You Made it This Far, You Will Tide it Over!
The USICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has released important information for Katrina-affected international students.
The following are a few things you need to do.
If you have not been able to find a place to live and lack money for daily needs, go to www.campusrelief.org. The website also includes an informal list of schools that allow you to transfer as an F-1 student.
The first order of action in your survival kit should be to contact your Designated School Official. If your school officials are not accessible, contact the SEVIS (Student Exchange Visitor Program) by email at www.SEVIS.source@DHS.gov, by phone at (202) 305-2346 or at (800) 961-5294 toll-free. When you contact SEVIS, prepare to provide your name, date of birth, address, telephone number, and school information. You may also want to have your passport, visa, I-20, and I-94 information ready.
New Students: If you were accepted by a Hurricane-affected school and have not entered the US yet, contact the school through their website and plan to push further the date of your travel until the school becomes operational. The school will set a new reporting date.
For schools that will NOT become operational, consult their website for specific instructions or contact SEVIS. In the case that you wish to enroll at another school, you will need to contact that school directly to obtain a new I-20. You will not be required to pay for SEVIS I-94 but your visa should match the contents of your new I-20. If you arrived in the US before Katrina, you must decide to transfer to another school or leave within 30 days of the start of the school. Contact SEVIS if you are unable to communicate with your school.
Continuing Students: If you are unable to contact your school that has your SEVIS record, contact SEVIS directly. In the event that you wish to transfer to another DHS approved school, you need to contact the school directly. When you get accepted, your SEVIS record will be relocated to the new school. If you decide to leave the US and comeback later, inform your International Students Office or SEVIS including details about where and when you will depart.
Before returning to the US, contact your school to obtain relevant documents. You will need a new visa if 1) your visa has already expired, 2) you changed your visa category, and 3) you enter as a new student.
Lost Records and Personal Property: Remain patient until your school becomes operational. Contact your International Student Office for specific procedures. You school can reprint your I-20 or you can contact SEVIS directly with your personal and school information. I-94 in your possession will be acceptable for the short-term. The USICE will issue directions for replacement of I-94 later. For passport replacements, contact the embassy of the country of which you are a citizen. Your International Student Office will also offer you advice about the possibilities of retrieving your personal property. For change of address, contact SEVIS.
Optional Practical Training (OPT): If you have been working in the Katrina affected areas, you are encourages to seek alternate employment. However, you must report change of address to your school officials. If this is not possible, contact SEVIS with a description of your address and current situation.