How do I maintain legal status in the U.S.?
F-1 students are required to be registered in a full course of study each semester. Government regulations require STU to maintain current information on all F-1 students in SEVIS. The following events require approval from the ISA prior to taking action. Many of these events will generate a new SEVIS I-20.
- Change of degree, major, and/or level
- Program extension, or early completion of program
- Change of name (must file change with office of registrar)
- Change of address
- Addition of a dependent (spouse or child)
- Off campus employment
- Reduced Course Load
- Significant change in funding source
- Transfer out of STU
- Leave of absence from academic program
- Barred from enrollment
Failure to obtain approval for any of these events could result in the loss of F-1 status.
How many credits must I carry to be considered a full-time student?
All F-1 students must be enrolled in two semesters each year. The minimum number of credits a student must carry are:
- Undergraduate: 12 credits
- Graduate: 6 credits
What should I do if I’m not able to enroll full-time or have to drop below the minimum number of credits during the semester?
F-1 students must be registered full time each semester unless you have approval to reduce your course load. Acceptable reasons for Reduced Course Load, RCL (to be used with the RCL Form).
- Academic Reasons:
Students experiencing academic difficulties may be approved for RCL only once during the entire duration of study for their degree. Examples include:
Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
Initial difficulties with the English language
Initial difficulties with reading requirements
Improper course level placement
- Thesis Research/Advanced to Candidacy:
Graduate students who have completed required coursework may register for thesis or dissertation credit only.
After confirmation of advancement to candidacy, graduate students only need to enroll in 5 credits per semester.
- Final Semester at STU:
Students in their final term of study need only the credits required to complete the degree.
- Documented Medical Reasons:
Students who have a medical illness/condition that has been documented by a U.S. physician can reduce the credit requirement or take the semester off with prior approval. The ISA has the authority to authorize and approve RCL.
Students who are not authorized to drop below full time risk losing F-1 status.
How do I report a change of address?
The USCIS requires all F-1 students report the change of address within 10 days of the scheduled move. F-1 students must notify the Registrar’s Office, Business Office, Financial Aid and the ISS Office of the new address where you are living. It cannot be a Post Office Box.
How do I apply for a social security number?
F-1 students must be registered full time to be eligible to apply for the social security number. The ISA will write a letter on behalf of the student after registration has been confirmed and after the new student has checked-in with ISS. Students must take this letter and other documentation to the local social security office to apply for a social security number. The social security card is required for all employment in the U.S. For more information on social security go to their web site at: Social Security Online
Note: The social security number is not required to open a bank account. Instead, you may apply for the taxpayer identification number, ITIN. See instructions at the IRS web site:
IRS - Individual Taxpayer Information
Can an F-1 student apply for work permission?
F-1 students who are in good academic standing and have been in the U.S. for at least a full academic year (9 months) may apply for off-campus employment permission. On-campus employment may begin after you have registered for a full course of study. Work is strictly limited to 20 hours per week during school. For specific information about the types of off-campus employment, review the "Employment Options for F-1 Students" section.
Can my spouse and/or child(ren), who are on F-2 visas, accept employment on or off-campus?
Holders of F-2 visas cannot accept employment under any circumstances.
For F-1 students, what does D/S on my I-20 and I-94 mean?
"D/S" means "Duration of Status" indicating that a student is authorized to stay in the United States for as long as the student is pursuing a full course of study at the institution that issued the student’s I-20 for the period of time stated on the I-20, and for any periods of authorized practical training, plus 60 days.
I want to travel to another country while studying in the U.S., what do I need?
First determine if a visa is required for you to enter the country you are planning to visit by contacting nearest consulate for that country. Contact them at least 6-8 weeks before your scheduled travel.
What documents will I need to take with me for re-entry to the U.S.?
Passport (valid for at least 6 months)
F-1 visa stamp, which is valid for the date you will re-enter the U.S
SEVIS I-20 that has been signed on page 3 by the ISA.
