making sure you have a valid travel signature, SEVIS has now released a new set of recommendations of documents that you might consider bringing with you on your travels that might help you avoid any problems upon your re-entry to the United States.

Some of the documents you might consider having with your signed I-20 and valid F-1 visa when you return to the US are:

 Proof of financial support
 Evidence of acceptance to your school, like a recent tuition payment receipt or acceptance letter
 Proof of paying the I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee

Safe Travels!

 

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Get Your Travel Signature!

October 30, 2013 · No Comments · Uncategorized

As holiday travel quickly approaches, it is time for a travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019! As you know, your I-20 or DS-2019 should be signed every 6 months in order for you to be able to re-enter the US after traveling abroad. At this time of year, ISSS likes to remind students of some very important travel issues and tips.

Visa Renewal

To re-enter the US after traveling abroad, you must have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa. If your visa has expired since the last time you traveled, you will need to make an appointment at your home consulate to get a renewal visa. We recommend that you bring a couple things with you from the University for your renewal appointment; an official transcript and a verification of enrollment letter. You can get both of these things from One Stop or from the Registrar.

You can find your local US Consulate to make an appointment here: http://www.usembassy.gov/

Electronic I-94 Cards

As explained in a previous post, all I-94 cards are now electronic (unless you drive from Canada or Mexico into the US). As an International Student, you are responsible for your status when you re-enter the US. Each time you leave and come back, you should log into the I-94 system to ensure that Customs and Border Patrol has approved you to enter as a STUDENT and not as a tourist or other visa category. Also, it is wise to keep a copy of your electronic I-94 to prove your status if ever asked by law enforcement or if you need to include it in an application to the US government such as for OPT or reinstatement. Please go to https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/request.html when you return to the US to download your new I-94 card. If you cannot access it, you may contact Deferred Inspection at Logan Airport Terminal E to fix the problem.

Travel Signature Request

You can download the Travel Signature Request form or you can pick it up at the ISSS front desk. Please hand it in with your I-20 to be signed and allow 5 BUSINESS DAYS for the signature to be processed. ISSS will NOT do same day or next day signatures so plan ahead!

 

Safe Travels!

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For Graduating Seniors DECEMBER 2013- Declaration of Final Semester

September 9, 2013 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Are you finishing your program at UMass Boston this semester? If so, then you might not be a full time student (12 credits for undergrad, 9 for grad). As you know, it is important to be a full time student while you are an F-1 International Student, BUT for your final semester, it is permissible to be less than full time.

In order to be less than full time you MUST submit the Declaration of Final Term form to ISSS at the beginning of the semester. If you do not submit this form, your I-20 might be terminated.

Even if you will still be full time, it is still advisable to officially declare your final term to ISSS. By submitting the Declaration of Final Term form, you will be provided with detailed information on OPT workshops and the next steps you should take as an F-1 International Student.

Please note that this form is only to be used if you are certain that this fall 2013 will be your final semester in your program. 

Please visit our Forms page to download the Declaration of Final Term form and submit it to ISSS right away!

Have a great fall!

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MANDATORY Government Clearance for Initial Students

July 29, 2013 · 4 Comments · Uncategorized

MANDATORY IMMIGRATION CLEARANCE

United States immigration law requires all F-1 international students to physically register presence at the university they will attend in the U.S. Mandatory Immigration Clearance is mandatory. ISSS must review your immigration documents to confirm you were admitted in F-1 status and eligible for full-time study. Failure to report to a session will result in the termination of your SEVIS record for ‘failure to report.’

At mandatory immigration clearance ISSS will collect and review your immigration documents. You must bring photocopies of:

  • Copy of your U.S. visa stamp
  • Copy of your Port of Entry Stamp in your Passport (in place of the I-94 card that is no longer in use)
  • Copy of UMASS Boston Form I-20 with your signature
  • (If you renewed your passport since time of application, copy of passport ID pages)

At Mandatory Immigration Clearance you will view a short SEVIS presentation (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) and have the chance to ask questions. It will provide you with valuable information that you will need to ensure compliance with U.S. immigration regulations throughout your stay in the U.S. and inform you of the various benefits available to you in F-1 status.

NOTE: Your F-1 visa status allows new initial students to enter the US 30 days prior to the start date. SEVIS transfer students from one US institution to UMASS Boston can enter the US at any time between the end date of the previous program and the start date of the UMASS program provided the same SEVIS record is active. You should plan to be in the US at least one to two weeks prior to the start of classes.

DATES FOR FALL 2013 SEMESTER.

ALL SESSIONS IN ROOM 2115, CAMPUS CENTER, BLOCK 2100.

Wednesday, Aug. 14th – 2 to 3
Thursday, August 22nd – 2 to 3
Monday, August 19th – 10 to 11
Friday, August 23rd – 3 to 4
Tuesday, August 20th – 11 to 12
Monday, August 26th – 10 to 11
Wednesday, August 21st – 1 to 2
Tuesday, August 27th – 11 to 12

In Review:

You must attend ONE session listed above AND hand in the required photo copies. If you do not, your record will be terminated and you will be out of status. 

Students who must attend are: brand new students to the US, students who are new to UMASS Boston and students who are returning to the US on a new SEVIS number. 

