General Information


It is your responsibility to understand and comply with the terms of your immigration status during your stay in the United States. A violation of the immigration regulations (for example, failure to maintain a full-time credit load or unauthorized employment) could jeopardize your F-1 status and legal stay in the U.S. Review this information carefully and contact International Student Advisor if you have questions.


What is F-1 "Status"?

“Status” is your nonresident category officially granted by an immigration official. To be in F-1 “status” means that you are legally in the U.S. and have benefits and restrictions specified in the immigration regulations for the F-1 visa category. You gain status either by entering the U.S. with F-1 documents or by applying to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for a change of status for people already in the U.S. in a different status.

Your admission to the U.S. is for "duration of status," that is, for the length of your F-1 status. F-1 status covers the period when you are a full-time registered student making normal progress toward your degree, plus an optional period of practical training following completion of studies, plus a 60-days "grace period" to prepare to depart the U.S. or change to another status. Your length of authorized stay is not related to your F-1 visa expiration date. The F-1 visa is specifically for entry into the U.S. The F-1 visa might expire before your status expires, and your status might end before your visa expires.


Documents that You Need to Carry

Federal law requires you to carry "registration" documents at all times, including your I-20 and passport with I-94 card attached or F-1 admission stamp (depending on what you received upon your last entry to the U.S.). We suggest that these documents be kept in a secure location such as a bank safe deposit box, and you should carry photocopies. However, if you are traveling outside the Southern California area, you should carry the original documents with you. If you are traveling by air, train, bus or ship, you may be required to produce these documents before boarding. Keep photocopies of all your documents in a separate location in the event your documents are lost or stolen. Below is an overview of the documents related to your F-1 status.

    Your passport must be valid at all times. Keep your passport and other important documents in a safe place, such as a bank safe-deposit box. Report a lost or stolen passport to the police because your government may require a police report before issuing a new passport. To renew or replace your passport, contact your country's consulate in the U.S.

    The visa is the stamp that the U.S. consular officer placed on a page in your passport. The visa permitted you to apply for admission into the U.S. as an F-1 student, and need not remain valid while you are in the U.S. (Canadian citizens are not required to have a visa.) If your visa expires while you are in the U.S., the next time you travel abroad you must obtain a new F-1 visa before returning to the U.S. Exceptions to this rule exist for short trips to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands. Visas can only be obtained outside of the U.S. at a U.S. consulate.

    I-20 Certificate of Eligibility
    Issued by SBU, this document allows you to apply for an F-1 visa if you are outside the U.S, apply for F-1 status within the U.S., enter and reenter the U.S. in F-1 status, and prove your eligibility for various F-1 benefits. The I-20 indicates the institution in which you are permitted to study, your program of study, and the dates of eligibility. The I-20 must remain valid at all times. Request an I-20 extension prior to its expiration date. Allowing the I-20 to expire before you complete your academic program is a violation of F-1 status.

    The I-20 is a printout from your SEVIS (Student Exchange Visitor Information System) record. Each student has a unique SEVIS ID number, which is printed on your I-20 in the top right corner.

    I-94 Arrival & Departure Record
    When you enter the U.S. you are issued either an admission stamp in your passport or Form I-94, a small white card usually stapled to the passport opposite the visa stamp. In summer of 2013, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) transitioned to electronic arrival/departure records for air and sea ports of entry. For most travelers arriving by air or sea, a paper I-94 card will not be issued. Instead, the CBP official will issue an admission stamp in the passport. Travelers at land borders will continue to receive paper I-94 cards.
    You might receive either a paper I-94 card or an F-1 admission stamp in your passport (no card), depending on where you arrive. The admission stamp or I-94 card records the date and place you entered the U.S., your immigration status (for example, F-1 or F-2), and authorized period of stay (indicated by "D/S", meaning "duration of status"). Be sure to check the stamp to make sure it is correct. If you receive a paper I-94 card, keep it stapled in your passport.

    You might need a printout of your electronic I-94 information to apply for various benefits such as a Social Security Number. You can obtain a printout of your I-94 record at


Events That Require You to Update Your I-20

Many kinds of updates must be reported to the Department of Homeland Security through SEVIS and must be changed on your I-20. Notify ISA of the following changes and request an updated I-20. Keep every I-20 for your permanent record, even after you graduate. Do not discard the old ones, even from previous schools. ISA files are archived and destroyed after several years, so it is your responsibility to keep your I-20s in case you need them to apply for future immigration benefits.

    Program Extension
    If you are unable to complete your course of study before the completion date noted in item 5 on your I-20, you must request an extended I-20 before your current I-20 expires. you must complete and submit a Program Extension Request Form explaining the reason for extension to an ISA.

    For more information and instructions, see an International Student Advisor.

    Changing Schools
    You must register full-time at the SBU, since the SBU issued your I-20 and oversees your SEVIS record. If you decide to transfer to another school, contact ISA prior to completing your final quarter at SBU. For information about transferring your SEVIS record to the new school, see an International Student Advisor.

    Change of Level
    If you will complete your current program of study and plan to continue at the SBU in another program (for example, change from a Master’s degree program to a Doctoral program), your I-20 must be updated. For more information, see an International Student Advisor.

    Change of Major
    If you are accepted into a major or if you change your major (for example, History to Biology at the same level), you must request a new I-20. For more information, see an International Student Advisor.

    Change of Funding
    If there is a substantial change in the source or amount of your funding, report this change to ISA and a new I-20 will be issued to you. For example, if you receive a Research or Teaching Assistantship through your department, but your I-20 indicates that you use personal funds to pay for expenses, you should request a new I-20.  For more information, see an International Student Advisor.

