Maintaining F1 Student Status
International students are required to maintain their status while studying in the United States. It is students' responsibility to understand and comply with the terms of their immigration status. A violation of the immigration regulations could jeopardize their F-1 status and legal stay in the U.S.
To maintain an F-1 status, students must comply with ALL of the following requirements:
FOR MORE COMPLETE AND UP TO DATE IMMIGRATION INFORMATION PLEASE REFER TO USCIS WEBSITE OR CONTACT YOUR IMMIGRATION LAWYER.
Course Load Requirement
To stay in status, international students must enroll in a full course of study. Graduate students must attempt at least eight (8) quarter units each quarter for academic credit. Undergraduate students must attempt at least twelve (12) quarter units each quarter for academic credit.
Federal regulations provide limited circumstances when an international student may be authorized for a Reduced Course Load (RCL):
- Medical condition or illness
- Certain initial academic difficulties, including
- improper course level placement
- initial difficulty with the English language
- initial difficulty with reading requirements
- unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods.
- Being in a final quarter
If a student wishes to drop below full-time, he/she must obtain approval in writing from the International Students Office (ISO) in advance, regardless of the reason.
Reporting Any Changes in a Timely Manner
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires that all international students update them with a new address in the United States every time they move. International students are required to provide up-to-date contact information to the Registrar Office (RO) and International Students Office, including a valid telephone number, address, email address, and emergency contact information. Students must notify the RO and ISO of any changes within ten (10) days by completing a Personal Information Change form, or risk losing their F-1 status.
Maintain Valid Documents
International students must keep their immigration documents valid and unexpired:
- Passport. Always keep your passport valid at least 6 months into the future. If your passport is expiring soon, extend it by contacting your home country’s embassy consulate.
- F-1 Visa. Your visa must be valid if you are traveling outside of and reentering the U.S. If your visa got expired before your traveling outside of U.S. you need to renew it in order to re-enter the U.S. You do not need a valid visa in order to stay in the United States as long as you maintain your student status. Canadian students will not have a visa stamp.
- Form I-20. Always keep your Form I-20 valid and up to date. You must keep all original Form I-20s ever issued to you together. If any information on your I-20 is incorrect or needs to be updated, please contact your Designated School Official (DSO) at the International Students Office.
- I-94 Record. This is a very important document, as it is proof that you are in F-1 status. Your I-94 record should be correct and printed out every time you travel outside of and re-enter the U.S.
Program Extension/Change of Level
It’s the student's responsibility to keep his/her Form I-20 valid at all times. International students who are unable to complete their program by the end date indicated on the Form I-20 due to academic or medical reason must apply for an extension of their program. If your Form I-20 expires while you are still a student, you will be considered in violation of your status.
The following cannot be considered as a valid reason for Form I-20 extensions:
- To enroll in extra courses or repeat the same course for personal interest or to improve one’s Grade Point Average (GPA)
- To finish pending coursework for an incomplete grade
- To engage in non-required Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
You were admitted to the United States to complete a specific educational program as reflected on your Form I-20.
If you change majors or if you change programs to a higher or lower degree level, it is your responsibility to request an update to your SEVIS record and obtain a new, accurate Form I-20.
In order to be eligible for an Annual Vacation, you are required to be enrolled as a full-time student for at least three (3) consecutive academic quarters. Annual Vacation must not exceed one (1) quarter per academic year.
To apply for vacation, you are required to complete an Annual Vacation request form prior beginning of the new quarter. During your annual vacation quarter, you may either enroll part-time or not at all.
If you plan to leave the U.S., you must have your Form I-20 signed by the DSO in order to re-enter the U.S. Learn More
IMPORTANT: Failure to return from vacation to enroll for the following quarter could result in negative consequences for your F-1 status.
Leave of Absence (LOA)
A Leave of Absence (Early Authorized Withdrawal) may be granted for personal emergencies and other circumstances that require a temporary interruption in attendance. Students must always consult with their International Students Advisor (ISA) before they stop attending classes, otherwise, the student risks having their SEVIS record terminated by the ISA for unauthorized withdrawal and must depart the United States immediately. Students taking a leave of absence must submit a signed Leave of Absence Request Form to the Registrar Office prior to taking the leave. If a leave of absence is unavoidable, it is best to finish the current quarter before starting a leave. Students who begin a leave of absence during a quarter will be assigned a grade of “W” for any coursework that cannot be assigned a final grade. LOA may not be granted during a student’s first quarter and does not exceed one hundred eighty (180) days in any twelve (12) – month period. LOA has no effect on satisfactory academic progress if no credits are attempted during the leave period.
A student who wishes to take LOA must make the request prior to or on the first day of instruction by completing the Leave of Absence Request Form. The leave of absence is effective only when the Academic Office and Registrar Office have acted upon the request and granted permission. A student who has taken LOA without permission will not be considered as a continuing student without persuasive reason(s) and evidence to substantiate such reason(s).
If LOA is approved, the leave is recorded on the student’s transcripts. The period of leave is not counted in the time allowed for the completion of degree requirements. Students who do not return to enrolled status at the end of the approved leave of absence are no longer considered to be pursuing a degree.
