As an international student on an F-1 visa, you must be aware of your immigration and academic statuses. Keeping track of these documents and processes will help ensure you complete your educational goals while still staying legally in the U.S.

  1. Maintain a full course of study each required semester

    • Maintain 12 units through the entire semesters of Fall and Spring until you complete your program of study or transfer to a new school

        • Of the 12 minimum units, 9 units must be registered as in-person or hybrid classes

        • If you were admitted for a Summer semester, you must maintain 6 units through your first Summer term. Future enrollments in Summer semesters are not required

  2. Obtain permission from the ISC before dropping below a full course of study

    • There are limited exceptions that allow an international student to drop below a full course of study. Review the Reduced Course Load reasons carefully and speak with a Visa Advisor or International Counselor at the ISC if you are having difficulties with your classes or your personal life 

    • You must obtain authorization from the ISC before you drop any course(s). If you fail to follow this rule, this will negatively impact your I-20 and your legal ability to stay and study in the U.S.  

  3. Valid Passport

    • Maintain a valid, unexpired passport at all times

    • If you need help renewing your passport, contact your country's consulate or embassy in the United States

  4. Valid I-20

    • Maintain a valid, unexpired I-20 at all times

    • Seek an I-20 Extension at least 30 days before the program end date listed in your most recent PCC I-20 if you do not think you will complete your program of study by that date

  5. Obtain authorization before you work

    • F-1 visa students are eligible to work in the U.S. but must receive written authorization before any work can start

    • Review the different employment guidelines for F-1 visa students and schedule an appointment with an International Advisor to receive authorization

    • Employment authorization can come from the ISC or from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, depending if the work will be on campus or off campus

      • On campus work: Written authorization is provided by the ISC

      • Off campus work: Any off campus work must be related to your academic major.
        Written authorization for off-campus work is provided by either the ISC if employment is under Curricular Practical Training (CPT), or authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services if employment is under Optional Practical Training (OPT)

  6. Obtain a travel signature before re-entering the U.S.

    Obtain a travel signature from the ISC on your I-20 before you travel internationally by submitting a Travel Request. Travel within the U.S. does not require a travel signature.

    Travelling internationally while classes are in session is not recommended. Students assume the risk of re-entering the U.S. border or being dropped from their class(es) if they choose to travel when class is in session.

  7. Accurate Personal Information

    • Update your student record within 10 days when there are changes to your address, phone number, e-mail address, change of major, or other important information. Submit a Change of Information form to the ISC so that your record is accurate

    • Maintain consistency of records by using your legal name as it appears in your passport

  8. Follow all Grace Periods

    • Newly admitted students can enter the U.S. 30 days before the program start date listed on your PCC I-20

    • Continuing students may remain in the U.S. for up to 60 days after:

      • Completing their program of study or graduating; or

      • Completing their post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) during their authorization period

    • New or Continuing Students who are granted an Authorized Early Withdrawal may remain in the U.S. up to 15 days following the withdrawal date provided to you by your International Advisor

    • Students terminated for negative reasons - such as unauthorized drop below 12 units, registering in more than 3 fully online classes towards their full-time requirement, among other reasons - are not eligible for grace periods and must exit the U.S. immediately after their termination date

    • If you wish to extend your stay in the U.S. beyond your program's end date, talk to an International Advisor regarding options, which include:

      • Transferring to another school
      • Changing to a new program of study
      • Changing your status to another visa status, if eligible

Source: U.S. Study in the States, site for F-1 visa students