SEVIS is a U.S. government database that allows schools and federal immigration agencies to exchange data on the status of international students. Information is transmitted electronically throughout an F-1 student’s academic career in the U.S. The SEVIS program is funded in part by your SEVIS fee ($200 for F-1 students) to the Department of Homeland Security. An electronic record is created in SEVIS for you after you are admitted and confirm enrollment at King’s College. This allows King’s College to issue an I-20 form, which you need to gain F-1 status. When you apply for a student visa and arrive at a U.S. port of entry, the consular officer or immigration official may consult SEVIS in addition to your supporting documents to verify eligibility for F-1 status. King’s College will continue to provide electronic reports throughout your academic career, noting information such as registration, address changes, academic program changes, degree completion and immigration status violations.
It is important to understand the F-1 immigration regulations in order to maintain status while you are in the U.S. It is your responsibility to understand and comply with the terms of your immigration status during your stay in the United States. A violation of the immigration regulations (for example, failure to maintain a full-time credit load or unauthorized employment) could jeopardize your F-1 status and legal stay in the U.S. Review this information carefully and contact the Office of International Recruitment or the International Student Advisor if you have questions.
Immigration Information for F-1 Students
- What is "F-1 Status?"
- Events That Require You to Update Your I-20
- Full-time Registration Requirements and Exceptions
- Travel: Returning to the U.S. After a Temporary Absence
- Dependents (Spouse and Children)
- Change of Address
- Loss of F-1 Status
- Graduation or Completion of Your Program
What is F-1 status?
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, or your status might end before your visa expires.
Federal law requires you to carry "registration" documents at all times, including your I-20 and passport with I-94 card attached or F-1 admission stamp (depending on what you received upon your last entry to the U.S.). Below is an overview of the documents related to your F-1 status. For day-to-day purposes, we suggest that these documents be kept in a secure location such as a bank safe-deposit box. You should carry photocopies of the documents with you; however, if you are traveling outside the Wilkes-Barre area, you should carry the original documents. If you are traveling by air, train, bus or ship, you may be required to produce these documents before boarding. Keep photocopies of all your documents in a separate location in the event your documents are lost or stolen.
Your passport must be valid at all times. Keep your passport and other important documents in a safe place, such as a bank safe-deposit box. Report a lost or stolen passport to the police because your government may require a police report before issuing a new passport. To renew or replace your passport, contact your country's consulate in the U.S.
The visa is the stamp that the U.S. consular officer placed on a page in your passport. The visa permitted you to apply for admission into the U.S. as an F-1 student, and need not remain valid while you are in the U.S. (Canadian citizens are not required to have a visa). If your visa expires while you are in the U.S., the next time you travel abroad you must obtain a new F-1 visa before returning to the U.S. Exceptions to this rule exist for short trips to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands. Visas can only be obtained outside of the U.S. at a U.S. consulate.
I-20 Certificate of Eligibility
Issued by UW, this document 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 & reenter the U.S. in F-1 status, and prove your eligibility for various F-1 benefits. The I-20 indicates the institution in which you are permitted to study, your program of study, and the dates of eligibility. The I-20 must remain valid at all times. Request an I-20 extension prior to its expiration date. Allowing the I-20 to expire before you complete your academic program is a violation of F-1 status.
The I-20 is a printout from your SEVIS (Student Exchange Visitor Information System) record. SEVIS is an internet-based database that allows schools and federal immigration agencies to exchange data on the status of international students. Information is transmitted electronically throughout an F-1 or J-1 student's academic career in the U.S. Each student has a unique SEVIS ID number, which is printed on your I-20 in the top right corner.
I-94 Arrival & Departure Record
When you enter the U.S. you are issued either an admission stamp in your passport or Form I-94, a small white card usually stapled to the passport opposite the visa stamp. In summer of 2013, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) transitioned to electronic arrival/departure records for air and sea ports of entry. For most travelers arriving by air or sea, a paper I-94 card will not be issued. Instead, the CBP official will issue an admission stamp in the passport. Travelers at land borders will continue to receive paper I-94 cards.
You might receive either a paper I-94 card or an F-1 admission stamp in your passport (no card), depending on where you arrive. The admission stamp or I-94 card records the date and place you entered the U.S., your immigration status (for example, F-1 or F-2), and authorized period of stay (indicated by "D/S", meaning "duration of status"). Be sure to check the stamp to make sure it is correct. If you receive a paper I-94 card, keep it stapled in your passport. A $330 fee is required to replace a lost, stolen or damaged paper I-94 card. Consult your International Student advisor if you lose your I-94 card.
