Information for F-1 Students

Your Legal Obligations

It is essential to remember that you must take full responsibility for maintaining your status with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). That is, you are responsible for finding out, knowing, and following pertinent regulations.

If you take time early on to familiarize yourself with your obligations to USCIS, you should find it easy to maintain your legal status. If, however, you allow yourself to fall “out of status”, it may be extraordinarily difficult to reinstate your F-1 status with USCIS.

The best resource to assist you in maintaining status is the staff of the Office of International Student Services (ISS). Every effort has been made to provide reliable and accurate information on rules that govern student immigration classifications. When regulations change &mdash as is frequently the case &mdash ISS will have current information. It is important for students to check their webmail accounts, as the staff will send out important messages.

A Few Words of Advice for Students

If you are the least bit uncertain about your status – for example, whether your program will be full-time, whether your permission to stay is valid, or whether you can be paid for an assistantship – check with the OISS immediately. Students who do not meet the full-time or normal progress requirements may have problems restoring their status. Therefore, if you believe your circumstances warrant extraordinary consideration, it is extremely important that you make an appointment with your International Student Advisor. We are here to help you and advise you.

Immigration Regulations and The Role of the F-1 Student

F-1 students are responsible for learning, understanding, and complying with all laws and regulations set forth by the US Department of Homeland Security. Violation of these laws can seriously affect your immigration status as well as your academic career. It is extremely important that you read and fully understand all of this information.

The below rules are taken from U.S. Federal regulation 8 CFR 214.3

Full Time Study

  • Maintain a full course of study each Fall and Spring semester for the duration of your program.
    *** Note – some programs in Petrocelli College follow a trimester schedule of Fall, Spring, and Summer.
  • FDU Full Time Course Load = 9 credits for Graduate Programs and 12 Credits for Undergraduate Programs
  • Only one online course can count toward the full course load requirement each semester.
  • English for Professional Success (EPS) classes do not count toward full course of study for immigration registration
    (Students registered for EPS can be approved for 1 semester Reduced Course load for English Language remediation. All subsequent semesters you must take a full course of study of academic credits that count toward your degree).
  • You must be actively attending classes to maintain status. Non attendance of classes is a violation of status.
  • A full course load is not required to complete the academic program in the final semester. The final program requirement may not be an online course.

There are limited exceptions to the full course of study rule, and you must obtain permission from ISS before dropping below full time.

Off Site Study

You may only take classes at an off campus location if the Office of International Student Services has given a written approval for the particular course or courses.

If you would like to take an off campus course you must meet with an International Student Advisor and gain approval prior to engaging in any off campus coursework.

According to university policy, students may not be enrolled in another program at another institution while matriculated at FDU.


Report Address and Name Changes within 10 days to ISS

ISS is required to provide a valid address and other student data to the federal government. We are the only university office authorized by the federal government to process this data for international students.

Report Changes in Program to ISS

You must notify ISS whenever there is a change in your academic program, program dates or level of study. For example, if you change your major or from a Bachelor’s program to a Master’s program, you must be issued a new I-20.

Keep ALL I-20s

You may receive many I-20s throughout your studies in the U.S. (for CPT, OPT, change of major, transfer, etc.) Never throw any of them away!

ISS Notices and Announcements

ISS will often send out and post important information on immigration regulations that could affect you directly. You must check the following locations for these announcements:

  • The FDU webpage “ISS News”
  • ISS FDU Facebook
  • Your FDU Webmail account: Note – we will contact your directly through your FDU Webmail account.


Travel Signature on I-20

Students must receive a travel signature on page 2 of the most recent I-20 prior to traveling outside the United States. Once the I-20 is signed the travel signature is valid for 12 months.

Visa Expiration

Your visa is valid for travel up until the expiration date. Once the visa expires you are not required to receive a new visa as long as you maintain your F-1 status within the U.S. A valid F-1 visa is only required for re-entry into the U.S.

