Maintenance of Status
Under U.S. law, you are
fully responsible for abiding by the rules governing your F-1 status. International Student and Scholar Services will do its best to help you understand these rules, but you are required to follow the rules and responsibilities of student status explained below. Rules & Responsibilities for Maintaining F-1 Status International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) is required to report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in SEVIS regarding F-1 students' fulfillment of the following conditions of status: Always be full-time. Enroll for and complete a full course of study (12 credits for undergraduates, 9 credits for graduates, with a maximum of three credits of the total required credits online) every fall and spring semester. If you are a graduate student required to take an English Language Communication (ELC) course your first semester of study at Stevens, you will only be obligated to take six credits (all must be on-campus) in addition to the ELC course during the first semester. Information about the ELC courses is located here. Obtain permission to be less than full-time before you drop, withdraw from, or stop attending a class. If you do not believe you will be able to fulfill the full-time requirement for any reason, contact the ISSS before you withdraw from or stop attending class. There are a few limited exceptions to this requirement for which you might qualify if you obtain permission in advance. Please see our Reduced Course Load Request Form, and contact us for more information. Only work as authorized. Individuals with F-1 status may work on-campus up to 20 hours per week when school is in session and full-time during official school breaks. These 20 hours include the sum of all hours you work on campus, even the work you do for an assistantship, if you have one. In order to work in a paid or unpaid off-campus job, you must get permission from the ISSS and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Any remuneration (free room & board, etc.) you receive for work is considered payment. Never work without authorization. Make sure your program end date on your Form I-20 is accurate. Your program completion date on your I-20 must always reflect (to the best of your knowledge) the date you will finish your studies. If you do not think you will be able to complete your program by the completion date on your I-20, even if there is just a slight chance of this occurring, you must apply for a program extension and get an updated I-20; it is not possible to extend your F-1 program after your I-20 end date. If you expect to complete your program before the completion date expires earlier than the program completion date, you must get an updated I-20 . To apply for a program extension, you will need the before you complete your program Program Extension: Information and Checklist, Program Extension Request Form, I-20 Application Form, and if applicable, the Financial Information and Affidavit of Support. Obtain a SEVIS transfer to attend another U.S. school. If you plan to transfer to another U.S. school, college, or university (besides Stevens), you must notify the ISSS and be “transferred out” in SEVIS before your status ends. Please see the Transfer-Out Request, and contact ISSS for more information. Obtain a change of education level to begin a new program of study. If you have been admitted to a new program of study at Stevens (for instance, you are completing a master’s and beginning a Ph.D. or just starting a new program at the same level, like a second master’s), you must obtain a Form I-20 for your new program before you complete your current program of study. Please follow the directions on the Change of Level Information and Checklist, which will guide you to the other forms that you need, all of which are located under the Forms portion of this site. Depart the U.S. within 60 days of your program completion date or Optional Practical Training end date. If you have completed your program of study, you must depart the U.S. within 60 days if you are in F-1 status. Likewise, if you have completed your post-completion Optional Practical Training and have no further plans to study or change your immigration status, you must depart the U.S. within 60 days of your Employment Authorization Document’s (EAD’s) end date. If you are an F-1 student and plan to leave the U.S. early (before the program completion date on your I-20), you must apply for Authorized Early Withdrawal. An Authorized Early Withdrawal will result in a non-violation termination of your record, and you will have only 15 days to leave the United States. If you plan to take a leave of absence, ISSS will assist you in preparing the documents you’ll need to return to the U.S., which may include a new I-20 and visa, depending on how long you’ll be gone. Please see the Request to Depart the U.S. Early, and contact ISSS for more information. Keep your passport valid at all times. You must always have a valid passport. If your passport is going to expire, contact your country’s embassy or consulate in the United States to renew it. If you are leaving the U.S. and returning (for instance, during summer vacation), make sure your passport will be valid for at least six months into the future when you return. Report