Immigration Fact Sheet for F-1 Students and Academic Advisors
Students in F-1 status:
- are eligible to enter the country up to 30 days before the Program Start Date specified on Form I-20.
- are required to enroll in the first available semester after arrival.
- must enroll in and complete a full course of study each semester. Summer is normally a vacation period, however, students whose initial semester is summer must enroll in a full course load. F-1 students are limited to one, 3-credit hour distance education/online course per semester. Audited courses do not count toward the minimum enrollment requirement.
F-1 international students are required by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations to enroll in and complete a full course of study each fall and spring semester. Full-time enrollment is defined as 12 credit hours for undergraduate students and 9 credit hours for graduate students, though some exceptions may exist. Please keep in mind only one distance education course may count towards the full course of study each semester. In addition, auditing a course does not count towards the minimum full-time enrollment at WSU. It is extremely important to speak with an International Student Advisor BEFORE dropping below a full course of study.
- Reduced Course Load (RCL) for Final Semester – DHS regulations allow an F-1 student to enroll in fewer than 12 credit hours in the semester in which all degree requirements are expected to be completed. To be approved for a reduced course load in the final semester, the student should submit a signed Reduced Course Load – Undergraduate Final Semester form to International Education. The form requires the signature of your academic or faculty advisor and is available in our office or online.
- Reduced Course Load (RCL) for Academic Reasons - DHS has strict regulations in regard to enrolling in less than a full course of study due to academic reasons. BEFORE enrolling in (or dropping down to) fewer than 12 credit hours for any reason (besides the final semester scenario described above), a student must first meet with an international student adviser to determine if the student qualifies for an exception. If the student qualifies, he or she will be given a Reduced Course Load form. The form requires the signature of the student’s academic or faculty adviser and must be returned to International Education (IE) before dropping below 12 hours.
- International Education is required to terminate the SEVIS record of any student who drops below the required minimum number of hours without authorization, no exceptions. This means that a student cannot drop below a full course of study and then come to IE to request authorization; it will be too late and the student will be out of status.
- While full-time enrollment is normally defined as nine credit hours for graduate students, some exceptions to this definition exist. The Full Course Load Certification form is available on our website or at the Garvey International Center. There are six reasons listed on the form, each with its own minimum enrollment requirement. If a student qualifies for any of the six reasons listed on the form and intends to enroll in fewer than nine credit hours, he/she must take the form to be signed by his/her academic adviser, and then return it to the OIE before enrolling in or dropping below fewer than nine credit hours. Failure to submit the Full Course Load Certification form before dropping below nine credit hours will result in the termination of the student’s SEVIS record.
- Graduate students who do not qualify for one of the six reasons listed on the Full Course Load Certification form but intend to enroll in fewer than (or drop below) nine credit hours must schedule an appointment with an international student adviser to discuss the situation.
Each F-1 student is admitted to the U.S. for a certain length of time to complete his/her program of study. The program start and end dates are listed on Form I-20.
If a student will not complete his/her academic objective before the program end date, he/she must submit to the OIE a completed Request for I-20 Extension Form signed by the academic adviser well in advance of the I-20 end date. Graduate students who have already had two extensions will also need approval from the Graduate School. Students who submit the form after the expiration date are out of status and will be responsible for applying for reinstatement.
Current undergraduate students wanting to change their major(s)/minor(s) can submit a request by going to the MyClasses tab of their myWSU account. Once the Registrar’s Office approves the change, the OIE will be notified via email so that we can update the SEVIS record as required. Changes of major will result in the issuance of a new I-20; changes/additions of a secondary major or minor will be updated in SEVIS but will not result in the issuance of a new I-20. If a new I-20 is issued, you will be emailed at your WSU email address when the I-20 is available for pick-up.
Current graduate students wanting to change their program must contact the Graduate School.
Concurrent enrollment is allowed for F-1 students. While concurrently enrolled at another institution, the student must maintain a full course of study at WSU. If needed, a guest letter can be obtained from the OIE.
An F-1 student who is maintaining status may work 20 hours per week on campus while school is in session and 40 hours per week during breaks and the summer vacation. A student cannot continue on-campus employment after graduation except in the following situations: 1) student has employment authorized under OPT and will be working in their field of study; or 2) student has been issued an I-20 for a new program at WSU.
The two most common types of off-campus employment for F-1 students are Curricular Practical Training (CPT), which is done prior to graduation, and post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) which is done after graduation. Graduate students who have completed all coursework other than thesis or dissertation are also eligible for OPT.
