Sports are a passion for many international students studying in the U.S. If you’re an international student who wants to get off the sidelines and on to the field, make sure to follow these rules.
Regulations state international students cannot enter the U.S. more than 30 days before the program start date listed on their Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. If you are an international student who is required to attend athletic training or practices prior to the start of the academic term, your designated school official should select a program start date on your Form I-20 to accommodate your need to attend these required activities.
Once in the U.S., remember that your top priority is to pursue your academic studies. International student-athletes must make academic progress toward completing their program of study each term. This means you must enroll in a full course load and attend and pass all of your classes.
U.S. regulations allow international students to take no more than one online or distance class for credit each school term. If you’re traveling with your team, you can continue your studies while on the road, but your participation must be closely monitored by your school’s coaching staff. If you have questions about whether a class will count toward your full course of study, talk with your designated school official.
Playing on a sports team can be hard work, but it is not considered employment. As a result, international student athletes do not need work authorization to play a collegiate sport while studying in the U.S. Sometimes athletes receive stipends or scholarships for playing school sports. That’s okay, and falls within the rules.
Most importantly, while you’re in the U.S., be sure to maintain your nonimmigrant status. Follow U.S. immigration rules prior to your arrival in the country, while you are in the U.S., and upon completion of your program. If you have any questions, speak with your designated school official to ensure your nonimmigrant status is not compromised.
International student-athletes can always contact the Student and Exchange Visitor Program with specific questions at SEVP@ice.dhs.gov. Just describe your situation and include your question in your email. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program responds to emails on a first-come, first-served basis.
For more information about rules pertaining to international student athletes, visit Study in the States, a website managed by the Department of Homeland Security.