Maintaining Legal Status

MAINTAINING LEGAL F-1 STATUS

As an international student under F-1 visa, you must follow specific U.S. federal immigration regulations that pertain to the F-1 category. Students are legally responsible for maintaining their own status by learning, understanding, and complying with U.S. laws and regulations that apply to you. If you are unsure how to maintain your status, consult with an OISS advisor. Your failure to be aware of and comply with these regulations could jeopardize your academic plans.

STUDENT RESPONSIBILITY CHECKLIST:

  • Be in good academic standing and make satisfactory academic progress. Suspension, dismissal, or any other similar action which prevents enrollment may have an effect on legal immigration status. See an international student advisor at OISS.
  • Extend the I-20 prior to its expiration date if unable to complete academic program by original expiration date.

  • In the event of a change of academic program or level, update the I-20 in a timely fashion.

  • Maintain full-time enrollment during the academic year (Fall and Spring).

  • Limit on-campus employment to 20 hours per week during academic year. 

  • Do not work off-campus without authorization.

  • Keep your passport valid at all times. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months into the future on the day you return to the U.S. from a trip abroad.

  • Maintain health insurance coverage.

  • Notify the OISS if you leave the program before the end date of your I-20.

  • If your permanent or current address changes, update your address through Pipeline within 10 business days.

  • Check your HPU email regularly for updates from the OISS and read those OISS emails carefully. Follow up on these emails as necessary.

  • For any questions you may have regarding your immigration status or regulations, do not hesitate to contact your International Student Advisor.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Immigration regulations require all international students to report any change in their local U.S. address with OISS within ten (10) days of arrival for new students and within ten (10) days of any address change throughout their course of study (during Optional Practical Training (OPT) as well). This information will be updated in students’ SEVIS records.

  • Login to HPU Pipeline
  • Select “Personal Info” (under “My Quick Links”)
  • Enter “Personal Information Menu,” Click on “Verify Address(es) and Phone Number(s).”
  • Verify the current address information you have, and select the appropriate address you will update/insert.
  • At the Dropdown Box: “Type of Address to Insert”: Select “SD “to update your SEVIS domestic address
  • Mailing Address: address in the United States where you receive your mail;
  • SEVIS Domestic Address: physical address/place of residence in the United States. This cannot be a P.O. Box address;
  • Permanent Address: address in your home country.

*Do not type in any special characters, for example, dashes (-), underscores ( _ ), or periods.

Immigration regulations require international students in F-1 status to register in full-time fall and spring semester.  Student are required to enroll in full-time course load throughout the semester. For immigration purposes, full-time enrollment is defined as (fall and spring semesters):

 

LEVEL OF STUDY CREDITS/HOURS REQUIRED
UNDERGRADUATE TWELVE (12)
GRADUATE NINE (9)

 

Students must also be registered at HPU by the Last Day to Add at the semester start date.

Students who drop below full-time without approval (see below) from HPU must be reported to the Department of Homeland Security via SEVIS.  As a result, the SEVIS record will be terminated and the student will lose lawful F-1 including employment eligibility and benefits.

 

Online Courses

Immigration regulations limit the number of online courses a student can count towards full time requirement.

  • Undergraduate students must register for a minimum of 9 credit hours of in-class, plus 3 (or more) online credit hours.
  • Graduate students must register for a minimum of 6 credit hours of in-class, plus 3 (or more) online credit hours.

As long as minimum credits levels in traditional coursework are maintained (for example, 9 credits for graduates and 12 credits for undergraduates), students may take more than 3 credits of online coursework.

Registering Online Courses From Abroad: If enrolled in online courses while remaining outside the U.S., then online class restrictions do not apply.

Summer Enrollment: In general, online courses restrictions do not apply to summer term enrollment.

Last Semester/Last Term: If students are in their last semester or term and need only one course to complete their program of study (or graduate), the course cannot be completed through online coursework. This restriction applies to completion of program occurring during the fall or spring semesters and summer terms.

 

8A AND 8B COURSES

International Students are not permitted to enroll in 8A/8B courses on military base or online courses. Exceptions for online courses will be made for extraordinary circumstances with a clearly stated rationale. For undergraduate students, these exceptions are approved by Academic Advising and Graduate student exceptions are approved by graduate coordinators and faculty advisors.

