F-1 Immigration Regulations
Use the links below to find more information about how F-1 students can maintain their immigration status. This information is not definitive. If more information is needed, please email or call the Center for International Education to set up an appointment.
This document is issued by the International Student Advisor at UIU and gives international student status while in the U.S. The personal information (name, date of birth, etc.) should always be accurate and match the information in the passport. The program information (major, start date, end date, degree level, etc.) should accurately reflect the student's official status at UIU. If the I-20 needs to be updated the Center for International Education should be contacted.
The passport should be valid for at least 6 months into the future at all times. If the passport will expire in 6 months or less, the appropriate embassy should be contacted to request a new passport.
The visa is a document allowing entry into the U.S. Always monitor the end date of the visa. The visa can be expired as long as the F-1 student stays in the U.S. and maintains a valid I-20 and passport. If the visa is expired and the F-1 student leaves the U.S., a new visa must be obtained before reentry. Travel to Canada and Mexico can be an exception to this rule, the Center for International Education should be contacted if a trip is planned to one of these countries.
The I-94 is the record of entry, immigration status and length of status for the F-1 student. The I-94 should indicate F-1 D/S meaning F-1 "Duration of Status". Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) no longer issues paper I-94s to F-1 students when they enter the U.S. However, a paper copy can be printed from www.CBP.gov/I94.
Change of Status to F-1
Individuals who are currently in the U.S. in an immigration status other than F-1 can apply for a change of status to F-1 from USCIS or via travel outside of the U.S. There are specific advantages and disadvantages to each option and choosing the best way to change to F-1 status will depend upon the particular situation. To get more information about changing to F-1 status, please review the Change of Status to F-1 information packet. After reviewing the Change to F-1 Status packet, contact the Center for International Education.
Change of Address
All F-1 students must notify the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of any address change within 10 days of moving. This requirement applies to moves between apartments off-campus, moves from on-campus housing to off-campus housing, room changes and residence hall changes. F-1 students should complete the Change of Address form to notify the Center for International Education of the change. Additionally, students must also change their address in myUIU to notify the Registrar's Office.
All F-1 students must be enrolled full-time during the Fall and Spring semesters. Full-time status for undergraduates is 12 credits per semester. Graduate students must enroll in 3 credits per term to obtain full-time status.
Online, Distance and Independent-Study Courses
For undergraduate students, no more than one three-credit online, distance, or independent-study course can be used per semester to meet the minimum full-time enrollment requirement. Any credits earned above the minimum enrollment can be any learning experience. Graduate students must enroll in one three-credit course per term that is offered in-person. Any additional courses taken each term can be through any learning experience.
If an F-1 student starts their program in the summer semester or will finish their final classes in the summer semester, the regular full-time enrollment requirements as stated above must be followed. If an F-1 student has enrolled full-time during the prior fall and spring semesters and intend to enroll in the upcoming fall semester at UIU, that student does not have to take any classes. The F-1 student can take fewer than the number of credits required for full-time status and take as many online classes as wished.
Reduced Course Load
F-1 students are eligible for a reduced course load for very specific and limited reasons. Those reasons are:
- Illness or medical condition
- Initial difficulty with English language
- Initial Difficulty with reading requirements
- Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
- Improper course level placement
- To complete course of study in the current semester.
Certain reasons are only available during the first or last semesters and others have a limited period of time for which they can be used.
Any request for a reduced course load must be signed by the academic advisor and submitted to the Center for International Education. Additional supporting documentation may be required depending on the reason for requesting a reduced course load.
Travel While in F-1 Status
Travel within the U.S.
F-1 students should carry their original I-20, passport, visa, and a print-out of the I-94 anytime they leave the immediate Fayette area.
Travel outside of the U.S.
The original I-20, passport, and visa. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of reentry to the U.S. The visa must be valid upon date of reentry and indicate the appropriate number of entries. Additionally, F-1 students must have a valid travel signature on the bottom of the last page of the I-20. A travel signature is valid for one year from the date of the signature and indicates to CBP that the student is currently maintaining F-1 status. Failure to obtain a travel signature prior to travel or having an expired travel signature upon reentry to the U.S. may result in secondary questioning by CBP or even denial of entry to the U.S. A new I-94 will be issued upon reentry to the U.S.
