In general, F-1 students must be registered full-time. This is defined as at least:
- 12 credits each semester for undergraduate students
- 9 credits each semester for graduate students
Only one online class may count towards the minimum credit amount each quarter. According to the F-1 regulations, an online class is one that "does not require the student's physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion of the class.” Therefore, any course that has some sort of physical attendance requirement, such as for a lecture, exam, or faculty meeting, is not considered fully online for visa status purposes. Hybrid classes that are mostly online but have a physical presence requirement are not counted toward the 1-class limit for online courses.
Do not register for fewer than the required number of credits or withdraw from a course without first receiving permission from the International Student Advisor. 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
The DSO can authorize a reduced course load for specific academic reasons, as stated in the F-1 regulations:
- Initial difficulty with the English language
- Initial difficulty with reading requirements
- Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
- Improper course level placement
Note that the first three reasons are primarily for new students beginning their studies, since the exception reasons refer to “initial” difficulty. An academic RCL is only allowed one semester per degree level. You must request the RCL and receive approval from the DSO before the end of the semester in which you need the approved RCL.
- Reduced Course Load (RCL) for a Documented Medical Condition
You can apply for permission for a reduced course load (either for part-time classes or no classes) based on a documented medical condition. The recommendation must come 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 semester and will subtract three months from your 12-month allowance. You must request the RCL and receive approval from the DSO before the end of the semester in which you need the approved RCL. We will issue a new I-20 for you authorizing the RCL.
- Annual Vacation Semester
An annual vacation semester is a semester 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 (2 consecutive semesters) prior to the vacation and intend to register for the following term. During your vacation semester, you may either enroll part-time or not at all.
An annual vacation may be requested for any semester. Summer is the default vacation, and it is not necessary to notify the DSO if you take summer as your vacation semester. A student who arrives in the U.S. for the first time and begins study Fall or Spring semester may take the summer as a vacation semester. You cannot take vacation in your final semester.
- Final Semester
You may take as few credits as required to complete your degree as long as you register for at least one credit at King’s College. An online class or a CPT-related credit cannot be the only class on your final quarter schedule.
- Concurrent Enrollment at King’s College and Another College
You can "concurrently enroll," which means you take classes at King’s College and another school in the same semester, and the DSO combines the credits to count as full-time. To concurrently enroll, you must take the majority (at least 7 credits) of your required 12-credit minimum at King’s, or for graduate students, at least 5 of your 9-credit minimum at King’s. You must take courses at the appropriate educational level; the credits should count towards your King’s College degree. Consult your DSO about your plans in advance to be sure your concurrent enrollment request will be approved.
Submit a copy of your registration/class schedule from the other school to the DSO at the beginning of the semester, and email your primary academic advisor to confirm your concurrent enrollment. After you complete the semester, submit an unofficial transcript of your completed courses from the other school to the DSO. (This step is for F-1 purposes only. To officially transfer the credit, contact Undergraduate Admissions for instructions.)
Other F-1 Visa Rules & Benefits
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 the office of International Recruitment for more information.
If you wish to apply to change status to another visa category, we recommend you contact an immigration attorney for assistance – a King’s College DSO cannot assist with change of status applications.
Graduation or Completion of your Exchange Program
The end of your academic program affects your F-1 status. After you graduate or complete your exchange, you have a 60-day grace period. Once you leave the U.S. (including trips to Canada and Mexico) after completing your studies, you are not eligible to re-enter with your current I-20. The grace period is meant for travel within the states and preparation to depart the U.S. Request a new I-20 if you will continue at King’s College in a new degree program.
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.
"Employment" refers to 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 the DSO before accepting any work that you are not sure is authorized.
There are limits to the type and the amount of employment F-1 visa students may have while in the U.S. If your I-20 was issued by King's College, you may work on-campus ONLY for up to 20 hours/week when school is in session and 40 hours/week during a vacation quarter and between quarters, provided you continue as a student the following quarter. You will need a Social Security Number (SSN), but must secure a job on campus before you can apply for a SSN. You may work while your SSN card is still processing/pending.
Employment off-campus must be authorized in advance and in accordance with specific procedures outlined in the federal regulations.
"Volunteering" at job that is traditionally paid may be considered a violation of status. Don't “work for free" without first consulting the DSO.
Travel: Returning to the U.S. After a Temporary Absence
At the port-of-entry you must present the following documents:
- A valid I-20 endorsed for travel within the last year by a King’s College DSO. The travel signature is located on page 1 of the form.
- Valid F-1 visa.
- 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.
Dependents (Spouse & Children)
Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 may be eligible for F-2 dependent status. Contact the DSO 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 an academic or 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.
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, the DSO will wait for you to change your passport first before updating the I-20. Note that SEVIS is a separate database from the King’s College database. To change your name in the King’s College database, use WebAdvisor.