Quick Reference Guide

This guide focusses on F-1 status regulation and policy. The information on this page does not apply to all international students. Please always refer students to international Student Services (ISS) for official advice.

F-1 Status | F-1 Visa | Form I-20 | Travel | F-1 Enrollment Requirements | Summer Vacation | Non-summer Vacation | International Identity | ISS Purpose | ISS Support | CPT | OPT | STEM OPT| On-campus Employment | SSN | Program Extension | Economic Hardship | Special Situation | Leave of Absence

F-1 Status

  • Not all international students have F-1 status. Ask your student if you’re unsure.
  • F-1 status allows physical presence in the US to complete a program of study at a specific institution and site of instruction. 
  • F-1 students must check-in with ISS to maintain active F-1 status.
  • Active F-1 status is reported by the DSO to the Student and Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
  • Failure to check-in or meet enrollment requirements may lead to the termination of the student’s SEVIS record.
  • The SEVIS record can be transferred by a DSO at the request of a student to continue studying in the US at another institution. 

F-1 Visa

  • The F-1 visa is a key that allows entry to the US.
  • Entering the US with an F-1 visa will provide F-1 status until a student:
    • Completes their program of study & any related post-completion optional practical training.
    • Changes to another status.
    • Has their SEVIS record terminated.
  • The F-1 visa can expire while in the US.
  • The F-1 visa is not required to keep studying.
  • Not everyone with an F-1 visa has F-1 status.
  • Not everyone with F-1 status has an F-1 visa.

Form I-20

  • The I-20 is a physical representation of the significant information in a student’s SEVIS record.
  • A new I-20 is printed whenever significant information changes.
  • The first page of the I-20 shows the current program of study, site of instruction, and the program end date by which the student must complete all academic work.
  • The second page of the I-20 shows employment authorizations/recommendations and associated dates.


  • Travel to the US on F-1 status requires an I-20.
  • All students are required to show a valid Passport, F-1 visa (except Canadians), and I-20 at the port of entry.
  • Continuing students that have briefly travelled outside the US also require a Travel Endorsement from the DSO, attesting to the student’s continued attendance. Each endorsement for an enrolled student is valid for 12 months or until invalidated.
  • Students on Post-completion OPT require all of the above and an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

F-1 Enrollment Requirements

  • Undergraduate: Minimum 12 credits per term.
  • Graduate: Minimum 10 credits per term.
  • Students are limited to one online course per term.
  • Hybrid courses count as in-person.
  • All curricular practical training counts as in-person unless the registered course is designated as online.
  • Can be enrolled in fewer credits in the final term to complete a program of study, provided that the majority of credits are in-person and not online.
  • No more than 50% of courses can be taken outside the primary site of instruction.

Summer Vacation

  • Summer is the default quarter to take a vacation.
  • Using summer as a vacation term requires no action from the student.
  • The student can remain in the US for the duration of the vacation term.
  • If summer is used as a vacation, enrollment rules do not apply. The student can go below full-time, choose not to enroll, or take all online courses.
  • If a student takes a non-summer vacation, Summer becomes a mandatory academic term and requires full-time enrollment.
  • Summer is a mandatory academic term if the student only has one quarter remaining and the SEVIS program end date (written on the I-20) aligns with the end of summer.

Non-summer Vacation

  • Requires a minimum of three consecutive quarters of full-time enrollment (including summer) for approval.
  • Summer becomes a required term and the student must have an academic plan to allow full-time enrollment in the summer term.
  • Failure to maintain full-time enrollment in a required summer term will result in the termination of the student’s SEVIS record.

International Identity

There are many students at UWB that might identify as an international student. These students may be here on one of many immigration statuses, have no status, or have US citizenship. A student’s identity as an international student should not be assumed and is not defined by business purposes. ISS advocates for all international students on campus.

ISS Purpose

  • ISS primarily advises on how to gain, maintain, and use the benefits of F-1 non-immigrant status in the US.
  • ISS is obligated to advise and report F-1 students at the admission stage, during their program of study, and for up to three years after graduation.
  • ISS oversees the UWB F-1 program and certifies all programs of study eligible for F-1 status at UWB.
  • Every professional staff member at ISS has the title of Designated School Official (DSO). Only staff in ISS or assigned by ISS are DSOs.
  • DSOs are tasked with federal reporting requirements.
  • A DSO primarily reports the intention to study, presence in the US, enrollment status, all significant changes to the program of study, and participation in practical training.

