F-1 VISA Holders - Maintaining F-1 Status with USCIS Regulations & SEVIS

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) regulations require OSU to report information into the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The SEVIS system collects information on students and reports academic progress to USCIS. As an F-1 student, you were admitted to the U.S for “duration of status”. This means you are permitted to stay in the U.S. as long as you maintain your status by fulfilling the requirements of being an F-1 student. Keep in mind that there is an important difference between an F-1 visa and   F-1 status. The visa is a stamp or sticker placed in your passport by a U.S. embassy or consulate and is granted for entry purposes only. F-1 status is granted when you enter the U.S. and is regulated by the USCIS. Even if your visa is valid, you can lose your legal F-1 student status if you do not continue to comply with immigration laws regulating your stay in the U.S. Maintaining the following regulations is extremely important. Penalties for violating student regulations vary in severity from:

  • Applying for reinstatement.
  • Voluntarily leaving the U.S.
  • Deportation.

Overview of Government Regulations You Must Follow to Maintain Your Legal Status

General Information

You must maintain a valid passport which is valid at least 6 months into the future. You must also attend the university that immigration has authorized you to attend.

 

Full-time Enrollment

Complete a full course of study during the fall and spring semesters. (12 hours per semester for all undergraduate students; 9 hours for graduate students with/without 25% assistantship and 6 hours for graduate students with 50% assistantship.)

Doctoral students who have completed the requirements for admission to doctoral candidacy and had their “Admission to Doctoral Candidacy” form accepted by the Graduate College may enroll for a minimum of two credit hours and be considered full-time. This post-candidacy reduced enrollment option includes GTAs, GRAs and international students. A student is normally expected to enroll primarily in research hours or in program-approved courses after being admitted to doctoral candidacy. Please contact the Graduate College at http://gradcollege.okstate.edu/ for more information.

You must obtain a grade of A, B, C, D, or F in all courses; a “W” (withdraw) or “I” (incomplete) will not qualify as completion of the course. You are NOT required by immigration to enroll in classes during the summer session, UNLESS summer is your first or last semester in the U.S.

 

Final Semester
During the final semester, undergraduate students and graduate student WITHOUT an assistantship may enroll part-time (2 credit hours minimum), but MUST file for a diploma and final semester verification. Graduate students WITH assistantship (both 0.25 and 0.5) must enroll in at least 6 credit hours, file for a diploma, and file intent to graduate with the Graduate College.   Also, the student may not enroll in an online course in the final semester. If the online course is needed to graduate the student must also enroll in at least one classroom experience course.  

 

Online Courses
No more than three credit hours of online or distance education courses can be counted toward a full course of study per semester. The student may not enroll in an online course only in the final semester. If the student needs to enroll in an online course in the final semester then the student must also enroll in a classroom experience course.

 

Dropping a Course
If you believe that you need to drop a course come to the ISS office before you drop the course. The ISS must report the reduced course load in SEVIS. This decision could create a very difficult situation, and needs to be considered carefully.

 

Change of Address

The immigration regulations require that all students report their change of address within 10 days of the address change.

 

SEVIS Reporting

Under the SEVIS reporting requirements OSU is required to report any student’s failure to complete the program or withdrawal from courses, drop to enrollment below full course of study, address change, major or level change, program completion, Optional or Curricular Practical Training, and school transfers within 21 to 30 days depending on the event.

 

Transfer

Complete an official immigration transfer whenever you change educational institutions within the United States. Inform the previous school of your intent to transfer and confirm the release date. Contact OSU within 15 days of the first day of classes to begin the transfer process. The Form I-20 must be processed and reported to immigration within 30 days of enrollment by a Designated School Official (DSO) in the International Students and Scholars office (ISS).

 

Please note: An immigration transfer is a totally separate process from transferring academic credit from another school. An immigration transfer is not complete until a DSO has registered your information into SEVIS and informed immigration of the change.

 

Change of Degree Level

Obtain a new Form I-20 whenever you make a change in degree levels. This includes changing from language studies to a bachelor’s degree, from bachelor’s to master’s degree, from master’s degree to a doctorate, from Optional Practical Training to a new degree, from one level of degree to one of the same level (master’s to second master’s degree), etc. This change is a reportable event in SEVIS so it is essential that you inform ISS within 30 days of the level change. A new SEVIS Form I-20 will be issued as well as registration into SEVIS.

 

Change of Major

A new Form I-20 is also required when you have a change in major/department.

 

Change or Correction of Biographical Information

A new Form I-20 is required for a correction or change in name, date of birth or citizenship. The information in your passport must match exactly the information on the I-20. You will need to contact ISS at the time of change or correction. This is a reportable event in SEVIS.

 

Program Extension

Apply for an extension of your program if you cannot complete your degree by the end date listed on item five on your Form I-20. You can apply for a program extension any time during your course of study. You will need to contact the ISS prior to the end date of your Form I-20. The program extension will require a new Form I-20

 

Employment

Work off-campus only if you have first received authorization from International Students & Scholars or immigration. On-campus work requires an on-campus work permit and you must maintain your full-time status. Please Note: If you work illegally, you must leave the country or face deportation. You cannot be reinstated. On-campus work is limited to part-time (20 hours or less per week) during fall and spring semesters. It may be full-time (more than 20-hours/ week) during summer and official school breaks.

Students who wish to apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT) must receive a new Form I-20 from the ISS Office.

 

Travel

A new Form I-20 may be required for travel depending on the need to renew an expired visa and/or if there are major changes in your financial situation. A current signature from a DSO is required on page three of the I-20 for travel. It is important that you contact ISS in advance of your travels to obtain the appropriate documents.

 

Dependents

All spouses and children must obtain their own Form I-20 while residing in the U.S. The F-2 (dependent) may engage in part-time study and may not enroll in a full-time course of study until immigration has approved the change of status to an F-1.

 

Reinstatement

If you have failed to maintain your F-1 status you will be required to apply for reinstatement. The immigration regulations have been narrowed and it is important that you contact ISS if you find yourself in this situation. Due to the SEVIS reporting requirements it is essential that you follow the immigration regulations and if you have any questions please contact ISS.

 

More information

The ISS staff are employed by OSU and do not work for immigration. The staff is here to assist you in understanding the immigration regulations and help you stay “in status” with immigration. For more information, contact:

The Office of International Students and Scholars

250 Student Union, Stillwater OK 74078

email: su-iss@okstate.edu

phone: 405-744-5459

fax: 405-744-8120