What is F-1 Status?
In the United States, the F visas are a type of non-immigrant student visa that allows foreigners to pursue education (academic studies and/or language training programs) in the United States. F-1 visas are only issued in U.S. embassies and consulates outside the United States. Prospective F-1 students must apply to school and receive a form I-20 in order to apply for an F-1 visa. F-1 students must show that they are able to support themselves during their stay in the U.S., as their opportunities for legal employment are quite limited. F-2 visas are given to dependents of an F-1 student. F-2 visa-holders are prohibited from any form of compensated employment.
Period of Authorized Stay
Your admission to the U.S. is for "duration of status," that is, for the length of your F-1 status. F-1 status covers the period when you are a full-time registered student making normal progress toward your degree (or exchange program), plus an optional period of practical training following completion of studies, plus a 60-days "grace period" to prepare to depart the U.S. or change to another status. Your length of authorized stay is not related to your F-1 visa expiration date. The F-1 visa is specifically for entry into the U.S. The F-1 visa might expire before your status expires, and your status might end before your visa expires.
Federal Law requires that you carry registration documents at all times. It is recommended that you keep copies of all your documents separate from your originals.
- Your passport must be valid at least 6 months into the future. Passport renewal procedures vary, depending on country – typically, you may renew your passport 6 months prior to the expiration date. Contact your country’s embassy in the U.S. to determine the procedure for obtaining a new passport
After you received your Form I-20, you applied for an F-1 visa at a U.S. consulate. Your F-1 visa has an expiration date. If the visa expires while you are in the U.S., it is not a problem. Travel outside the U.S. requires a valid visa to reenter the U.S.
If you arrived to the U.S. prior to April 26, 2013 you were issued an 11-digit ID number on a white card completed for you by U.S. Customs at port of entry. Your I-94 card is marked D/S (Duration of Status). Do not lose this card. If you entered the U.S. after April 26, 2013 your I-94 information is available to you though www.cbp.gov/I94.
Your form I-20 was generated by SEVIS and issued by Otis. It contains biographical data, indicates your program of study, describes the funding amount, and contains your SEVIS ID number. The I-20 allows you to apply for an F-1 visa if you are outside the U.S., apply for F-1 status within the U.S., enter and reenter the U.S. in F-1 status, and prove your eligibility for various F-1 benefits.
- You must ensure that your I-20 is valid, the program dates are current, and the program information is correct. We can extend your I-20 BEFORE it expires. We cannot extend your I-20 AFTER it expires. You may receive an email alert from Otis before your I-20 expires.
- If your I-20 ends, your F-1 student status will terminate
Events That Require an Update to Your I-20
If you are unable to complete your course of study before the completion date noted in item 5 on your I-20, you must request an extended I-20 before your current I-20 expires.
You must register full-time at Otis, since Otis issued your I-20 and oversees your SEVIS record. If you decide to transfer to another school, contact the Registrar’s Office prior to completing your final semester at Otis. For information about transferring your SEVIS record to the new school, visit School Transfer.
Change of Level
If you will complete your current program of study and plan to continue at Otis in another program (for example, change from a BFA program to an MFA), your I-20 must be updated. For more information, see Change of Level.
Change of Major
If you change your major (for example, from Fine Arts to Fashion), the Registrar will automatically issue a new I-20 for you after the change is reflected in the Otis student database.
Change of Funding
If there is a substantial change in the source or amount of your funding, report this change to the Registrar and a new I-20 will be issued to you. For example, if you receive an Otis Scholarship through your department, but your I-20 indicates that you use personal funds to pay for expenses, you should request a new I-20.
The name on your I-20 should match the name on your passport. If you change any part of your legal name—first/given name, middle name, or last/family name—on your passport, this change should be reflected on your I-20. Conversely, if you want a different name on your I-20, the Registrar will wait for you to change your passport first, before updating the I-20.