Students who fail to apply for Leave of Absence Request, or for whom a leave has been denied or has expired, should refer to Re-admission.
LOA for Personal Reasons
The student requesting a Leave of Absence for non-medical or personal reasons who wishes to maintain his/her enrollment status along with an F-1 status may do so under the following conditions:.
- File a “Leave of Absence Request” form, with the period of leave not to exceed one hundred eighty (180) days in any twelve (12) month period
- Receive approval for the Leave of Absence request from the Academic Office and Registrar Office
International students cannot stay in the U.S. while on LOA for personal reason. It is a violation of status. Students must leave the U.S within fifteen (15) days from the start of the LOA. The only exception to this rule is students approved for Medical Leave of Absence.
If Leave of Absence that will exceed five (5) months must:
- Request a new Form I-20 three (3) months prior to intended return date and pay the SEVIS I-901 fee
- Apply for a new F-1 Visa even if the current F-1 visa is still valid
- Enter the U.S. no earlier than thirty (30) days before the start date on the new Form I-20
IMPORTANT: Failure to report to the International Students Office (ISO) immeditely after re-entry to the U.S. for status verification could result in negative consequences for your F-1 status.
LOA for Medical Reasons
The student requesting a Leave of Absence for medical reasons who wishes to maintain his enrollment status along with an F-1 status may do so under the following conditions:
- File a “Leave of Absence Request” form, with the period of leave not to exceed the estimated/required length of absence as confirmed by the attending Physician/Practitioner in a written statement filed with the Registrar Office. The medical note need not state a diagnosis but must state that Reduced Course Load (or zero course load) is recommended for a student for a given quarter due to a temporary illness or medical condition. If the length of time of LOA must be extended due to further medical reasons, the student in question must file a new Leave of Absence Request form with supporting documents from his/her Physician/Practitioner, indicating in the appropriate place that this is an extension. A Leave of Absence may not exceed one hundred eighty (180) days in any twelve (12)- month period. Also, LOA time for medical reasons will not be counted against the student’s expected “time of completion” requirement.
- Receive approval for the Leave of Absence request from the Academic Office and Registrar Office
Students may withdraw from courses during the Add & Drop Period without affecting their grade point average. Students thereafter are required to obtain a permit from the Academic Office to withdraw. Withdrawal from enrolled courses after the Add & Drop Period with the proper withdrawal procedure will result in a “W” grade recorded in the official transcript. A student can withdraw from a course by completing the Course Withdrawal request form along with Add & Drop form.
No withdrawals are permitted during the final three (3) weeks of instruction except in cases such as accident or serious illness. A grade of “F” will be automatically entered in the grade report if the student does not attend the final three weeks of class without being excused. All withdrawals must be requested by completing the appropriate forms.
Oral requests, whether by phone or in person, are not acceptable and will not be acted upon.
CalUMS-VA withdrawal policies after add/drop period sometimes conflict with the F-1 full-time registration requirement. Even though the CalUMS-VA registration policies might allow students to drop a class, international students must also consider the F-1 rules and regulations, which are separate. Such a drop might be a violation of their F-1 status.
A student may withdraw from the University on or before the last day of the add & drop period without any penalty. The student will be refunded the full amount of monies paid less non-refundable fees if he/she is a continuing student. For students who request for withdrawal with appropriate forms, and then obtain an approval of the Academic Dean, the refund shall be made according to the University’s Refund Policy. This policy is binding whether or not the student filed his or her withdrawal notice to the University.
SEVIS Record Transfer
If you plan to transfer to another institution or attend another institution during or after your program completion, you must have your SEVIS record transferred. Please note international students may only transfer to another SEVIS-certified school.
In order to transfer your SEVIS record, you must:
- Notify the ISO of your intention to transfer to another institution
- Submit a copy of your Acceptance letter and a Transfer-In form to the ISO
- Complete Exit Interview and Notice of Cancellation forms (for current students only)
- Schedule a "release date" with the DSO for your SEVIS record to be transferred to the new institution.
You will be notified via email once your transfer out request is processed and SEVIS record is released.
If you have completed your program of study or you are currently on OPT, your transfer-out request must be completed within sixty (60) days grace period.
Your OPT authorization (regardless of end date printed on EAD) will end on the date your SEVIS record is transferred to another institution.
Please note, you are only eligible to transfer your SEVIS record to another school if the program start date at your new institution is within five (5) months of your last day of attendance at CalUMS-VA or the end date of your OPT.
It's important to complete your transfer process in a timely manner to avoid violation of the immigration status.
For more information please refer to SEVP website.
When international students complete their study program, they have a sixty (60)-day grace period to:
- Apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT)
- Apply to USCIS for a change of status
- Travel within the United States
- Must depart the country by the end of sixty (60) days
- Apply and be accepted to a new academic program
- Must start the program within five (5) months
- DSO must transfer out SEVIS record within the grace period
International students cannot depart and return to the United States during the grace period of sixty (60) days. SEVIS automatically completes student’s record at the end of the grace period.