You might need a printout of your electronic I-94 information to apply for various benefits such as a Washington State ID card or a Social Security Number. You can obtain a printout of your I-94 record at CBP.gov/I94.
Events That Require You to Update Your I-20
Many kinds of updates must be reported to the Department of Homeland Security through SEVIS and must be changed on your I-20. Notify the Office of International Recruitment of the following changes and request an updated I-20. Keep every I-20 for your permanent record, even after you graduate. Do not discard the old ones, even from previous schools. ISS files are archived and destroyed after several years, so it is your responsibility to keep your I-20s in case you need them to apply for future immigration benefits.
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 King’s College, since King’s issued your I-20 and oversees your SEVIS record. If you decide to transfer to another school, contact the Office of International Student Recruitment prior to completing your final semester at King’s College. You will need to complete the I-20 transfer form and submit a copy of your acceptance letter from your new school.
Change of Level
If you complete your current program of study and plan to continue at King’s College in another program (for example, Master’s program), your I-20 must be updated.
Change of Major
If you are accepted into a new major or if you change your major (for example, pre-major to History or History to Biology), you must request a new I-20.
Change of Funding
If there is a substantial change in the source or amount of your funding, report this change to the Office of International Student Recruitment and a new I-20 will be issued to you. For example, if you currently self-pay your tuition but receive a scholarship, your I-20 indicates that you use personal funds to pay for expenses so you must 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 DSO will wait for you to change your passport first before updating the I-20. Note that SEVIS is a separate database from the King’s College database. To change your name in the King’s College database, use WebAdvisor.
Full-time Registration Requirements and Exceptions
In general, F-1 students must be registered full-time. This is defined as at least:
- 12 credits each semester for undergraduate students
- 9 credits each semester for graduate students
Only one online class may count towards the minimum credit amount each quarter. According to the F-1 regulations, an online class is one that "does not require the student's physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion of the class.” Therefore, any course that has some sort of physical attendance requirement, such as for a lecture, exam, or faculty meeting is not considered fully online for visa status purposes. Hybrid classes that are mostly online but have a physical presence requirement are not counted toward the 1-class limit for online courses.
Do not register for fewer than the required number of credits or withdraw from a course without first receiving permission from the International Student Advisor. Part-time studies could jeopardize your stay in the U.S. and make you ineligible for F-1 benefits.
Exceptions to the Full-Time Requirement
- Reduced Course Load (RCL) for Specific Academic Reasons
The DSO can authorize a reduced course load for specific academic reasons, as stated in the F-1 regulations:
- Initial difficulty with the English language
- Initial difficulty with reading requirements
- Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
- Improper course level placement
Note that the first three reasons are primarily for new students beginning their studies, since the exception reasons refer to “initial” difficulty. An academic RCL is only allowed one semester per degree level. You must request the RCL and receive approval from the DSO before the end of the semester in which you need the approved RCL.
- Reduced Course Load (RCL) for a Documented Medical Condition
You can apply for permission for a reduced course load (either for part-time classes or no classes) based on a documented medical condition. The recommendation must come from a "licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist." A reduced course load due to a medical reason may be authorized multiple times so long as the aggregate period does not exceed 12 months. Regardless of the date during the quarter you request the RCL, it will cover the entire semester and will subtract three months from your 12-month allowance. You must request the RCL and receive approval from the DSO before the end of the semester in which you need the approved RCL. We will issue a new I-20 for you authorizing the RCL.
Annual Vacation Semester
An annual vacation semester is a semester spent in the United States while not registered for full-time credits. You are eligible for vacation if you have completed one full-time academic year (2 consecutive semesters) prior to the vacation and intend to register for the following term. During your vacation semester, you may either enroll part-time or not at all.
An annual vacation may be requested for any semester. Summer is the default vacation, and it is not necessary to notify the DSO if you take summer as your vacation semester. A student who arrives in the U.S. for the first time and begins study Fall or Spring semester may take the summer as a vacation semester. You cannot take vacation in your final semester.
You may take as few credits as required to complete your degree as long as you register for at least one credit at King’s College. An online class or a CPT-related credit cannot be the only class on your final quarter schedule.
Concurrent Enrollment at King’s College and Another College
You can "concurrently enroll," which means you take classes at King’s College and another school in the same semester, and the DSO combines the credits to count as full-time. To concurrently enroll, you must take the majority (at least 7 credits) of your required 12-credit minimum at King’s, or for graduate students, at least 5 of your 9-credit minimum at King’s. You must take courses at the appropriate educational level; the credits should count towards your King’s College degree. Consult your DSO about your plans in advance to be sure your concurrent enrollment request will be approved.
