F-1 Regulations

How To Maintain F-1 Status

As an F-1 status student admitted to the United States you must meet certain requirements set by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The general requirements are as follows:
  • Have a valid passport at all times.
  • Attend the school you are authorized to attend on your I-20.
  • Continue to carry a full course load. A full course of study is to complete 12 units per term/semester; fall and spring.
  • Leave the U.S. by the anticipated completion date on your I-20, or prior to that date apply for a program extension.
  • Limit employment, both on campus and off, to a total of 20 hours per week while school is in session.
  • Refrain from off-campus employment without written authorization from USCIS or the school.
  • Report a change of residence within 10 days of the change to the International Student Office and also update your Mysite account.
  • An F-1 status student may not take more than one on-line class per semester/term to count towards the 12 unit minimum.

Allowable Exceptions to the Full Course Load (12 Unit) Requirement

A valid medical excuse. Sometimes a student may experience a temporary medical condition that interferes with his or her ability to study. In cases where a licensed health care professional believes that taking a full course load interferes with the student's medical condition and/or the ability to recover from it, the student may be able to request a reduced course load under this condition.  A student may have up to 12 months of reduced course load for medical reasons.

To obtain permission for a reduced course load based on a medical condition, students must bring a letter from a licensed health care provider recommending the reduced course load.

Vacation. An F-1 visa student is considered in status during the summer session. Students are not required to attend the summer session unless they have been initially admitted for a summer session.

Valid academic reasons for enrolling less than full-time. A student who is having academic difficulty should contact the International Student Office to schedule an appointment with an academic counselor to discuss permission to drop below 12.0 units. In special circumstances, students may be allowed to drop below 12.0 units for an academic reason. A student must receive prior permission from the International Student Office before dropping a class. A student is allowed a maximum of one semester below 12.0 units for an academic difficulty.

Students completing programs during the course term. An F-1 status student who needs fewer than 12 units to complete his or her program of study is considered to be pursuing a full course of study if the student enrolls in the number of credit hours necessary to complete the program in the final term. A student must seek permission from a counselor to take less than 12 units based on the last semester. Please contact the International Student Office to schedule an appointment with a counselor.

Post-completion practical training. A student on practical training following completion of studies is considered by USCIS to be pursuing a full course of study.

Consequences of Being Out-of-Status

  • No verification letter stating you are in full-time status.
  • No employment on-campus or off-campus.
  • You may become ineligible for practical training.
  • You may have difficulty obtaining a renewal of your F-1 visa at the American Embassy or Consulate.
  • You may be barred from re-entering the U.S.
  • You may become ineligible to transfer to another university.
  • You risk possible deportation from the United States.
  • You might be denied an extension of stay or reinstatement from the United States Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS).

Consequences of Being Out-of-Status

If you fall out-of-status while attending the College, you may reinstate your F-1 status in the following ways:

A formal reinstatement request may be submitted to the USCIS requesting that the deviation from full-time status be approved. A student who has dropped below 12.0 units without permission will be terminated in the SEVIS system. In order to reinstate, the SEVIS record to "active" status, an application for reinstatement must be made. The student should meet with the international student advisor to discuss the reinstatement procedures. In most cases, a student who is in good academic standing and has maintained full-time status in previous semesters/terms will be able to obtain the reinstatement. Once reinstated, the student will be eligible for benefits such as practical training.

Note: Students who have been reinstated may find that the USCIS may cancel their F-1 visa stamp without prejudice. If the visa has been canceled, students traveling outside of the United States will need to obtain a new F-1 visa stamp in order to re-enter the U.S.

An F-1 status student may travel outside of the United States with a new I-20 marked “initial attendance.” Upon re-entering the U.S., the student should present the I-20 to the Immigration Officer at the port of entry. The Immigration Officer will stamp the new I-20. The student is considered reinstated as of the date of the stamp. The student will need to re-establish the 9 month eligibility for practical training benefits. A copy of the new I-20 and I-94 must be presented to the International Student Office to be placed in the student file. Please note: Students who need a new F-1 visa may have difficulty obtaining a renewal of the F-1 visa stamp. In addition, students who reinstate through travel may experience significant delays at the port of entry, whenever they travel to the U.S. in the future.

If you fall out-of-status during the semester/term, you must speak to the International Student Office immediately. Saddleback College offers many short-term classes during the semester/term. You may be able to take a short-term class and regain your full-time status.