Curricular Practical Training
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an academic program allowing eligible F-1 students to accept employment connected to their major field of study. CPT is designed to provide students the opportunity to supplement their coursework with practical application of skills learned in the classroom. The training is normally facilitated through the Cooperative Education department in the Career Development Center. Authorization for CPT is given by a Designated School Official (DSO) in the OIE on a semester-by-semester basis. Typically, students are allowed to work part-time (20 or fewer hours per week) during the fall and spring semesters and full-time (more than 20 hours per week) during the summer and winter breaks. Students must maintain full-time enrollment while engaging in CPT. The student may not begin employment until the CPT authorization has been recorded in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and a new I-20 has been issued. On page two of the new I-20, the effective dates and type (part or full-time) of CPT will be listed. A filing fee is not required, however, the student must enroll in and pay for the corresponding class. Students who have completed all program requirements are not eligible for CPT.
Post-Completion Optional Practical Training
- Optional Practical Training is an employment benefit authorized by USCIS for eligible F-1 students providing them with an opportunity to gain actual employment experience in their chosen profession for a maximum of one year per educational level. A student becomes eligible for another 12 months of practical training when he or she completes a higher educational level.
- A student may apply for OPT in their final semester of study up to 90 days before his or her program end date. OIE assists the student with the process by reviewing application materials for accuracy, making a recommendation for OPT in SEVIS, and issuing the OPT I-20. The student is responsible for mailing the complete OPT application packet to the USCIS by the deadline (within 30 days of the issuance of the OPT I-20 and no later than 60 days after program completion). If approved, the USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD / OPT card) to the student. The student is not allowed to work until the EAD has been received and he or she has reached the OPT start date indicated on the EAD. The approval process can be somewhat lengthy, often taking up to 3 months. For full details, please see the online 12-month OPT Tutorial.
Severe Economic Hardship
Severe Economic Hardship may be authorized by USCIS in specific cases of unforeseen, temporary economic hardship. The Office of International Education will assist in completion of the application, but the application itself must be submitted to USCIS with $380 filing fee by the student along with documentation of the unforeseen economic hardship. If the application is approved, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The student may then work up to 20 hours per week during the school year and full-time during breaks and the summer vacation period. The student may not work until they receive this card and the start date specified on the EAD card has passed. It is not required that the employment be in the field of study. SEH authorization is only granted for one year at a time. Upon graduation or transfer, the EAD card is no longer valid.
- Keep your passport valid at least six months into the future.
- Attend your classes regularly.
- Enroll in a full course of study every semester (summer generally excepted).
- Extend your I-20 if you will not complete your studies by the Program End Date (this is based on academic necessity; you may not choose to delay your program completion).
- Report each change of address to the OIE within 10 days.
- Do not work off campus without authorization.
- Before exiting the U.S., ensure your I-20 has been endorsed for travel by an International Student Advisor (DSO) within the last six months (check page 2 of your I-20).
- Avoid violating any U.S. criminal law.
- Complete the Online SEVIS Check-In each semester to be eligible to enroll.
- Check your @shockers.wichita.edu account regularly. If the OIE needs to reach you, we’ll send an email to your student email account. Don't risk missing an important message regarding F-1 student issues!
An F-1 student who fails to follow Department of Homeland Security (DHS) / Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regulations is considered to be out of status. Falling out of status will result in termination of the student’s SEVIS record. Students who fall out of status are not eligible for any F-1 student benefits such as on-campus employment, practical training, and will not be able to obtain or renew their driver’s license. Immediate action should be taken to re-establish status. Out-of-status students will be allowed to enroll at WSU only after discussing options for reestablishing status with an International Student Advisor. Options include:
- If the student has been out of status for fewer than five months, he or she is eligible to apply for reinstatement by petitioning U. S. Immigration and Citizenship Services. The student remains in the U.S. during the reinstatement process. Assistance from staff in OIE will be necessary.
- A student who has been out of status for more than five months and is unable to prove that failure to maintain status was due to circumstances beyond his or her control must leave the U.S. and request reentry using a new I-20 issued by the OIE.
Please be aware that USCIS recently announced that F-1 students in violation of their status will begin to accumulate days of unlawful presence beginning August 9, 2018. Upon accumulating 180 days of unlawful presence, a person is subject to an automatic three year bar from returning to the U.S. in any status. Upon accumulating 365 days of unlawful presence, a person is subject to an automatic 10 year bar from returning to the U.S.