F-1 students are issued I-20s with a specific end date indicating the length of time that is expected to complete the degree. If additional time is needed, F-1 students must complete the program extension packet and return to the Center for International Education at least one month prior to the end date currently listed on the I-20. Program extensions must be signed by the academic advisor. The I-20 can only be extended up to one year at a time.
On-campus employment refers to any employment that is paid by UIU with the physical work site located on the campus the F-1 student is authorized to attend or for a company that holds a contract with UIU to offer services directly to UIU students on the UIU campus the F-1 student is authorized to attend. F-1 students should meet with the International Student Advisor before beginning any work with a non-UIU company to verify whether the position will be considered on-campus.
F-1 students can work up to 20 hours per week during the fall and spring semesters. During the summer semester and other university breaks, F-1 students can work up to 20 hours per week provided they will enroll in the upcoming fall semester.
F-1 students who are employed need a Social Security Number (SSN). Once a student receives a job offer, the student should request an Social Security Letter (and attach a copy of the job offer letter) from the Center for International Education. Once the student has all necessary documents, the student must go to the Social Security Administration office in Waterloo. See Programs and Activities for a schedule of SSN trips offered by the CIE.
To search for employment opportunities on campus, please visit the Peacock Career Portal website.
Students who are enrolled in the Intensive English Program (IEP) are discouraged from working on campus because of the amount of time they spend studying. IEP students can only work if they are in the Advanced level, have good grades, and obtain the permission of their instructors and the IEP Director. In this case, they may work a maximum of 10 hours per week. No IEP student may work during the summer IEP program, which is even more intense than the normal semester.
Curricular Practical Training
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is defined as an alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school (8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)).
At UIU, an F-1 student is eligible for CPT if the student is enrolled in a course that requires the completion of an internship and will receive credit for the internship or if the student is required to complete an internship for their degree.
CPT can be authorized as full-time or part-time. Full-time is equivalent to more than 20 hours per week. Part-time is equivalent to 20 hours or less per week. CPT will be authorized for one term at a time unless approval is given by the academic advisor and the International Student Advisor. CPT authorization is employer- and location-specific. If an F-1 student changes employers or work sites, notification must be made to the International Student Advisor.
To request CPT, an F-1 student must complete the CPT Application Packet, gather all additional necessary documentation and return to the Center for International Education. The Center for International Education will review the request and, if determined to meet CPT requirements, the CPT authorization will be indicated on the last page of a new I-20. CPT authorization must be received prior to the beginning any work.
One year or more of full-time CPT will make an F-1 student ineligible for optional practical training (OPT).
Optional Practical Training
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study" (8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(10)(ii)). All F-1 students (except ESL only F-1 students) are eligible for one year of full-time OPT per education level. Any OPT request is submitted and reviewed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) department. F-1 students cannot begin working until they receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and have reached the start date listed on the card and no employment offer is required to apply. There are three types of OPT: pre-completion OPT, post-completion OPT, and STEM-extension OPT.
Pre-completion OPT is available to F-1 students prior to their graduation. Pre-completion OPT is authorized for a period requested by the student. If it is authorized during the fall or spring semester, the F-1 student can work no more than 20 hours per week. If it is authorized during the summer semester, the F-1 student can work more than 20 hours per week. Any time used as pre-completion OPT is deducted from the one year of full-time OPT.
Post-Completion OPT is available to F-1 students after their graduation. F-1 students can apply for post-completion no more than 90 days before their graduation date and up to 60 days after their graduation date. However, the requested start date must fall within the 60-day grace period. No more than 90-days of unemployment can be accumulated throughout the entire OPT period.
F-1 students who majored in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields and are currently working on post-completion OPT may be eligible for the STEM-extension. This extension gives the student an additional 17 months of employment authorization and F-1 status. A new work authorization request must be submitted to USCIS and a new EAD will be issued if USCIS approves the request. F-1 students on STEM-extension OPT can accumulate no more than 120 days of unemployment throughout the entire post-completion and STEM-extension authorization period. Students interested in the STEM-extension should contact the Center for International Education to determine eligibility.
