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F-1 Immigration Regulations

A student visa, also termed an F-1 visa, is required for most programs offered by the Language and Culture Institute. 

The decision on whether or not to grant a student or exchange visitor visa is entirely up to U.S. Consular Officers. Virginia Tech is not responsible for any delays in processing visas or decisions on the part of the U.S. Government to refuse visa applications.

International students on an F-1 visa must obey the immigration laws and regulations of the United States. They are responsible for learning, understanding, and obeying the U.S. laws and regulations that apply to them.  If they fail to do so, they risk being placed in removal proceedings by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at any time and barred from re-entering the country in the future.

More information about maintaining F-1 student status is available from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Arrival to and departure from the U.S.

U.S. federal regulations for F-1 students state that they may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start date on their Form I-20.

When students have completed the academic program for which their F-1 visa was issued, they are allowed a 60-day pre-departure period to prepare to leave the United States or transfer to another U.S. institution for further study.

If F-1 students have been authorized to withdraw from classes before completing their academic program, then they are allowed a 15-day period to prepare for departure.  If they wish to withdraw from the program, they must complete a withdrawal form and schedule an appointment with the assistant director for student services.  Approval by their program director and the assistant director for student services is required.

It is possible that F-1 students may choose or may be required to leave school early or unexpectedly. Some of reasons include a leave of absence due to a family emergency, a medical reason, a religious holiday, suspension, or expulsion. In the event that they need to depart early, they must schedule an appointment with their program director and the assistant director for student services.

Students will not be given a tuition reduction or special academic consideration if their travel arrangements force them to leave early or to return to the U.S. after the semester begins.

Address changes

U.S. federal regulations for F-1 visas require that student report any local U.S. address changes within 10 days of the address change. The Change of Address form is available on the Student Forms page. This form may be submitted to the assistant director for student services or admissions manager. This includes address changes for any dependents of the students as well.

Authorization to drop below a full course of study

U.S. federal regulations for F-1 visas require students to enroll in a full course of study. Students are required to take a full-time course load at all times. However, they would be allowed to take a reduced number of hours only after obtaining authorization from the assistant director for student services and only for very limited reasons. If they believe that they need to drop below a full course of study, they must schedule an appointment with the assistant director for student services. 

Extension of program end date

F-1 students should pay close attention to the program end date indicated on their I-20 form. An I-20 form will expire on the program end date unless it is extended.

The program end date can only be extended for one semester and only for a compelling academic or medical reason. F-1 students are required by U.S. federal regulations to extend their I-20s before the program end date. Extensions are subject to approval by the school and will be granted only for compelling academic or medical reasons.

F-1 students can request a program extension at any time during the school year but must do so at least one month prior to the program end date on the I-20. See the assistant director for student services to request an extension.

Transfer-out procedures

F-1 students are eligible to transfer to another school or program of study (intensive English program, community college, or university). To start the process of transferring, they should:

  • Meet with the assistant director for student services.
  • Submit required documents to the assistant director for student services for transfer before transfer release date (usually the last day of the term).

Required documents

  • Letter of admission from the new school.
  • Transfer-in form or immigration information form the new school’s international student office.
  • Completed LCI transfer-out form. (Available on the Student Forms page.)

If students have a scholarship, they are advised to obtain prior permission to transfer from their sponsor.

Note: Once the transfer release date arrives, the assistant director for student services will not have access to the SEVIS records of the transferring students. The Designated Signing Officer (DSO) at the new school creates a transfer Form I-20 for students who transfer in to that school.

Employment

While students hold an F-1 visa and stay in lawful status, they can work on the Virginia Tech campus for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session; that limit increases to more than 20 hours per week during official school breaks. Students must see the assistant director for student services before taking a job on campus. Student visa holders are not allowed to work off-campus.  J-1 students studying at the LCI are not eligible for employment.

Note: People who are temporarily present in the United States as students, trainees, scholars, teachers, researchers, exchange visitors, and cultural exchange visitors are subject to special rules with respect to the taxation of their income.  Contact the University Bursar for more information and/or assistance. 

Maintaining F-1 student status

To comply with federal regulations for F-1 visas, students must maintain a full-time academic course load, make satisfactory academic progress, and advance to a degree program. To maintain full-time status, students must take all courses required for each semester of the program. 

To maintain a full-time academic course load, students must attend at least 85% of their non-credit courses.  Students taking credit-bearing courses must meet attendance requirements as specified in course syllabi.

Working illegally or being convicted of a felony are particularly serious violations of status.  

If F-1 students fall out of status for any reason, they must make an appointment with the assistant director for student services. 

Annual vacations

Students can take a semester off of their studies as long as they are eligible and intend to register for the next semester.  Certain rules apply.

Generally, students must attend one academic year of study before being eligible for vacation.  An academic year is made up of the fall and spring semesters.  Taking vacation during the fall or spring semester is strongly discouraged for programs that contain credit-bearing courses, like AdvantageVT or AdvantageVT-Master’s programs. 

Students may take a vacation during the summer semester regardless of when they begin their studies.   

Students are required to see the assistant director for student services to apply for an annual vacation. All financial obligations to the school must be satisfied before a vacation request will be processed. 

I-20 forms must be endorsed for re-entry by the assistant director for student services before leaving the U.S.

Travel and re-entry

While students are in lawful F-1 visa status, they may choose to leave the U.S. for a summer vacation, winter or spring break, or family emergency, as long as they intend to return to their program of study in the current or next available academic semester. Students would need to have their I-20 forms signed before leaving the U.S. The assistant director for student services may sign I-20s for travel. Students must have a signed, valid I-20, valid F-1 visa, and valid passport in order to re-enter the U.S.