any address or name change to the ISSS within 10 days of making the change. If you change your name, you must first get your passport updated before ISSS can update your SEVIS record and I-20. Get an updated Form I-20 when any of its information changes. Notify ISSS if there are any changes in the information on your Form I-20, such as name, citizenship, degree level, major, or funding, and get an updated Form I-20. If you would like to have your dependent(s) (spouse or child) join you in the U.S., you will need to apply for an F-2 dependent I-20 so that your dependent(s) can apply for an F-2 visa. The F-2 visa and I-20 allow dependent(s) to travel to the U.S. and reside with an F-1 student while s/he is completing his or her studies, post-completion OPT, or OPT STEM extension. To apply for a dependent I-20, you will need the F-2 Dependent I-20 Application- Information and Checklist, I-20 Application Form, and if applicable, the Financial Information and Affidavit of Support If any of your immigration documents are lost or stolen, If you lose your I-20, you will need to complete the report this to the proper authorities, and contact ISSS for assistance. Document Replacement Request form and submit it to ISSS in order to receive a replacement. For F-1 student questions, please contact an ISSS staff member as follows: Elizabeth Gill, Associate Director, if you are/completed your program as: Caitlin Ross, Advisor, if you are/completed your program as: Important: To ensure your inquiries, requests, and applications (including CPT, OPT, program extensions, change of level, etc.) are handled efficiently, please contact the ISSS staff member responsible for your school, as outlined above. When contacting the ISSS for assistance, you will be asked for the name of your school at Stevens so that you may be directed to the right person. If you are a graduate student and not sure within which school your major falls, please check with either your academic advisor or department. Employment On-Campus Employment You may work up to twenty hours per week during “required terms” (at Stevens, fall and spring semesters). Full-time work during breaks included in the program (winter holiday, spring break, and summer break) is permissible. Employment with organizations that operate within the university, such as the cafeteria, are counted as “on-campus.” You may not engage in employment during the 60-day grace period. F-1 students can only work from their program start dates to their program end dates (not before and not after) On-campus job information is located here: /sit/student-employment. You may also contact the Student Employment Coordinator for more information about on-campus jobs and how to apply for them: Off-Campus Employment
F-1 students have several options for off-campus employment, all of which require authorization and a new I-20 from ISSS, and most of which also require approval and an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS. Except in rare circumstances, off-campus employment is not available until a student has completed one academic year (one fall and one spring semester) in full-time study in F-1 status within the U.S. The below information and videos provide more specific information in regard to each type of off-campus employment authorization.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
What is it? Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is off-campus employment authorization for employment a student is required to do to successfully complete a course. The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations defines Curricular Practical Training (CPT) as employment which is an integral part of an established curriculum, including: “alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school” [8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)]. CPT is available only prior to the completion of your degree program, and you must have a job offer at the time of application. There are two types of CPT:
Required for program: The degree program requires employment in the field of study to graduate.
Not required for program: The practical experience is directly related to your field of study and is required to complete the coursework for a class you are taking. How can you qualify for it? To apply, the regulations require that you: Have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for at least one academic year (one fall and one spring semester) Be in lawful F-1 status at the time of CPT application Have an employment offer letter Full-Time vs. Part-Time CPT Part-Time CPT: Employment for 20 hours or less per week is considered part-time CPT. Though there is no limit to the length of time you may participate in part-time CPT, you must be enrolled in a course requiring the CPT employment for every semester you participate. Full-Time CPT: Employment for more than 20 hours per week is considered full-time CPT. Please be aware that more than 364 days of full-time CPT will cancel your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT). All Co-op jobs are full-time CPT. CPT is intended for work connected to a course of study, which means the employment start and end dates will fall within the first and last day of class for a given semester. Aside from Co-op, CPT work between semesters will not be approved.