For all types of OPT, F-1 students must report changes in employment, address, or contact information to the Center for International Education in writing within 10 days of the change so that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security can be notified.
There are companies that provide OPT placement for a fee. More information regarding this can be found at: www.globalinternships.com. UIU does not endorse third party placement providers.
F-1 students can fall out of status (i.e. lose their F-1 status) in various ways such as unauthorized employment, not meeting full-time enrollment requirements, or not requesting a program extension. If a student does fall out of status, F-1 students have the option of requesting a reinstatement to F-1 status from USCIS. This can be done while the student remains in the U.S. and continues studying. For more information, please review the Reinstatement Packet and contact the Center for International Education.
F-1 students may request that their spouse and/or children accompany them to the U.S. as dependents. These dependents will hold F-2 status. For each dependent, the F-1 student must demonstrate that sufficient funds are available to pay for the expenses of the dependent. The total estimated expenses per dependent is $5600 (estimates based on one calendar year). F-2 dependents can study English on a part-time basis or attend the local public elementary and high schools but are ineligible for work authorization. To request an I-20 for a dependent, please complete the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form.
Social Security Number (SSN)
A social security number is issued by the U.S. federal government to individuals that are employed for the purpose of accurately tracking wages. International students are generally not eligible for an SSN unless they are employed on-campus or through OPT or CPT.
The SSN is not needed for the purpose of renting an apartment, buying items online from websites such as Amazon, buying a cell phone or getting a prepaid phone plan, buying a car, renting one of the u-hual cars available on campus, getting a driver's license or state ID or any other reason.
In order to get a Social Security Number, the student must follow the process outlined below:
- Be hired to work on-campus or by an employer if on CPT or OPT and obtain a hiring letter or letter of employment.
- Request a Social Security Support Letter from the Center for International Education. This letter can be requested using the the Official Letter Request Form.
- Apply at the local Social Security Administration office with the following documents.
- Hiring letter or letter of employment
- Social Security Support Letter (from the CIE)
- Form SS-5 Application for a Social Security Card
- Most recent I-20
- Print out of I-94
The Social Security Administration will process a request within approximately 30 days. If the application is approved, the student will receive a social security card in the mail. If the application is denied, the student will receive a denial notification letter in the mail.
Students SHOULD NOT carry their social security card in their wallet or purse on a daily basis. Keep it in a safe place so that it is not lost.
More information from the Social Security Administration is available at:http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10181.pdf.
Transfer Out of UIU
F-1 students can transfer out of UIU at any time. However, in order to transfer the F-1 student must be accepted by another school for a program that will begin within 5 months of the release of the SEVIS record, complete the UIU withdrawal form and complete the Transfer Out form. The transfer out form and a copy of the acceptance letter must be returned to the Center for International Education. Once the transfer out form has been completed, the Center for International Education will release the student's SEVIS record to the new school on the date specified by the student.
F-1 students can withdraw from UIU at any time to return to their home country. However, once a student withdraws, the SEVIS record and F-1 status will be terminated for an authorized early withdrawal. The F-1 student will have 15-days from the termination of authorized early withdrawal to leave the U.S. and return to their home country. To withdraw, F-1 students must complete the UIU Withdrawal Form and return to the Office of Student Develop. The Early Withdrawal Form must also be completed by the student and returned to the Center for International Education.
F-1 students have a 60-day grace period following the completion of their program. The grace period begins the day after the end date listed on the student's I-20. During the 60-day grace period, the student can apply for OPT, transfer to another school to begin a new program, or change their education (apply and be accepted for a new degree or program at the same school). Students cannot work on-campus or off-campus during the grace period unless the student has been approved for OPT, received the EAD, and reached the start date on the card. F-1 students can travel within the U.S. during the grace period. However, once a student leaves the U.S. during this period, F-1 status is automatically ended.