ISSS-BU News 03 February 2014 ISSS-BU News


An electronic news service for international students and scholars, owned by the Office of International Student and Scholar Services at Binghamton University, State University of New York

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CONTENTS:
1. Walk-In Advising Hours for International Student and Scholar Housing Inquiries
2. Courses Canceled for Students Who Failed to Confirm Enrollment
3. Attend the Spring 2014 Job & Internship Fair
4. Pursuit of Academic Success Group Meeting
5. Next International Coffee Hour Friday, February 7
6. Join the Friendship Family Program
7. Important SEVIS Registration Information for International Students
8. Are You Maintaining a Full Time Course Load?
9. Reporting Change of Address
10. Sales Tax Refunds for Purchases in the United States
11. Do You Know the Rules for Off-Campus Employment?
12. Thinking of Applying for Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?
13. When should I apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

1. Walk-In Advising Hours for International Student and Scholar Housing Inquiries

International Student and Scholar Services is pleased to announce that Zach DuBord, ISSS Housing Coordinator, will be available for consultations during walk-in advising hours. If you have any question relating to housing please feel welcome to drop by on Mondays from 10-11:45am, Wednesdays from 1:30-3:30pm, and Thursdays from 1:30-3:30pm. Bring your questions about renting, transportation, or any issues surrounding on-campus living!

2. Courses Canceled for Students Who Failed to Confirm Enrollment

On Friday, February 1, students (graduate and undergraduate) who did not confirm their enrollment via BU BRAIN had their spring 2014 course registration canceled. Students may wish to check BU-Brain to be sure your registration is still in order. Students whose courses were dropped will need to re-enroll. Students may only re-register online for courses that have open seats. If a course is closed, the student will need to petition with the department and/or instructor to be added.

3. Attend the Spring 2014 Job & Internship Fair

Representatives from for-profit, government, and non-profit organizations will be available to speak with students regarding both full-time employment and internship opportunities. The Fair will be held in the Events Center on Wednesday, February 5 from 11:00 am to 3:30 pm! Students are encouraged to review the list of registered employers in advance, and conduct research on those employers they're interested in. For more information on how to prepare for the Fair visit the Spring 2014 Job & Internship Fair webpage.

4. Pursuit of Academic Success Group Meeting

The Pursuit of Academic Success group assists international students in maximizing their academic achievement. Each week a different challenge or barrier to academic success is discussed. This group is a drop-in meeting and weekly attendance is not required. All international students are invited!

Week 1: Let’s Start and Goal Setting

This will be the first meeting of the semester! Dr. Kim will explain how students can benefit from this group and then he will discuss the importance of effective goal setting. Students will be encouraged to talk about their academic goals.

Facilitator: Dr. Sangmoon Kim
When: Wednesday February 5, 2014 from 4:00pm to 5:00pm
Location: ISSS Conference Room (Hinman Commons Building, Room 120-B)

Questions? Contact Dr. Sangmoon Kim at 777-2772 or sakim@binghamton.edu

5. Next International Coffee Hour Friday, February 7

Good company! Complementary refreshments! Relax by coming to this month's International Coffee Hour on Friday, February 7 from 3:30-5pm in University Union Old Union Hall. This month's sponsor is the office of Residential Life.

The Coffee Hour strives to be a space where the entire Binghamton University community, including international students, U.S. students, faculty/staff, and community members are welcome. The coffee hours are informal and provide an opportunity to meet and learn more about each other in a relaxed atmosphere. They are held on the first Friday of every month during the academic year from 3:30pm-5pm. Each coffee hour has complementary hot and cold beverages and cookies, sponsored by a different department on campus.

Click here for more information on this event or contact Linda Torricelli at ltorrice@binghamton.edu.

6. Join the Friendship Family Program

Get involved with the greater Binghamton community by participating in the Friendship Family Program! This program pairs international students with families in the local community. The role of the family is to welcome the international student by offering friendship and assistance with adjusting to living in the Binghamton area. New students will be matched first but all international students are welcome to apply. Visit the ISSS Friendship Family Webpage for more information.