    Name Change
    The name on your I-20 should match the name on your passport. If you change any part of your legal name—first/given name, middle name, or last/family name—on your passport, this change should be reflected on your I-20. Conversely, if you want a different name on your I-20, ISA will wait for you to change your passport first, before updating the I-20. Note that SEVIS is a separate database from the SBU database. For instructions on changing your name in the SBU database, see an International Student Advisor or Registrar.


Full-time Registration Requirements and Exceptions

In general, F-1 students must be registered full-time. This is defined as at least:

  • 12 credits each quarter for undergraduate/graduate students at SBU
  • 8 credits each quarter for doctoral students at SBU

Do not register for fewer than the required number of credits or withdraw from a course without first receiving permission from ISA. Part-time studies could jeopardize your stay in the U.S. and make you ineligible for F-1 benefits.

Exceptions to the Full-Time Requirement

    Reduced Course Load (RCL) for Specific Academic Reasons
    You must complete and submit the Request for Less Than Full-Time Enrollment Form explaining that one of the following reasons apply to you. Note that the first three reasons are primarily for new students beginning their studies, since the exception reasons refer to “initial” difficulty.

    Your ISA will review the Form, evaluate whether or not a drop will be allowed, and if approved, will print a new I-20 for you with the RCL authorization dates. An academic RCL is only allowed one quarter per degree level. You must request the RCL and receive approval from the ISA before the end of the quarter in which you need the approved RCL.

    • Initial difficulty with the English language
    • Initial difficulty with reading requirements
    • Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
    • Improper course level placement

    Reduced Course Load (RCL) for a Documented Medical Condition
    You must submit a recommendation letter to ISA from a "licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist." A reduced course load due to a medical reason may be authorized multiple times so long as the aggregate period does not exceed 12 months. Regardless of the date during the quarter you request the RCL, it will cover the entire quarter and will subtract three months from your 12-month allowance. You must request the RCL and receive approval from the ISA before the end of the quarter in which you need the approved RCL. We will issue a new I-20 for you authorizing the RCL.

    Annual Vacation Quarter
    An annual vacation quarter is a quarter spent in the United States while not registered for full-time credits. You are eligible for vacation if you have completed one full-time academic year (3 consecutive quarters) prior to the vacation and intend to register for the following term. During your vacation quarter, you may either enroll part-time or not at all.

    Final Quarter
    You may take as few credits as required to complete your degree as long as you register for at least one credit at SBU. Before changing your credit load, notify ISA using the Less Than Full-Time Academic Load.

    Concurrent Enrollment at SBU and Another College
    You can "concurrently enroll," which means you take classes at SBU and another school in the same quarter, and ISA combines the credits to count as full-time. To concurrently enroll, you must take at least 12-credit minimum for a master’s degree at SBU, or at least 8-credit minimum for a doctoral degree at SBU. You must take courses at the appropriate educational level; the credits should count towards your SBU degree. Consult your ISA about your plans in advance to be sure your concurrent enrollment request will be approved by ISA and your academic advisor.

    Submit a copy of your registration/class schedule from the other school to ISA at the beginning of the quarter, and email your primary ISA to confirm your concurrent enrollment. After you complete the quarter, submit an unofficial transcript of your completed courses from the other school to ISA. (This step is for F-1 purposes only. To officially transfer the credit, contact the Academic Adviser.)



"Employment" is any work performed or services provided (including self-employment) in exchange for money or other benefit or compensation (for example, free room and board in exchange for babysitting). Unauthorized employment is taken very seriously by U.S. immigration officials; familiarize yourself with your F-1 employment eligibility options and always contact ISA before accepting any work that you are not sure is authorized. See an International Student Advisor.


Travel: Returning to the U.S. After a Temporary Absence

At the port-of-entry you must present:

  • An unexpired I-20 endorsed for travel within the last year by an ISA. The travel signature is located on page 3 of the form.
  •  Valid F-1 visa.
  • Passport.
  • Evidence of finances.
  • Copy of your transcript and current course schedule.
  • If returning from Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands (except Cuba) after a visit of less than 30 days solely in those countries, your visa need not be valid; however, you will be required to show your previously issued I-94 in addition to the other documents listed above.
  • Students outside the U.S. for more than one quarter and those on Optional Practical Training may have additional requirements.
  • Go to Travel & Visas for more information.


Dependents (Spouse and Children)

Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 may be eligible for F-2 dependent status. Contact ISA for procedures to invite a dependent to join you in the U.S. Immigration regulations do not permit F-2 dependents to be employed in the U.S. F-2 dependents can study part-time in vocational curriculum at an SEVP-certified school. F-2 dependents can also study in avocational or recreational programs--hobbies. F-2 dependents may enroll full-time in kindergarten through 12th grade.

An F-2 dependent who wants to pursue full-time study must obtain F-1 status to begin the full-time program.


Loss of F-1 Status

If you violate the immigration regulations you may be able to regain valid F-1 status either through a reinstatement application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or through travel and reentry with a new I-20/new SEVIS record.  The appropriate option will depend on your individual circumstances; review the reinstatement and reentry procedures and consult your ISA for more information.


Graduation or Completion of Your Program

The end of your academic program affects your F-1 status. After you graduate or complete your program, you have a 60-day grace period.

If you do not complete your educational objective (for example, if you withdraw from your program), you are not eligible for the 60-day grace period. Contact your ISA in this situation.


International Student Advisor



The International Student Advisor is located at the Anaheim campus.

Office Hours: Monday to Friday 9:00 am - 6:00 pm

International Student Advisor

Ms. Seon Kim

1126 North Brookhurst Street,  Anaheim, CA 92801     (714) 533-1495 ext. 230