Basic Requirements for Maintaining F-1 Status
Listed below are some key requirements for maintaining F-1 visa status. This is by no means an exhaustive list of requirements or regulations, but contains several common and important requirements related to the maintenance of F-1 visa status. For further information, resources, and assistance, please visit the International Students Office.
- New students should report to the DSO upon arrival to the Belmont area. Students must arrive on or before the program start date listed on the I-20 and must check in with the International Student Advisor upon arrival. Attendance at an International Orientation session fulfills this requirement. Please bring your passport, I-20, and I-94 with you to this meeting.
- Carry a full course load every semester (12 units for undergraduate students, 9 units for graduate students). Reducing course load in any semester needs to be approved by the DSO prior to the reduction in course load. Check with the DSO if you believe you need to take a reduced course load. A reduced course load may be authorized in very specific circumstances (such as your last semester of studies or due to medical circumstances), but all periods of reduced course load need to be approved by the International Students Office with the approved reduction noted on your I-20.
- Maintain sufficient health insurance coverage. Each semester you will be automatically enrolled in and billed for NDNU’s health insurance program when you register, unless you show proof of sufficient health insurance coverage of your own. To avoid the health insurance charges, you need to fill out the health insurance waver form once a year.
- Make normal progress towards completion of program. If you become disqualified from school, you may lose your F-1 status. Check the University catalog for conditions of academic and other disqualifications.
- Keep continuity in the program of study. In general, an absence from the U.S. or any other academic break for more than 5 months terminates F-1 status, except for certain authorized study abroad programs.
- Extend program in a timely manner. Your I-20 lists the normal duration of study in your program. If you have to extend it, you are required to submit an application prior to the expiration of your current I-20.
- Retain all legal documents carefully. Please retain originals, and photocopies, of all important documents related to your F-1 status. This includes, but is not limited to your passport, F-1 visa, I-94, I-20s (current and expired), and class schedules. Please keep these documents in a safe place, and make sure you have made photocopies of these documents in case they are lost or stolen. While the International Students Office keeps copies of these documents as well, it is your responsibility to retain all documents relating to your F-1 status and lawful entry into the United States.
- Return in proper F-1 status when traveling abroad. You should make an appointment to see the DSO before you make your travel arrangements. The DSO may need to sign your I-20 before you travel (generally, travel signatures on page 3 of the I-20 are valid for one year only). You should return in F-1 status using your most recently signed NDNU I-20. When you return to the United States, make sure you have your passport, I-20, and valid/unexpired F-1 visa with you. Additionally, it is a good idea to travel with financial support documents, copies of your course registration, and copies of your previous I-94 and I-20 documents. While these may not be required, a Customs and Border Patrol Agent may ask you for additional evidence, and these historical documents can be helpful.
- Keep your passport valid for six months into the future. If you plan to travel outside U.S. and return to continue your study, you should have your passport valid for six months beyond the date of your entry. Additionally, if your F-1 visa will have expired by the time you intend to reenter the United States, you will need to apply for a renewed visa prior to your return. If you need to apply for a renewed visa, please factor appointment wait times and processing times into your travel plans. You can find your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate by going to www.usembassy.gov. F-1 visas cannot be renewed from within the borders of the United States.
- Always update your address with the DSO. You must report any change of address to the DSO within 10 days of the change. Failing to do so may cause you to lose your F-1 status.
- Refrain from unauthorized work. While F-1 students do have specific employment options, employment for F-1 visa holders is strictly regulated. All F-1 employment must be approved either by the DSO or by USCIS, depending on the type of employment. Any unauthorized work is considered a very serious violation of status and will result in the termination of your F-1 status.
- Apply for optional practical training (OPT) up to 90 days before completion of degree. If you have been in lawful status as a full-time student for at least one full academic year, you may submit an optional practical training (OPT) application to USCIS after consultation/recommendation by an NDNU DSO. If you are applying for post-completion OPT, you should submit the application up to 90 days prior to the completion of your program. Please consult with a DSO if you would like more information regarding your OPT options and the application process. Additionally, the NDNU International Students office hosts OPT Information Forums each semester for international students who would like more information regarding the opportunity to engage in OPT.
- Apply for curricular practical training (CPT) if internship is required. Check with the DSO for the requirements and procedures of applying for CPT.
- Social security number is needed for employment. Almost all types of employment require that you have a social security number. The International Students Office can assist you with this process if you have a legitimate job offer for which you are eligible.
- Transfer with a valid status. To transfer your SEVIS record/I-20 to another institution, you must have been accepted to a new, SEVP-certified school, and you must also be eligible to transfer based on having maintained status at the current school.
- File all requests and changes timely with the DSO. Please remember that your DSO needs time to process your requests. In general, you should submit requests at least 5 working days in advance.