F-1 Student Information
All international students who currently hold an F-1 student visa must familiarize with the information presented on this page. Please note that information from the U.S. government agencies changes frequently, and therefore, students are responsible for observing the regulations of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Department of State (DOS), and U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
If you have any questions, please contact the International Student Advisor.
I-20: Also called the Certificate of Eligibility, the I-20 is issued by Radford University once you have been accepted and have provided financial documentation showing your ability to pay for your education and living expenses. The I-20 is used to obtain the F-1 student visa at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your country, and is also required for entry to the U.S.
Passports: Your passport should be updated before you depart for the U.S. and must be kept valid at least six months into the future at all times. Your passport can be renewed through your country’s consulate or embassy in the U.S., or in your own country during a vacation abroad.
Visas: When you go to the American embassy or consulate in your country and present your I-20, the Consular Officer will place a visa stamp (usually in the form of a sticker) on a page inside your passport. The visa: (1) gives you permission to apply for entry to the U.S.; (2) indicates the type of visa you have been given for your stay in the U.S (student visa); (3) when the visa expires; and (4) how many times you can enter the U.S. using that visa (e.g. single, multiple, etc.).
I-94: This form is your entry record into the United States. Noted on it will be your admission/departure number, your immigration status (F-1), date of entry, port of entry, and the length of time that your immigration status is valid. A notation of “D/S” means that your status is valid for “duration of status”, or in other words, until you complete your degree. The I-94 record will be updated every time you leave the U.S., and a new I-94 will be issued upon your re-entry to the U.S.
Full-Time Status: All F-1 students must be enrolled full-time during the Fall and Spring semesters. Full-time status for undergraduates is 12 credits per semester and full-time status for graduate students is 3 credits per semester.
Online Courses While in the U.S.: Undergraduate students may take no more than one three-credit online course to meet the minimum full-time enrollment requirement. Any credits earned above the minimum enrollment can be any learning experience. Graduate students must enroll in one three-credit course per term that is offered in-person. Any additional courses taken each term can be through any learning experience.
Summer Enrollment: If an F-1 student starts their program of study in the summer semester, or if the student will complete their final classes in the summer semester, the regular full-time enrollment requirements as stated above must be followed. Continuing students (those who will not graduate in the summer and intend to come back for the Fall semester) are not required to take any summer courses. Whoever, if the student choses to take any summer courses, he/she does not need to be enrolled full-time and may take all courses online if desired.
Reduced Course Load (RCL): A student with F-1 student status may not reduce his or her course load below full-time without prior permission from their International Student Advisor. In cases where an RCL this is allowed, a Reduced Course Load Form [PDF] must be completed and submitted to the International Student Advisor prior to dropping any courses in order to properly document the reduction in the student’s immigration file.
Per immigration regulations, a reduced course load may be taken only for the following reasons and typically only for one semester during each education level:
- Difficulties with the English language.
- Improper course level placement.
- Lack of familiarity with U.S. teaching methods or difficulty with reading requirements.
- A serious medical condition documented in writing by a licensed doctor (Medical leaves of absence can only be approved for a maximum of 12 months aggregate).
- During the last semester of study if fewer credits are required for completion of the academic program.
- During the last semester for a graduate student who is preparing for comprehensive exams or completing a thesis.
Documentation supporting your request must be submitted to the International Student Advisor and approved prior to dropping any courses. Failure to submit this documentation on time will be consider a violation of your immigration status and will be reported to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
On-campus employment refers to: (1) any employment that is paid by Radford University with the physical work site located on the campus the F-1 student is authorized to attend, or (2) for a company that holds a contract with Radford University to offer services directly to Radford University students on the Radford University campus the F-1 student is authorized to attend (for example, Chartwells, RU Bookstore, etc.). F-1 students should meet with the International Student Advisor before beginning any work to verify whether the position will be considered on-campus.
F-1 students can work up to 20 hours per week during the fall and spring semesters. During the summer semester and other university breaks, F-1 students can work up to 20 hours per week provided they will enroll in the upcoming fall semester.
F-1 students who are employed are required to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN). To get a SSN, the student must first receive a job offer. Once the student receives a job offer, the student should request a Social Security Letter [PDF] (and attach a copy of the job offer letter) from the International Student Advisor. Once the student has gathered all of the necessary documents (verified by the International Student Advisor), the student must go to the Social Security Administration office in person and apply for a SSN.
Students enrolled in the Intensive English Program (IEP) are discouraged from seeking on-campus employment.
Students with an F-1 visa should have the following documents prior to travling outisde of the U.S.:
- A valid passport with an expiration date that is at least six months in the future.
- A valid Form I-20 with a signature for travel (it is recommended to have a new signature every six months).
- A valid F-1 visa in your passport (if you are a Canadian or Bermudian citizen, you do not need the visa in your passport).
- If you need to renew your F-1 visa while abroad, please contact the International Student Advisor.
- If you are participating in an Optional Practical Training (OPT), in addition to the above documents, you should have your valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card (also called an OPT card) and a letter of employment from your employer certifying your employment.