7. Important SEVIS Registration Information for International Students

Students in F or J status are reminded that in order for them to be in compliance with SEVIS requirement and maintain their immigration status, they must register for a full-time course-load promptly for the Spring 2014 semester. The last day to add classes for Spring 2014 is February 7, 2014. After that date, the University is required to notify the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and terminate your SEVIS record.

8. Are You Maintaining a Full Time Course Load?

ISSS would like to take this opportunity to remind students in F-1 and J-1 status that you are required to be registered for a full-time course load each semester. What constitutes a full-time course load varies according to academic level.

Academic Level

Minimum
Full Time Course Load:

Exchange Students 12 credits per semester
Undergraduates 12 credits per semester
Graduate Master's: completion of less than 24 credits in your program (Class G1) 12 credits per semester
Graduate Master's: Completion of 24 credits or over in your program (Class G2) 9 credits per semester
Graduate Master's students who are course completed and need only project or thesis to complete program 1 credit or more per semester, plus additional non-billable credits added by your department for full-time certification at 9 credits
Graduate PhD students: Master's done and have begun doctorate (Class G3) 9 credits per semester
Graduate PhD students: Course completed or advanced to candidacy and engaged in pre-dissertation or dissertation research (Class G4) 1 credit or more per semester, plus additional non-billable credits added by your department for full-time certification at 9 credits

Special Note for Graduate Students: Graduate students (both master's and PhD) who are course-completed and register for thesis, project, pre-dissertation, dissertation or other course rubrics that are eligible to be certified as full time even though the number of credits will be below the normal full-time course load do not need special permission from the ISSS for a reduced course load. Instead, such students must visit there academic department and request to have sufficient non-billable certification credits added to their schedule to bring them to nine credits total.

A graduate student who can be considered as “full-time” with fewer than 9 credits (such as a student taking thesis or dissertation credit) should still show as 9 credits in BU Brain because additional credits of GRAD 700 (if not funded) or GRAD 701 (if funded) will be added by the student’s department to bring the student to 9 credits.

There are some very limited exceptions to the full-time course requirement. See the next article, below. For complete information on full-time registration, stop by the ISSS to obtain a handout on Rules for Maintaining a Full-Time Course Load, or view the handout on the ISSS website.

9. Reporting Change of Address

Have you moved recently? International students and scholars in F or J status must fulfill their federal SEVIS requirements by reporting their change of address in BU Brain. Student address changes will then be updated in the University’s database, as well as in SEVIS. Click here for more information.

10. Sales Tax Refunds for Purchases in the United States

International students sometimes ask if it is possible for them to receive a refund of the sales tax they paid for goods and services in the United States upon their departure. In the United States, sales tax on goods and services is set by each of the fifty states, and state entities (such as cities and counties), not by the U.S. government. Each state and state entity determines what the sales tax will be (always a percent of the purchase price) and what items will and will not be assessed a sales tax.

Therefore, it is not possible for an overseas visitor to obtain a refund of the sales tax for a purchase made in the United States upon their departure. The best "official" explanation comes from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, reprinted below:

"Foreign visitors to the United States frequently confuse the state sales tax with the value-added tax (VAT). The state sales tax is a small tax on purchases or services, calculated at the time of purchase, which individual states assess and which the U.S. federal government neither determines nor receives. The VAT, on the other hand, is a national tax commonly applied in foreign countries that is included in the actual sales price rather than at the time of purchase. The United States does not have a VAT, and the federal government cannot refund state sales taxes.

State taxes are generally not charged to diplomats or employees of some international organizations who have been issued a tax-exemption card. This card must be presented at the time of purchase in order for sales taxes to be waived.

Also, some states do not charge tax on items shipped out of state. Ask about state sales-tax policies in the state where you make your purchases."

If you are making a major purchase, such as a car, and you intend to export the item to another country, contact the State taxation authority of the state where you will be making the purchase to determine their criteria for refunding any sales tax paid.

