FAQ

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F-1 Visa Holders

Important Information for F-1 Visa Holders

It is your responsibility to understand and comply with the terms of your immigration status during your stay in the United States. If you comply with all of the F-1 regulations you will be considered "in status" and will be eligible for all benefits of the F-1 visa. If you violate the rules, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may consider you "out of status."

For assistance or clarification of any of this information contact Seattle University's International Student Center (ISC) at 206-296-6260.

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Can I work in the United States with my F-1 visa?

For more information click on the Employment section.
 

How long can I stay in the United States?

F-1 visa students are generally admitted for the "duration of status," (marked as D/S on your I-20 and I-94 card). The duration of status is the time during which you are pursuing a full course of study or engaging in practical training. Following completion of studies, you are allowed a 60-day grace period to pack and depart the country or change to another visa status. This grace period is only valid if you are in status as an F-1 visa holder.

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The F-1 visa in my passport has expired. Am I still in status? What do I do?

The dates on your F-1 visa are only important when you are crossing international borders and entering the United States. As long as you are attending classes as a full-time student, and you have a valid passport and I-20, you are in status, even if your F-1 visa has expired. However, if you wish to travel outside of the United States and your F-1 visa has expired, you will need to go to the American embassy/consulate in the country you are visiting to have the visa renewed before you return. Generally speaking, this means returning to your home country to renew your visa.

The exception to this rule includes travel to Canada, Mexico, and several adjacent islands to the United States. If you are going to travel to these countries, and will be staying less that 30 days, you can return on an expired F-1 visa, as long as you have a valid passport and a valid I-20, with an advisor's signature on page 2 of the I-20.

You cannot renew a visa within the United States.

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My passport will be expiring this year. What should I do?

You must have a valid passport at all times while in the United States. If your passport will be expiring this year, contact your country's embassy/consulate in the United States well ahead of the expiration date for information abut how early you will need to start the renewal process, and what documents you will need. The ISC can assist you to locate the nearest embassy or consulate.

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What happens if I fall out of status?

If you intentionally or inadvertently violate the immigration regulations discussed above, you may lose your F-1 visa status (become "out of status") and all of the benefits that go along with it, including receiving practical training, travel authorization, employment, school transfer, and an extension of your I-20.

If you think you may be out of status, it is best to bring your situation to the attention of the International Student Center as soon as possible. The ISC can help you to request a reinstatement to an F-1 status with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The reinstatement process requires that you write a letter describing why you violated the F-1 rules, and provide proof that you are now pursuing full-time study, along with various other documentations. Application for reinstatement must include a $290 fee. Reinstatement is not guaranteed, buy can be granted at the discretion of the immigration official who handles your case.

It is much easier to stay in status than to go through reinstatement!

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What is the process to changing my status to F-1 visa? 

For more information click on the Visa types and Government Regulations: Visa Types and Government Regulations Changing Visa Status section.

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Form I-20

How do I get my I-20 signed on the back and how long does it take?

You do not need to have your I-20 signed every time you leave the country. You should come in to have it signed every 6 months.

When you want to have it signed, you can drop it off at the front desk at the ISC. Please remember it is not just a signature as ISC staff must verify your information before we apply the signature. Because of that, we ask students to bring in their I-20s "1-2 weeks" before they travel.

If you have a new visa or I-94 card and admission number since the last time you had it signed, you will need to bring your passport so that the ISC can make a copy.

You will be able to pick up your I-20 at the front desk "3-5 business days" after you drop it off. By signing off on the I-20 we are verifying to immigration that you are in status and currently enrolled as a full-time student at Seattle University. This requires carefully checking your records, and can take up to 5 days.

The advisors will only sign I-20s for students who are in status. If you are out of status, for such reasons as attending less that full-time, you are not eligible to receive the benefit of having your I-20 signed.

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Does my I-20 have an expiration date?

Yes, and please be aware of when it expires. You can find the expiration date under Program End Date under Program of Study of your I-20. If you will not be completing your studies by that date, you will need to come in to the International Student Center before it expires to discuss how you might have an extension of time to complete your degree. You will be out of status if you stay in the United States beyond the expiration date. No exceptions!

*Please note that as of July 2015, there is a new version of the Form I-20. You will need to have a new one by July 2016*

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I have changed my major. Do I need to change that information on my I-20?

Yes, as soon as you change your major you need to inform the International Student Center so that it can be changed on your I-20. You will have to make sure you have changed your major with your academic advisor and it is reflected in the University system. You can check through SUonline. The new Form I-20 allows up to 2 majors and 1 minor.

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This is my last quarter and I'm below full-time, what should I do?

If it's your last quarter and you are below full-time, you will need to submit a last quarter statement.
This must be in a business letter format including the following information:

  • The date the request is written
  • Your full legal name and SU ID#
  • The degree you are completing, completion date/quarter/semester
  • Course names(s) and number of credits each in your last quarter
  • Your plans for after you complete your degree
  • Your original signature

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I have completed all the classes required for my degree, but my I-20 will not expire until later. Can I remain in the United Sates until my I-20 expires?

