International students must follow strict rules and regulations to maintain their F-1 visa status in the United States. The sections below outline some (not all) of the most important rules and regulations to maintain status as an F-1 student at CCSF. However, U.S. immigration regulations may change and are very complex. It is recommended to contact our office to speak with a Designated School Official (DSO) if you have any questions or doubts about your particular situation, your F-1 status or your I-20.
1. Enrollment Requirements
- Enroll in a full course of study – a minimum of 12 units – at the beginning of Spring and Fall semesters (no later than 21 days after the official start date of the semester)
- Enroll in at least 9 in-person units of classes with required on-campus meetings, out of the 12 required units total. No more than 3 online units count towards the 12 units full-time requirement.
- Make academic progress towards Certificate, Associate Degree, or transfer requirements.
- Consult with the OIP (Office of International Programs) before dropping below a full course of study for any reason.
- Report any changes in your program/major of study to the OIP.
- Report any other change in academic status to the OIP.
- Enroll in the mandatory health insurance plan.
- Request a travel signature on your form I-20 from the OIP before traveling outside the United States, and ensure that your passport and F-1 visa are valid and unexpired.
- Consult with the OIP before engaging in any kind of paid or unpaid employment, internships, volunteering or practical training; do not work without receiving the appropriate employment authorization in advance.
4. SEVIS Immigration Records Update
- Report address and/or phone number changes to the OIP within 10 days of the change.
- Report any change in sources of financial support to the OIP.
- Report any change in your passport (e.g. loss, renewal) and keep your passport valid a minimum of six (6) months into the future at all times.
5. Change of Status
- Consult with the OIP for basic information on applying for change of status.
- Notify the OIP upon approval of a change of status.
6. Program / I-20 end date
- Be aware of your program end date on your I-20. Remain in the U.S. for no longer than sixty (60) days after completing your program or after completing an authorized period of Optional Practical Training.
- Notify the OIP if you leave the U.S. after the end of your program.
- Notify the OIP if you intend to transfer.
- Consult with the OIP before your current I-20 program end date to extend your program.
F-1 students are required by federal law to be enrolled full-time (12 units), maintain good academic standing, and make satisfactory progress towards program completion. Below you will find a summary of the immigration regulations that you must follow as an international student here at City College of San Francisco. Remember, it is ultimately your responsibility to understand and comply with immigration law. If you do not comply with immigration regulations and enrollment requirements listed below, our office is required by federal law to take action terminate your F-1 student status and Form I-20.
Register for and Successfully Complete a Full Course of Study Each Semester
All F-1 students are required by U.S. regulations to carry and complete a minimum of 12 units each semester. The exception to this rule is the summer semester as this is not a required semester for continuing students. In Summer semesters, students are allowed to enroll in less than 12 units or to take the semester off as a summer break. F-1 students are not allowed to take more than one online/distance education class (or the equivalent of 3 units) per semester towards the “full course of study” minimum requirement of 12 units.
You should register for full-time courses as soon as you are able to do so through the myRAM student portal at the time of your online registration appointment. If you must register for classes after the semester begins, you must register no later than the add deadline for the given semester. Failure to add required units before the deadline may result in immediate termination of your F-1 student status. Exceptions to this requirement can be found on the “Exceptions to Full Course of Study” webpage.
Maintain Good Academic Standing
All F-1 students are required by U.S. regulations to maintain good academic standing. To be considered in good academic standing at CCSF, you should maintain a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 or higher. Failure to maintain the minimum requirement will place you on academic probation. If you are on academic probation, you will no longer be eligible to work on campus, be allowed to seek curricular practical training (CPT) or be eligible to graduate from your program of study.
Students who find themselves on academic probation should get in contact with the Office of International Programs (OIP) and an Academic Counselor immediately to discuss your academic standing. Students who stay on academic probation for more than two semester are in danger of future termination. We encourage students who are having difficulty during the semester to reach out to counselors or our office as soon as possible.
Maintain Satisfactory Progress towards Program Completion
All F-1 students are expected to make satisfactory progress towards completing their program. Students should strive to complete their program before the end date listed on their Form I-20. Students may find that they require more time to complete their program and may request an extension of their Form I-20. However, program extensions are not guaranteed. You are eligible for a program extension if your Form I-20 has not already expired, you are in currently maintaining status and are in good academic standing, and you have a compelling reason to extend your I-20 such as changing your major or a documented medical reason.
If you are or have been on academic probation, your current GPA is below 2.0, or you have not been completing courses in your major of study, you may be denied a program extension.
As an F-1 international student, it is your responsibility to ensure that you have current immigration documents in your possession. The Office of International Programs (OIP) recommends that you keep a digital (soft) copy of all your documents in case of loss or theft.
Below you will find information on immigration documents held by F-1 students. If you have any questions above and beyond what is presented here, please contact a Designated School Official (DSO) in Cloud Hall 212.
You must keep a valid passport. U.S. immigration regulations state that your passport must be valid for at least six (6) months into the future. For example, if your passport is going to expire on July 1, 2020, you must have a renewed passport before January 1, 2020.
To extend your passport, please contact your nearest consulate or embassy. A list can be found to the right.