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The New I-94 Process and YOU

July 10, 2013 · 2 Comments · ALERT, ISSS policy

As the new academic year approaches, ISSS wants to make all International Students aware of a change in procedure for Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The I-94 card that you have been used to receiving will now be changing to an electronic paperless system only. The I-94 number is the Arrival/Departure Record issued by the CBP whenever you enter the United States. Since a valid I-94 card and entry status is required to ensure that you maintain your F-1 status, please pay close attention to the changes. ISSS recommends that you download and print out your I-94 record EVERY TIME you re-enter the United States.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

1. Check Your Passport for an Entry Stamp

 Each time you re-enter the US through Customs you speak to a CBP officer. Before you continue on through the customs area, it is important to look at your passport to make sure that the officer gave you a new ink entry stamp. If you do not have a stamp, request that the CPB officer give you one. If you already left the officer, you may need to go to the Deferred Inspection section of the airport.

Passport Stamp

2. Download & Print Your I-94 

When you can get to a computer, log into the I-94 on-line system and download/ print your I-94 record and keep it with your passport. It is a good idea to save the PDF to your phone as well to have on you at all times.

 

3. If you are a new international student or scholar

If you are a new student or scholar and need to check in with ISSS, you will need to hand in a copy of the Port of Entry STAMP. Please see our website for Immigration Clearance session dates and times.

 

Note: CBP will continue to issue paper I-94 records at all land borders (e.g. driving to the U.S. from Canada.)

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Immigration Tip: Keep Your Documents on Your Smart Phone

April 25, 2013 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

Did you know that under immigration regulations, all visa holders must be prepared to present proof of their legal status at any time within 100 miles of a United States port of entry? For those of us in New England, that means almost everywhere!

Most students don’t like to carry their passports, I-20s and I-94 cards everywhere they go because things can get lost so how can you be prepared if you are ever stopped and asked to show your immigration documents? Keep them on your smart phone!

Most people have smart phones with great cameras now. What you should do is take a clear photo of each document and store it on your phone. If you travel or get a new I-20, make sure you take a picture right away. This way you will have proof of your entire immigration history right at your finger tips.

Documents to photograph:

Passport

F-1 Visa

I-94 card FRONT and BACK

I-20s pages 1 and 3

Any EAD work cards

 

Bonus Tip:

If you have photos of your I-20 on your phone, you will always be able to find your SEVIS number if you are asked by ISSS!

 

 

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H1-B Visas and the Economy

April 8, 2013 · No Comments · Uncategorized

The fiscal year 2014 quota has been reached already for H1-B visa applications. The cap was reached in 5 days, faster then the past few years where the United States has had a struggling economic situation. So what does the H1-B quota say about the US economy? Check out this story on NPR to learn more about it!

http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/04/03/176086111/h1-b-visas-applications-as-an-economic-indicator

NPR

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Happy H1-B Season!

April 2, 2013 · No Comments · Visas

April 1 marked the beginning of the 2013-2014 H1-B Application Period. Beginning April 1 each year, USCIS begins accepting applications for H1-B employment visas. Each year there are 65,000 H1-B visas available, plus and addition 20,000 open to applicants with higher degrees (Masters or higher).

In the past few years, it has been interesting to see how quickly the H1-B cap has been reached. During the peak of the US economic recession, it took 6 months or longer for the cap to be filled. In fiscal year 2012, the cap was reached in November 2011 and last year for fiscal year 2013 it was reached in June 2012.

This year, USCIS predicts that the cap will be reached by April 5! This is good news for the US economy, showing that employers are more interested and willing to higher foreign workers with confidence in the lasting power of their positions. It is bad news however, for many applications that will not be able to get an H1-B visa this year.

There are many changes on the table for the H1-B program now that comprehensive immigration reform has been tasked to Congress. Maybe next year, there will be more H1-B visas available to all the qualified applicants. Stay tuned and good luck to all the applicants!

 

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Scam Alert- A Warning to all International Students!

March 7, 2013 · No Comments · ALERT

 

How would you feel if you received a call from someone claiming to be from the US government and they threatened to deport you? You would be scared and that is completely understandable!

But beware, it could just be a scam.

There have been reports of international students receiving phone calls on their personal cell phones from someone claiming to be from Department of Homeland Security. This caller somehow has the student’s I-94 number and passport information and engages the student in a long course of questions and intimidation, and threatens that the student will be immediately deported if they hang up the phone. Finally, the caller offers to leave the student alone for a fee and convinces the student to wire $800 via Western Union.

Sounds scary right? It is a scam. The scammer uses the threat of deportation to scare the student and scam money out of them. The student doesn’t want to get into trouble and doesn’t think they have the right to ask questions. But, international students DO have the right to ask people claiming to be authority figures to provide proof of their identity!

What should you do if you receive a call like this? You should:

1. Stay calm! Remember that would be strange for you to be contacted directly by phone by any government agency.

2. Ask what the call is about.

3. Politely request for the agent’s information. You should write down the agency, agent’s first and last name and any ID number they can provide. Also request their direct phone number so that you may call them back once you have consulted with an Advisor. If they do not want to give you information, it is probably a scam. Don’t believe their threats.

4. Hang up and contact an International Student Services Advisor immediately with any information you have. ISSS will help you investigate the reason for the call and put you in contact with assistance and the police  if it turns out to be a fraudulent call.

Remember- you have RIGHTS! Don’t let a scammer threaten you or take your money. Contact ISSS if you receive any strange phone calls.

You can find more information about your rights when encountering law enforcement officials at the ACLU’s informative website: http://www.aclu.org/national-security/know-your-rights-when-encountering-law-enforcement

 

 

 

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