F-1 Student Visa Information

Maintaining student status

Always consult with a Western Michigan University immigration advisor regarding immigration regulations. Carefully read all correspondences received from Immigration Compliance.

An international student must be aware of, comply with, and maintain all of the information listed on the Maintaining International Student Status/Enrollment form that is accessible on the Forms page.

Change of address requirement

All F visa holders must be aware of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's regulations on address change notification.

All non-U.S. citizens are required to notify the Department of Homeland Security of any changes of address within 10 days of moving. F visa holders should comply with this requirement by submitting the change of address form to Immigration Compliance within 10 days of the change. WMU will update SEVIS accordingly.

The change of address will not be communicated to Department of Homeland Security service centers or district offices. If applying for an immigration benefit, written notice of the address change must be sent to the relevant Department of Homeland Security office processing the request. Please see an immigration advisor for assistance in this matter.

Failure to comply with the address change notification requirements may affect the ability to remain in the U.S. and the ability to re-enter the U.S. after travel abroad. Failure to give notice may be criminally punishable as a misdemeanor with a fine up to $200, imprisonment of up to 30 days, or both.

The Change of Address Notification form is accessible on the Forms page.

Obtaining a Social Security number

Social Security cards will be issued only to those students in lawful status who have been offered jobs on campus, or who are authorized for certain off-campus employment, as permitted under Department of Homeland Security regulations

Learn more in the Obtaining a Social Security Number document accessible on the Forms page.

For more information about student employee payroll and tax information, download the Student Employee Information document from the WMU payroll website.

Reduced course load request

International students in F-1 status are required to maintain full-time enrollment during the academic year; federal immigration regulations limit a student's ability to enroll less than full time, but it may be allowed in some circumstances. According to immigration regulations governing international students, the Designated School Official (not academic advisors) may allow an F-1 Student to engage in less than a full course of study (Source: 8CFR 214.2(f)(6)(iii)). A student who wishes to drop below full-time enrollment must obtain the approval from a Designated School Official in advance, regardless of the reason. Note: Lack of financial support does not constitute a valid reason to reduce the student's course load. Immigration Compliance is federally mandated to report to SEVIS any international student who falls below full-time enrollment requirement without authorization and the student will violate their F-1 status.

Definition of full time

  • According to immigration regulations, undergraduate students must register for and complete at least 12 credit hours per semester; graduate students must register for and complete at least six credit hours per semester.
  • Courses taken for audit do not count toward the full-time enrollment requirement.
  • Federal regulations limit the number of online courses that may be counted toward the full-time enrollment requirement to a single three-credit online course per semester.

Reasons for reduced course load

  • Academic difficulties
  • Master's and Ph.D. students on thesis or dissertation track
  • Medical conditions
  • Completion of course of study

Reduced Course Load Request forms must be submitted no later than the second week of each semester the student expects to be underenrolled.

The Reduced Course Load Request form is accessible on the Forms page.

Economic hardship

The F-1 Student Economic Hardship—Off-Campus Employment form is accessible on the Forms page.

Dependent request

The Dependent Request form is accessible on the Forms page.

I-20 extension request

When a student is unable to complete their degree program within the allotted time frame stated on their I-20 they may request an extension of their I-20 by completing an I-20/DS-2019 Extension Request form with their academic advisor.

The I-20/DS-2019 Extension Request form is accessible on the Forms page.

Curricular Practical Training

Curricular Practical Training is defined as "employment which is an integral or important part of a student's 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." It is intended to provide work experience in situations where the work serves as an integral part of a student's academic program, prior to completion of that program.

Types of Curricular Practical Training

  • Required by the degree program: Training that is required of everyone in the program as part of that program's core requirements always meets the requirements for Curricular Practical Training.
  • Not required by the degree program: Training that is not required by the degree program, but meets the requirements for Curricular Practical Training if the work is an integral part of the program of studies and the student received academic credits for the employment experience. Students can either sign up for an internship class or connect Curricular Practical Training to a relevant class taken during that semester.

Eligibility and requirements

  • Students who have been lawfully enrolled full time for one academic year, which is defined as two full semesters (e.g., spring and summer I and II, or fall and spring) may apply to participate in this type of training; however, graduate students in programs that include immediate, mandatory training are not bound by the one-academic-year-in-full-time-status requirement as long as such employment is required of everyone in the program as part of the degree requirements.
  • To be eligible for Curricular Practical Training, the student must have a job offer, as the Curricular Practical Training employment authorization will be position and employer specific. If there are any changes in the terms and conditions of the Curricular Practical Training, please contact Immigration Compliance immediately as a new Curricular Practical Training authorization might be necessary.
  • During the mandatory semesters of fall and spring, F-1 Students must be enrolled full time but may be authorized for full- or part-time Curricular Practical Training. Students may also participate in full- or part-time Curricular Practical Training during the annual summer vacation semester but are still required to register for at least one class that is directly related to Curricular Practical Training. Students may not take a reduced course load and then apply for Curricular Practical Training, except: 1) when a master's or Ph.D. student has completed all coursework excluding theses; or 2) when a student is in the last semester before graduation and is getting the balance of credits for the degree program.
  • Student who are finished with the program requirements and are merely delaying graduation to make use of Curricular Practical Training will not be granted CPT.