If an F-1 student is unable to complete his or her studies at Radford University by the completion date listed in the Form I-20, he or she must file for a program extension before the current I-20 expires. To apply for a program extension students must submit new financial documentation and the Program Extension Form to the International Student Advisor (preferably at least 1 month before the I-20 expires).
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is defined as an alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school (8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)).
Curricular practical training (CPT) allows you to work off-campus in a position related to your field of study. Employment under CPT must also be considered “an integral part of an established curriculum.” That is, it will count towards your degree completion regardless of whether academic credit is awarded.
International students in F-1 status may be eligible to participate in study-related internship positions if they meet the following:
- Students must be enrolled into a full-time degree program (12 credits for undergraduate; 9 credits for graduate students).
- Students must be in F-1 status and have been enrolled full-time for at least one academic year prior to the start of the CPT.
- The internship is directly related to their program of study.
- Part-time (maximum 20 hours weekly) during the academic year
- Full-time during the winter, spring, and summer breaks from school
- Students working on campus in a graduate assistantship or in an on-campus job cannot work in an internship if the total hours working will exceed 20 hours weekly during the academic year.
- CPT authorization is employer- and location-specific. If an F-1 student changes employers or work sites, notification must be made to the International Student Advisor.
- Students will be authorized to work for 1 semester or summer break at a time. If a student plans to continue the internship after their current authorized period, a new CPT Application Packet [PDF] must be submitted and a new Form I-20 issued. This process should be completed prior to the expiration date of the current CPT authorization.
- In order to be paid for work, students will need a Social Security Number (SSN).
- One year or more of full-time CPT will make an F-1 student ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT).
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student’s major area of study” (8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(10)(ii)). All F-1 students (except IEP-only F-1 students) are eligible for one year of full-time OPT per education level (undergraduate, graduate, etc.). Any OPT request is submitted to, and reviewed by, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). F-1 students cannot begin working until they receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and have reached the start date listed on the card and no employment offer is required to apply. There are three types of OPT: pre-completion OPT, post-completion OPT, and STEM-extension OPT.
Pre-completion OPT is available to F-1 students prior to their graduation. Pre-completion OPT is authorized for a period requested by the student. If it is authorized during the fall or spring semester, the F-1 student can work no more than 20 hours per week. If it is authorized during the summer semester, the F-1 student can work more than 20 hours per week. Any time used as pre-completion OPT is deducted from the one year of full-time OPT.
Post-Completion OPT is available to F-1 students after their graduation. F-1 students can apply for post-completion no more than 90 days before their graduation date and up to 60 days after their graduation date. However, the requested start date must fall within the 60-day grace period. No more than 90-days of unemployment can be accumulated throughout the entire OPT period.
STEM OPT is available to F-1 students who majored in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) fields and are currently working on post-completion OPT. This extension gives the student an additional 17 months of employment authorization and F-1 status. A new work authorization request must be submitted to USCIS and a new EAD will be issued if USCIS approves the request. F-1 students on STEM-extension OPT can accumulate no more than 120 days of unemployment throughout the entire post-completion and STEM extension authorization period. Please note that students participating in a STEM OPT must be validated every six months. To validate your STEM OPT, please complete the STEM OPT Validation Form [PDF].
Students interested in the STEM-extension should make an appointment with International Student Advisor after reading the following information:
- STEM OPT Extension Overview
- STEM OPT Approved Degree Programs
- STEM OPT Eligibility and Application Instructions
- STEM OPT Employer Reporting Requirements
OPT Job Boards
- The work must be directly related to your major field of study and it must be appropriate for someone with your level of education. You do not need a specific job offer to apply for optional practical training, but it is important to remember that time spent searching for employment is deducted from your authorized time. The work may be full- or part-time (at least 20 hours/week) and may occur anywhere in the United States.
- You will retain F-1 status even though you have completed your studies and are working full-time. Optional Practical Training is viewed as an “extension” of the program of study you have completed. It gives you an opportunity to apply the theoretical knowledge you have learned to a practical work experience.
- You may travel as long as you are holding an unexpired EAD, a valid F-1 visa, a Form I-20 that is endorsed with an OPT recommendation, and proof of employment. This proof of employment should be a letter from an employer verifying that you are currently working. Without such evidence, it is possible that the immigration officer at the port of entry may not allow you to reenter with your F-1 status to resume OPT. (Note: The International Student Advisor must have signed your Form I-20 within the last 6 months in order for you to re-enter in OPT status).
- If you have completed your studies and leave the U.S. before OPT is authorized, your application will be considered abandoned. It is also important to note that time spent abroad during authorized OPT is deducted from your OPT time.
- If your F-1 visa stamp is expired, it may be difficult for you to obtain a new one based on your OPT permission. In this case, you should not plan to travel outside the U.S. without first discussing your case with the International Student Advisor.
- For all types of OPT, F-1 students must report changes in employment, address, or contact information to the International Student Advisor (via email) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (via the student portal) within 10 days of the change.