 

Audit Courses

Audit course units are not applicable to the full-time enrollment total.

 

Exceptions:

International students are not required to enroll in courses during summer semesters unless it is their first or last semester at HPU.

F-1 students who are academically or financially dismissed or suspended from HPU should immediately contact OISS.  Termination of a student's student status automatically results in the termination of F-1 visa status and, as such, it is imperative that students figure out next steps immediately.

As an F-1 student, if you are on suspension, there are immigration ramifications. Your options are the following:

 

Transfer to Another Institution

Upon receiving notice of your suspension, immediately contact the OISS department to go over your options and calendar timeline.

 

Leave the U.S.

If you decide that you no longer want to pursue your studies in the United States, you must inform OISS as soon as possible and OISS will terminate your SEVIS record. You will have to depart the U.S. immediately.

F-1 international students who wish to take a semester off during the academic year (fall and spring semesters) and not enroll in courses must receive authorization for a Leave of Absence (LOA) from OISS and their academic department.

 

LEAVE OF ABSENCE EXCEEDING FIVE MONTHS

Students who will be outside the U.S. for longer than five months for an LOA must obtain a new I-20 with a new SEVIS ID number in order to re-enter the U.S. and return to HPU.  The current I-20 will be invalid after being outside of the U.S. for more than five months.

It is the student’s responsibility to email the OISS Advisor at least two months prior to returning to HPU to request the new I-20.

Students will need to use the new I-20 to pay the SEVIS fee and apply for a new F-1visa, even though they may possess an unexpired visa associated with their previous I-20 SEVIS ID number.

 

RETURNING FROM YOUR LEAVE OF ABSENCE

All students returning from an LOA must validate their return to HPU by reporting to OISS within 21 days of the start of the new semester. Students must meet with the OISS advisor and appointments can be made by calling OISS at (808) 356-5299.

Students must bring the following documents to the appointment:

  • I-20
  • F-1 visa in passport
  • U.S. address

When you are accepted into a major, change your major, or add a second major, you must notify OISS. F-1 regulations require the I-20 to be updated with the new program information.

To request an updated I-20 with a new major:

  • Complete Service Request Form. Please allow 3-4 business days for OISS processing.

  • You will receive an email from OISS when your updated I-20 is ready for pick up.

After successfully completing an academic program, F-1 students are given a grace period allowing them to remain in the U.S. for a specified time after program of study, OPT. Travel and Re-entry to the U.S. as an F-1 student during the grace period is not possible. Please review the following guidelines regarding the grace period pertinent to F-1/J-1 student status:

F-1 students have a 60-day grace period in which they are permitted to do one of the following:

  • Begin a new program of study at HPU: Students must apply to the new program, be admitted and be issued a new I-20 before the end of the grace period.  Proof of funding is required to issue the new I-20. Please email OISS with questions on I-20 issuance.

  • Apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT)

  • Transfer to another institution: Student must apply to another institution, be admitted, have the HPU SEVIS records transferred out to a new institution before the end of the 60 days. The start date at the transfer-in school must be within five months following the date on which I-20 is transferred out or within five months of the 60th day of grace period. To request a transfer of HPU SEVIS I-20 record, the student will need to submit the Transfer Out Form along with acceptance letter from a new institution.

  • Apply for a change of status: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must receive the application to change the immigration status before the end of the grace period.

  • Depart the U.S. before the end of the grace period.

F-2 Dependents:

The immigration status of an F-2 is dependent upon the F-1 student and they cannot remain in the U.S. under the F-2 status after the F-1 student has departed the U.S. during the grace period.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will permit our office to extend a student's program completion date for compelling academic or medical reasons. Delays caused by academic probation or suspension are not acceptable reasons for program extension. Students must apply for a Program Extension BEFORE their program end date on I-20. If the expiration on the I-20 has passed, students must meet with an OISS advisor immediately, as the student is considered to be out of status.

