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Current International Students

As a student at Otero, it will be important for you to maintain your status while in the U.S. It is important to understand the types of documents that you need to have completed before you attend and while you stay on campus. The International Relations Office is here to assist you and ensure that the appropriate documents are completed for the duration of your stay.


Maintain Your Status

It is very important for international students to stay in legal immigration status at all times. The International Relations Office is here to assist and advise you, but it is the responsibility of the student to maintain your status.

Always make sure your I-20 is valid and accurate. Your I-20 has an expiration date, which can be found in item 5 on page 1. If your I-20 is going to expire before you finish your program, you will need to request an extension via the International Relations Office at least 30 days before the expiration date. In addition, you must request a new I-20 from if you will change source of funding or number of F-2 dependents. All requests should be made to the International Relations Office.

Be sure you have a valid signature from the International Relations Office on your I-20 prior to traveling outside the U.S. Travel signatures are valid for one year (exception: travel signatures are valid for only six months while you are on OPT). Please request your travel signatures at least three weeks before you intend to depart La Junta.

If you decide to transfer to another school in the U.S., you will need to request a transfer of your SEVIS record before beginning studies at your new school. Click here for more information about transferring to another institution.

Note: It is your responsibility to keep all of your I-20s from each of the schools you attend in the U.S. You should not throw any of your I-20s away. Otero will not keep copies of your I-20s from other schools. If you have misplaced I-20s from other schools, you may consider contacting their international offices in order to obtain copies of your I-20s. If you lose or severely damage your current I-20 from Otero, you may request a new I-20 through the International Relations Office.

  • In order to maintain status, F-1 students must be enrolled full-time for each fall and spring semester. Enrollment in summer sessions is not required, unless a student begins study at Otero in the summer. For all undergraduates this means enrolling in at least 12 credit hours each fall and spring.
  • Exceptions: There are some exceptions to full-time enrollment that are designed to assist students, but all exceptions need to be authorized by the International Relations Office before you drop below full-time.
  • Examples of exceptions:
    • a student in his final semester of coursework who does not need a full load in order to complete degree requirements;
    • a first-semester student who is advised by an academic advisor to take less than a full load of courses due to language difficulties or unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods;
    • a student who must drop a class because they were placed in an incorrect level;
    • a student who is advised by a doctor to under-enroll due to a severe medical condition.
  • Dropping below full-time without authorization from the International Relations Office is a violation of your F-1 status! If you are thinking about dropping below full-time, call the International Relations Office at 384-6805 and set up an appointment to talk about your options before you drop.

Be aware of the grace periods associated with your status. For F-1 Students:

    • You have a 60-day grace period following the completion of your degree program and following the completion of your Optional Practical Training (if applicable).
    • If you are dismissed from Otero College, you have a 21-day grace period beginning the day you are dismissed. (This date is found on the letter that you receive from the College regarding your dismissal.) During this time you must either apply for a change of immigration status, transfer to a different school, or depart the U.S.
    • If you receive authorization from the International Relations Office to withdraw from all classes, you have a 15-day grace period during which you must depart the U.S.
    • If you withdraw from all classes without first receiving authorization from the International Relations Office, you have no grace period and must depart the U.S. immediately.

All international students must have permission either from the International Relations Office or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services before they begin working. Click here for more detailed information about your employment options.

    • F-1 students are automatically authorized to work on campus for up to 20 hours per week total while school is in session by the USCIS. During vacation periods (spring, summer, and winter breaks), they may work full-time on campus. Please read the Otero International Student Hourly Employment Policy for details about working on-campus at Otero if funding exists.
    • To work off-campus, you must apply for and receive authorization before beginning to work.
    • Keep in mind that tutoring, internships, accompanying for a recital, and working for your professor a few hours a week are all considered employment and require authorization in most cases!
    • F-2 dependents may not work.

Providing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with an update of your new address in the U.S. every time you move is required by law (see citation below). Each time you move, within ten (10) days of moving (even within La Junta!), you are required to update the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with your new address. As an international student, your change of address must be submitted to the International Relations Office, who must update your address in SEVIS. You should also update your address via MyOtero.

As an F-1 student, this is a fairly easy process. Submit your change of information to the International Programs Office online and we will then submit your address change to USCIS through SEVIS or you can complete the AR-11 and submit it to the International Relations Office.

While you are on OPT (Optional Practical Training), you are still required to update your address within ten (10) days of moving, each time you move.


Important Documents

Know what types of documents that you need to have completed or in your possession as you prepare to come to the United States to study. Review the following list carefully and seek assistance with any that you may not have completed or have not yet obtained.

It is your most important piece of identification, and you need to keep it valid (6 months beyond your projected date of departure from the U.S.) You cannot renew your visa unless your passport is current, nor can you leave the U.S. without a valid passport.

A visa represents permission from the State Department for the bearer to enter the United States in a particular category. In the past, visas were rubber-stamped on the passport page with multi-colored ink. The transition is nearly complete, however, to a machine-readable, label-type of visa, with a photograph of the bearer.

