Illinois State University
Illinois State University
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ELI in St. Louis

F-1 Immigration Basics

International students have a responsibility to obey a special set of immigration laws while in the United States. In addition to these laws, international students must also abide by local, state, and federal laws and the University's Code of Student Conduct. Below are some of the more basic things that international students should do to make sure they maintain their F-1 status. 

Academic Advisors are encouraged to download our Quick Guide to F-1 Students for reference when advising international students in F-1 status.

Check-in with ISSS

All new F-1 students must check-in with ISSS.  Check-in allows ISSS to:

  • collect copies of immigration documents (passport, visa, I-94, I-20)
  • report in the SEVIS system that the student has arrived on campus to begin his/her program of study

Register full-time

F-1 students must be registered for a full course of study every Fall and Spring semester:

  • Undergraduate students = 12 credits
  • Graduate students = 9 credits
  • Summer = 6 credits (F-1 students must be registered full-time in the summer, only if it is their first or last semester)

There are specific limits for online courses that are stipulated by the regulations

  • Only 3 credits of online coursework can count towards the 9/12 credits to meet the full-time requirement
  • In your last semester, you cannot be enrolled in only online courses

Please see the Reducing Course Load section of our website for information on the limited circumstances in which an F-1 student may be registered for less than a full course load.

Make normal progress towards program completion

The program end date listed on your I-20 document determines the end date of your immigration status and the length of your stay in the US – NOT the visa page inside your passport.

  • Make sure your academic advisor is aware of your I-20 end date when you are discussing your program plan
  • If you require more time to complete your studies, you must have a compelling academic or medical reason to extend your I-20 document.  You cannot “artificially” extend your program for administrative reasons.  Please see the Extending Your Stay section of our website for further details.

Don’t work illegally

On campus:

On-campus employment is a benefit of F-1 status.  You do not need to get permission from ISSS to work on campus (your paycheck is issued by Illinois State University).  There are, however, limits to how many hours you can work:

  • Fall/Spring semesters = up to 20 hours/week
  • Summer semester = more than 20 hours per week

Remember: The total hours of all your on-campus jobs cannot go over this limit.

Off campus:

All off-campus work MUST be related to your field of study and you MUST have prior authorization. Even if the internship/work experience is unpaid, you still need prior authorization.

  • You are not eligible to work off campus until they have completed two full-time semesters at ISU
  • Please attend an ISSS Employment Workshop for further details

Report changes to ISSS

Personal Information:

Immigration regulations state that F-1 students must report any change in address or name within 10 days of the change.

  • Please report these changes by emailing (make sure to include your UID in the email)
  • You should also update your MyIllinoisState account with your new address and/or name

Academic program:

Your I-20 is an important document that needs to be kept up-to-date.  

  • Whenever you receive a new I-20, read through it carefully, make sure the information is accurate, and sign it
  • Periodically look at your I-20 to make sure all the information is still up-to-date
  • Notify ISSS before you declare/change majors, add a degree program, change your level of study, take a leave of absence, transfer to another school, or need to extend your program.

Keep your passport valid

You should keep your passport valid while you are studying in the US. Make sure you know the expiration date and begin the renewal process before it expires.

  • Contact the embassy or consulate of your home country in the US for information on passport renewal processes.

Check with ISSS before traveling outside of the US

You will need a valid travel signature on your I-20 from an ISSS advisor in order to re-enter the US.  ISSS will also look over your immigration documents and check that your SEVIS record is in “Active” status.  Please see the Traveling section of our website for further details.

Avoid criminal activity

Leave the United States on Time

F-1 students must depart the US within 60 days after the end date on their I-20 document or after completion of studies (whichever is sooner).  Students working on OPT must depart within 60 days after the end date listed on their EAD card.

2017-02-10T11:36:16.269-06:00 2017