Additional information

  • Although authorized part-time (20 hours or less per week, not average 20 hours per week) Curricular Practical Training employment is permitted with no penalties until completion of a degree, students who have received one year or more of full-time (21 hours or more per week) CPT are ineligible for Optional Practical Training, which is typically used immediately after graduation.
  • Curricular Practical Training is authorized on a semester basis. Should a student require additional time past the current CPT end date, the student will need to reapply with all new required documentation and receive approval from Immigration Compliance.
  • If Curricular Practical Training is for the last semester, the student must have at least one other remaining degree-required course to register, in addition to the CPT course.
  • Curricular Practical Training is authorized for specific dates of employment listed on the I-20. The student may not begin before the start date or continue working after the end date. If working outside of the approved dates, the student would be working illegally, which could cause loss in future immigration benefits.

Application procedure

  1. Contact International Admissions and Services to sign up for a Curricular Practical Training workshop.
  2. Fill out the Curricular Practical Training Request form, have it completed by an academic advisor, and submit all other required documents listed on the form.
  3. Make an appointment with an F-1 immigration advisor to submit all materials.

Upon reviewing and approval of the items above, an F-1 immigration advisor will prepare a new I-20 with the CPT endorsement on Page 3. This endorsement serves as authorization to work for a pre-determined amount of time. The student may participate in Curricular Practical Training upon receipt of the endorsed I-20.

The Curricular Practical Training Request form is accessible on the Forms page.

Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training is a benefit that allows an F-1 Student to work in the U.S. for up to 12 months in a supervised professional position related to their field of study. Some F-1 Students will qualify for an additional 17-month extension for science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors. Optional Practical Training is available once for each degree level (i.e. bachelor's, master's, doctoral).

Eligibility and requirements

  • Maintain lawful F-1 status.
  • Enroll full time in a degree program for at least nine months (an academic year).
  • Meet eligibility requirements for post-completion Optional Practical Training.
  • For more information, see policy guidance from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Steps to apply for Optional Practical Training

  1. Contact International Admissions and Services to sign up for an Optional Practical Training workshop.
  2. Complete the Post-Completion Optional Practical Training Application Request form, have it signed by an academic advisor, and submit all other required documents listed on the form.
  3. Submit all materials to International Admissions and Services.
  4. Once the application is reviewed by immigration staff, the student will receive an email to come into the office for review of the packet.
  5. The student will then mail the packet, as instructed in the workshop, to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The Post-Completion Optional Practical Training Application Request form is accessible on the Forms page.

Receiving the Optional Practical Training card

As soon as the student receives the Optional Practical Training card (also known as an Employment Authorization Document), the student must submit a copy of the card immediately to International Admissions and Services. We can accept a faxed or scanned copy of the card.

Reporting duties

To maintain status, students on Optional Practical Training must report to Immigration Compliance within 10 days of any change of name, address or employment by completing the Data Validation Report form. The Data Validation Report form is accessible on the Forms page.

In addition, students on the STEM extension must submit the Data Validation Report form to Immigration Services every six months starting from the date the extension begins. Failure to file for the extension in a timely manner may result in violation of status.

Unemployment

Optional Practical Training students may not accrue a total of more than 90 days of unemployment during the 12-month period of OPT to maintain lawful status.

STEM students who have received the 24-month extension may not accrue a total of more than 120 days of unemployment during the total 29-month Optional Practical Training period.

STEM extension

Not all majors are eligible for the 24-month Optional Practical Training STEM extension. A full list of Classification of Instructional Programs codes are available online. The Department of Homeland Security will announce any future changes to the list.

Eligibility and requirements

  • The student must be currently participating in a 12-month period of Optional Practical Training and working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to the student's major area of study.
  • The student must have successfully completed a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in a STEM eligible major from a SEVIS-certified school.
  • The student must have a job offer from an employer registered with the E-Verify employment verification system.
  • The student must not have previously received a 24-month STEM extension.
  • The immigration advisor will recommend the 24-month extension in SEVIS after eligibility has been verified and the student has made a commitment to maintain reporting responsibilities every six months while on the extension.
  • The student will apply for the 24-month extension by filing Form I-765 with the required fee to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • A student who timely and properly files an extension application with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will be able to continue employment while the application is pending up to 180 days or until the final decision is made, whichever is earlier.

The Optional Practical Training STEM Extension Request form is accessible on the Forms page.

Pre-completion Optional Practical Training

Pre-completion Optional Practical Training authorizes employment related to the student's field of study before completion of all degree requirements.

Eligibility and requirements

  • Must be a registered student, physically in the U.S. at the time of participation.
  • Must have been enrolled in lawful status for at least one full academic year.
  • Must not have used 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training.
  • Will complete a degree in a future semester.
  • United States Citizenship and Immigration Services processing time is approximately 90 days.
  • Part-time employment during fall and spring, full-time employment during official school breaks.
  • Full-time enrollment required fall and spring semesters.
  • Must end by the student's program completion date.
  • No unemployment limit.
  • No reporting requirements other than changes in address.
  • Splitting Optional Practical Training between pre- and post-completion requires two United States Citizenship and Immigration Services applications and fees.
  • Part-time pre-completion Optional Practical Training counts at a rate of 50 percent toward full-time OPT.
  • Most students prefer to apply for Curricular Practical Training rather than applying for pre-completion Optional Practical Training.
  • See policy guidance from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

For more information, see an immigration advisor.

