Most international students will enter and stay in the U.S. on an F-1 visa. Bethel University is here to help with the process.
Immigration laws are complex and ever-changing. The information presented here is general and intended for the use of Bethel University F-1 status students only.
Maintaining F-1 Status
A nonimmigrant must maintain his/her F-1 student visa 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 may result in the student being ineligible for on-campus employment, practical training, recertification of your I-20 for re-entry to the U.S., other benefits afforded to students who are maintaining F-1 status, or barred from the U.S. for 3-10 years.
- 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.
- Attend the school which you have been authorized to attend.
- 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.
NOTE: For F-1 students enrolled in classes for credit or classroom hours, no more than the equivalent of one class or three credits per session, term, semester, trimester, or quarter may be counted toward the full course of study requirement if the class is taken online or through distance education and does not require the student's physical attendance for classes.
Exceptions to the full course of study requirement include:
Illness or medical condition
Completing the course of study during the final term
APPROVAL FOR REDUCED COURSE LOAD: 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.
- Make normal progress toward completing the program of study.
- Keep Form I-20 valid by following proper procedures for:
- Extension of the F-1 stay.
- Change of educational levels.
- Change in the program of study (major).
- Transfer of schools.
- Abide by F-1 status grace period rules.
- After completion of a program of studies or OPT, a student has a 60- day grace period 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 ten 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
- 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 the U.S.
Change In Educational Level
An F-1 student is admitted to the U.S. to complete a specific educational program and may pursue a different or subsequent program at Bethel if the student complies with the procedures for the change of educational level and maintains status during the process.
The change in educational level is a notification procedure and does not require adjudication by USCIS. The student should contact the International Student Affairs Coordinator for specific information needed to facilitate the change in educational level, which will require updating and issuing a new Form I-20 with the new program information. A new financial ability statement will be required for the change of educational level.
Extension of F-1 Status
Even though an F-1 visa status student is admitted to the U.S. for “duration of status (D/S)” to complete an educational program, the student must complete his/her program of study by the designated in SEVIS. A student who will not complete the academic program by that date must apply to the International Student Affairs Coordinator for an extension BEFORE the program end date. The student should contact the International Student Affairs Coordinator at least three to four weeks before the program end date.
An F-1 student is eligible for an extension of stay if:
- The student applies to the International Student Affairs Coordinator prior to the program end date.
- The student has continually maintained status.
- The International Student Affairs Coordinator can certify that the delay in program completion was caused by compelling academic or medical reasons.
To request an extension of the program end date, the student and student’s academic advisor must complete and sign the Request for Extension form provided by the International Student Affairs Coordinator. The student will also be required to submit an updated financial ability statement. If the student has submitted the documentation listed above and the International Student Affairs Coordinator approves the extension of the program end date, the International Student Affairs Coordinator will issue a new Form I-20 for the student with the new program end date.
Reinstating F-1 Status
A student who has violated F-1 student status is considered to be “out of status” and may apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to be reinstated to lawful F-1 status. USCIS may consider reinstating a student to F-1 VISA status if the student can establish the following:
- That the violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond the student’s control.
- That the student has not been out of status for more than five months prior to filing for reinstatement. The student is currently enrolled or intends to enroll for a full-time course load.
- The student has not engaged in any unauthorized employment.
- The student does not have a history of repeated violations.
- The student can document sufficient financial resources to pursue a full-time course load.
- The student is not deportable from the U.S. on any other grounds.
The application for reinstatement is made directly to USCIS; however, the student should ask the International Student Affairs Coordinator to review the application for reinstatement before it is submitted to USCIS.