Many people use the term "visa" to describe certificates of eligibility or some of the other documents issued in connection with one's nonimmigrant stay in the United States, but the word is in fact only used correctly when referring to the State Department document in the passport.

Certificate of eligibility for non-immigrant F-1 Student Status. This form is issued to you to attend Otero Junior. Having accepted the I-20, you are required by immigration to attend Otero for at least one semester before transferring. Whenever you travel outside the U.S. you must carry an up-to-date I-20 endorsed by the Director of International Relations or Vice President of Student Services. You must also check visa requirements of those countries through which you will travel.

You should keep pages 1-3 of your I-20 at all times.  It serves as a record of all transactions about your status.

Certificate of eligibility for non-immigrant J-1 Exchange Visitors. This document certifies that the person has been accepted under the Exchange Visitor Program, which is approved by the USIA in Washington, D.C. Under this program, students, researchers and professors come to the United States on a temporary basis for the purpose of educational exchange. The terms of the appointment and the financial support of the program are indicated of the DS-2019. Uses of the DS-2019 correspond to those of an I-20 form. The program sponsor endorses the DS-2019 for overseas travel. Please visit the Office of International Programs before departure for authorization to travel outside of the U.S.

At some land based crossings, you may be issued a traditional I-94 card that in the past the Customs & Border Protection inspector would staple into your passport, However, most of you will need to retrieve your I-94 (Admission/Departure Record online at the U.S. Customs & Border Protection website. This records your entry and exit into the U.S., port of entry, date, status and length of stay.

Defined as the period during which a student pursues a full course of study in any educational program and any period of practical training plus 60 days to depart from the United States.

Application for Employment Authorization Document (EAD.) For F-1 students, this form is used to request optional practical training; off-campus employment under the sponsorship of a qualifying international organization; or off-campus employment due to severe economic hardship. This is also the form the J-2 dependent must file to request work permission.

A laminated card with photo issued to some non-immigrants by USCIS indicating how long work is authorized. Do not begin work off-campus without this card.


Travel Out of Country

Students often take advantage of the breaks between semesters to do some traveling while they attend Otero. If your plans include traveling out of the country or within the country, there are some important documents you will need to have. Review the follow list carefully to ensure that your travel plans are not spoiled by missing documents.

All F-1 students must have a valid travel signature from the Director of International Relations or Vice President of Student Services on page 2 of their I-20 in order to re-enter the United States. Travel signatures are valid for one calendar year, or until the completion of your program, whichever comes first. If you need a new signature, please request one at least two weeks before you plan to travel.

Note: You need a signature even if you are just traveling across the border into Canada or Mexico.

You will need to receive a new I-20 from the International Relations Office if there have been any changes in your situation—for example, in your or source(s) of financial support—that are not indicated on your current I-20. In all cases, updated financial documentation will be required to process your new I-20.

Check your completion date in section 5 of your I-20 to see whether it is about to expire. If it is and you have not yet completed your program you will need to apply for an extension through the International Relations Office.

Is the U.S. visa stamp in your passport valid beyond the date you plan to reenter the United States? If not, you must apply for a new visa while you are abroad. We strongly advise you to carry the following documents with you when applying for a new visa at a U.S. Consulate:

    • Official Transcript issued by Otero College.
    • Certificate of Enrollment issued by the International Relations Office.
    • Valid I-20 issued and signed by the Director of International Relations.
    • Current financial documentation: documents indicating the source(s) and amount(s) of financial support for your study in the current academic year. This must match the information listed on your I-20.

As U.S. Consulates will not be open on certain days during the Christmas–New Year’s holiday period, there may be difficult time constraints on obtaining a new visa during winter break.

Note: If you intend to apply for a new U.S. Visa in Canada or Mexico and are not a resident of either country, please contact the Director of International Relations to discuss this possibility. If you need to apply for a new U.S. Visa, visit the Department of State’s U.S. Embassies and Consulates section for an updated list.

If you are traveling to a country other than your home country, you may need a visitor’s or transit visa. To find out, visit that country’s embassy website at Foreign Embassies of Washington, D.C. and search for the Consular Section nearest you. If you are traveling to the E.U. and your home country is not within the E.U., you may apply for the Schengen Visa, which permits travel within E.U. countries.

If you plan to travel to Canada or anywhere else outside of the U.S. during the grace period following completion of your degree requirements, the International Relations Office will not be able to sign your I-20 for travel. If you travel outside of the U.S., you will not be able to re-enter the U.S. as an F-1 student at Otero College.

At the present, USCIS processing of applications for Optional Practical Training takes at least 3–4 months. You will need to plan your travel accordingly. Once you receive your EAD, you may travel outside of the U.S. but be sure to travel with your signed I-20, job offer letter and your EAD. The OPT recommendation on page 2 of your I-20 validates the travel signature for six (6) months. We strongly advise that you consult with the Director of International Relations regarding travel while on OPT prior to making plans to travel outside the U.S.


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