Maintaining F-1 Status

This document is very important for F-1 international students to read and understand. Students should read it thoroughly. It is each student’s responsibility to know and adhere to all F‐1 regulations. The regulations are divided into 5 categories, each represented by the acronym F‐A‐C‐T‐S.

Maintaining F-1 Agreement Form

F = Full-time Students

  • Students must maintain full-time status during each fall and spring semester. To maintain full-time status, undergraduate and post‐baccalaureate students must complete 12 hours, and graduate students must complete 9 hours.
  • Students are not required by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enroll in classes during the summer session, unless the summer semester is their first in the program. If student's first semester is summer, then he/she is required to enroll in 5 credits (graduate) and 6 credits (undergraduate).
  • Concurrent enrollment credit can count toward full-time enrollment. All concurrent enrollments must be documented.
  • If students need to drop below full-time credit, they need authorization to drop below full time (even if failing a class).
  • A grade of “W” does not count toward the full‐time requirement. 
  • For immigration purposes, UHCL defines an online course as any course with an instructional mode:
    • 100% online 
    • 100% online with face to face supplement
    • Greater than 50% online (> 50%)
    • Equal to 50% online
  • Students in their last semester must enroll in at least one face-to-face course (even in the summer term).
  • Under certain circumstances, reduced course loads may be authorized. This is done on a case-by-case basis, and usually is due to the following: documented medical illnesses, incorrect course placement, difficulty reading or writing in English, unfamiliarity with American teaching methods, or confirmation that the student does not require a full course load to graduate at the end of the current semester. Students must submit their request through ISD portal and receive authorization from an International Student Advisor before under enrolling.

A = Authorization for Employment and Training

  • To work off-campus, international students must receive authorization before their first day of employment. Authorization is date-specific; the start and end dates of employment will be noted on the second page of students’ I-20. If students are interested in continuing their off-campus employment, they must receive renewed permission before resuming work. 
  • Even one day of unauthorized work is a serious violation of F-1 status. 
  • Students who are in status do not need permission to work on campus. Out-of-status students cannot work.
  • On-campus student workers are limited to 20 hours per week, except during school breaks when they may work over 20 hours. 
  • Working without payment is not the same as volunteering. OIAP recommends that you discuss the details of any volunteer opportunities with an International Student Advisor before participating.

C = Carry Current Documents

  • Keep a valid passport. At a minimum, it should be valid for up to 6 months into the future. 
  • While in the U.S., international students are required to maintain their visa status. The visa sticker, located inside the student’s passport, is not a priority. Its ONLY function is to serve as a “key” when entering or re-entering the U.S. F-1 students should understand the following:
    • Visa status is documented by immigration officials on I-94 record. The immigration official will denote F-1 and D/S (Duration of Status) on the student's record.
    • Students must maintain their status (not the sticker) in order to remain in the U.S. This can be accomplished by obeying all U.S. regulations. 
    • Expired visa stickers must be renewed before students can re-enter the U.S. Different types of visa stickers are specific to status, so students seeking F-1 status upon re-entry should arrive with an F-1 visa. Students who enter the country with a specific departure date on their I‐94 record (there is no D/S) should immediately make an appointment to see an advisor in the OIAP.
  • Students must apply for an extension of their I-20 before the expiration date. The OIAP can only grant extensions before the expiration listed on the I-20. Common valid reasons for extensions include: changes in major, research difficulties, or additional time required to complete the academic program.

T = Transitions

  • Report any change of address to the OIAP within 10 days through the ISD portal. An International Student Advisor will update immigration on students’ changes of address. The university should also be notified of changes of address; students are responsible for updating this information in E-services. 
  • When changing degree levels or academic programs, students must obtain a new I-20.
  • Students who plan to re-enter the U.S. with F-1 status, must obtain a recent travel endorsement on their I-20 before their departure. 
  • After completing their programs of study, students have up to 60 days to apply for Optional Practical Training, to begin a new degree program and receive the corresponding I-20, to change their immigration status, or to depart from the U.S. NOTE: students who have finished their Post-Completion or OPT STEM Extension also receive a 60 day grace period and are subject to the same requirements as listed above.

S = Stay in Touch

  • The Student & Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) requires the OIAP to regularly report all events in the life of a student. Therefore, it is vital that students stay in contact with the OIAP and uphold all of the requirements listed here, in order to maintain their status and avoid unintentional violations. The government may change F-1 regulations at any time. It is students’ responsibility to remain informed. OIAP workshops, International Student Advisors, and university emails are all convenient and valuable sources of information.


  • International Student Services

    Phone: 281-283-2740
    Fax: 281-226-7038

    Bayou Building B2123
    2700 Bay Area Blvd, Box 225
    Houston, TX 77058-1002