Maintaining Your Student Visa Status
It is a student’s responsibility to comply with all immigration regulations which apply to an F-1 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.
Maintain Full-Time Enrollment: As an F-1 Visa-holder, you must maintain full-time enrollment and you must make normal progress toward your degree or certificate. Note that the definition of “full-time” may differ from school to school; “full-time” by immigration regulations may be more restricted 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 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 progress.” If you find yourself in this situation, please come to the ISS Office to discuss your options.
Attendance Policy: VIU’s attendance policy requires full-time F-1 students to attend at least 80% 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 80% 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
- Vacation (Authorized/Annual): All F-1 students, including ESL and degree-seeking students, with no exceptions, are allowed to take vacation only during the official school breaks, semester breaks, and summer terms.
- Medical or 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.
- 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.
- F-1 Students cannot work without prior approval from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- F-1 students may accept practical training employment or off-campus part-time employment after having maintained your F-1 Visa status for at least one academic year (this requires approval from the academic advisor and the DSO).
- F-1 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 after the academic program has been completed. A DSO must verify eligibility requirements
- F-1 students may accept on-campus or Curricular Practical Training 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.” This is the most important regulation and you must consult with the ISS 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 F-1 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).
- 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 provided by 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 also 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 the new school's DSO.
NOTE: Students must complete the transfer process and attend the new school within 5 months of the semester and/or degree completion in the previous school or the end of the OPT (Optional Practical Training). However, the transfer process must be initiated within the first 60 days of the program or OPT end date.
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 F-1 Student Handbook, or visit the International Student Services Office.