Maintaining Your Student Visa Status
It is the student’s responsibility to comply with all immigration regulations which apply to an F1 Visa. At Virginia International University (VIU), we feel responsible for each student’s performance, behavior, and compliance with all school and immigration rules and regulations. Therefore, we want to remind you of your responsibilities as a student visa holder.
1.Maintain full-time enrollment
As an F1 Visa-holder, you must maintain full-time enrollment and you must make normal progress toward your degree or certificate.
Please note that the definition of “full-time” may differ from school to school; full-time by immigration regulations may be more restrictive than your school’s definition of full-time. As a result, you should refer to the guide below and consult with your academic advisor as well as the International Student Advisor to determine whether or not you are a full-time student.
The rate of normal academic progress is the rate at which the average full-time student in your school or department advances toward a particular degree or certificate completion. Working to finish an “incomplete” course or project does not fall within the definition of making normal academic progress. If you find yourself in this situation, please come to the ISS Office to discuss your options.
2.Attend your classes
VIU’s attendance policy requires full-time F1 students to attend at least 75% of all classes in each semester throughout the entire academic year.
Degree program attendance records are checked monthly and warning letters are sent to the students who have failed to maintain at least 75% attendance in each class. Continued attendance failures will result in temporary academic suspension or dismissal. Students that stop attending for more than a full month will be directly reported to USCIS in accordance with USCIS reporting requirements. The “incomplete” (I) letter grade will not be assigned to the classes in which the student failed to maintain 75% attendance. Receiving an incomplete grade is not a legitimate reason for a student to gain an academic extension. Please see our grading policy for further detail.
Student attendance records in the intensive English as a Second Language program are also evaluated monthly and students are sent warning letters if they fail to attend at least 75% of their classes in a given month. Those who are sent a third warning letter will also receive a Cancellation of Continued Enrollment Notice. Students may be considered “Out of Status” and will be required to see the International Student Advisor to discuss their status. Students who do not to report to the school for this meeting will be reported to USCIS for failure to maintain proper attendance. If you are considered “Out of Status” you may not be allowed to:
- Extend your period of study
- Take an authorized vacation
- Transfer to another school
3.Authorized and annual vacation policies
Academic F1 students are only allowed to take vacation during official school breaks, semester breaks, and during summer terms. There are no exceptions to this policy.
F1 Visa ESL students participating in our 7-week ESL program must enroll in a minimum of four (4) consecutive 7-week terms in order to be eligible for a vacation period. This vacation period is not to exceed two (2) consecutive 7-week terms.
4.Medical and sick leave
If you are seriously ill and are required to spend some recovery time under a doctor’s or clinic’s supervision, and therefore will not be able to attend classes, you are required to inform the International Student Advisor. You will be required to fill out the Leave of Absence Form and submit the necessary supporting documentation.
5.Permission to work in the United States
Students should not accept employment of any kind, either on- or off-campus, without written permission from the International Student Advisor and, if necessary, USCIS. Below are more important facts about employment.
- ESL students are not eligible for any type of employment option except on-campus employment.
- F1 students cannot work without prior approval from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- F1 students may accept practical training employment or off-campus part-time employment after having maintained F1 Visa status for at least one academic year (this requires approval from the academic advisor and the DSO).
- F1 students are allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours per week on campus as a full-time student.
- Students must apply for USCIS approval for off-campus employment and Optional Practical Training (OPT) after the academic program has been completed. A DSO must verify eligibility requirements.
- F1 students may accept on-campus or Curricular Practical Training (CPT) when authorized by the academic advisor and the DSO.
Working without proper authorization is considered by the USCIS as the most serious violation of its regulations. If you refer to your I-20 form or I-94 card, you will see the statement, “Warning: a non-immigrant who accepts unauthorized employment is subject to deportation.” You must consult with an appointed ISS official before you accept any offer of employment or begin working. We will advise you as to whether or not it is possible for you to work and we will assist you with the appropriate procedures. It is illegal to begin working while waiting for authorization. Students in F1 status who are authorized to work are permitted to work a maximum of 20 hours per week during the academic semesters. Click here for VIU’s guide to Optional Practical Training (OPT).
6.F1 student transfer policy
If you plan to transfer from VIU to another school, different rules may apply depending on your program of study. In general, an F1 student may transfer out only after they: a) have attended one full semester; b) have proved a cumulative attendance of at least 75% of all classes during his/her period of study; and c) have resolved all financial obligations with the school. Students must inform VIU in writing of their intent to transfer to another school at least 15 days before the new semester start date.
Please note that VIU does not grant any transfer certificates while school is officially in session. That means you cannot legally transfer after the semester has started.
- Inform the International Student Advisor at VIU of your intention to transfer at least 15 days before the new semester start date.
- Submit a completed Institutional Withdrawal Form to the ISS Office.
- Complete the Student Exit Survey (current students only).
- Obtain a transfer certificate form and acceptance letter from your new school.