Note: After you re-enter the U.S. while you are in the Inspection area, review your I-94 departure card to ensure the inspector has noted the proper status and departure date. The correct notation on the I-94 is your F-1 classification with D/S, which stands for Duration of Status. Immediately bring incorrect notations to the attention of the inspector. Spouses and dependents should have F-2 and D/S notations.
I would like my family to join me, what can I do if I am on an F-1 visa?
Your spouse and/or children may be admitted to the U.S. on an F-2 visa, which is issued by the American Consulate abroad upon presentation of the SEVIS I-20 prepared by the ISA for your family. Proof of sufficient financial support is needed before the request can be approved.
Do I have to activate/check my STU Email account?
Yes, all international students are required to activate/check their STU Email account. The account is free and is automatically assigned to new students after they have been admitted. This is the "official" Email address that the ISA will use to send important announcements and correspondences to international students.
What do I need to do if I am a doctorate student, but I’ve decided to get a Masters degree instead?
If you are an F-1 student who was admitted into a Doctorate Program and would like to change your degree objective to Masters, you must take the following steps to change the degree objective:
- Discuss your academic plans with your academic advisor to ensure that you have all of the courses you need to obtain the masters degree.
- File the appropriate paperwork with your department in the graduate school. Usually this is referred to as a terminal masters. The graduate school must change your official STU student record before the SEVIS record can be changed. A change of degree level must be updated in SEVIS as soon as the change occurs.
- Inform the ISA that you have changed your degree and indicate the date that it will take place. The ISA will update your record in SEVIS to show the new level, degree and new completion date. You will obtain a new SEVIS I-20. Since you have not completed the master’s degree, you are eligible to apply for off-campus employment permission called Optional Practical Training, OPT, prior to completing your degree.
If you have already completed all of the requirements for the master’s degree in the past, and you do not wish to continue your studies at the PhD level, it is considered withdrawal from the PhD program. Since you did not complete the requirements for the doctorate degree, and you completed your master’s sometime in the past, you will not be eligible to apply for OPT and you will not be eligible for the 60 day departure period. Instead, you must leave the U.S. immediately after the last semester that you are registered at STU.
Documents and Forms
Change of Status
Question: If I have another visa type, am I required to change my status to F-1status to attend STU as a full time student?
Answer: It all depends on your current status. Read all of the information below to determine if you are required to file to change status.
If you currently hold F-2 status, you are required to change status to F-1 to be a full time enrolled student. Those in F-2 status will not be permitted to enroll at STU.
If you are visiting the U.S. on a tourist visa B1/B2 or the Visa Waiver Program, VWP, you will not be permitted to register for classes and you can not file to change status within the U.S. The only way to obtain F-1 status is to leave the U.S. and apply for the F-1 visa from the U.S. consulate abroad.
If you are the dependent child with the following status (F-2, L-2, H-4, TD) you are required to change status before your 21st birthday, unless you have filed for permanent residence. Read the information below about how to apply for change of status within the U.S. If you do not apply for change of status before your 21st birthday, you will not be allowed to file for change of status and will no longer have a legal status in the U.S.
If you have an application pending to change to permanent resident status, it is not recommended to change to a non immigrant status such as F-1. These are temporary, non-immigrant statuses and you are certifying that you will return to your home country after completion of your program of study. If you have already filed an application with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to change your status to permanent resident (PR), also known as the "green card", you should not file to change status to F-1. You should consult with your immigration attorney before making a decision.
If you have questions about residency, we recommend you contact an immigrations attorney.
If you currently hold a non-immigrant status other than F-1 and you need to file a change of status to F-1 from within the U.S., read the information below.
NOTE: only F-1visa holders are allowed to accept on-campus employment such as teaching assistants (TA’s), graduate assistant (GA) or other STU employment. If you hold another status you are not permitted to accept employment from STU.