Most countries allow you to renew your passport in the U.S. while others require you to return to your home country to process a renewal. You will not be able to re-enter the U.S. without a valid passport.
An F-1 student visa is necessary only to enter the United States. The issue and expiration date listed shows when you can enter the country. This date range has no bearing on how long you can stay as an F-1 student. If it is expired, or if you have changed your visa status while in the United States, you must reapply for a new visa only if you plan to travel abroad and re-enter the U.S. It is not necessary to extend your visa if you are not planning to travel and re-enter the United States.
Your I-94 can be obtained through the CBP Website and click on "Get Most Recent I-94". If you notice any mistakes on your I-94, contact your local CBP Deferred Inspection Office or Port of Entry (POE) or come to C212 to request information on how to correct your I-94.
Note: Some land and seaports are still issuing paper I-94s for certain student groups, depending on location.
It is your responsibility to ensure that your I-20 is valid and up to date. This document allows you to continue studying in the United States until you complete your program (see "program end date" section of your I-20). We encourage all students to become very familiar with their I-20 and note important portions of the document.
If there is anything information on your I-20 that changes (e.g. your name, your major, etc.) you must contact our office immediately. If you need more time to complete your program, you must request a program extension at least 30 days before your I-20 program end date.
F-1 students maintain lawful status if they are making normal progress toward completing their major of study and following immigration regulations.
If a student fails to maintain status, they are ineligible for any benefits of F-1 student status. Some of the consequences include but are not limited to:
- Ineligibility to work on campus
- Ineligibility to apply for or pursue Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optical Practical Training (OPT)
- Ineligibility to apply for or pursue off-campus work permission
- Ineligibility to receive a transfer recommendation to attend a new school
- Ineligibility to apply for a change of visa status
If you have failed to maintain your F-1 student status, there are two ways to regain status:
- Apply for Reinstatement
- Depart the U.S. and seek a new admission to the U.S. in F-1 status (travel and re-entry)
When requesting reinstatement, you must establish the following to the satisfaction of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that you:
- Have not been out of status more than five (5) months when you file a request for reinstatement. If you are unable to file for reinstatement in this time frame, you must also provide proof of exceptional circumstances that prevented you to file in that time frame and file that proof with your request for reinstatement as soon as possible.
- Do not have a record of repeated or willful violations of immigration regulations
- Are currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study in the immediate future at the school printed on your I-20
- Have not engaged in unauthorized employment
- Cannot be deported on any ground other than overstaying or failing to maintain status
You must also establish that:
The violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond your control. Some examples of circumstances might include serious injury or illness, a natural disaster, or inadvertence, oversight, or neglect on the part of the DSO, but do not include instances where a pattern of repeated violations or a willful failure on your part resulted in the need for reinstatement
The violation relates to a reduction in your course load that would have been within the DSO’s authority to authorize and that failure to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to you.
If USCIS approves the reinstatement request, please immediately notify our office. If USCIS does not approve the reinstatement request, you may not appeal the decision and need to prepare to leave the U.S. immediately.
Reinstatement Option #1: Reinstatement with USCIS
- Schedule an appointment with a DSO in the Office of International Programs to review your eligibility for F-1 reinstatement and discuss the application process.
- Complete the reinstatement/reentry request form. Submit the form and any supporting documents discussed by your DSO/PDSO
- Prepare your reinstatement application following the list of documents below. Submit your reinstatement application to USCIS Lockbox. Mail the following documents to the USCIS Lockbox (see USCIS website for I-539 filing address).
- Form I-539
- Check or money order made payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” (see USCIS website for fee amount)
- Photocopies of all previously-issued I-20s
- Copy of I-94 obtained at cbp.gov/i94
- Photocopy of new Reinstatement I-20 signed by a PDSO
- Current, original evidence of source and amount of financial support
- A letter requesting reinstatement to F-1 student status which explains your situation and truthfully states that failure to maintain status was due to any or all the reasons listed above
- Supporting documentation of your situation
- Current transcript and all transcripts from other U.S. schools previously attended
- Photo copy of passport bio-page and a copy of F-1 visa.
If you do not qualify for the above, your only other option would be to travel outside the U.S. with an initial Form I-20 and re-enter.
Reinstatement Option #2: Travel and U.S. Re-Entry with new initial I-20
In some cases, it might be better to depart the U.S. and re-enter with a new I-20 rather than apply for reinstatement. You may do this by obtaining a new I-20 from our office if you plan to continue studies here at CCSF or obtaining an initial I-20 at the institution you wish to attend.
Note: Students who violated status are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation (by traveling to Mexico or Canada). A re-entry to the U.S. after a status violation is viewed by immigration as “initial attendance” in F-1 status. As such, you are bound by restrictions placed on new students, such as the academic year waiting period for eligibility for practical training.
Students seeking this option will need to:
- Fill out a new international student application
- Re-pay the international student application fee
- Provide new financial support documents
- Re-pay the SEVIS fee
- Some students may require a new visa to re-enter
To pursue this option, please first talk with a DSO in Cloud 212. A new initial Form I-20 will not automatically be issued and no course of action should be taken until after we discuss your options together.