Maintaining F-1 Visa Status

For further information, refer to the Immigration Support Services and Study in the States websites.


  • Stands for: Student & Exchange Visitor Information System

  • SEVIS is a shared government database to track international students on visa.

  • SHU is responsible for reporting information to SEVIS.

Passport Check-In

  • Required at orientation

  • Required if you change or extend your passport or are issued a new visa

Address/Email/Phone Number

  • You must notify the Immigration office of current address/phone number, even when you are on Optional Practical Training following graduation

  • Activate and regularly check your SHU email account. Correspondence from the Immigration Office and all University departments 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
    • 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, 8 Week Modules-6 credits each module—student must register for two modules each term which will total 12 credits (ex. Mod1/Mod2; Mod3/Mod4; Mod5/Mod6. Module programs are one year programs with no breaks.
    • Only one online or distance learning class can count toward a full course of study for an F-1 student during each term or semester.
    • No online or distance learning classes may count toward ESL student's full course of study requirement.
    • Final course requirement cannot be online.
  • Reduced course load 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 reduced course load DO NOT include financial hardship or poor academic progress. Reduced course load will be documented in SEVIS.
  • Reduced course load permission must be granted by the academic department and the Immigration Office PRIOR to registration or withdrawing. Have the Reduced Course Load Form completed and returned to our office.

  • Class attendance is required to maintain your status and non-attendance will be reported to the Immigration Office.

Medical Leave of Absence/Part-Time Study

  • Must be authorized by the PDSO/DSO within 21 days of becoming unable to attend school

  • Student is permitted to remain in the U.S.

  • Requires documentation from a licensed U.S doctor submitted to the Immigration Office

  • Reduced course load or leave of absence due to medical reasons limited to1 year per degree level (will be documented in SEVIS as Medical Leave of Absence)

Leave of Absence

  • In the event you need to take a Leave of Absence (LOA) for a semester you must come to the Immigration Office and pick up a LOA Form which will need to be signed by your Academic Advisor

  • Student is not permitted to remain in the U.S.

  • Your re-entry date to the United States cannot exceed 30 days before the next semester start date

  • Your I-20 will be Terminated during your Leave of Absence and will be requested to be put back to Active status 60 days prior to the start of the next semester

Leave of Absence Exceeding 5 Months

  • If your Leave of Absence will exceed 5 months you must request a new I-20 from the Immigration Office 3 months prior to intended return date

  • A new I-20 with a new SEVIS ID number will be issued and you will be required to 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 30 days before the start date on the new I-20

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

  • Students I-20’s can be terminated for failure to pay tuition on time

  • 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 program end date—must be the same as your expected graduation date

  • Extensions may be done any time before current program end date by seeing the Immigration 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.

  • Keep every I-20 ever issued to you (Initial, Continued Attendance)! Lost I-20’s may be replaced by the Immigration 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


  • Carry with you as a form of ID and to obtain University services

  • If lost, may be replaced at the Student Union for a small fee


  • Locally/U.S: passport, I-20, school ID, state ID, or driver's license.

  • DO NOT CARRY SOCIAL SECURITY CARD unless you need it for a specific reason.

  • Outside of U.S.: have your I-20 form endorsed for travel BEFORE leaving. Carry passport, I-20, school documents (transcript, registration, and payment receipts), proof of financial support, and support letters as needed.

Travel Requests

  • Traveling out of the United States during the semester is prohibited.

  • In the event of an emergency, maximum time you can be out of the United States during the semester is 15 days with 4 travel days. This would make your travel time a total of 19 days.

  • You must come to the Immigration Office and pick up a travel request form, which will need to be signed by each professor.

  • Missing classes can affect the student’s GPA and may require additional classes to complete the program. This responsibility falls on the student and not the University.

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)

  • Eligible after a minimum of one full academic year; however, some departments require additional study and some departments do not allow CPT at all. CPT will only be granted if it is a requirement for graduation.

  • Start working only AFTER receiving written permission by your academic department and Immigration Office

  • Unlawful work is grounds for deportation

  • ESL students are not eligible for CPT

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

  • Eligible for 12 months following each higher U.S. degree level, (i.e. Undergraduate, Master, Doctorate)
  • You may file 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 (EAD) from USCIS and the start date is current

  • You still need travel endorsements on I-20 when traveling

  • Work must be related to your major area of study

  • Unlawful work is grounds for deportation

  • ESL students are not eligible for OPT

24 month Optional Practical Training (OPT)

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 24-month extension and is currently engaged in post-completion OPT may apply for the 24-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. STEM OPT can be requested 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 Immigration 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 study part-time not seeking a degree at SEVP certified schools

  • 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 Immigration Office for the new degree level prior to starting the new degree

School Transfer

  • Student must notify the Immigration 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 Student Accounts 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 Immigration 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 Immigration 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