ISS Support

Common topics that departments on campus can help with (or refer to on-campus resources):

  • Adapting to the US higher education system
  • US academic writing
  • Academic Integrity
  • How to access university services
  • Finding community
  • Adapting to culture shock
  • Separation from family/friends
  • Getting to know the neighborhood

CPT (Curricular Practical Training)

  • Approved when a course requires 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.
  • Must be integral to the student’s program of study.
  • Must be registered for course credit.
  • Can be issued for any type of paid or unpaid internships, fieldwork, or off-campus training with an employer.
  • Must start and end within the dates of the quarter for the enrolled course.
  • Cannot be backdated.
  • The student cannot start working until they receive authorization on a new I-20. 
  • Authorized by ISS

OPT (Optional Practical Training)

  • Offered as both Pre-completion (while studying – rarely used) and Post-completion (used after completing the program of study).
  • Is available for 12 months.
  • Must have completed a minimum of 3 quarters in non-immigrant status in the US.
  • Work must be related to the major field of study (not minors or certificates).
  • Employment is not required to apply.
  • Is recommended by ISS and printed on the I-20
  • Is authorized by USCIS by completing an I-765

STEM OPT Extension

  • Extends the available OPT period by 24 months.
  • The student must have completed a STEM designated degree.
  • Employment is required to apply.
  • The employer and student must complete an I-983.
  • The employer must have an E-verify number.
  • The extension is not automatic.
  • A new I-20 with a STEM Extension. Recommendation is required.
  • Must be authorized by USCIS by completing an I-765 and providing proof of STEM degree within the correct time frame.

On-campus Employment

  • Available to all active F-1 students currently pursuing their program of study.
  • Does not require DSO authorization.
  • Must be performed on the UWB campus.
  • Cascadia, UW Seattle, and UW Tacoma are not permitted on-campus employment locations for UWB students.
  • The department or individual on-campus employer must be providing services for students on the UWB campus.
  • Cannot exceed more than 20 hours per week while class is in session.
  • Can exceed 20 hours per week when class is not in session.

Social Security Number

  • The student must request a letter from a DSO to confirm identity, school status, employer, and type of work.
  • The student must have an offer letter or pay slip that describes the job, employment start date, hours/week, supervisor’s name, and supervisor’s phone number. 
  • If working off-campus, the off-campus employment (CPT or OPT) must be listed on the I-20. 
  • The student can take both letters, their I-20, I-94 (arrival/departure record), SS-5 (application for Social Security Card) and valid passport to the nearest Social Security office.

Program Extension

  • Must be requested prior to the F-1 student’s program end date in SEVIS (also printed on the I-20).
  • Must be for a compelling and documented academic or medical reason.
  • Common academic reasons are change of major or change of thesis research topic.
  • Coursework unrelated to the program of study (e.g. undeclared minors or additional CPT credits) is not a reason for extension. 
  • Failure to have an academic plan or seek help from an academic advisor is not a reason for extension.
  • The student must be in good academic standing and is not available if the student has been on academic probation.
  • The student must have an academic plan in place that details the new expected program completion.

Economic Hardship

  • Available when circumstances beyond the F-1 student’s control have limited their ability to live in the US as an F-1 student.
  • Provides the approved F-1 student with an EAD to work off-campus.
  • The student must have been in F-1 status for at least one full academic year.
  • The student must prove that employment is necessary due to severe economic hardship due to unforeseen circumstances.
  • The student must prove that by accepting employment, it will not interfere with their studies.
  • ISS can help a student determine if they have the correct documentation and are eligible.
  • The student must obtain a new I-20 from the DSO to apply.

Special Student Relief (SSR), Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), & Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

Leave of Absence

  • A student can request to withdraw their F-1 status if they are no longer planning to study in the US.
  • The student must leave the US.
  • This is often used for family emergencies when a student must depart the US and cannot remain enrolled.
  • This action results in termination of the SEVIS record for Authorized Early Withdrawal.
  • The termination renders the I-20 invalid for future entry to the US.
  • Students must contact ISS at least one month prior to the quarter they plan to return to the US to resume studies.