Submit a copy of your registration/class schedule from the other school to the DSO at the beginning of the semester, and email your primary academic advisor to confirm your concurrent enrollment. After you complete the semester, submit an unofficial transcript of your completed courses from the other school to the DSO. (This step is for F-1 purposes only. To officially transfer the credit, contact Undergraduate Admissions for instructions.)
"Employment" refers to any work performed or services provided (including self-employment) in exchange for money or other benefit or compensation (for example, free room and board in exchange for babysitting). Unauthorized employment is taken very seriously by U.S. immigration officials; familiarize yourself with your F-1 employment eligibility options and always contact the DSO before accepting any work that you are not sure is authorized.
Travel: Returning to the U.S. After a Temporary Absence
At the port-of-entry you must present the following documents:
- A valid I-20 endorsed for travel within the last year by a King’s College DSO. The travel signature is located on page 1 of the form.
- Valid F-1 visa.
- Evidence of finances.
- Copy of your transcript and current course schedule.
If returning from Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands (except Cuba) after a visit of less than 30 days solely in those countries, your visa need not be valid; however, you will be required to show your previously issued I-94 in addition to the other documents listed above.
Students outside the U.S. for more than one semester and those on Optional Practical Training may have additional requirements.
Dependents (Spouse and Children)
Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 may be eligible for F-2 dependent status. Contact the DSO for procedures to invite a dependent to join you in the U.S. Immigration regulations do not permit F-2 dependents to be employed in the U.S. F-2 dependents can study part-time in an academic or vocational curriculum at an SEVP-certified school. F-2 dependents can also study in avocational or recreational programs--hobbies. F-2 dependents may enroll full-time in kindergarten through 12th grade. An F-2 dependent who wants to pursue full-time study must obtain F-1 status to begin the full-time program.
Change of Address
Any change of address must be reported to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) within 10 days. Update your local address through your WebAdvisor account, and DHS will automatically be notified of the change. Please note that your local US address must be your physical address, not a P. O. Box. To update your permanent foreign address, which must be a non-U.S. address, email InternationalAdmissions@kings.edu and include your name and student ID number.
Loss of F-1 Status
If you violate the immigration regulations you may be able to regain valid F-1 status either through a reinstatement application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or through travel and reentry with a new I-20/new SEVIS record. The appropriate option will depend on your individual circumstances; review the reinstatement and reentry procedures and consult your ISS adviser for more information. A scheduled appointment with the DSO is recommended, as drop-in advising will not allow sufficient time to discuss this topic.
Graduation or Completion of Your Exchange Program
The end of your academic program affects your F-1 status. After you graduate or complete your exchange, you have a 60-day grace period during which you have the following options:
- If your I-20 was issued by King's College, you may work on-campus up to 20 hours per week (part-time) while school is in session, and more than 20 hours per week (full-time) during a vacation quarter and between quarters, provided you continue as a student the following quarter.
- Employment off-campus must be authorized in advance and in accordance with specific procedures outlined in the federal regulations.
- "Volunteering" at job that is traditionally paid may be considered a violation of status. Don't work "for free" without first consulting the DSO.
- An unexpired UW I-20 endorsed for travel within the last year by the DSO. The "travel signature" is located on the third page of the form. To get a travel signature you must be registered full-time and in valid F-1 status. You must maintain the following documents while traveling: valid F-1 visa; valid passport
- Evidence of financial support (bank statement, departmental funding letter, etc.); copy of your transcript and current course schedule.
- If returning from Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands (except Cuba) after a visit of less than 30 days solely in those countries, your visa need not be valid; however, you will be required to show your previously issued I-94 in addition to the other documents listed above.
- Students outside the U.S. for more than one quarter and those on "practical training" may have additional requirements.
- An F-2 spouse and child may enroll in courses that are avocational or recreational in nature. Enrollment in a degree program would not be considered as avocational or recreational.
- An F-2 child may engage in full-time study if the study is in an elementary or secondary school (kindergarten through twelfth grade).
- 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 the UW in a new degree program.
- Apply to change status to another visa category. The DSO cannot assist with change of status applications. If you need additional assistance, we recommend you contact an immigration attorney.
If you do not complete your educational objective (for example, if you withdraw from your program), you are not eligible for the 60-day grace period. Contact the DSO in this situation.