U.S. F-1 Status Rules and Laws

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) oversees the granting of benefits and rules governing students in F-1 and M-1 student visa status. 

Students with a question concerning Criminal Law or who have been arrested by the police should get BOTH a Criminal AND an Immigration Lawyer's advice.

Included here is a list of FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS and includes answers on how Central Texas College applies F-1 and M-1 rules and regulations for students on our campus.

01. Who needs an I-20?

New students - Any non-U.S. citizen who wishes to obtain an F-1 (international student) visa or to change existing immigration status to F-1 must first obtain an I-20 to verify your admission to a qualified school. Most I-20s are requested by students who are outside the U.S. and plan to apply for a student visa. A significant number of I-20s are also requested by individuals already in the U.S. on other kinds of temporary visas - exchange participant, diplomat, an employee of an international organization, among others.  Please contact the International Student Services Department for further details. 

Transfer students - Students who already have F-1 status with an I-20 from another school must obtain a new I-20 from Central Texas College. Each I-20 is valid only for the school named on the form.

02. What is an I-94? 

Your I-94 is a document issued by the USCIS to indicate the conditions that apply to your stay in the United States. The I-94 can be downloaded from the website.  They are not issued at port of entry any longer.  In all cases the I-94 will indicate your immigration status, "F-1" and either shows a fixed expiration date for the status or the letters "D/S--Duration of Status. 

03. What is "Duration of Status" or D/S?

A few classes of immigration status remain in effect as long as the holder complies with specific conditions. For post-secondary students F-1 status is almost always granted for Duration of Status, meaning that the status continues as long as the holder is a full-time student with a valid I-20 and does not violate a condition of the status. At the port of entry, the immigration officer will mark your I-20 and I-94 with the notation D/S, indication duration of status.  

04. What is the difference between a visa and immigration status?

A visa is a document or stamp in your passport issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad that permits you to arrive at a port of entry to the U.S. It is your permission to arrive only. Immigration status indicates the specific category of regulations that will apply to you during your stay in the U.S. Visas are issued by American embassies and consulates abroad; immigration status is conferred in the U.S. by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

05. What is the meaning of the term "in-status?"

 The term simply means that you are complying with the conditions for maintaining your F-1 status as stated on your I-20.

06. Is there more than one kind of I-20 for F-1 status?

Yes. I-20s are designated for specific purposes, including the following:

•  Initial attendance: I-20 for students applying for an F-1 visa for the first time.

•  Transfer: I-20 for students transferring with F-1 status to Central Texas College.

•  Change of status: I-20 to request a change from current immigration status to F-1 without leaving the U.S.

•  Reinstatement: I-20 to request reinstatement to F-1 status by USCIS without leaving the U.S.

•  Add dependent(s): I20 to request F-1 visa or status for a dependent spouse or minor children.

07. What documents should I bring when I travel outside the U.S.?

 To re-enter the United States after a trip abroad, students will need a valid passport, a valid visa, and a valid I-20 endorsed on the back by the Designated School Official. The signature verifies that the student is in status and is expected to return to the United States to continue study at the school issuing the I-20. Students who have applied for Optional Practical Training should reconsider traveling outside the U.S. while the application is pending. Please visit the International Student Services office for further details. 

08. What if I want to travel abroad, but my visa has expired, or I only have a tourist visa because I changed status in the U.S.?  

If visa is expired you may continue to study, however, if you return to your country on vacation, you must apply for a new visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate, preferably in your home country before you may re-enter the U.S. You need to plan in advance. Check the website of the Department of State, http://www.state.gov, for information. In many countries, you will need an appointment for several days, or even weeks, in advance. Check very carefully before planning to request a visa in a third country.

09. Can I transfer from another college or language school to Central Texas College without losing my F-1 status?

Yes. However, you must apply for a new I-20 issued by Central Texas College. You will need proof of completion of high school, of English language level, current financial support, and verification that you maintained F-1 status at the previous school. Please note that transfer applications must be completed by the published deadlines to assure students that appropriate courses will be available. Please contact the International Student Services Department for further details.

10. Can I transfer from another college or language school if I am already out of status?

No. You will need to apply for reinstatement to F-1 status at your current school before transfer to Central Texas College.

11. What happens if my passport or visa expires while I am in the U.S.?

A. Renew your passport before it expires. USCIS regulations require that student visa holder maintain a valid passport at all times.

On the other hand, an expired visa is not a problem as long as you remain in the U.S. However, you will need a new visa to return to the U.S. after a visit to any countries beyond Canada, Mexico, or the nearby Caribbean Islands. Most students are permitted to travel to these adjacent countries and return with a valid I-20, even though the visa has expired. Contact the International Student Services office for further details.

12. What happens if I fall out of status”?

Students’ who are out of status forfeit all privileges of the status, such as on-campus work, practical training, or the right to reenter the U.S. with a signed I-20 form. To regain your status, you will need to obtain a new I-20 prior to travel abroad or apply to the USCIS for reinstatement. Application for reinstatement by the USCIS requires that the student pay a filing fee. If the reinstatement application is denied, the student will be advised to leave the United States until able to reenter with an appropriate status.

13. What if I am having a difficulty that may cause me to lose status?

See your International Student Services Department immediately. In many cases, the loss of status can be avoided by timely action. However, once a student has lost status, it can only be regained through USCIS, either by application for reinstatement or by reentry to the U.S. with F-1 status.

14. How much will it cost to study full-time Central Texas College?

A. The International Student Services Department must have proof that any sponsor (including the student) is ready, willing, and able to cover BOTH the expenses for education and for living to issue the form I-20.  The cost of tuition and fees is listed each academic year on the College website (International Students are expected to pay the "Out of State" tuition rate).  The total costs include tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation, medical insurance and personal expenses.  These are listed on the College Cost page: http://www.ctcd.edu/academics/catalog/catalog-texas/college-costs/

15. What is the minimum number of credits to be considered a full-time student?

To maintain status, you must complete 12 credits during fall and spring semesters. Students are not required to take any courses during the summer term.

16. Are there any exceptions to the full-time requirement?

Students who have medical or academic reasons for registering for less than a full course load must contact the International Student Services Department to see whether the particular circumstances allow an exception. USCIS regulations permit exceptions only under very limited and specific conditions.

17. What if I cannot complete my program by the expiration date of my I-20?

Students who are unable to complete their program by the date indicated on the I-20 must have a compelling academic or medical reason to apply for an extension of stay. A request for an extension must be discussed with the International Student Services Department at least 60 days before the expiration date on the I-20.  Documentation of need and new financial support may be required. 

18. Can I apply for financial aid?

Students with F-1 status do not qualify for federal financial aid, nor for most state programs. However, some private scholarships are open to all. For further information see a financial aid counselor.

19. How do I report a change of address?

* Contact the International Student Services Office to update your record in the Central Texas College system.  This must be done WITHIN 10 (TEN) DAYS AFTER ANY MOVE.

* The change will be reported to USCIS through the College system.

20. Does Central Texas College charge a fee for processing the I-20?

No, however, USCIS charges a "SEVIS fee" that must be paid once a form I-20 is issued, and a SEVIS record is created*.  Students must show the receipt for this fee to apply for an F-1 or M-1 student visa or to apply for F-1 or M-1 status.  Instructions are given with the I-20.  The website for the fee payment and with additional information is www.fmjfee.com

*A new SEVIS record must be created if a student is outside the U.S. for five calendar months.