F-1 Visa Rules and Information for International Students
Maintaining Legal Student Status
Failing to maintain your status could result in serious consequences and may affect your ability to remain in or return to the United States. To maintain your legal status, you must:
- Enroll in and successfully complete 12 units each semester
- Have legal permission for any employment
- Limit enrollment in online classes to 3 units or one class per semester
- Have a valid SEVIS I-20 from the school you are attending
- Report any address changes to International Admissions within 10 days
Travel and Reentry
Every time you leave the U.S. you will need your passport and I-20 form to reenter. Your I-20 must be signed by us in International Admissions before you leave. Check your U.S. entry visa to be sure that it is still valid. If not, you will need to get a new visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate while you are abroad.
Working During the Academic Term
Working off campus is not permitted. However, F-1 students who are maintaining status may work part time on campus while classes are in session, up to 20 hours per week. During vacation periods and academic breaks, you may work full time on campus if you are returning to classes the following term. To work on campus, you need to apply for a US Social Security Number. The U.S. Social Security Office requires International students to bring letters of permission from their school. If you are offered a job on campus, Student Employment and International Student Admissions will provide you with the required letters.
Optional Practical Training
Students who have earned a degree in the US may qualify for off-campus employment. This benefit of your F-1 visa allows you to work full time for one year in your field of study. Optional Practical Training requires prior authorization from US CIS. For more information, please contact Kim Hunt, International Student Advisor at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leave of Absence
If you want to take a leave of absence from school for a semester or more, you must leave the US during this time. There are several issues to consider before you take this step. You have 15 days to leave the country after notifying your International Student advisor. Your SEVIS record will be terminated at this time for the purpose of an "Authorized Early Withdrawal". If your stay outside the country is more than 5 months, the school must provide you with a new SEVIS I-20 for Initial Attendance to reenter. You will have a new SEVIS ID number, and therefore will have to pay the SEVIS fee again. You may need to apply for a new visa as well. You should check with your local consulate to confirm this information. You will be able to reenter the United States no earlier than 30 days prior to the report date on the I-20 form. OPT work permission can be affected by a break in enrollment. You will have to graduate with an Associate Degree and complete one additional year of study before being eligible.
SRJC issues the SEVIS I-20 for 3 years, because this is the typical amount of time required to complete an Associate Degree program. You should be aware of the program end date printed on your I-20.
If you need more time to complete your program, or if you have changed majors, you can apply for a one year extension of program. You must request this before your I-20 expires and provide us with updated financial documentation.
Upon Program Completion
After you complete your degree program at SRJC, you have a 60 day grace period before you must leave the United States. Staying beyond the grace period is a serious violation and can lead to deportation. During the 60 day grace period, you can transfer to another school to continue your education, or apply for OPT Work Permission to extend your stay.