Immigration Information for F-1 Students
How to Maintain your Legal Status in the United States
Maintaining Status as an F-1 Student
It is your responsibility to maintain F-1 student status, and the details of such status are outlined in your I-20. That information, along with the guidelines below, should help you maintain your immigration status while in the U.S.
You must be full-time each term with the exception of summer, as that is your annual vacation.
- Reduced Course Load/Dropping a Course: you MUST seek approval from an advisor in ISS BEFORE dropping below full-time using the Reduced Course Load.
- Concurrent Enrollment: you must seek approval from an advisor in ISS if you plan to enroll at another U.S. institution in addition to University of St. Thomas by using the Concurrent Enrollment Authorization.
- Withdrawal from courses/University of St. Thomas: you must seek approval from an advisor in ISS before withdrawing from your classes and/or enrolling at another U.S. institution.
- Online/Distance learning course limit: only one online/distance learning course can count toward your full-time enrollment each term.
- Sites of Instruction: international students are only eligible to take courses at the following UST campuses under our current DHS certification: St. Paul, Minneapolis and Owatonna. International students are not eligible to take courses taught at other sites such as Bloomington, Maple Grove, etc.
Keep current immigration documents
- Change of Major/Level: you must receive a new I-20 from ISS should your major or level change throughout your stay at University of St. Thomas. Please contact ISS for further details if this applies.
- Program extension: if you are unable to complete your degree by the expiration date on your I-20, please submit the Program Extension Form before your I-20 expires.
- Passport: this must be valid at all times and should be valid 6 months into the future when traveling outside the U.S.
Change of Address
Update your address within 10 days of the change through your Murphy online account.
Check your UST Email account
You must check your University of St. Thomas email account as very important information is sent to you regarding your immigration status. Failure to do so may result in a violation of your immigration status.
- On-campus employment: limit of 20 hours/week while school is in session.
- Off-campus employment: never work off-campus without authorization from ISS.
File the US income taxes with the Internal Revenue Services (IRS)
Failure to comply with the information listed above will result in a violation of your F-1 immigration status. ISS is required to report such action to the U.S. CIS.
Penalty for Non-compliance with F-1 Regulations
If you violate your immigration status, you will either need to file for a reinstatement with US CIS or travel/re-entry to regain your F-1 status. We recommend that you speak with an ISS advisor to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of each to best make your decision about how to get back into a valid F-1 status.
Reinstatement application requires the following:
- The student has not been out of status for more than 5 months prior to filing for reinstatement (unless he or she can show that there were exceptional circumstances that prevented the student from filing during the 5-month period).
- The student does not have a record of repeated violations.
- The student is pursuing, or will in the next term be pursuing, a full course of study.
- The student has not engaged in unauthorized employment (if done so, advised to leave US)
- The student is not deportable on any grounds other than the status violation for which the reinstatement is being requested.
- The status violation resulted from circumstances beyond the student’s control
- Failure to apply in an immigration benefit in which ISS would have authorized
- The student would experience extreme hardship if the application were not approved.
Bring the following documents to meet with an ISS advisor:
- Letter written from the student addressed to “To Whom It May Concern” stating:
- The reason for violating F-1 status; the effect on the student of failure to receive reinstatement; a statement that he or she is currently pursuing or is intending to pursue a full course of study; and specifically request USCIS to reinstate him or her to F-1 status.
- Complete and sign Form I-539
- $290 check or money order payable to Department of Homeland Security
- Copy of I-94
- Copies of passport (biographical and expiration pages) and visa
- New original financial documents (dated less than 6 months old)
- Original transcripts from all schools attended in the U.S.
- Any other evidence that might help explain the nature of the violation
- New I-20 for Reinstatement- obtain from ISS
- If out of status for more than 5 months, pay $200 SEVIS fee online at http://www.fmjfee.com/ and include a copy of the receipt.
- For the option of receiving an email and/or text message information that USCIS has accepted your application or petition, please complete G-1145
Failure to comply with these regulations will result in the loss of your student status and subject you to deportation.
A nonimmigrant F-1 student is permitted to transfer to a different school provided the transfer procedure is followed. To transfer schools, you should first be admitted to the new school and complete their transfer form as well as the ISS transfer out form. Your transfer will be effective on the “SEVIS release date” that you select to have your F-1 SEVIS record transferred from St. Thomas to the new institution. To print a Transfer Out form, please click here.
Note: When choosing your release date, make sure you take into account your on-campus job, CPT or OPT time. On your release date, you will not be able to work on the UST campus, participate in any CPT authorized by UST and any time left on your OPT will terminate.
When you leave the United States, you must surrender your Form I-94 Departure record. Please see the back side of Form I-94 for detailed instructions. You do not have to turn in the I-94 if you are visiting Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands other than Cuba for less than 30 days.
Leave of Absence/Withdrawal
A nonimmigrant student may be re-admitted after a temporary absence of five months or less from the United States, if the student is otherwise admissible. You may be readmitted by presenting a valid foreign passport, a valid visa, and either a new Form I-20 A-B or a page 4 of the Form I-20 A-B (the I-20 ID Copy) properly endorsed by the foreign student advisor for re-entry if the information on the I-20 form is current. Click HERE to print a Leave of Absence/Withdrawal form.
You must demonstrate that you are financially able to support yourself for the entire period of stay in the United States while pursuing a full course of study. You may be required to present documentary evidence of means of support at the US Embassy or at the port of entry.
Extension of Stay
If an F-1 student cannot complete his/her educational program before the end date listed in item #5 on the I-20, he/she must apply for an I-20 extension before the end date listed on the I-20. An email or written letter from your Academic Advisor confirming that an extension of study is required to complete your program of study must be submitted to ISS. Click HERE to print a Program Extension Form.
In addition, students who need more than one semester of an extension must submit new bank/scholarship verification to ISS. See the current estimated expenses for your academic program so you can submit the correct bank/scholarship amount HERE.
ISS strongly encourages F-1 students to extend their I-20 at least 3 months before the end date listed on their I-20.
The F-1 visa holder must provide financial verification to ISS in order to have F-2 dependents (spouse and/or children) added to their I-20.
F-2 Dependents (spouses) may not engage in full studies in the U.S., F-2 (children) may only engage in full time study at K-12 level. F-2 dependents are not permitted to work while in the U.S. Click HERE to print a Dependent Request Form.