11. Do You Know the Rules for Off-Campus Employment?

Federal regulations exact heavy penalties for those students in F and J status who work off campus without authorization. The ISSS reminds all F and J students that all off-campus employment must be authorized before it can begin. This includes internships, curricular practical training (CPT), and other types of off-campus experiences, whether or not you are receiving college credit for it.

To work off-campus without the appropriate authorization is considered illegal employment according to federal immigration law and is a potentially deportable offense. SEVIS regulations require that all unauthorized employment be reported. So, now more than ever, it's essential for international students to understand the off-campus employment rules that pertain to them.

Special Note: International students who are employed off-campus as part of a cooperative arrangement with their BU academic department AND are paid by either the State or SUNY Research Foundation payroll under the terms of a GA or RA stipend are considered to be authorized for this employment. The SPIR program is an example of this kind of cooperative arrangement.

Definition:

"The term employee means an individual who provides services or labor for an employer for wages or other remuneration." 8 CFR 274a.1(f)

Remuneration means something is given to you because you provided a service. It can be a paycheck, a bonus payment, a stipend, or it can be meal vouchers, room and board, or payment of your travel costs. Any of these would be considered to be employment under federal regulations. Simply put, if you receive anything for providing a service you are employed.

Volunteering is defined as engaging in an activity that anyone (US citizen or citizen of another country) would engage in without expectation of compensation, monetary or otherwise, for the service provided.

Complete information on all of the different employment categories for F and J students can be found by visiting the ISSS website at http://isss-new.binghamton.edu and clicking on "employment." If you are unsure if an activity would be considered employment, ask the ISSS by sending an email message to intl.work@binghamton.edu !! And, view one of our employment webcasts: http://www2.binghamton.edu/isss/employment/empWebinar.html

12. Thinking of Applying for Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?

This is the time of year that many international students in F-1 status apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT). CPT is the authorization required for any paid or unpaid internship. Planning is very important to making a successful CPT application.

Your application needs to be complete before you submit it to the ISSS office in order to avoid unnecessary delays. There are three essential elements to a successful CPT application:

1. Unless the internship is a degree completion requirement for all students in your academic program, a minimum of 1 credit of your full-time registration during the CPT period must be related to your employment. This includes Winter and Summer Terms, as well as Spring and Fall semesters.

2. The Advisor's Recommendation Form for Curricular Practical Training must be completely filled out on both sides. Be sure your advisor has signed your form and filled out the required "Remarks" section of the form.

3. You must submit an offer letter from the employer that gives the start and end date of the proposed CPT, the number of hours to be worked each week and a brief description of the duties of the position. An actual signature from your employer or supervisor must also be included on the offer letter.

Processing of a CPT cannot begin until all the necessary parts of the application are received. Applications that are incomplete can take more than 10 business days to process because staff will need to wait until you submit the missing information. You can avoid unnecessary delays by planning ahead and submitting a complete application.

If you have any questions about how to apply for CPT authorization contact us at intl.work@binghamton.edu.

13. When should I apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

Do you plan to begin working on Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) on May 19th, immediately after graduation? Then you should submit your OPT Academic Advisor's Recommendation Form to the ISSS the week of February 11th to be sure you receive your EAD card in time.

It can take ISSS up to ten days to process your new I-20 for OPT. Then it takes an average of twelve weeks for USCIS to process your OPT application and issue your EAD card. You cannot begin working until the EAD card is in your hand and the start date has occurred.

If you haven't seen it already, please view our OPT webcast: http://www2.binghamton.edu/isss/employment/empWebinar.html

All necessary forms and further information about OPT is on our website: http://www.binghamton.edu/isss/employment/index.html#opt

If you have a quick question about OPT or would like ISSS staff to review your OPT application before you mail it, please come to the Walk-In Hours: Monday and Tuesday Mornings from 10:00am-11:45am and Wednesday and Thursday Afternoons from 1:30pm-3:30pm.

If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to send an e-mail message to intl.work@binghamton.edu or calling (607) 777-2510.

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Last Updated: 8/28/14