Guidelines to Maintaining Status

It is your responsibility to maintain your legal status in the United States as an F-1 student. By being aware of and complying with the regulations to stay in F-1 status, you will avoid problems that can interfere with your program of study.

Watch this "ABCs of Maintaining Your F-1 Student Status" video recording made by OISA staff for a comprehensive overview of the rules you must follow as an F-1 visa holder. VIDEO PASSCODE: Z9BBb3A% 

  • Report Your Address/Change Your Address

    U.S. immigration regulations require that all F-1 students (and their dependents) report any change of residential address in the U.S. to the federal government within 10 days of the move. To report your change of address, you must complete Form AR-11 online through the USCIS website. Be sure to do this within 10 days of any move within the U.S.

  • Academic Requirements

    Register for a full-time course load: F-1 visa students must register for a full-time course load by the end of the add/drop period in each semester. 

    Full-time enrollment for F-1 undergraduate students = 3 credits at Wesleyan (equivalent to 12 credit hours); courses may be for 1 credit, 0.5 credits, or 0.25 credits as long as they add up to at least 3 credits.

    Full-time enrollment for F-1 graduate students = 1 credit at Wesleyan (equivalent to 4 credit hours).

    Follow attendance policies: It is required to follow the attendance guidelines provided by each professor. Attending all of your classes is a requirement for you to maintain your F-1 status.

    Make normal progress: F-1 visa students must make normal progress towards their degrees. Please consult with your class dean and OISA if there are any challenges that may delay your progress.

  • Reduced Course Load (RCL)

    All F-1 students are required to enroll full-time each semester, with very limited exceptions. If one of the below exceptions applies to you, you must be granted permission from OISA and your class dean before dropping below full-time. Please note that U.S. immigration regulations limit authorized Reduced Course Load (RCL) time to no more than 12 months during your degree program.

    Read more about Reduced Course Load

    Academic Difficulty

    You may request an RCL for Academic Difficulty one time (and only in your first year) if you experience one of the following: 

    • Initial difficulty with reading requirements
    • Unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods
    • Improper course placement (This means not having the prerequisites or preparation for a course and is not limited to first year.)

    Illness or Medical Condition

    You may apply for an RCL on the basis of a temporary health situation. To qualify, your condition must be confirmed in writing by a licensed medical doctor (MD), doctor of osteopathy (DO), or licensed clinical psychologist (including PhD or PsyD). The written confirmation must also indicate the time period recommended for the reduced enrollment. If your situation qualifies for a medical RCL, it will be authorized for one semester. If additional time is needed, new documentation will be required. Note that students are restricted to no more than 12 cumulative months of reduced course load per degree level for medical reasons. 

    Final Semester

    F-1 undergraduate students who are seniors in their last semester completing the second half of their senior thesis and only need this credit to fulfill all degree requirements may be eligible for a final semester RCL. More information about this academic policy is listed on the Academic Standing page of the University's online Academic Catalog. To request a final semester RCL, you must first meet with your class dean and complete the Per Credit Form. Once you have been approved for per credit enrollment by your class dean, you must contact OISA to request a final semester RCL.    

    Final semester RCLs must be authorized by OISA within the first 25 days of the start of the semester. All RCL types cannot be authorized retroactively after a semester has finished.    

  • Leave of Absence, Suspension, or Withdrawal

    If you are considering a leave of absence or withdrawal from your program, please connect with your class dean and OISA in advance to find out how it will affect your immigration status and employment eligibility when you return. If you have been suspended from your academic program, please contact OISA to discuss the effect of the suspension on your immigration status.

    Before you go on a leave, please consider the following and plan accordingly: 

    • Your current F-1 SEVIS record will be terminated after the official notification of leave and you will have to leave the U.S. within 15 calendar days. 
    • An F-1 student returning from a leave must be enrolled for two consecutive full-time semesters before being eligible for practical training authorization (CPT or OPT). 
    • Your student health insurance may be affected. Contact Health Services for information about insurance coverage and leave of absence.
  • Returning from a Leave of Absence

    Students who intend to return to their studies at Wesleyan after taking a leave of absence must first contact their class dean. This should be done a minimum of 3 months before the beginning of the term they intend to resume their studies.

