Updates and Changes

Annual Vacation



Annual Vacation

Annual Vacation Quarter Eligibility
F-1 regulations permit one vacation quarter each year. 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. An annual vacation may be requested for any quarter. During your vacation quarter, you may either enroll part-time or not at all.

For new transfer students, your "academic year," required for vacation quarter eligibility, may include time spent at your previous school. However, you must be full-time during your first quarter at SBU


Change of Address

Any change of address must be reported to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) within 10 days. You must complete the Change of Address form and submit it to the administration office. If you are on OPT, submit your address change using our Change of Contact Information Form.

Please note that your local US address must be your physical address, not a P. O. Box


Change of Funding

The information on your I-20 or DS-2019 should always be current. If there is a substantial change in your funding, such as a change of financial sponsor or major adjustment of amount provided by your current sponsor, your immigration document should be updated. This is especially important if you will apply for a new F-1 visa.

You must complete and submit a Change of Funding Request Form to an ISA together with supporting documentation.


Change Level of Study

You were admitted to the United States to complete a specific educational program as reflected on your I-20 or DS-2019. If your academic program will change, it is your responsibility to request an update to your SEVIS record and obtain a new, accurate I-20 or DS-2019.

If you are completing your current degree or finishing your authorized OPT and are admitted to a new, higher degree program at SBU, you must request a change of level update within your 60-day grace period. However, you are not eligible for change of level update if your new program will not begin within 5 months. Contact an ISA with questions about program timelines, document updates and travel issues.

    Procedure for Change of Level

    1. Complete and submit a Change of Level Request Form to an ISA with supporting documentation.
    2. Allow 3-4 days for processing
    3. You will receive an email from an ISA when your document is ready to pick up.


Change of Nonimmigrant Status

When you enter the United States in nonimmigrant status, you do so for a specific purpose, such as study, work, or travel. You may enter the U.S. with one purpose and later change your purpose. When this happens, you may need to obtain a new status.

There are two ways of gaining a new nonimmigrant status:

1: Travel and Reentry

Leave the U.S., apply for a new visa at a U.S. consulate, and reenter the U.S. with the new visa and other relevant documents. You will gain your new status when you are admitted into the U.S.

2: Change Status in the U.S.

Submit an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a change of status. This option allows you to change your nonimmigrant status while remaining in the U.S. With this option you may gain the new status but you will not receive a new visa; visas are only issued outside the U.S.

You may be able to change status if:

  • You are maintaining your current status.
  • You are eligible for the new status.
  • Your current status does not prohibit change of status in the U.S. See below for restrictions.

You generally cannot change status if:

  • Your period of authorized stay has already expired.
  • You have otherwise violated the conditions of your current status.
  • Persons are admitted under the Visa Waiver Program (marked "W/T" or "W/B" on the I-94)
  • Persons hold C, D, or K status.

A vocational student in M status cannot change to F status.


Dropping Course, Withdrawal, Leave of Absence

In general, international students must be registered full-time. This is defined as 12 or more credits each quarter for a master’s degree students and 8 or more credits each quarter for doctoral degree students. Only one online class, if any, may count towards the minimum credit amount.

The University's annual vacation, withdrawal, hardship withdrawal, and leave of absence policies sometimes conflict with the F-1 full-time registration requirement. Even though the SBU registration policies might allow you to drop a class, or an academic adviser or instructor might recommend you drop a class, you must also consider the F-1 rules, which are separate. Such a drop might be a violation of your F-1 status.


Procedure for dropping course, withdrawal, leave of absence

    1. You must meet with an ISA for permission to drop a class after the seventh calendar day of the quarter, to withdraw from the quarter, or to apply for a hardship withdrawal.
    2. You must complete and submit


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.)


Extending  I-20


The completion date on your I-20 is an estimate. If you will not complete your program by that date, you must request an extension. The U.S. Immigration regulations require that I-20s remain valid during the course of study.

You must contact International Student Advisor (ISA) before your I-20 expires by requesting a program extension if you will not finish your program by that date.

You are eligible for a program extension if:

  • Your I-20 has not yet expired.
  • You have been continually maintaining lawful F-1 status.
  • The delay in completion of your program of study was caused by compelling academic or medical reasons.

Students in F-1 status are required by law to comply with the regulations pertaining to their immigration status, including the program extension requirements. Failure to apply in a timely manner for a program extension is considered a violation of status.

To extend your I-20 you must complete and submit a Program Extension Request Form to an ISA.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • When should I apply for a program extension?
  • We recommend that you apply to extend your I-20 up to three months before it expires.
  • Will I need a program extension if I change from a Master’s to a Doctoral program?
  • We must issue a new I-20 and notify Immigration if you change your level of study, change your major field of study, or if there is a change in the source of your financial support. These are separate procedures; you need to request a new I-20 based on these changes.
  • What happens if I do not request the program extension before my current I-20 expires?
  • Immigration regulations require you to process the program extension prior to the program end date noted on your current I-20. If you fail to do so, you will be out of status.
  • I am in F-1 visa status. I finished my degree and was authorized for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Do I still need to maintain a valid I-20?
  • Your I-20 remains valid even after your program completion if you have submitted your OPT application to USCIS. Your SEVIS record remains active and you do not need to extend your I-20 to match the end date on your EAD card.  You will still need a travel signature every six months if you plan to travel outside of the U.S. and will return to resume employment. A letter of employment is needed when you travel.
  • Is there a limit to how many program extensions I can request?
  • You may request multiple program extensions as long as they are for compelling academic or medical reasons and recommended by your academic adviser.