- Bring the transfer certificate form and acceptance letter to VIU and have a DSO sign it. After the DSO has signed the form, your data will be electronically released to your new school via the SEVIS system.
- Obtain a new SEVIS I-20 Form from your new school.
- Follow the instructions and recommendations of your new school’s DSO.
Note that students must complete the transfer process and attend the new school within five (5) months of the semester and/or degree completion in the previous school or the end of the Optional Practical Training (OPT) period. However, the transfer process must be initiated within the first 60 days of the program or OPT end date.
7.Changing your address
Whenever you change your address, you must provide your new address to VIU within ten (10) days by completing the Student Info Update Form. Our current students can report a change of their address to VIU online by visiting the student portal. The DSO must report the updates to USCIS via SEVIS within 21 days.
8.Maintain your passport
Please remember that your passport must be kept valid at all times. For up-to-date information and policy changes, please visit this link, ask for a copy of our F1 Student Handbook, or visit the International Student Services Office.
9.More on International Student Regulations
It is the student’s responsibility to comply with all immigration regulations that apply to F-1 visa students. If a student fails to follow these procedures, then he/she will be considered "Out of Status" and until the student has his/her F-1 status reinstated, he/she may not be allowed to:
- Continue to stay and study in the USA;
- Extend their period of study;
- Travel outside of the USA;
- Pursue practical training.
International Students (F-1 visa) are required to:
1. Keep an un-expired passport that is valid for at least six (6)
months at all times during their stay in the U.S.
2. Attend the school that they are authorized to attend.
3. Make normal progress towards completing their program of study.
4. Report any change of address to VIU within 10 days of the
change. If applicable, comply with Special Registration Procedures for certain foreign nationals. (For more details please contact VIU’s International Student Services (ISS) Office).
5. Maintain full-time enrollment
a. If in an Academic Program: The full-time course load for graduate degree programs is 9 credits per semester, and the full-time course load for undergraduate, diploma, and certificate programs is 12 credits per semester. However, during the Summer sessions the full time course load is lower for graduate and undergraduate studies. The Summer session full course load for graduate degree programs is 3 credits and for undergraduate programs it is 6 credits. Any student
full course load in the summer session.
b. If in the ESL Program: The full-time course load for the ESL program is 18-20 hours per week. Any student starting during the summer session is required to maintain a full course load for summer.
6. Obtain a new I-20 for a change in academic or program level of study.
7. Abide by VIU’s attendance policy, which requires that all full-time students attend at least 75% of all classes.
a. If in an Academic Program: All degree-seeking F-1 visa
students are allowed to take vacation time off after studying at least one full semester and only during the official school recesses, semester breaks, and summer sessions. However, if the summer session is their first semester at VIU or in the U.S.A., they must study during the summer session in accordance to the USCIS regulation.
b. If in the ESL program: Students are allowed to take their annual break after completing four (4) consecutive 7-week terms. The annual break can be up to two (2) consecutive terms. Students must take at least four (4) consecutive terms of courses between annual breaks. Students are not eligible to take an annual break after their final session of courses. Students will be eligible for a 60-day grace period under USCIS regulation, after completing their program. The grace period begins on the Program End Date listed on the I-20 and ends 60 calendar days later.
Students who wish to take their annual break must complete an Annual Break Form and submit it to the International Student Services Office at least one week prior to the beginning of the first session of the annual break. When the form is turned in, the ISS Office will determine if the student is eligible for the annual break and will inform the student of the decision as well as the student’s return to class date. The student will be informed via VIU e-mail within one business day of submission of the Annual Break Form.
9. Accept no employment of any kind, either on-campus or off- campus, without written permission from VIU’s ISS Office and, if necessary, the USCIS.
10. School Transfer: If a student needs to make a school transfer, they are advised to do so in a timely fashion. It is recommended that students must inform VIU of their intention to transfer at least 15 days before the start date of the new semester at VIU.
11. Obtain an F-1 visa extension of stay as needed: If a student requires more time to complete their program than that which is authorized on the VIU I-20, they must request a program extension through VIU’s ISS Office.
12. F-1 visa Grace Periods: Upon completion of the program requirements, and/or completion of optional practical training, F1 visa students must leave the U.S.A. within a 60 day grace period, or change to another immigration status within the time allowed, usually within the first 45 days of the grace period. A student who obtains permission from an International Student Advisor prior to withdrawing from VIU will have 15 days to depart the US. However, a student who withdraws without prior approval or terminates the course of study has zero (0) days to leave the US. The student must depart the US immediately.
13. Financial Support: If there are any changes in a student’s financial status and sponsorship information such as a change in sponsor or receipt of scholarship and/or other financial aid, the student must report this change to the International Student Advisor within 10 days of this change.
14. Complete a timely reinstatement application if the student has become out-of status. ISS office will make decision on recommending student for reinstatement based on student’s demonstration of intension to continue studying.
For more information about F-1 visa rules and regulations for international students, students should consult with the International Student Advisor/DSO in the ISS Office.