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Maintaining Legal Status

Rules for maintaining F-1 student status

International Advising

Maria Polyanskaya
International Student Advisor

Fax: 617.585.0121

International students from over 30 countries have chosen Boston and the BAC as the place to pursue their academic careers. The International Student Services (ISS) staff can address questions concerning academics, cultural issues, employment, taxes and immigration. Federal immigration regulations in the United States places the responsibility on the student to know and understand the immigration regulations that govern their stay. Failure to comply with the regulations may have severe consequences with respect to the student's ability to complete their studies, seek employment, and even return to the United States in another non-immigrant category. An international student with an F-1 visa must make sure to maintain the immigration status that was granted to them upon entering the U.S. The ISS staff is here to make this as smooth as possible.

Make sure that your immigration documents are valid at all times while in the US.

    • Your passport must be valid at all times while in F-1 status.
    • You must have a passport and entry stamp displaying "F-1 D/S" (D/S stands for Duration of Status).
    • You must have an unexpired Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) I-20 form.
    • The F-1 visa may expire while you are in the United States but it needs to be renewed if you intend to re-enter the US on some future date.

Register for, and complete, a full course load each semester. 

International students in F-1 status are required to maintain full-time enrollment during the academic year.

    • Undergraduate students are required to complete at least 12 credits each semester.
    • Graduate students are required to complete at least 9 credits each semester.

Reduced Course Load (RCL)

If you cannot or will not meet the full time enrollment requirement, you must request authorization for reduced course load (RCL). Federal regulations strictly limit a student's ability to be enrolled in less than full time, but it may be allowed in some circumstances. A student who wishes to drop below full time must obtain the approval from the International Student Advisor (DSO) in advance, regardless what the reason for the RCL might be. If you drop below full time without authorization after the drop/add deadline, the International Student Advisor is required to report this to SEVIS and you will lose your F-1 status.

Department of Homeland Security approved reasons permitting RCL:

1. Illness or Medical Condition

    • The student must provide documentation from a licensed U.S. medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist, to the DSO to substantiate the illness or medical condition requiring either part-time enrollment to no enrollment at all.
    • RCL for illness/medical condition can be authorized for a maximum of 12 months per academic level (Bachelor's or Master's) and a new medical letter must be presented each academic term.

2. Academic Difficulties

You may apply for RCL due to academic difficulties if your academic advisor recommends it. Immigration regulations specify four academic difficulty reasons for which RCL may be approved:

    • Initial difficulty with English language,
    • Initial difficulty with reading requirements,
    • Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods,
    • Improper course placement.

Please note:

A student may be authorized for an Academic RCL only for a single semester during any one course of study at a particular program level, and must resume a full course of study at the next semester.
As per federal regulations, RCL for academic difficulties must consist of at least 6 credit hours for undergraduate students and at least 4 credit hours for graduate students.

Last Semester RCL:

A student must apply for RCL in his/her final semester if fewer courses (i.e. less than full time) are needed and required to complete the course of study.

When an International Student Advisor approves RCL in SEVIS the student is considered to be maintaining status even if they are not registered for a full course of study. If you believe that one of the above reasons outlined above applies to you, please complete Recommendation for RCL Form and schedule a meeting with your Academic Advisor and the International Student Advisor.

Only engage in authorized employment
International students are limited in the types of employment available to them. F-1 students may accept on-campus employment of no more than 20 hours per week when school is in session. F-1 may be approved for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) employment to gain required Practice House and Skill Level to graduate. After graduation, eligible F-1 students may apply for Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT). Please refer to the Employment Guide for F-1 Students for detailed information on permissible types of employment.

Report changes of address to the International Student Advisor within 10 days of moving.
F-1 students are required to maintain current US and foreign addresses in their SEVIS records.

Obtain a travel signature from the school DSO and other relevant documents prior to departing the United States.

To re-enter the US you must have a valid "travel and re-entry signature" on the second page of your I-20. Travel endorsement signature is valid for one calendar year.

File taxes each tax year.
All international students must file the form 8843. This is the only form needed if you did not earn income during the tax year. F-1 students with US income from sources such as dividend income, salary or wages, scholarships or fellowships, prizes or awards will need to file either form 1040NR or 1040NR EZ. Tax information for international students will be available each spring semester.

Contact the International Student Advisor immediately if there is a change in your academic or personal situation such as:

  • Change of name which requires a new passport or I-20.
  • Change of degree program.
  • Change of financial support and financial resources.
  • Temporary departure or withdrawal from the school for any reason.

Maintain continuity of records if you are transferring to another SEVP approved school.
If you have been accepted at another school and need to have your SEVIS record transferred to that school, you must present the International Student Advisor with a letter of acceptance and a SEVIS transfer form.

Upon completion of your degree, you have a 60-day grace period to either:

  • Depart the United States,
  • Transfer to another SEVP approved school,
  • Enroll in another degree program at the BAC, or,
  • Apply for a benefit such as post-completion OPT or Change of Status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).