Maintaining F-1 Visa Status

If you have any questions, contact the Student Life Office at 203-371-7846


  • Stands for:  Student & Exchange Visitor Information System
  • Federal mandate that PDSO (Principal Designated School Official) or DSO (Designated School Official) report enrollment, address, part time study, graduation, work authorizations, dependents, etc to USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) formerly called INS.

Passport Check-in with the Student Life/ESL Office

  • Required at the start of your academic program, and again if you start a new academic program
  • Required if you change or extend your passport or are issued a new visa

Address/Email/Phone Number

  • You must notify the Student Life/ESL office & the Registrar’s office of current address/phone number, even when you are on Optional Practical Training following graduation
  • Please activate and regularly check your SHU email account.  Correspondence from the Student Life Office will only be sent to your  SHU email


  • Register each semester ON TIME during PRE-REGISTRATION!  Failure to register or remain full time violates your F-1 visa and will cause you to be out of status.
  • Must be full time according to your program (PDSO/DSO records in SEVIS each semester)
    • ESL:  must attend full time (18-23 hours/week) and follow ESL vacation policy
    • Undergraduate:  12 credits each semester
    • Graduate:  9 credits each semester/trimester
  • Academic part time is limited to one semester or session per degree level for academic difficulties and one semester per degree level for completion of program.  Acceptable reasons for part time study DO NOT include financial hardship or poor academic progress. Part time permission must be granted by the Student Life Office PRIOR to registration or withdrawing
  • You must follow the attendance guidelines set by your academic department to be considered attending class
  • You are limited to 3 credits or one class per semester in a Distance Learning (on-line) format counting toward your full course load.  (ESL is not permitted to participate in Distance Learning.)

Leave of Absence (LOA)/ Part Time Study due to Medical Reasons

  • Must be authorized by the Student Life/ESL Office within 21 days of becoming unable to attend school
  • Requires documentation from a licensed doctor submitted to the Student Life/ESL Office
  • Part time or leave of absence due to medical reasons limited to1 year per degree level (will be documented in SEVIS as Medical Leave of Absence)

Bill Paying

  • To remain in good standing with the University, you must pay your tuition, fees and other expenses at the beginning of the semester or in accordance to a payment plan arranged with the Bursar
  • You must have a zero balance to be eligible for work after graduating (OPT) or to receive a transcript

Grade Point Average (GPA)

  • Undergraduates must have at least a 2.0 GPA to be in good standing
  • Undergraduates must have at least a 2.5 GPA  to participate in Co-op or Internship
  • Graduates must generally have at least a 3.0 GPA to be in good standing
  • Graduates must have at least a 3.0 GPA to participate in Co-op or Internship


  • Must be valid at all times
  • Know your expiration date
  • Renewed at home country's consulate in the U.S. or while at home
  • Lost passports may be replaced by home country consulate


  • Must be valid at all times
  • Know  your expiration date
  • Extensions may be done any time before current program expiration by seeing the Student Life/ESL Office; if your I-20 expires and you have not renewed it on time then you will lose your legal right to stay in the U.S.
  • Lost I-20’s may be replaced by the Student Life/ESL Office


  • Arrival/Departure record filed electronically at port of entry by U. S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
  • To obtain admission number and electronic record visit website

SHU ID card

  • Carry with you as a form of ID and to obtain University services
  • If lost, may be replaced at Student Union Office for a small fee


  • Locally: carry school ID, state ID, or driver's license.
  • DO NOT CARRY SOCIAL SECURITY CARD unless you need it for a specific reason.
  • In U.S.:  carry passport, I-20
  • Outside of U.S.:  have your I-20 form endorsed for travel BEFORE leaving.  Carry passport, I-20.  Carry school documents (transcript, registration, and payment receipts), proof of financial support, and support letters as needed.
  • Pay attention to health alerts offered by the University’s Health Services regarding travel.

Special Registration (NSEERS)

  • If you are subject to “Special Registration” upon your arrival in the U.S., please follow all instructions given to you.  Your I-94 will be marked "NSEERS".  Meet with an international advisor if you need assistance.

