Your Responsibilities as an F-1 Student

All non-immigrant students who have been allowed to enter the U.S. on an F-1 visa agree to maintain their non-immigrant status or who has been approved by USCIS to hold F1 status through Change of status process. They do so by:

•    Understanding and following the terms and conditions of their F-1 non-immigrant status.
•    Providing their DSO information needed to maintain their SEVIS record in a timely manner.

Students need to:

•    Enroll in a full course of study at the beginning of every session (excluding authorized break periods).
•    Consult with their DSO before dropping below a full course of study for any reason.
•    Report address changes to their DSO within 10 days of the change.
•    Report any changes in source of financial support to their DSO.
•    Seek the approval of the DSO/USCIS before engaging in employment or practical training.
•    Report any changes in the program of study to the DSO.
•    Report of any changes of status.
•    Notify their DSO prior to traveling outside the United States.
•    Notify the DSO upon applying for change of non-immigrant status.
•    Notify their DSO upon approval of adjustment of status to an immigrant.
•    Consult with their DSO to extend their program.
•    Notify their DSO if they intend to transfer.
•    Notify their DSO about changes in dependent status.
•    Report regarding the employment / change of employment when the student on OPT or OPT extension;

According to SEVIS/SEVP/ICE rules, F-1 students must be enrolled full time at an SEVP-certified college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, other academic institution or in a language training program.

F-1 students are admitted to the United States for the duration of status. For F-1 students, duration of status is the time during which a non-immigrant student is in a full course of study plus practical training, and following that, authorized time to depart the country. F-1 students may also elect to continue to a higher level of education (such as from a Bachelor’s degree program to a Master’s degree program). As long as an F-1 student is enrolled full time in an SEVP-certified school, making academic progress, and is not violating any terms of his or her status, the student can legally remain in the United States.

The only exception to the full time study requirement is for F-1 commuter students. Only Canadian or Mexican nationals that maintain their residence outside of the United States and commute to a U.S. school within 75 miles of the U.S. border qualify for commuter status.

F-2 dependants

Minor F-2 non-immigrants are allowed to attend kindergarten through high school. Older spouses and children are not allowed to engage in post-secondary study unless it is avocational or recreational. The regulation does not currently define avocational or recreational, but in practice this has been interpreted as courses taken only for pleasure that do not lead to a degree or certification.

Spouses and children who want to earn a degree or certificate must apply for a change of status to F-1 and cannot start school until the change of status is granted.

Change of status

Some non-immigrants already in the United States in a status other than F-1 may be allowed to apply for a change of status to F-1.  A non-immigrant must be maintaining valid non-immigrant status in order to apply for a change of status.

Applications for a change of status are made to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on a Form 1-539, Application to Extend/Change Non-immigrant Status. Applications to change to F-1 must be accompanied by an I-20 from an SEVP-certified school.

Reduced Course Load (RCL)

According to the USCIS regulation for F1 undergraduate students, to maintain the valid F1 status student must to have no less than 12 semester or quarter hours (equivalent to a full course of study). The International Student Advisor / DSO will make a decision how many credit hours will be consider a full-time enrolment for Graduate and Doctorate students depend on quarter/semester school system. However, due to some circumstances students are allowed to have authorization to drop below the full course of study due to following reasons:

  • • Improper course level placement;
  • • Initial difficulty with reading requirements;
  • • Initial difficulty with the English language;
  • • Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods;
  • • Illness or medical conditions.

The first five reasons must to be approved by Academic Adviser and DSO. The illness or medical conditions must to be approved just by DSO. Please note that in order to be considering for RCL due to medical conditions student must to attach a detailed letter from a doctor or clinical psychologist licensed to practice in the U.S. to this form. The treatment oversea cannot be approved.

Authorization for RCL due to academic difficulties is limited to one term at each program level. RCL must consist of at least 6 credit hours. The authorization for RCL due to medical conditions or illness is also cannot exceed more that 4 time per education level.

Travel Authorization

Students with F-1 visa are required to follow the U.S. immigration laws and regulations pertaining to international traveling and readmitting to the U.S.

Students should consult the International Student Advisor prior to traveling. You must have a current SEVIS Form I-20 endorsed for travel and the International Student Advisor needs to be able to verify that your SEVIS record is accurate and up-to-date.

This policy and procedure are designed for F-1 students who are not approved for vacation and request a short-term emergency leave (less than three months) during the quarmester.


1.    Complete the “Request Travel Authorization” form, which can be downloaded from the UNVA website.
2.    Contact all your instructors in the current term for approval of being excused during your time of travel.  International Student Advisor is not responsible for contacting each instructor on behalf of the student and the student’s academic performance for each course.
3.    If you request for leave is longer than two weeks, each of your instructor must notify the International Student Advisor with written permission for your leave, either via e-mail or fax.  The instructor’s permission does not guarantee the student will pass the course or receive an incomplete grade.
4.    All supporting documents, including the current original I-20, must be submitted at the time of submitting the “Request Travel Authorization” Form.
5.    The International Student Advisor reserves the rights to accept or deny the student’s request for travel.
6.    Student shall keep a copy of the “Request Travel Authorization” form, after it is approved by the International Student Advisor.
7.    The International Student Advisor will sign on page 3 of the original I-20.
8.    Student MUST prepare all necessary documents for re-entry, before leaving the country.  A check list is above.


Documents Required for Re-entry in F-1 Status

You are required to carry the following documents with you to re-enter the U.S. as a F-1 student. We encourage you to use this section as a checklist to ensure that you have everything you need to successfully re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status.

•    Passport valid for at least 6 months into the future: Some countries have the expiration dates of the passports automatically extended for 6 months based on an agreement with the U.S
•    Unexpired F-1 visa valid for further entries: You should always be aware of the expiration date and the number of entries allowed on your visa. Most visas have "M" written under entries. This means that there is no limit on the number of entries for which you can use your visa. If your visa is expired or you have already used the number of entries you are allowed, you will need to apply for a new F-1 visa in order to re-enter the U.S.  
•    Valid I-20 recertified within 12 months of the date of on which you will return to the U.S. Recertification (travel signature) is on page 3 of the I-20. It indicates that you are maintaining valid F-1 status.  Request recertification of your I-20 at least five business days prior to your departure.
•    Receipt of SEVIS I-901 Fee (if applicable). For information on who is required to pay this fee, go to (for the students who entering the first time with new SEVIS number).
•    Current financial documentation issued within the last 3 months.  Continuing students may be required to show updated funding documentation
•    Proof of full-time enrollment. You can print out a copy of your current class schedule from your student portal account or apply for a full-time enrollment letter from the Registrar’s Office.