Maintaining F-1 Status

During your time as a student in the United States, you are expected to follow all state and federal laws. You are also expected to follow the regulations associated with your F-1 visa status. Always ask International Student Services if there is something you are unsure about. 

The United States Department of Homeland Security has a helpful website called Study in the States that you can also access any time. It covers many frequently asked questions for students studying in the U.S. on an F-1 visa. 

Basic Rules to Follow

1. Register and maintain a full-time course load

International students must enroll full-time each fall and spring semester. Full-time enrollment is 12 credits or more. International students can only count one (1) online class toward the full-time course load. This means you must register in at least 9 credits in-person before you register for any online classes.

You must maintain your full-time enrollment for the entire semester. Always consult with International Student Services before dropping or withdrawing from a class to ensure that it will not impact your F-1 status. Dropping below 12 credit hours can sometimes be approved in special circumstances, but you must receive the proper approval from International Student Services first. 

Students in the final semester of their program are not required to enroll in 12+ credits, if fewer than 12 credits are needed to fulfill all degree requirements. Approval from International Student Services is needed. You may take courses in the winter or summer sessions if you want, but it is not required.

2. Make normal progress towards your degree

International students are expected to make "normal" progress toward completing the degree program listed on their Form I-20. Work with your assigned academic advisor to ensure that you are registering for courses that count toward your degree requirements. Students are expected to maintain good academic standing at OCC and pass their courses each semester in order to make progress toward degree completion.

3. Never work in the United States without proper authorization

You do not need special authorization to work on-campus, but NEVER work off-campus without proper authorization from International Student Services. Working without authorization is a very serious offense. It can result in the termination of your F-1 status, possible deportation, and difficulty receiving a U.S. visa in the future.

Please see the employment section for detailed information about on-campus and off-campus working permissions.

4. Keep your immigration documents valid and up-to-date

  • Passport: Should be valid at least 6 months into the future at all times while you are in the United States.
  • F-1 Visa: Depending on your home country, your F-1 visa may be valid for only a few months or up to 5 years. (citizens of Canada do not have a visa). You need a valid visa to enter the United States. If your visa expires during your studies, you can stay here as long as you maintain your F-1 status as an enrolled student. If you leave the U.S. after your visa is expired, you must apply for a new visa before you can re-enter the country. For more details about your F-1 visa and re-entry, please go to the travel section.
  • Form I-20: The Form I-20 document is issued by OCC and outlines your academic program. It contains information regarding your program's start and end dates, work authorization, and financial sponsorship information. If any of this information changes, you must inform International Student Services to receive an updated Form I-20.
  • I-94: Your I-94 record shows your most recent entry to the United States. Every time you enter the U.S., your I-94 record will be updated to reflect that entry. It is not a document you typically need to carry; it is used primarily for employment purposes or when applying for a driver’s license or social security card. Your most recent I-94 can be accessed and printed online at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, using your passport information.

5. Depart the U.S. within the allotted time

Following completion of your studies (graduation) or the expiration of your I-20, F-1 students may stay in the United States for a maximum of 60 days. 

This allows you to:

  • Travel within the United States. If you depart the U.S. before the end of your grace period, your grace period is effectively over and you cannot re-enter using your expired I-20.
  • Prepare to depart the United States. 
  • Transfer to another school. Please see the school transfer section for instructions on transferring your SEVIS record to another college or university in the United States.
  • Apply for OPT.
  • Depart the United States.

Note: If your SEVIS record has been terminated for any reason, you do not have a grace period. You are expected to depart the United States as soon as possible. Overstay of any length of time is considered a serious offense.

6. Contact International Student Services

You must contact International Student Services if you are planning to do any of these things:

  • Change your contact info (phone number, local or permanent address)
  • Change your major/program of study
  • Extend or shorten your program of study
  • Transfer to another institution
  • Take a break from your studies at OCC
  • Travel outside of the U.S.
  • Apply for employment/internship

Many of these things are very time sensitive. Please report changes to International Student Services within 10 days.