Employment on Campus

  • An F-1 student may work at any qualifying on-campus job (the Bookstore, IT Help Desk, Dining Services, Student Union Manager, etc.)  Jobs on-campus are very limited, please do not assume that you will be able to secure on-campus employment.  The student may only work up to 20 hours a week when school is in session and full-time when school is not in session.
  • Off-campus jobs are not permitted
  • Unlawful work is grounds for deportation.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for F-1’s

  • Eligible after a minimum of one full academic year; however, some departments require additional study and some departments do not allow CPT at all
  • Co-op/Internship requires permission from your academic department, the Co-op/Internship Director and the Student Life Office
  • Start working only AFTER receiving written permission by Student Life Office
  • Unlawful work is grounds for deportation
  • ESL students are not eligible for CPT

Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1's

  • Eligible for 12 months following each higher U.S. degree level, (i.e. Undergraduate, Master, Doctorate)
  • You may file for the Form I-765 up to 90 days before degree completion or 60 days after degree completion.  USCIS must receive your application within 30 days of the date the OPT recommendation is made in SEVIS.
  • Start working only AFTER receiving employment card from USCIS and it is valid
  • Remember you still need travel endorsements on I-20 when travelling
  • Work must be related to your major area of study
  • Unlawful work is grounds for deportation
  • ESL students are not eligible for OPT
  • Must notify Student Life office within 10 days if you change employer, mailing address, or e-mail address.

17 month Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1's

  • An F-1 student who has completed a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in a STEM CIP (Classification of Instructional Programs) approved by DHS for the 17-month extension and is currently engaged in post-completion OPT may apply for the 17-month extension if he/she has a job or job offer from an E-Verify employer. An E-Verify employer is an employer registered and in good standing with the USCIS E-Verify program. You may file the Form I-765 within 90 and 120 days of the expiration date of the current OPT.

Economic Hardship

  • Available to F-1’s who experience a severe change in their economic support that occurred after beginning school and that was unforeseen and beyond the control of the student/sponsor.
  • See the Student Life Office for specific application process
  • Start working only AFTER receiving an employment card from USCIS
  • Unlawful work is grounds for deportation


  • The application to regain lawful student status if you have done something that violates your legal stay in the U.S.   Meet with an international advisor to discuss your situation if you have done something that violates your legal stay.  Examples of violations include:  unauthorized employment, not registering on time, not extending your I-20 form prior to the expiration date, and not receiving prior authorization before dropping below a full course load.
  • Under very limited circumstances will reinstatement be granted


  • F-2 spouses may generally not study at the university level
  • F-2 child may study full time at the elementary or secondary school level (kindergarten through 12th grade)
  • F-2 dependents may not work under any circumstances
  • Documents required for issuance of I-20 for dependents
    • Marriage certificate (in English)
    • Copy of passport of spouse
    • Copy of passport(s) for child/children
    • Proof of financial support for student PLUS dependents

Disciplinary Action

  • SHU must report to USCIS any disciplinary action taken by the university against an international student as a result of the student being convicted of a crime

Change in Degree Level

  • For example: from ESL to Undergraduate, or starting a second graduate program
  • New I-20 form is required and must be authorized by the Student Life Office for the new degree level prior to starting the new degree

School Transfer

  • Student must notify the Student Life Office of intent to transfer and indicate the school to which the student wishes to transfer BEFORE changing schools.  Student must also have a zero balance with the Bursar office before record can be transferred.
  • Students transferring out of SHU who have not graduated must complete a Withdrawal Form with the Registrar
  • Students transferring to SHU must have their SHU I-20 form issued by the Student Life Office within 15 days of starting at SHU

Grace Periods

  • 60 day grace period applies only when you have finished a program or degree or when your OPT ends
  • 15 day grace period applies if you withdraw from your program with the permission of the Student Life Office, there is no grace period for a student who has violated his or her student status
  • Student & dependents may enter U.S. up to 30 days before the start date given on the I-20 form


  • All F students and their dependents must file a federal tax return form each year no later than April 15th
  • SHU scholarship money you receive may be taxable
  • You may have to file a state tax return as well as a federal tax return
  • International students are not exempt from federal and state taxes
  • International students may be exempt from FICA taxes (social security and medicare taxes).  Refer to Publication 519 on the IRS web site for more information at

Obtaining a Driver’s License

Please refer to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website at for information on how F-1 students can obtain a driver’s license.  A Social Security Number is not required to obtain a driver’s license.  After reading the instructions carefully, please make an appointment in the Student Life Office so that you can pick up your support letter that you will need to bring with you to DMV.

Social Security Number

Social Security is a U.S. government agency which is in charge of caring for retirees and serves as a basic retirement plan. In order to obtain a social security number, you must have permission to work from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  Permission to work is granted for On-Campus jobs, Curricular Practical Training (CPT), and Optional Practical Training (OPT). Please make an appointment in the Student Life Office so that you can pick up your support letter that you will need to bring with you to the Social Security office.