F-1 Visa General Information
Most international students at FAU are studying in F-1 status. The F-1 visa category is monitored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through an electronic database called Student and Exchange Visitor Information System or SEVIS. For more information about the SEVIS, also referred to as the SEVP (Student Exchange Visitor Program), please visit the Student Exchange Visitor Progam page. Each student has a unique SEVIS ID number assigned to him/her and noted on the immigration form I-20. Students use the I-20 to apply for an F-1 visa at a US Consulate or Embassy abroad. The I-20 is also proof of eligibility to obtain F-1 status for the purpose of studying in the U.S. The F-1 Status is granted upon entering the U.S. or upon receiving change of status approval through an application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.
The F-1 Student section of the ISS page has been designed to facilitate reporting and collection of information from students to help them maintain legal F-1 status during their stay in the U.S. It also provides a wealth of information to help students weave through the maze of immigration rules that they need to follow.
F-1 Immigration Responsibilities
As an F-1 student, you are subject to many rules and regulations related to your immigration status. Advisors at ISS are available to assist you and answer your questions about your immigration status, but it is your responsibility to know and abide by the law in order to maintain valid legal status.
- Possess a passport that is valid at all times. It is recommended that you keep your passport valid at least six months into the future.
- Attend the school/institution you were authorized to attend.
- Be registered full-time for each academic semester during which enrollment is required. For undergraduate students, this means registration for, and completion of, at least 12 credits per academic semester (fall and spring semesters), and for graduate students, this means registration for, and completion of, at least 9 graduate-level credits per academic semester. NOTE: You are not required to be registered for classes during the summer unless you have been admitted to FAU for the summer term or completing degree by end of summer term.
- Students starting their studies at FAU in the summer term are required to register as per their degree level as follows:Undergraduates starting in summer are to register for 12 credits if starting in May (Summer terms I & II) or 6 credits if starting in June (Summer term III).
Graduates starting in summer are to register for 6 credits if starting in May (Summer terms I & II) or 3 credits if starting in June (Summer term III).
- Register for no more than three (3) fully on-line credits as part of your required full time enrollment. Undergraduate students may enroll for no more than 3 of their required 12 credits each term. Graduate students may enroll for no more than 3 of their required 9 credits each term.
- Maintain good academic progress towards completing your degree (which includes completion of at least 12 credits each fall or spring semester for undergraduate students and at least 9 credits for graduate students).
- Follow appropriate procedures to notify USCIS if you transfer schools or if you change from one educational level to another. Transfer procedure must be completed within 15 days from start of term.
- File for a Program Extension prior to the expiration date of your I-20 if you need additional time to complete your program
Check your documents to be sure they are valid (not expired or getting close to expiration) and in order before leaving the U.S., even for a brief trip, and be sure to have the proper documents to re-enter the U.S. and valid travel endorsement on your I-20.
- Engage in employment only with proper authorization. Working without proper authorization constitutes illegal employment, which is a serious violation of your immigration status).
- If you are out of status, file for reinstatement in a timely manner and refrain from any employment if you are out-of-status.
Notify ISS if you change your address, name, program of study, source of funding, or any other information listed on your form I-20.
- For further clarifications about any of the above, or if you wish to make sure you are maintaining legal status in accordance with your visa classification, make an appointment to see an ISS advisor. At the appointment, make sure to bring your passport, I-94 and I-20 with you.
F-1 Visa vs. F-1 Status
There is often confusion over the difference between visa and status. In many countries, a visa is directly tied to the immigration status. In the U.S., the visa simply allows a foreign national to apply for admission in the U.S. at a U.S. Port of Entry. The U.S. Port of Entry grants the legal status through endorsing the I-94 arrival/departure document.
This endorsement and granting of status is done each time an individual enters the U.S. Thus it is essential that each time you travel and re-enter the U.S. you are prepared to document your legal F-1 status. You should also carefully review the I-94 for accuracy at the Port of Entry (be certain the Port grants the current legal status), and that you provide the ISSS office with updated copies of the I-94 each time you travel.
For F-1 students, the Port of Entry will mark F-1 as the visa status and D/S for duration of status. This D/S indication allows the educational institution to extend or transfer your legal immigration status without any additional applications to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and beyond the expiration date of the F-1 visa stamp.
Changes of status (to a different immigration status, such as H or J) while remaining in the U.S., do require additional applications to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A change of status is not complete until USCIS issues a new I-94 card showing one's new status.
Extensions or changes of status to F-1 provide valid immigration status in the U.S., but the F-1 visa can only be obtained or renewed at a U.S. Consulate abroad (preferably in the student’s home country). A valid visa stamp must be presented upon re-entering the U.S. Note: Do not enter the U.S. using a B-1/B-2 tourist visa or using the Visa Waiver Program. Doing so will not allow for study or any other benefits related to the F-1 status.