- After you complete your OPT, you must: (1) depart the U.S.; (2) apply to continue in another educational program at Radford University or another school; (3) change to another non-immigrant status; or (4) if you graduated in a STEM major (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics), you may qualify to extend the OPT for an additional 17 months.
To apply for OPT, an F-1 student must complete the OPT Application Packet [PDF], gather all additional necessary documentation, and make an appointment with the International Student Advisor. OPT authorization must be received prior to the beginning any work.
F-1 students can fall out of status (i.e. lose their F-1 status) in various ways such as unauthorized employment, not meeting full-time enrollment requirements, or not requesting a program extension, among others. Fortunately, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service gives F-1 students the opportunity to regain their status.
It is important that you meet with an advisor to discuss the most appropriate method to regain your status as soon as you learn that you are in violation of your status. There are time limits on when you can apply for reinstatement and other time-sensitive issues that should be discussed wity your International Student Advisor.
There are two ways that you can regain your status. The first is a process called reinstatement. The second is through traveling back home to regain your F-1 status.
Option #1: Reinstatement
A student who has violated status may be reinstated to lawful F-1 status at the discretion of a USCIS Adjudicator, but only under the limited conditions as follow:
- The student has not been out of status for more than five months;
- The violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond the student’s control or that failure to receive reinstatement to lawful F-1 status would result in extreme hardship to the student;
- The student is currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study at the school that issued the I-20;
- The student has not engaged in unauthorized employment; and
- The student is not deportable on any ground other than failing to maintain status.
All decisions on whether to reinstate your F-1 status or not are exclusively made by the USCIS and can take a considerable amount of time to adjudicate. The student is allowed to stay and continue to be enrolled in courses until a decision is reached.
To apply for Reinstatement, an F-1 student must review the Reinstatement Packet [PDF], gather all additional necessary documentation, and make an appointment with the International Student Advisor.
Option #2: Travel Back Home
The alternative to filing for reinstatement is to travel outside the United States and re-enter the country. The student will receive a new I-20 created specifically to travel and regain status prior to leaving and receive a new I-94 upon re-entering the country. In order to successfully travel and regain status, the student must have a new I-20, as well as a valid passport and F-1 visa. Students who received a change of status in the U.S. or whose visas have expired would be required to obtain a new visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate.
Re-entry can put the student back to F-1 status. However, re-entry to the U.S. after a status violation is viewed by USCIS as a new entry in F-1 status. This means that you will be bound by the regulations for students arriving for the first time to the United States. Most significantly, this will affect your eligibility for practical training. If you travel to regain status, you will have to wait one full academic year before you will be eligible for practical training (CPT or OPT) or economic hardship employment authorizations.
All international students are required to have international health insurance and will be automatically enrolled into the Radford University International Student Health Insurance Plan administered by CISI. International students are not allowed to waive out of the insurance.
J-1 students may request that their spouse and/or children accompany them to the U.S. as dependents. These dependents will hold J-2 status. For each dependent, the J-1 student must demonstrate that sufficient funds are available to pay for the expenses incurred by the dependent. The total estimated expenses per dependent can be found in the Financial Requirements sheet [PDF].
F-2 dependents can study English on a part-time basis or attend the local public elementary and high school, but are ineligible for work.
authorization. To request an I-20 for a dependent, please complete the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form [PDF].
The Social Security Number (SSN) is a 9-digit number issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to those individuals who are eligible to work in the United States. The SSN is required in order to be paid for any work you do in the U.S. whether it is on-campus or for practical training. Though the SSN is only required to be paid by an employer, many other institutions in the U.S. ask for a SSN (for example, banks, cell phone vendors, the Department of Drivers Licenses), and it is generally easier to obtain services from these institutions if you already have a SSN. You are under no obligation to obtain a SSN; however, if you plan to work in the United States, you will need to obtain one.
When you go to apply for your social security number, please bring the following original documents with you:
- On-campus jobs: If you have secured a job on campus, you will need a letter from the Radford University department who hired you on school letterhead. If employment on campus is with an employer other than Radford University, such as an approved commercial corporation providing student services on campus (for example, Chartwells and the RU Bookstore), the letter must be on their letterhead. The letter must containing the following information:
- F-1 Student’s Name
- Department where employed
- Job description
- Employment start date
- Number of hours per week
- Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- Supervisor’s name, title and phone
- Supervisor’s original signature
- Date of letter.In addition to the letter from the employer, you will need a letter from the international office supporting your application. Once you have secured the documents above, please make an appointment with our office to obtain our letter.
- CPT: If you have been issued CPT authorization for an internship, no letter from the employer is necessary.
- OPT: If you have been approved for OPT, you must present the Employment Authorization card (or EAD) sent to you when your OPT was approved. No letter from the employer is necessary.
It takes approximately 3-4 weeks for the Social Security Administration to issue your SSN and card. However, it sometimes takes much longer. The SSA must verify your student status with the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) before issuing you a number. Once you have a SSN, you will use the same number throughout your stay in the United States.
Nearest Social Security Administration Office:
Roanoke Social Security Office
612 S Jefferson Street, Suite #100
Roanoke, VA 24011
Phone: (866) 701-8179