Maintaining your Status
F-1 degree-seeking students must enroll and complete full-time credit in the fall and spring semesters to maintain lawful immigration status.
ENROLL IN and COMPLETE the required number of units: Undergraduate Students 12 units; Graduate Students 10 units. There are limited reasons for under-enrollment. You must have permission from a DSO prior to under-enrollment.
Exceptions to Full-Time Enrollment
Reduced Course Load (RCL) for Specific Academic Reasons
- Reduced Course Load (RCL) for a Documented Medical Condition
- Final Semester
- Thesis Credits (for Graduate Students Only)
- Concurrent Enrollment
About Full-Time Enrollment
U.S. immigration regulations limit international students to only ONE online course per semester toward the minimum full-time enrollment requirement. You can take more than one online course, but only one will meet your full-time enrollment requirements.
Independent Study Courses
These generally do not count toward the full-time enrollment requirement. They are not required to be completed within a given semester, nor do they require in-class time. An Independent Study course must be a degree requirement to count toward full-time enrollment.
The Registrar must have documentation in your file from your academic advisor regarding the necessity of the independent study course.
Other Enrollment Issues
- “I”—incomplete—or “N” – no credit assigned - grades do NOT count toward the full-time requirement.
- Auditing a course does NOT count toward the full-time requirement.
- Withdrawal from a course at ANY point in the semester does NOT count toward the full-time requirement.
- Courses that BEGIN in the middle of the semester do NOT count toward the full-time enrollment
Employment in the U.S.
On Campus Employment
USCIS allows F-1 students to work up to 20 hours per week on campus during the fall and spring semester without special permission. Employment must be on the Otis campus. F-1 students may work more than 20 hours per week on campus during school vacations (summer, spring and fall breaks)
Off Campus Employment
You may work off-campus ONLY with permission from USCIS or a DSO. Most students cannot apply for off-campus work authorization until they have been in full-time student status for one academic year.
Otis provides employment authorization workshops each semester. This schedule will be posted on the Otis website on or after the third week of the semester.
Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 may be eligible for F-2 dependent status. Immigration regulations do not permit F-2 dependents to be employed in the U.S. The regulations also restrict full-time study for F-2 dependents, with two exceptions:
F-2 dependents CANNOT study in a degree program at Otis, but may enroll in courses that are recreational in nature.
- An F-2 child may engage in full-time study if the study is in an elementary or secondary school.
F-2 dependents must be approved for a change of status to F-1 by the USCIS prior to commencing study at Otis College. Applications take 6-8 months to be approved by USCIS. Plan Ahead.
Change of Address Procedure
International students must update their address within ten days of moving with the Registration Office.
Travel within the U.S. does not require a travel signature from an Otis DSO.
- Travel outside the U.S. requires that your I-20/DS2019 be signed for travel by an Otis DSO.
- Visa expired? You must apply for and receive a new visa before re-entering the U.S.
- We recommend you carry clear copies of your immigration documents if you travel to U.S. border areas or large metropolitan areas.
Termination & Reinstatement
A violation of status will result in a termination of your F-1 status. If your F-1 status is terminated, you may qualify for a Reinstatement of Status. You must apply directly to USCIS requesting reinstatement to F-1 status.
- This option is not available for all violations, notably employment violations.
Graduation or Program Completion
The end of your academic program affects your F-1 status. After you graduate or complete your program you have a 60-day grace period. Within this 60-day period you have the following options:
- Depart the U.S. Once you leave the U.S. (including trips to Canada and Mexico) after completing your studies you are not eligible to re-enter with your current I-20. The grace period is meant for travel within the states and preparation to depart the U.S.
- Request a new I-20 if you will continue at Otis in a new degree program.
- If you are moving from a BFA to an MFA program, request a Change of Level I-20 from ISS.
- Transfer your SEVIS record to a new school.
- Apply to change status to another visa category. Otis DSO advisers cannot assist with change of status applications. If you need additional assistance, we recommend you contact an immigration attorney.