No. You are required at the beginning of your last quarter to submit a last quarter statement to the ISC. This must be in a business letter format including the following information:

  • The date the request is written
  • Your full legal name and SU ID#
  • The degree you are completing, completion date/quarter/semester
  • Course names(s) and number of credits each in your last quarter
  • Your plans for after you complete your degree
  • Your original signature

The ISC will shorten to your I-20 to reflect the date you complete your degree.

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Can I travel and re-enter the USA with the I-20 when I've already graduated?

 No. After completing your last required class, you cannot use your I-20 to travel and reenter the United States. You have three options to stay in the US after you complete your degree.

1) Return to your home country. You have sixty days to depart after your last class ends to leave the country.

2) Apply for Optional Practical Training. We recommend you apply during your last quarter since it can take 60-90 days to get approved. For more information, please look at our OPT section and attend our monthly OPT workshops.

3) Start a new degree.  You must do it within the sixty days. Your SEVIS record at SU will be completed after 60 days. Please let us know if you want to transfer out of SU or continue studying at SU, so that we know what to do with your record.

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Class & Credits

How many credits must I register for/complete each quarter?

If you are in the United States on a F-1 visa, you must be a full -time student. "Full-time" is defined as follows:

  • Undergraduate students: completing at least 12 credits each quarter
  • Graduate students: completing at least 9 credits each quarter

Please note that registering for the required number of credits is not the same as completing the required number of credits. If you register for the minimum number of classes, then subsequently drop, withdraw, or fail a class, you will not be completing the required number of credits. Choose your classes carefully!

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When can I register for less than a full time course load?

Circumstances allowing less than a full time course load:

  • You are in the final quarter of your degree program
  • If you have illness or other medical conditions with documentation from a medical doctor and approval by the International Student Advisor
  • If you are having academic difficulties, you may be able to get approval to drop withdraw from a class, with authorization from the ISC

Do not take less than the required course load for any reason without first consulting the ISC. Even if your departmental advisor recommends you take less than full time, you will also need to get approval from the ISC. Many advisors on campus are not aware of your F-1 visa requirement to take a full course load.

Studying less than full-time jeopardizes your stay in the United States and may disqualify you from receiving practical training, travel authorization, employment, school transfer, and an extension of your I-20.

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Traveling

When can I take a vacation?

Summer is your automatic vacation quarter. You can remain in the United States, or travel back to your home country.

  • Full-time study in summer or Changing vacation quarter: If you wish to attend the summer full-time, and take another quarter as your annual vacation quarter, you will need to get approval from the international student advisor first. Report your intent to change your vacation quarter at the end of your spring quarter by emailing your ISC advisor. Once you change your vacation quarter, it will be permanently changed.

Students who transfer to Seattle University during the winter, spring, or summer quarters from another school in the United States will need to discuss their options for taking an annual vacation quarter with the international student advisor.

Students who are not transferring from another institution in the United States and are starting their studies at Seattle University during the winter or spring quarters are eligible to take the summer as their vacation quarter.

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I want to travel outside of the United States. What documents do I need to have?

Depending on your nationality, you may need to have a visa to enter the country that you will be visiting. You need to check with the embassy/consulate of that country. The ISC can assist you to locate the telephone number of the appropriate embassy.

To be able to return to the United States after a trip abroad, you will need the following things:

  • Valid passport
  • Valid visa
  • An I-20 that has been signed on page 2 within the 6-8 months.
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I am just making a short trip to Canada or Mexico. Are the requirements the same?

Less than 30 days

If you are going to Canada or Mexico for less than 30 days, you should keep a copy of your I-94 with your passport. You can find it here: I-94 Admission Number Retrieval website

More than 30 days

To enter the United States from Canada or Mexico, you will still need a valid passport and a valid travel signature on page 2 of your I-20. However, if you are staying less than 30 days, you can come back to the United States on an expired F-1 passport visa.

Students from certain countries are required to obtain a visa to visit Canada. The ISC has a list of countries that have visa agreements with Canada. You can call the Canadian consulate in Seattle at (206) 443-1372.

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Transfer Out

I am transferring OUT from Seattle University to another school in the United States. What do I need to do?

During a quarter:

You will have 10 days after withdrawing from all classes to transfer out of Seattle University. You might need to fill out a Withdraw Form: Registration, Absence, & Withdrawal Procedures - Registration, Absence, & Withdrawal Procedures - Registrar and Operations

At the end of a quarter:

You will have 60 days after completing a quarter to transfer out of Seattle University.

Transfer Out documentation:

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Other

I just changed my home address/phone number. Am I required to inform anyone?

Yes! It is a legal requirement that the university have your current address and phone number at all times. Every time you move, or change your phone number, you must report your address change to SUOnline and to the ISC for update in the SEVIS database.

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