For more information and to apply, please see the
CPT Request Form and Frequently Asked Questions. Optional Practical Training (OPT)
What is it? Optional Practical Training (OPT) is off-campus employment authorization that allows F-1 students to gain work experience in their major field of study. The amount of work you are permitted is a maximum of 12 months of full-time employment for each higher educational level you pursue in the U.S. You can use it during (pre-completion) or after (post-completion) your studies, and you can work for any employer, anywhere in the U.S. If you work part-time, which is twenty hours or less per week and only permitted before graduation, it accrues at ½ rate (for instance, if you work part-time for six months, you’ve only used three months of your OPT). Certain majors in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields also qualify for a 17-month extension of OPT after completing their post-completion OPT. Please refer to the OPT Workshop PowerPoint presentation for more information. How can it be used? Summer vacation and semester break – either part-time or full-time employment While school is in session – part-time employment only After completion of all course requirements for a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree, excluding the thesis or equivalent – part-time or full-time employment After completion of ALL requirements for the course of study – full-time employment only How can you qualify for it? You must have been enrolled full-time for at least one academic year. You must be able to describe how the type of work you are seeking directly relates to your major. You do not have to have a job offer to apply for OPT, but if you are applying for pre-completion of studies OPT, it is wise that you be as sure as possible of a job so that you don’t waste any of your 12 months of OPT time. You may apply for Post-Completion of Studies OPT up to three months before completing your program of study, but not later than 60 days after. If you apply within the 60-day period after completion, you are likely not to receive your full 12 month OPT benefit due to USCIS processing times. If you have already used 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training, you are not eligible for any OPT. To qualify for the OPT STEM extension, you must currently be participating in post-completion OPT for a major or secondary major (not a minor) designated by the Department of Homeland Security to be eligible for the 17-month extension of Optional Practical Training for F-1 students; a complete list of Stevens' STEM-designated degree programs is located here. You must also have work (or a job offer) with a company using the government's E-Verify system. You can apply to USCIS for the STEM extension as early as 120 days before your post-completion OPT ends, but USCIS will not accept an application after the end date of your post-completion OPT. This information is explained in more detail in the latter portion of the OPT workshop video above. How do you apply? To apply for pre-completion or post-completion OPT, please follow the directions on the Application for Pre- and Post-Completion OPT- Information and Checklist. The checklist will guide you to the other forms that you need, all of which are located in the OPT section under the Forms portion of this site. If you are applying for post-completion OPT, Stevens will charge a fee to your account for the processing of your OPT application and the maintenance of your records for the two terms you are on OPT. This fee is non-refundable even if you later choose to cancel your OPT. To apply for the STEM extension, please follow the directions on the Application for OPT STEM Extension- Information and Checklist. The checklist will guide you to the other forms that you need, all of which are located in the OPT section under the Forms portion of this site. What are your reporting requirements on post-completion OPT/the STEM extension? Once you acquire employment, lose employment, or change employers, you are required to contact ISSS to report your employment information to us and receive an updated I-20. The OPT/STEM Extension Employment Update provides you with instructions on whom to contact and what to send. The OPT Acknowledgement of Responsibilities outlines all of your other reporting requirements on post-completion OPT and the STEM extension, including the mandatory reporting you must make to ISSS by e-mail every six months from the start of the STEM extension; if you do not do so, your F-1 status could be terminated in the SEVIS system. This is your sole responsibility, and you will not necessarily receive a reminder to report. Severe Economic Hardship Employment What is it? Severe Economic Hardship Employment is off-campus employment authorization for students who are experiencing serious financial difficulties caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond their control. It is available to a student for “severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond his or her control that arose after obtaining F-1 status.” How do you obtain it? Must be applied for and authorized by USCIS Must provide documentation of your former financial support and the “economic hardship” (records of before and after), proving to USCIS that employment is necessary If authorized, you may get any kind of job, anywhere, and work a maximum of 20 hours per week while school is in session and full-time during vacation periods. Please see Economic Hardship Employment Authorization under the Forms section of this website for application materials and more information. Employment with an International Organization What is it? This type of employment is for students who receive an internship with “a recognized international organization within the meaning of the International Organization Immunities Act” [8 CFR 214.2 (9) (iii)]. Contact ISSS for a complete list of international organizations. Work does not have to be related to your course of study and can be full-time or part-time. Work authorization must be granted by USCIS and is granted in increments of no more than one year. How can you qualify for it? There is no waiting period, so a student is eligible at the start of F-1 status, as long as the organization and position qualify. How do you obtain it? Must apply to USCIS with an I-765; USCIS's processing time is up to 90 days. Must have written offer of employment and certification from the organization “that the proposed employment is within the scope of the organization’s sponsorship." Please contact ISSS for forms and guidance if you would like to apply.