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Info for Current F-1 Visa Holders

The following information is presented on this page

  1. Maintaining Full-Time Status
  2. General Issues
    1. Changing to F-1 Status
    2. F-1 Program Extension
    3. F-1 Reinstatement Procedures
  3. On-Campus Employment
  4. Off-Campus Employment
  5. Moving? Change of Address?

1. Maintaining Full-Time Status

International students in F-1 status are required to register for and complete a full course load of a minimum of nine(9) credits for graduate students per semester and twelve(12) credits for undergraduate students per semester.

Part-time enrollment must be approved by the ISS in advance, before registration is completed. If you are going to enroll on a part-time basis for any reason, you must obtain ISS approval. Failure to comply with this regulation may have severe consequences regarding your ability to stay in the U.S. to study or work. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that you register full-time or gain ISS approval for part-time study.

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Important Notes on "Full-Time Study for Graduates"

Ordinarily, graduate students must register for and complete a minimum of nine credits every fall and spring semester in order to be considered full-time. However, graduate students may be considered as equivalent to full-time (i.e., has "full-time equivalency") with less than nine credits of registration if one of the following exceptions applies:

  • You are taking eight-nine credits of coursework, and doing a teaching or research assistantship for your department
  • You are taking coursework and doing an internship or fieldwork hours as required by your degree program (the combination of coursework and internship hours must constitute a full course of study and be part of an officially published sequence of study)
  • You have fulfilled all coursework requirements and are working full-time on thesis or dissertation research

Students who are granted full-time equivalency by their departments must be designated as "full-time" or "fully-certified" also by the University Registrar each semester, as reflected in Lehigh's Student Information System. Please consult ISS if you are unsure about your current enrollment designation.

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When is Part-Time Enrollment Allowed in relation to Immigration purposes?

Part-time enrollment of less than nine credits for graduate students and twelve credits for undergraduate students per semester is permitted only in certain circumstances. You must receive approval from ISS FIRST before dropping a class, withdrawing, etc. ISS cannot grant approval for part-time enrollment retroactively.

Part-time enrollment is permitted only if one of the following applies:

  • It is your first semester in the U.S., and your department and ESL Office recommends part-time study in addition to English-language courses.
  • You were placed at the wrong course level.
  • You have unavoidable medical problems which require a temporary reduction in your course load.
  • It is your last semester prior to graduation, and you need less than nine credits for graduate students, or twelve credits for undergraduate students, to satisfy your degree requirements.

Please keep in mind that you must obtain approval for part-time enrollment for any of the above circumstances. You must enroll on a full-time basis if (a) you do not meet one of the above conditions or (b) if you do not have ISS approval for part-time enrollment.

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What happens if I do not get Part-Time Study Approval?

If you are enrolled on a part-time basis but do not have ISS approval, you will lose the benefits of lawful student status and may even lose your eligibility to stay in the U.S.

Failing to receive approval for part-time study will result in the following circumstances:

  • Your eligibility to apply for on-campus employment or off-campus employment benefits, including optional practical training
  • Your eligibility to receive ISS recertification for travel outside of the U.S.

Students who are not in lawful student status may have to apply for reinstatement or depart the U.S.

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2. General Issues

Changing to F-1 Student Status

Changes in immigration law have significantly affected who is allowed to pursue study in the U.S. If you are presently in the United States in a non-immigrant status (such as F-2, J-2, H-4, A-1, or L-2 status), you may want or need to change to F-1 or J-1 student status in order to pursue your degree at Lehigh. There are two ways to obtain F-1 or J-1 student status: (1) by submitting an application to USCIS in the United States; or (2) by traveling outside of the U.S., obtaining an F-1 or J-1 visa, and re-entering using the new visa. Read more >

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F-1 Program Extension

As an F-1 student, you are granted a specific period of time to complete your degree requirements. This period of time is reflected in Section 5 of your Form I-20, which indicates your "completion date." If you are unable to finish your degree requirements by that date, you must apply for a program extension. Read more >

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F-1 Reinstatement Procedures

As an F-1 student, you are expected to comply with certain basic rules and regulations. Your ability to study, work, and travel in and out of the U.S. depends on your compliance with these rules. Failure to comply - whether intentional or not - will lead to your falling "out of status," which terminates your eligibility for benefits such as employment or travel re-certification. If you fall out of status, you must seek reinstatement in order to return to lawful F-1 status. Read more >

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3. On-Campus Employment

If you are an F-1 student, you are eligible to work on-campus as long as you meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • You must be a full-time student in a Lehigh degree program
  • You must have a valid SEVIS I-20 from Lehigh
  • You must have a valid, unexpired passport
  • You must have an I-94 card that is marked "F-1 D/S"
  • You must have a valid job offer from campus

Transfer F-1 students may begin to work on-campus at Lehigh once their transfer from the other U.S. institution is completed and have received their I-20 from Lehigh.

New incoming F-1 students also may begin to work on-campus as long as it is within the thirty days of the beginning date of their academic program.

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4. Off-Campus Employment Options

F-1 Economic Need Employment - for students who have suffered unexpected and unforeseen economic hardship due to circumstances beyond their control

F-1 Curricular Practical Training- for students with fieldwork requirements; internship electives built into the curriculum of their programs or if the job is considered an integral part of your program.

F-1 Optional Practical Training (Pre-Completion) - for students interested in pursuing employment experience in their field of study before completing their studies.

F-1 Optional Practical Training (Post-Completion) - for students interested in pursuing employment in their field of study following completion of studies.

F-1 students MAY NOT accept any employment offer that does not meet, and has not been approved for, one of the above classifications.

Off-campus employment of any kind cannot be pursued without the prior written authorization of either the ISS and/or USCIS. Engaging in employment without authorization is considered a serious violation of immigration regulations.

Students should attend an ISS F-1 Off-Campus Employment workshop (offered several times each year) before pursuing one of the off-campus employment options listed above. Students applying for post-completion Optional Practical Training should attend an F-1 Post-Completion Optional Practical Training workshop first.

Students who have attended the above workshops and wish to pursue an application and/or have further questions should schedule an appointment with ISS during appointment hours.

FICA Taxes while on F-1 OPT

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5. Moving? Change of Address?

All non-U.S. citizens, including permanent residents and non-immigrant aliens, are required by law to inform the U.S. Department of Homeland Security of any changes to their local U.S. home address--not your university or department address. In addition, students in F-1 status must maintain a current local home address with Lehigh University.

Report any change of local address within ten days of moving to ISS. Please note that this long-standing requirement, once rarely enforced, is now strictly required by USCIS. Failure to comply may lead to a fine of up to $200, imprisonment for up to thirty days, or both. Consequently, within tens days of any change to your local address, you should do the following:

Continuing F-1 students at Lehigh who change their address must:

  • Notify ISS within ten(10) days of moving and the new address will be entered into the SEVIS database within 10 days of the move.
  • Students subject to special registration requirements must notify ISS and mail out the Special Registration AR-11 form to DOS within ten(10) days of the move.

F-1 Students on Post-Completion Optional Practical Training

F-1 students who have completed their programs and are on post-completion OPT MUST provide ISS with your current U.S. home address since you are still under Lehigh University’s umbrella.

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Office of International Students and Scholars • Lehigh University • 32 Sayre Drive, Coxe Hall, Bethlehem, PA 18015 • 610-758-4859 • Fax: 610-758-5156 • intnl@lehigh.edu
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