F-1 Status

Maintaining F-1 Status

It is extremely important for a nonimmigrant to maintain his/her F-1 student status while in the U.S.  By reading page 3 of your Form I-20 and following the instructions below, you should be able to maintain lawful F-1 status with little difficulty.

Failure to maintain the terms and conditions of nonimmigrant status is grounds for removal from the U.S.  Depending on the violation, the student could be barred from the U.S. for a period of 3/10 years.

Failure to maintain the terms and conditions of nonimmigrant status may also result in the student being ineligible for on-campus employment, practical training, recertification of your I-20 for re-entry to the U.S. and other benefits afforded to students who are maintaining F-1 status.

  • New students must report to the International Student Affairs Coordinator at Bethel University up to 30 days before and no later than the program start date on student’s Form I-20.

  • Must attend the school which you have been authorized to attend.

  • Must pursue a full course of study (undergraduate – 12 semester hours; graduate – 6 semester hours), except during official school breaks, at the school listed on your currently valid I-20.  Exceptions to the full course of study requirement include:

  • Academic difficulty

  • Illness or medical condition

  • Completing the course of study during the final term

In any event, the student must be authorized by the International Student Affairs Coordinator and issued a new I-20 indicating the student has been approved for a reduced course load BEFORE dropping below a full course of study.  Otherwise the student has violated the F-1 student status and must apply for reinstatement.

  • F-1 status international students can take no more than one class or three credits per session, term, semester, or quarter if the class counts toward the full course of study (undergraduate – 12 semester hours and graduate – 6 semester hours) requirement.

  • Make normal progress toward completing the program of studies before the program end date on your Form I-20.

  • Keep Form I-20 valid by following proper procedures for:

  • extension of F-1 stay.

  • change of educational levels.

  • change in program of study (major)

  • transfer of schools.

  • Abide by F-1 status grace period rules. 

  • After completion of program of studies or OPT, a student has a grace period of 60 days to leave the U.S.

  • A student who officially withdraws from Bethel has a 15-day grace period to leave the U.S.

  • A student who withdraws from Bethel without authorization from the PDSO/DSO is considered out of status and must leave the U.S. immediately.  The student has no grace period.

  • Report a change of address or name to the International Student Affairs Coordinator within 10 days of the change, so the student’s SEVIS record can be updated.

  • Refrain from involvement in criminal activity.  Students are required to obey all federal, state and local laws.

  • Abide by the aggregate unemployment rules while on post-completion OPT.

  • Refrain from unauthorized employment on or off-campus.

  • Penalties for violations could include:

  • Need to apply for reinstatement

  • Deportation

  • May not be employed, even on campus.

  • May not be granted any immigration benefits, such as OPT, extension, transfer, etc.

  • May not change status in U.S.

Curricular Practical Training:  CPT is an employment option available to F-1 status students if the practical training employment is considered to be an integral part of an established curriculum or academic program.  The employment may be an internship, cooperative education job, a practicum, or any other work experience that is either required for your degree or for which academic credit is awarded.  CPT does not require adjudication by USCIS, but can be approved by the International Student Affairs Coordinator.

To be eligible for CPT, the student must:

  • Have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year. Some exceptions apply.

  • Have the offer of a job/training which is directly related to your major area of study.

  • Be enrolled in a course that carries academic credit for the job/training, or the training must be required of all students in your major.

  • Must not have completed your degree.

Optional Practical Training:  OPT is temporary employment authorization that gives F-1 students an opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience off campus.  Most students are eligible to apply for 12 months of OPT at each degree of a higher level.  Students who have received a degree in a government-designated STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) program may qualify for an additional 24-month period.

Students may apply for periods of OPT before completion of studies (Pre-Completion OPT), apply for the total twelve-month period to be used after completion of program of studies (Post-Completion OPT), or use a combination of both.

To be eligible for the initial 12 month OPT period, the student must:

  • Have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year.

  • Engage in employment which is directly related to the student’s major area of study.

  • Not have engaged in an aggregate of 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training at the same educational level.

*A student cannot begin OPT employment until the start date indicated on the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and cannot begin employment until the EAD has been received. 

*Students on post-completion OPT are limited to a maximum of 90 days of unemployment. Students approved for the 24-month extension of OPT are allowed a maximum of 150 days of unemployment.

Students should contact the International Student Affairs Coordinator for detailed information concerning the application process for Pre-Completion, Post-Completion, and STEM OPT.

For information about OPT published by the Department of Homeland Security, please go to http://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/opt_policy_guidance_042010.pdf or