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Understand the F-1 Visa Rules
Studying in the United States is a privilege and a great opportunity. We are honored to have you as part of our University community. Along with the rights and responsibilities that every student possesses, you also must take care to abide by the rules and regulations associated with your student visa.
Maintain Your Visa Status
Your visa was issued with specific expectations. In order to minimize disruptions to your studies, it is important that you remain compliant with the standardized rules and regulations for F-1 visa holders.
Stay Focused on Your Studies
Maintaining F-1 Status
The Department of State issued you an F-1 visa so that you can come to the United States to study. It is a nonimmigrant visa that allows you to pursue education with the intent of returning to your home country after your studies. You should not take any action that detracts from that purpose.
Maintaining your F-1 student status is an important aspect of your stay in the United States. Students who fail to maintain their status can be deported from the United States or barred from re-entering the country in the future. In addition, maintaining your status grants you certain benefits, such as the ability to apply for a driver's license or apply for work authorization.
The following actions are some of the ways you can maintain your F-1 status:
- Arrive no more than 30 days before your program start date
- Complete a mandatory check in with OIS before your program start date
- Register for a full-time course load before the semester begins
- Attend school full time for two terms before earning a vacation term
- Do not drop a class without talking to OIS first
- Maintain a valid passport and I-20
- Work only with the appropriate work authorization and after consulting OIS
- Inform OIS within 10 days if you change your address at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Inform OIS prior to travel and make sure your I-20 is signed
- Keep all your I-20s and I-94s
After completion of studies, you have a 60-day grace period to depart the United States. Note that it is not possible to re-enter the United States during this grace period, regardless of the validity of visa or travel signatures.
Details are available at https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/maintaining-your-status
Reduced Course Load
An international student may engage in less than a full course of study under certain circumstances, which include:
- Completion of a course of study (Your last term of study)
- Academic difficulties
- Vacation period/ Break term
- Medical conditions
- Concurrently enrolled
- Practical training
You must have approval to be registered less than full time. You will need to complete the reduced course load form. Please email email@example.com for more information.
Adhere to the Following Guidelines If You Plan to Travel
You must notify OIS prior to traveling outside the United States so that the Form I-20 can be endorsed for travel, or a new form can be issued, if required. Students must complete and submit a Travel Signature Request form.
You must have the following items in your hand to re-enter the United States:
- Valid passport (valid at least six months from the date of re-entry to the United States)
- Valid visa stamp (if renewing your visa, see below)
- SEVIS I-20, page #2 signed by OIS for travel. Signature must be less than one year old (or six months if you are on Optional Practical Training [OPT] when you re-enter the United States
- Financial information showing proof of necessary funds to cover tuition and living expenses
If you are on OPT, you must, also, bring:
- Letter of employment from your current employer
- Valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.
If your visa stamp is not valid for re-entry make sure you go to a U.S. Consulate/ Embassy and apply for a new visa stamp prior to attempting to re-enter the United States. If you are traveling to Canada or contiguous territories for less than 30 days, a new visa stamp will not be required.
If you are renewing your visa you will need to bring:
- Current bank statements from your sponsor
- Official school transcripts from all schools attended
- Current class schedule
Make sure you schedule an appointment with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country. You can find more information at http://www.usembassy.gov/.
If you are taking a leave of absence or withdrawing from classes for a period that exceeds five months, please be sure to speak to OIS. In general, F-1 students who are outside of the United States for five months or more must get a new I-20 for initial attendance and pay the I-901 SEVIS fee before being eligible.
Upon returning to the United States, you must provide a copy of your I-94 admission record to OIS within 10 days, to confirm that you have returned to continue full-time studies. You can print out your I-94 record here:https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov.
After returning to the United States, you must continue full-time studies at Urbana University. You are not permitted to take a vacation term in the term immediately after a leave of absence.
Break terms/Authorized vacation period
- F-1 students have to study for two, full, consecutive terms to be eligible for a break term.
- If you take a break term, your SEVIS record has to be updated. If you do not consult with OIS, your SEVIS record may be terminated and this could impact future visa and travel to the United States. Do not take a vacation from school without informing OIS.
Know Your Options If Your Visa Is Terminated
Termination and Reinstatement
Once your SEVIS record has been terminated, you are expected to depart the United States immediately. In lieu of departing, students may be eligible to apply to USCIS for reinstatement to F-1 status through Urbana University, depending on the circumstances. The reinstatement application should be submitted to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) within five months of termination. To be eligible for reinstatement through Urbana University, students must be eligible to be enrolled in the next available term; therefore, students may not have any blocks or holds on their records, such as unpaid balances, academic suspension or dismissal. To apply for reinstatement, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.