 

Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for a program extension, F-1 students must meet the following requirements:

1. The expiration date of the I-20 has not yet passed

2. Continuously maintained the F-1 student full-time academic status

3. The delay in completion of program must be due to one of the following reasons:

  • Compelling academic reason necessitates the extension of I-20
  • Documented medical reason (see an OISS advisor for additional requirements) necessitates the extension of I-20

4. Must submit financial documents to cover the additional time needed to complete program requirements, which includes tuition and living expenses.

 

Application Instructions

  • Complete the Program Extension Form and print it out.
  • Have your academic advisor sign the Program Extension Form.
  • Attach proof of funding as instructed on the form.
  • Turn in Program Extension Form to OISS. If your request for an extension is approved, a new I-20 will be ready for you in 3-4 business days. 

 

Please note:

  • A student who has satisfied all requirements for graduation/completion of program, s/he cannot continue to be enrolled for other purposes without taking action to maintain status. Even if the school continues to enroll the student, a student who has completed all requirements for the program must apply for OPT, apply for a change of status to some other classification, or depart the United States in order to maintain status.
  • If there is a change in funding source, provide financial documentation covering expenses for the extension period
  • Submit complete docu

F-1 Students planning to transfer from HPU to another institution in the U.S. must follow an immigration transfer process through SEVIS in order to maintain valid immigration status.

  • Obtain admission at the new school.

  • Submit the Transfer Out Form to OISS (Note: Some admitting schools may also have their own Transfer In or Transfer Verification form for OISS to sign as well.).

  • Attach a copy of your admission letter or proof of admission to this form.

  • OISS will release your record electronically to the new school on the last day of the current term.  

  • On the release date, the new school will be able to issue an I-20 for transfer. The OISS I-20 will no longer be valid and OISS can no longer make changes to the record. Contact your new school about the delivery of your new I-20.

  • Visit your new school's International Student office to complete the transfer. The transfer must be completed no later than 15 days from the start date on the new school I-20. 

  • OISS Transfer Out form does not end your enrollment at HPU. Please work with your department, and University Registrar to cancel or withdraw for the current or future semesters.

REDUCED COURSE LOAD (RCL)

In order to maintain lawful F-1 non-immigrant status, international students must either be enrolled full-time or receive permission from the OISS for a reduced course load BEFORE dropping below minimum credit hours. The deadline for submitting the RCL Authorization Form is the add/drop date of the fall and spring semesters.

The minimum full-time enrollment requirement is as follows:

Undergraduate students: 12 credit hours

Graduate students: 9 credit hours

  • Courses that are audited do NOT count towards meeting the minimum full-time enrollment requirement
  • Online/ distance learning courses: Only 3 credit hours may be counted towards meeting the minimum full-time enrollment requirement

NOTE: If you only have one course left, the course by itself cannot be an online course

 

In some instances, international students may be authorized to reduce their course load. This authorization must be requested prior to the beginning of the semester the reduction is requested for. Any student who fails to enroll in a full course of study by the add/drop deadline, or drops below a full course of study without prior authorization by OISS, is considered to be out of status.

Please be advised that the following do not constitute a valid reason to reduce course load according to U.S. Federal Regulations:

  • Pregnancy
  • Lack of financial support

Exceptions to the full course of study requirements are very limited; however, if deemed appropriate OISS may authorize a student to reduce his/ her course load in adherence to the Federal Regulation:

Student may request an RCL due to academic difficulty

  • Initial difficulties with the English language or reading requirements
  • Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
  • Inappropriate course level placement

*Minimum enrollment of six credit hours required

International students may be authorized to drop or withdraw from classes in the case that the student experiences unforeseen illness or a medical condition. A reduction in courses due to medical reasons must be authorized for each semester in question, not to exceed 12 months. The student must provide a statement by a licensed U.S. medical professional, on letterhead (not prescription pad) documenting the following:

  • The medical necessity to reduce courses
  • The semester for which the reduction is requested for
  • The advised action (reduction in course or withdrawal)

OISS may authorize a final semester RCL for students who are in their final semester of study and only have a few units remaining to meet academic program requirements. Students may request an RCL due to final semester only once per degree program.

** Please note after completing reduced course load (RCL), students are unable to:

1) Request another RCL

2) Apply for program extension