Questions and Answers

What is F-1 Status?

Status is your nonresident category granted by an immigration official. Being in F-1 status means that you are legally in the U.S. and have benefits and restrictions specified in the immigration regulations for the F-1 visa category. You gain status either by entering the U.S. with F-1 documents or, for people already in the U.S. in a different status, by applying to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for a change of status.

What is the Period of Authorized Stay?

Your admission to the U.S. is for the “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-day 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, and your status might end before your visa expires.

What is Full-time Enrollment for international students?

International students in F-1 status are required to enroll in a full course of study during the academic year, as a condition of maintaining their immigration status. Students engaged in undergraduate study at Barton College must be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours per semester to be considered a full time student.

If an international student changes major or degree level, what does he or she need to do?

Students need their immigration documents to reflect their current degree program and level of study. If a student plans to change majors or degree level, he or she should contact the international admissions office for procedures on how to obtain updated immigration documents.

May international students take summer courses?

A student may choose to take part-time courses during the summer semester or take none at all.

May international students take online courses?

F-1 international students may only count ONE online class toward their minimum number of credits as their full-time enrollment during their normal semesters. If you only need one course to complete your program of study, the course must not be online or distance learning.

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 one-class limit for online courses.

May international students pursue online degree programs?

According to U.S. immigration regulations, F-1 students may not pursue online degrees.

May students ever register below full-time?

Under certain circumstances, F-1 students may receive authorization for a Reduced Course Load (RCL), which gives them permission to enroll below full-time and still maintain valid immigration status. These exceptions include:

  • Illness/medical condition
  • Initial Difficulty with English Language
  • Initial Difficulty with Reading Requirements
  • Unfamiliarity with American Teaching Methods
  • Improper Course-Level Placement
  • Complete Course of Study in Current Term

The school’s Designated School Official (DSO) must approve the RCL in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) before the reduction in course load takes place, so any reduction should be discussed in advance with the International Admissions Office.

May students enroll concurrently at more than one institution?

F-1 students may enroll concurrently as long as the combined enrollment amounts to a full-time course of study. Students must attend another SEVIS-approved institution and consult with the Coordinator of International Study before registering for classes at another school.

May students transfer to another institution?

International students wishing to pursue their study objectives at another SEVIS-approved institution must ensure the transfer of their immigration and academic records to another institution.

F-1 students must consult with the International Office to complete the immigration SEVIS transfer if they wish to pursue their study objectives at another SEVIS-approved institution. F-1 students will need to initiate the process to transfer their SEVIS record.

On the transfer release date entered into SEVIS by the transfer-out school, the new school can access the SEVIS record and process a new document for the program at the new school.

May F-1 students work on campus?

U.S. immigration regulations, under certain circumstances, allow international students to pursue part-time or full-time employment during the course of their studies.

F-1 students pursuing a full course of study may work on campus up to 20 hours per week while classes are in session. When classes are not in session, they may work more than 20 hours..

If you have specific questions about working on-campus, consult the International Office.

May F-1 students work off campus?

Off-campus work is prohibited in all categories unless it is specifically authorized under the regulations governing the student’s particular immigration category. Working without authorization is an immigration status violation that can make the student subject to deportation. Before accepting or engaging in any kind of employment, students should consult the Coordinator of International Study.

What happens if my F-1 visa expires?

You can stay in the United States on an expired F-1 visa as long as you maintain your student status. However, if you are returning home, you must have a valid visa to return to the United States. Before leaving, check that you have all the documentation you need for your visa application and allow sufficient time for processing a new visa, such as a recently signed I-20 and evidence of financial support. It is strongly recommended that you apply for a visa in your home country.

May I renew my student visa while in the United States?

No, you must apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

May I exit and re-enter the U.S. during my 60-day grace period after finishing my degree program?

No. The purpose of your grace period is to allow you time to transfer schools, begin a new degree program, or make arrangements to exit the United States.

I am going home for a vacation during a break. What do I need to do?

Before you leave, bring your I-20 to Immigration Support Services to get an updated signature from your DSO. Check to make sure your F-1 visa and passport are valid before leaving. If either document will expire, you must renew before you will be allowed to return. Your passport must have a least 6 months of validity to enter the U.S.

When you come back into the United States, be sure to have your Form I-20, a valid F-1 visa, passport, evidence of finances, copy of transcript, and your current course schedule.

What is Form I-94?

When you enter the U.S., you are issued either an admission stamp in your passport or a Form I-94, a small, white card usually stapled to the passport opposite the visa stamp. In the 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 ISS adviser 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

What if I will not graduate by the Program of Study completion date on my I-20?

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. Please see the Coordinator of International Study to make this request.

What if I change addresses?

Students who move to another address are required to update their I-20 with their change of address within 10 days or they are considered out of status. Please see the Coordinator of International Studies to update your I-20 if you move.