Notification of departure/early withdrawal/completion of program

International students are required to notify Immigration Compliance if they are unable to continue their studies at WMU due to certain circumstances or when they are completing their program. This notification is for immigration reporting purposes only and does not replace the student's responsibility to comply with WMU's official drop/add policy and graduation requirements.

Before leaving WMU, be sure to take care of any financial obligations to the University: Drop classes, cancel health insurance, and notify the department and/or academic advisor of the departure. Any employment authorization ends with non-enrollment.

After successful program completion, F-1 Students have a 60-day grace period to depart the U.S.

Prior to returning to the U.S., the student must check with a U.S. consulate to determine whether the student's visa is still valid. If not, the student might be denied entry into the U.S.

The Notification of Departure/Early Withdrawal/Completion of Program form is accessible on the Forms page.

Reinstatement

F-1 Students who have overstayed their authorized period of stay or who have otherwise failed to maintain status may be reinstated to lawful F-1 status at the discretion of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services may reinstate the student to lawful status if the student:

  1. Establishes to the satisfaction of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services that the violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond the student's control, or that failure to receive reinstatement to lawful status would result in extreme hardship to the student.
  2. Is currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study at the school that issued the Form I-20.
  3. Has not engaged in unauthorized employment.
  4. Is not deportable on any ground other than overstaying/failing to maintain status (Source: INA 241(a)(1)(B); 8 CFR 214.2(f)(15)(i)).

Requirements

  • If the student is working on campus, they must notify their supervisor and stop working immediately. The student may resume on-campus employment only if the reinstatement application is approved.
  • If the student has engaged in any unauthorized on- or off-campus employment, they are not eligible to apply for reinstatement.
  • The student must enroll full time while the reinstatement is pending.
  • Applying for reinstatement does not guarantee that it will be granted. Prepare the application thoroughly and completely.
  • If the student has previously been granted a reinstatement, it is less likely that the second reinstatement will be approved.
  • Remember, reinstatement is not the only option available. The student may choose to obtain a new I-20, apply for a new F-1 visa, and return to the U.S. to resume study. Please consult with an immigration advisor.
  • If the student leaves the U.S. while the reinstatement application is pending, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will consider it as abandonment of the reinstatement application. If the student decides to withdraw the application, he/she should see an immigration advisor for the withdrawal procedure.

Application procedure

It is important that the student does not delay in applying for reinstatement. Even with a status violation reason that was beyond the student's control, failure to file for reinstatement within five months of the violation may result in ineligibility for reinstatement. Make an appointment with an immigration advisor to review application requirements and receive a reinstatement I-20. If the reinstatement application is approved, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will send the processed I-20 and reinstatement approval to the student. Upon receiving these documents from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the student must immediately provide copies of them to Immigration Services.

The F-1 Reinstatement form is accessible on the Forms page.

Transferring to another U.S. institution

If a student is in lawful status and is completing or leaving their current program with confirmed arrangements to continue studies in the U.S. at a different institution in the next academic semester, the student must submit the Transfer-Out SEVIS Record Request form along with the other required materials to Immigration Services. The Transfer-Out SEVIS Record Request form is accessible on the Forms page. This process is separate from the transferring of academic credits. The transfer process is a multistep process and it is the student's responsibility to make sure all steps are completed.

Once the student has completed the requirements to request a transfer of their SEVIS record, the SEVIS record will be electronically released to the new school.

Transfer eligibility

  • Student must be maintaining lawful F-1 status.
  • If the student completed the program, the transfer must be completed before the end of the 60-day grace period.
  • The student must initiate the transfer from the current school by submitting the correct and completed documents listed above.
  • New program start date must be within five months of the current program end date or the next mandatory semester, whichever is sooner.

Transfer students are eligible to remain in the U.S. in the summer between two programs. Transfer students may travel outside the U.S. during the transfer pending period; however, the student must use the I-20 for the school they intend to attend for re-entry.

The new school will complete the transfer-in SEVIS and will issue the student a new I-20 for that institution.

The transfer-in school will not be able to issue the student a new I-20 until the transfer release date. If the student decides to cancel the school transfer, they must notify an immigration advisor before the transfer release date. Once the transfer release date has been reached, WMU will no longer have access to the SEVIS record.

Before a student leaves WMU, they should be sure to take care of any financial obligations to the University, drop classes, cancel their health insurance, and notify the department and academic advisor of their departure. Any employment authorization ends upon transfer out or non-enrollment.

Students on Optional Practical Training

F-1 Students on Optional Practical Training who wish to transfer out must begin their new course of study at the transfer-in school within five months of the end of OPT or the transfer release date, whichever is earlier. If the student has completed Optional Practical Training, the transfer must be completed before the end of the 60-day grace period.