Legal Rights and Responsibilities

Legal Rights: Students and Scholars

In addition to keeping your immigration documents and status in good order, you should familiarize yourself with your rights and responsibilities as a non-citizen of the United States so that you are able to respond appropriately to any contact initiated by a U.S. governmental authority. For an outline of your rights, please see the American Civil Liberties Union website at For additional information about the rights of non-citizens in the U.S., please see the following links:

You should be allowed to contact your consulate for advice and assistance before entering into a formal interview or meeting with a representative of a U.S. governmental agency. Find your nearest consular office here. You should also keep with you the number of an attorney.

To locate an attorney in the South Bend area, contact the St. Joseph County Bar Association at 574-235-9657. Low-income families can seek help from the South Bend office of Indiana Legal Services at 574-234-8121 or from Notre Dame Legal Aid Clinic at 574-631-7795.  

Privacy and Student Records

The University of Notre Dame is committed to protecting your privacy and treats all student records in a confidential manner. You should be aware, however, of the following conditions and procedures regarding the release of personal information.

Immigration Documentation

Students who possess an I-20 or DS-2019 (F-1 or J-1 status) are required to grant authorization to the University of Notre Dame to release the following information to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):

  • Name
  • Current Enrollment Status
  • Termination Date and Reason
  • Date of Birth
  • Date of Commencement
  • Documents that qualified the student to study
  • Country of Citizenship
  • Degree Program and Field of Study for Admission
  • Copy of I-20
  • Street Address
  • Practical Training Approval and Dates
  • Disciplinary Action as a Result of a Crime
Student Records

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords students certain rights with respect to their education records. Please read the University of Notre Dame Annual Student Notification of Rights under FERPA document. Students can review the Notre Dame FERPA Student Records Policy

Medical Records

Students who are 18 years of age or older are, for medical records purposes, considered adults and have the legal right to medical confidentiality. University Health Services will not release any information to anyone without your written consent to do so. Students must sign a release of information form in order for the University to release confidential medical records. Scholarship athletes sign a specific consent to share medical information with the Athletic Department. For more information, please speak with a staff member of the University Health Services and/or the University Counseling Center.

Information Technologies

Be aware that the University reserves the right to inspect and examine any Notre Dame-owned or operated communication system, computing resource, and/or information contained therein at any time. Please consult DuLac for further information or visit the Office of Information Technologies.

Tax Documents

The University assists international students each year in preparing an income tax return in compliance with federal and state regulations. Any copies of tax documents retained by the University verifying figures, dates, etc., and are held in strictest confidence. For more information, contact the TAP Coordinator at

Social Security Numbers

Social Security numbers are issued only to those who have legal authorization to work. You may use your Social Security number for payroll and tax documentation. It is important to safeguard this important identification number.

A Note About the U.S. PATRIOT Act (2001)

The following section is from the Department of Education’s FERPA guidelines, developed for NAFSA: Section 507 of the USA Patriot Act amends FERPA:

1. An institution may disclose education records related to an authorized investigation to the Attorney General (or appropriate designee) when the court has issued an ex parte order permitting the Attorney General (or designee) to collect, retain, disseminate, and use in connection with the investigation or prosecution.

  • The authorized investigation or prosecution must be an offense or act related to domestic or internal terrorism (as defined in sections 2331 and 2332b(g)(5)(B) of Title 18 US Code).

2. Court may issue such ex parte order upon presentation of specific and articulable facts that the education records contain information specified by (1)(A).

  • It is not the institution’s responsibility to ensure such facts exist. The institution may comply with such [an] order presuming that the court has made its decision in accordance with the statute

Legal Responsibilities: Children

Making a Will to Provide for Orphaned Children

The Notre Dame Legal Aid Clinic urges international parents with children under the age of 18 to plan for what would happen to their children in the unlikely event both parents die before the children are of an age to legally make decisions for themselves. Generally speaking, this would call for the preparation of a will. Wills may not seem important to young parents with few goods or investments to secure and pass along, but providing for the care of an orphaned child is a special and urgent reason to make detailed arrangements. This planning usually involves:

  • The nomination of a guardian for the children (this can be done through a will)
  • An arrangement (trust) for management of benefits payable, ultimately, to the children
  • Adequate funding for the trust (usually through savings or life insurance benefits payable to the trustee)
  • A will (for back-up)

The best way to make these arrangements is through an attorney. If the arrangements call for the children to be taken from Indiana and cared for in their home country, the attorney should become familiar with the laws of that country regarding child custody. To locate an attorney in the South Bend area, contact the St. Joseph County Bar Association: 574-235-9657. Low-income families can seek help from the South Bend office of Indiana Legal Services, 574-234-8121, or from Notre Dame Legal Aid Clinic, 574-631-7795.

Students who decide against seeking the assistance of an attorney, can create a will by using online forms or legal “guide” books. At the very least, students should write out instructions for the care of their children, stipulating with whom the children would reside while arrangements for legal custody are made, and with whom the children will reside permanently. Students should also look into life insurance policies and make plans for financial support of these children.