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F-1 Immigration Responsibilities

International Students

F-1 Immigration Responsibilities

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service places responsibility on the student to understand and comply with immigration law.

Failure to Comply

Failure to comply with these regulations will mean the loss of your F-1 student status. We refer to this as being "out of status." Falling out of status has very serious consequences. For example, you could be prevented from re-entering the U.S. for three to ten years, depending on the length of your status violation. For status violations of 180-360 days, a three-year exclusion is imposed. If you remain out of status for more than 360 days, you may not re-enter the U.S. for ten years. If you fall out of status for any reason, we advise you to meet with an International Student Advisor immediately. Simply registering full-time in the next semester or stopping the unauthorized work does not put you back in status. There are steps you can take with the U.S. Immigration service to recover your status, but the sooner you begin, the better your chances for approval.

Below is a summary of the immigration responsibilities for F-1 students (details below). If F-1 students do not fulfill any one of these responsibilities, they may jeopardize their eligibility for immigration benefits, including employment on- or off- campus.

1. Register for and successfully complete a full course of study each semester.

  • Undergraduate: 12 credit hours
  • Graduate or Graduate Certificate: 6 credit hours

Under certain circumstances, F-1 students may be authorized to enroll for less than a full course of study and still meet the immigration regulation requirements for maintaining status.

  • Reduced Course Load Form: If you meet one of the criteria listed on the Reduced Course Load form, then the form must be presented for review by PDSO/DSO, with the appropriate academic advisor signature and/or medical documentation. Failure to speak with a PDSO/DSO and receive this approval will jeopardize the student's immigration status.

F-1 students are not required to register for any academic credits during the summer break unless summer is the first semester of enrollment.

2. Obtain U.S. Immigration service approval before changing schools or academic programs.

As an F-1 student, you must obtain a new I-20 each time you change your major, transfer to another university, or change academic level of study (i.e., Bachelor's to Master's).

If you are applying for a new program at Concordia University Irvine, please submit an I-20 Request Form and other required documents.

Transfers must be completed no later than 15 days after the beginning of classes.

3. Rules for Online Courses

U.S. federal regulations limit the number of online courses that F1 students can count towards a full-time course load during a required term.

During the Fall and Spring semesters, an F1 student is limited to only one online or distance education course that can be counted towards a full-time course load.

4. Complete your program before your I-20 expires.

F-1 students have permission to study in the United States up to the expected completion date as indicated in item #5 of the I-20. However, once students have completed their program, they have 60 days to either:

  • travel within or leave the United States;
  • change to another status;
  • or begin a new program.

To extend the program completion date on the I-20, students must demonstrate that the additional time is needed because of compelling academic reasons or a documented medical illness. F-1 students who require additional time to complete their academic program must submit an I-20 Request Form and a letter from Academic Advisor to PDSO/DSO one month before the current I-20 expiration date.

5. Always obtain Employment Authorization before you begin working

Students must ALWAYS obtain written employment authorization from PDSO/DSO and/or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service BEFORE beginning any employment, including on- and off-campus employment. More information is also available in the Employment section of this website.

6. Notify the U.S. Immigration Service and ISSS of any address change.

Submit Change of Address Form (AR-11) PDSO/DSO to update your address change within 15 days of moving. Your local address is added to your SEVIS record and reporting this change is part of maintaining your status.

You are responsible for updating this information and it is a violation of your status if you fail to do so.

7. Leave the US within 60 days after completing your program.

Once you complete all requirements for your program, even if your I-20 has not expired, you have only 60 days to either:

  • leave the United States
  • change to another visa status
  • begin a new program of study (this requires a new I-20)

Failure to comply results in the loss of your F-1 status!

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