F-1 Status

Full-Time Study

Maintain a full course of study each fall and spring semester for the duration of your program.

  • Undergraduates: Minimum of 12 credits per semester
  • Graduates: Minimum of 9 credits per semester (12 credits for social work and some school of law programs)

Only one online course can count towards the full course of study requirement each semester.

If you cannot register full-time for a given semester, you must see an adviser in ISS before classes begin or prior to dropping below a full-time course load during the semester. There are extremely limited exceptions to the full course of rule and you must obtain permission from ISS before dropping below full-time or fully withdrawing from classes. Failure to comply is a violation of your F-1 status.

Record Keeping

Report address and name changes within 10 days to ISS

ISS is required to provide a valid address and other student data electronically in SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). No other university office is authorized by the federal government to process this data.

Report changes in program to ISS

Students must notify ISS whenever there is a change in their academic program, program dates, or level of study. All such changes would require our office to issue a new I-20 to you.

Program Completion/End of I-20

Note the completion date listed on your I-20. The program completion date on your document is an estimated end date. Your actual program completion may extend beyond or end before the end date listed. Once you complete your program, you will need to take one of the steps listed below, even if you have additional time on your document. In addition, if you cannot complete your studies by the date listed, you must file for an extension of your SEVIS record before this date.

Upon completion of your academic program, you must do one of the following:

  • Depart the US within the 60-day “grace period” (i.e., the 60 days immediately following your date of graduation.)
  • Apply, or have already applied, for OPT work permission. (You will have an additional 60-day “grace period” following the last date of your OPT).
  • Transfer your SEVIS record to a new school.
  • Enter a new academic program at Widener.
  • Apply (or have already applied) for a change of status with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Travel Documents

Students must receive a travel signature on page 2 of the most recent I-20 prior to traveling outside of the United States. Travel signatures are valid for 1 year (6 months for students on OPT).

It is permissible to have an expired F-1 visa in your passport if you remain in the US and do not travel abroad or are eligible for automatic revalidation through travel to adjacent territory for less than 30 days. A valid F-1 visa or automatic revalidation is required for reentry into the US. Visas can only be renewed outside of the US (preferably in your home country).

You cannot be in the US on an expired passport. If your passport is within 6 months of expiring, renew your passport with your local Embassy in the United States.


Employment for F-1 international students is limited, and students who violate their immigration status must stop working immediately. It is also a violation of status to work without permission.

On-Campus Employment

When school is in session, you may work no more than 15 hours per week on-campus. During official university breaks, you may work up to 25 hours per week. International students are not eligible for work study positions.

Off-Campus Employment

You cannot work off-campus (including credit-bearing internships off-campus) without prior authorization from ISS. Off-campus employment is tied to your curriculum, unless you have an unforeseen situation that makes you or your sponsor unable to pay your expenses. All off-campus employment requires that you are a full time student for two semesters before applying. There are two primary types of off-campus work permission:

  • CPT or Curricular Practical Training is a work benefit for F-1 students to gain practical experience related to their major. The work experience cannot be related to a minor or general education course. It is only available to F-1 students when it is an integral part of an established curriculum. This means that it must be either a requirement for all students in the program or it must be tied to a course in the student’s major that the student will take concurrent with the work experience.
  • OPT or Optional Practical Training is a work benefit for F-1 students to gain practical experience for 1 year related to their major. Typically students apply for OPT to begin after they graduate (called Post Completion OPT) but it is possible to use OPT during a student’s studies (called Pre Completion OPT). The application for OPT must be approved by USCIS, so there is a fee to apply and it can take 2-3 months before approval is granted. There are two extensions of OPT. The STEM extension of OPT is for students who completed a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics and whose employer is registered with E-verify. The second extension of OPT is the Cap Gap Extension for students who have applied for an H-1B visa. Students must report their address and employer information while on OPT.