You should have the following documents to reenter the U.S. after traveling abroad:

  • Most recent SEVIS I-20 with current signature on page 2 by an International Student Advisor
  • Valid passport – valid for at least six months from date of return to US
  • Unexpired F-1 visa in your passport – exception see Automatic Visa Revalidation on ISS webpage
  • Proof of financial support (sometimes requested at the Port of Entry)
  • Proof of registration for current or upcoming semester (if possible)


F-1 students may work no more than 20 hours per week on campus when classes are in session and full-time during official university breaks (summer and winter breaks) [8 CFR 214.2(f)(9)]. You cannot work off-campus, including unpaid work experiences, without PRIOR authorization from ISS and U.S. Immigration. Off campus work authorization for an F-1 student must be in the form of Curricular Practical Training, Optional Practical Training (Pre or Post Completion), or Severe Economic Hardship. Unauthorized employment will result in the termination of your immigration record.

Program Completion

Upon completion of your academic program you must do one of the following:

  • Depart the U.S. within the 60 day “grace period”
  • Apply (or have already applied) for OPT – You will have a 60 day “grace period” following the end of OPT
  • Transfer your SEVIS record to a new school
  • Enter a new academic program at FDU
  • Apply (or have already applied) for a Change of Status with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

Note the completion date listed on your I-20.

The program end date on your I-20 is an estimated end date. Your actual program ending may extend beyond or end before the I-20 end date. Once you complete your program, you will need to take one of the above steps even if you have additional time on your I-20. In addition, if you cannot complete your studies by the end date listed on your I-20, you must visit ISS before this date to file for an extension

Full Time Study with the English for Professional Success (EPS)

While students may have achieved the TOEFL and/or other English Proficiency scores required for admission, further development in English proficiency may be necessary to support academic achievement and to ensure effective progress in the student’s chosen academic program.

The United States Department of Homeland Security SEVP Branch mandated in October 2016 that English language support courses are not permitted to count toward full time study for immigration registration.

Although at FDU EPS courses are considered 3 credit courses that can be used toward your university full time study registration and therefore eligible toward your scholarship, they do not count as part of a full time study for immigration status.

If you are placed into EPS you must understand the below full time study rules.

  • As an English Language Support class, EPS will not count toward full time study for immigration registration.
  • In your first semester if you are registered for less than 9 Graduate degree credits or less than 12 Undergraduate degree credits + the EPS Course you will be approved for a one semester Reduced Course Load for “English Support.”
  • You may only be approved for a Reduced Course Load for English Support or Academic Difficulty for one semester. Therefore, the only other semester you may be less than full time is your final semester – or for a medical issue.
  • If you must retake EPS you must take a full academic course load with – 9 credits (Grad) or 12 credits (UG) plus EPS or you will be in violation of F-1 status.
  • You will keep your academic scholarship while taking EPS as long as your combined course load is 6 credits plus EPS (Grad) or 9 credits plus EPS (UG).

1st Semester: Reduced Course Load Condition

6 Graduate Credits   +   EPS   =   Reduced Course Load – Active I-20 record

9 UG Credits    +   EPS   =   Reduced Course Load – Active I-20 record

After 1st Semester: Violation Condition

6 Graduate Credits   +   retake EPS   =   Violation – Terminated I-20 record

9 UG Credits   +   retake EPS   =   Violation – Terminated I-20 record

After 1st Semester: Full Time Study Condition

9 Graduate Credits   +   EPS   =   Full Time Study – Active I-20 record

12 UG Credits   +   EPS   =   Full Time Study – Active I-20 record

“I have read the information above about maintaining my legal status in the United States, and understand that I must comply fully with these regulations to maintain legal F-1 status. Most importantly, I understand that it is my responsibility to make sure I maintain proper status. I know that the Office of International Student Services will do everything possible to help me, but that I am personally responsible for my decisions and to staying up to date on all important immigration information that affects me.”

**This information is not exhaustive and may change without notice.  If you have any questions or concerns regarding your legal status in the United States, please make an appointment to meet with an advisor. **