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Maintaining F-1 Visa Status

 

Please review the topics below for important information about maintaining your F-1 visa status and how to follow the rules of your F-1 visa.


 

Full-Time Enrollment

F-1 students are required to maintain full-time status and be making progress towards completion of their degree requirements. Failure to maintain full-time status may result in termination of your F-1 visa.

 

  • Undergraduate students must be registered for a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester.
    • Online Classes: Only one online class per semester counts toward the full-time credits required to maintain your F-1 status. At least 9 credits per semester must be classes that meet on-campus (meaning, at least 9 of your 12 credits must be “on-campus” classes). 

 

  • Graduate students must be registered for a minimum of 9 credit hours or 3 thesis credit hours per semester. Students who are enrolled in 3 thesis credits are considered to have fulfilled the on-campus requirement.
    • Online Classes: Only one online class per semester counts toward the full-time credits required to maintain your F-1 status. At least 6 credits per semester must be classes that meet on-campus (meaning, at least 6 of your 9 credits must be “on-campus” classes). 

 

For further information, refer to the Online Classes policy guide regarding online classes and full-time enrollment requirements.

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Taking a Reduced Course Load

 

You are allowed to be under-enrolled ONLY if you have received approval from the ISSS office. Some situations where a reduced course load may be permitted include: 

 

  • Medical Issues: Please meet with an ISSS advisor to discuss your options and the process to apply for a Medical Reduced Course Load. For more information, please read the Medical Reduced Course Load policy guide.
  • Academic Difficulties: Please meet with an ISSS advisor to discuss your options and the process to apply for Academic Reduced Course Load. This option can only be used once per degree level.
  • Last Semester: If you have submitted a “Last Semester Notification” E-form to the ISSS office through iStart and require fewer than full-time credits to graduate, you can be approved for a reduced course load during your final semester. For more information, please see the Last Semester Notification policy guides for undergraduates/non-thesis Master's students and graduate students in thesis programs.
  • Summer Vacation: Summer term is the only term that students are allowed to be enrolled in no credits or less than full-time credits without any specific approval from ISSS. However, if summer is your first semester, you must be enrolled in full-time credits. For more information, please read the Summer Vacation Semester policy guide.

 

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Grades

Students are allowed to receive most grades without affecting immigration status, as long as the student maintains a GPA that allows for normal program progression. If a student is unable to register for classes due to an academic probation or suspension, his or her F-1 status may be terminated.

The following grades are not acceptable for maintaining visa status:

EU

Unofficial Withdrawal. This grade is given when a student does not attend a class for which they are registered.

W

Withdrawal. This grade is given when a student voluntarily withdraws from a class.

V

Audit. This grade is given when a student attends class but does not participate for a grade.

NOTE: Students who receive any of these three grades cannot count them toward the full-time enrollment requirement. If a student receives one of these grades and falls below the full-time enrollment limit, the student’s status will be terminated.

 

EXAMPLE SITUATION

An international undergraduate student on an F-1 visa enrolls in four classes, worth 3 credits each, for a total of 12 credits:

COMM 1020 PRINCIPLES OF PUBLIC SPEAKING (3 credits)
CS 3520 PROGRAMMING LANGUAGES (3 credits)
CS 4400 COMPUTER SYSTEMS (3 credits)
CS 4300 ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (3 credits)

After the last day to add or drop classes, she withdraws from COMM 1020 and receives a “W” grade.  Because the “W” grade does not count toward full-time enrollment, she is now only enrolled in 9 credits and is under-enrolled and out of status on her F-1 visa. She will receive emails from the ISSS office notifying her of this situation, and must meet with an ISSS advisor as soon as possible to discuss her options.

NOTE: If you are worried that withdrawing from a class may put you below full-time enrollment, please speak with the ISSS office before withdrawing from any classes!

 

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What Happens if I'm Under-Enrolled?

Unless you have been approved for a reduced course load by the ISSS office, you will receive emails informing you that you are under-enrolled. You will need to take immediate action by responding to the emails and registering for more credits in order to pursue a full course of study. If you have trouble adding classes, or would like to discuss your situation with ISSS, please call our office at 801-581-8876 to make an appointment.

IMPORTANT: This is a very time sensitive matter. If you do not respond to emails or take any action, you will be considered to be “out of status” and your SEVIS record will be terminated. If your SEVIS record has been terminated due to under-enrollment, you will need to contact the ISSS office as soon as possible to discuss options for your F-1 status.

 

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Changes to Your Program

 

Program Extension

Students should complete their program before the “Program End Date” listed on the I-20. If you require more time to complete your degree, you must submit an “I-20 Extension” E-Form request to the ISSS office. This request must be submitted no later than 2 weeks before the program end date on your I-20. Failure to request an extension in a timely manner will cause your F-1 status to terminate. For more information, please read the I-20 Extension policy guide.

Change of Major

Undergraduate students who change their major must report this change to the ISSS office by completing the “Change of Major” E-Form in iStart.

Starting a New Program

When you complete one academic program and want to begin a new program, you will need to apply for admission to your new program. After you are accepted, you must receive a new I-20 from the International Admissions office (located in the Student Services Building, Room 250) no later than 60 days after your program end date.

In order to activate your new I-20, you will need to complete document check-in at New International Student Orientation. If it has been more than a year since you were enrolled at the University of Utah, or if you previously attended a different school, you will need to complete the full day of orientation.

In some cases, current University of Utah graduate students who are changing from Master’s to PhD, or vice versa, will not receive a new I-20 from the International Admissions office. Instead, you will need to submit a “Change of Graduate Classification” E-Form to the ISSS office. For more information, please read the Change of Graduate Classification policy guide.

 

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Extended Leave of Absence

Students who wish to be away from the University of Utah during a Fall or Spring semestermust speak with an ISSS advisor. In some limited cases, students may be able to apply for a Leave of Absence. Otherwise, it will be necessary to close your F-1 SEVIS record and re-apply for admission to the University of Utah when you wish to return. More information about SEVIS closure requests can be found in our SEVIS Closure policy guide.  

 

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Employment

On-Campus Employment

Students who are maintaining active F-1 visa status can work on-campus provided they do not work more than 20 hours per week. Students are allowed to work more than 20 hours per week only during summer vacation and official school breaks. Students should request an “On-Campus Work Authorization Letter” from the ISSS office through iStart prior to beginning employment.

Off-Campus Employment

Students may only work, intern, or volunteer off-campus with permission from the ISSS office. Any non-authorized off-campus activities may result in terminationof your F-1 status. To learn more about how to apply for work authorization, please refer to the CPT and OPT policy guides.

Please note that regulations regarding volunteering vary depending on several factors. If you wish to volunteer, please check with the ISSS office before beginning any volunteer opportunity.

 

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Questions About Maintaining Your F-1 Visa Status?

If you have questions about these regulations or how to maintain your immigration status, you may contact the ISSS office by phone at 801-581-8876 or by email at international@utah.edu to discuss your situation.

 

Disclaimer: This page is not an exhaustive list of items pertaining to maintaining immigration status. International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) provides support and information related to U.S. immigration laws and regulations related to F and J status at the University of Utah. ISSS staff are not attorneys and any information provided by ISSS should not be construed as legal advice. Individuals are welcome to consult a qualified immigration attorney for specific legal advice, particularly in complicated cases.  For a list of local Utah attorneys please visit our website here

 

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Last Updated: 6/24/19