Immigration Rights, Rules and Responsibilities of International Students in F-1 Visa Classification
This information is for the use of international students in F-1 status at the University of New Hampshire. After reading this information, you should have a basic understanding of the important rights or benefits you have in relation to U.S. immigration regulations. You should also have an understanding of your responsibilities for maintaining your lawful immigration status as an international student in F-1 status. You will not, however, have an understanding of the actual procedures which must be followed in order to apply for certain benefits. Consultation with, and assistance from, the staff of the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) will be necessary in order for you to exercise many of your rights.
Failure to Comply with Responsibilities
New laws passed by Congress include severe penalties for visitors who violate their status. If you fail to comply with your immigration responsibilities, you may not be eligible for benefits associated with the F-1 visa status and, in some situations, may be subject to deportation and future exclusion from the U.S. Violations include working without authorization, falling below full-time enrollment, and failure to request a program extension prior to the expiration date on your Form I-20. Monitor your immigration documents carefully and do not hesitate to consult with the OISS on any matter relating to your immigration status.
Further information on the rights and responsibilities of international students in F-1 status, as well as counseling and assistance, is available from the OISS.
You are required to file an income tax return each year, and pay any taxes due, regardless of your status or whether or not you were employed. Additional information is available from the OISS. The OISS sponsors a Tax Workshop every spring, during which an expert explains the tax obligations faced by international students and scholars.
Required Notification of Changes in Circumstances
- Report changes in your address to the OISS within 10 days of the change.
- If you change your major, your degree level, or source of funding, you must notify the OISS so we can issue you an accurate I-20.
Completion of Study
Upon completion of studies you may have the right to a) continue study at the same school or a different school for a higher academic degree, certificate or program of academic work; b) apply for Optional Practical Training; or c) take up to 60 days to depart the U.S. If you complete your studies before the expiration date listed on your I-20 you will have 60 days to prepare for departure. If you choose to remain in the U.S. for more than 60 days following the end of your program (without entering a new program or Optional Practical Training), you will be in violation of your immigration status, could be subject to deportation, and/or may be denied entry to the U.S. in the future.
Transfer to a Different School
You may be able to transfer from your present school to a different school if you qualify and follow certain procedures. You must consult the OISS staff for these procedures and notify them that you are planning to transfer. Your new school must issue you a new Form I-20 in order to complete the transfer.
Registration, Attendance and Course Load
Registration & Attendance: You must register at and attend the school indicated on your I-20.
Course Load: You must register as a full-time student when school is in session. For undergraduate students, full-time is defined as a minimum of 12 credits. For graduate students the requirement is 9 credits (6 credits if on a full assistantship) or registration for Master's Thesis or Doctoral Research.
Reduction in Course Load: You may register for a lesser course load if a) you will complete your studies by the end of that school term and do not need a full course load in order to graduate; b) the OISS approves, in advance, a reduction in course load due to special circumstances such as illness, academic difficulties, etc.; c) you are engaged in a prescribed course of study in a non-degree program; or d) you are participating in authorized Curricular or Optional Practical Training.
General: A maximum of 20 hours per week is permitted while school is in session. During annual vacation periods you may work up to 40 hours a week. (NOTE: Graduate students who hold full-time appointments as teaching or research assistants are not permitted to accept additional employment.)
On-Campus Employment: Employment for the school you are attending is permitted, provided that you are maintaining your status.
Off-Campus Employment: You can apply to the USCIS for off-campus employment authorization provided you can demonstrate an urgent financial need to work. Employment may not begin until authorization has been given. Consult with the OISS staff for procedures.
Curricular Practical Training: During your studies you can apply to the OISS for permission to engage in up to twelve (12) months of Curricular Practical Training. This is employment which is a required component of your academic program, or for which you will receive academic credit, and may occur anywhere in the U.S. Employment may not begin until written authorization has been given.
Optional Practical Training: During, or upon completion of, your studies you may apply to the OISS and USCIS for permission to engage in up to twelve (12) months of Optional Practical Training, provided you have not engaged in 12 months or more of Curricular Practical Training. This is employment directly related to your major field of study and may occur anywhere in the U.S. Employment may not begin until authorization has been given. Consult with the OISS staff for application procedures.
You are only permitted to receive compensation until the expiration date listed on Form I-20. Do not begin employment or accept additional appointments without prior consultation with, and approval from, the OISS.
Within the U.S.: You have the right to travel freely within the U.S. provided you maintain your legal F-1 status and have your passport and immigration documents in your possession.
Outside the U.S. with return planned to the same school: You must consult the OISS in advance regarding travel authorization and the necessary documentation required to facilitate your reentry to the U.S.
Outside the U.S. with return planned to a different school: You must consult the OISS in advance regarding your proposed travel and change of schools. If the change is permissible, you must obtain a new Form I-20 from your new school before you attempt to reenter the U.S.