    After receiving approval from their class dean to return to their program, students should make their request to return from leave to OISA through their International Student and Scholar (ISS) Portal account. OISA will use the information submitted through this request to create a new SEVIS record for the student and to issue them a new I-20.

    Submitting Your Return from Leave Request

    Before making this request, please gather the following documents/information:

    • Passport Photo Page (Required)
    • F-1 Visa Stamp (Required)
    • Dependent Documentation (if applicable)
    • Financial Aid Award Letter (for those receiving full or partial financial aid)
    • Completed Certification of Finances (for those not receiving financial aid or receiving partial financial aid)

    Log in to your ISS Portal account by clicking on LOGIN at the top right corner of the page. Use your Wesleyan credentials to log in.

    Once logged in, click on the gray house icon located at the left side of the black navigation bar. Select Site Home from the drop-down menu. You will be redirected to the ISS Portal main page.

    Select F-1 Student Requests from the menu on the left side of the page, then click on Return from Leave Request from the menu choices on the next page. You will then be asked to select the term that you plan to return from leave.

    Make sure to carefully review the Announcements and Instructions sections on the page that you are redirected to.

    In order to provide OISA with the information needed to create your new record in SEVIS and I-20, you will need to complete the following sections and requests:

    Attached Documents: You will be asked to attach scans of your Passport Photo Page and F-1 Visa Stamp. The F-1 visa requirement does not apply to Canadian citizens, who should instead upload a document stating that this does not apply to them.

    If you will be bringing dependents with you to Wesleyan, please upload a copy of each dependent’s Passport Photo Page and F-2 Visa Stamp (if applicable). Please upload your dependent(s) documentation in one file.

    Signature Documents: This section will ask you to review and digitally sign documents with important information that indicate your understanding. Please be aware that these are legal documents. Please contact OISA if you have any questions before clicking the buttons to digitally sign these documents.

    Assessments: In this section, you will take a quiz to show that you understand how to maintain status when returning from leave. You are allowed to take this assessment 2 times and your final score will be the highest score you receive. Your final score must be at least 90% in order to complete this assessment.

    Questionnaires: Please complete each of the questionnaires in this section. If the questionnaire does not apply to you, respond by selecting “no.” Make sure to start at the top of the list and complete all questions.

    Students should be prepared to upload the following, depending on their financial aid situation:

    • Students not receiving financial aid will be asked to submit their completed Certification of Finances (COF) form, including any supporting documentation (financial statements, bank statement, etc.) if completing section(s) 8a - 8c on the COF.
    • Students receiving partial financial aid will be asked to submit their Financial Aid Award Letter and completed Certification of Finances (COF) form, including any supporting documentation (financial statements, bank statement, etc.) if completing section(s) 8a - 8c on the COF.
    • Students receiving full financial aid will be asked to submit their Financial Aid Award Letter.

    You can click the save button at the bottom of the form to save your answers as you go along but make sure you click the submit button to submit the information to your request.

    When you have completed each section of the Return from Leave Request, click the Submit button at the top of the page.

    If you start a request in the ISS Portal but are unable to complete it, you may return to this request at a later time. Do not start a new one. To return to an existing request, please go to your ISS Portal User Home Page.

    After Submitting Your Return from Leave Request

    Once your request is received and reviewed, you will be contacted with next steps in this process. Be aware that once you have received your new I-20, you are required to pay a new I-901 fee (currently $350).

    If your current F-1 visa is not expired: You may use the same visa to return no earlier than 30 days prior to the start date indicated on your I-20.

    If your F-1 visa has expired: You will need use your new I-20 to apply for a new visa prior to returning.

    After Returning to Wesleyan

    Students who return from leave will have a new SEVIS record and an I-20 in Initial status. Upon returning to campus, these students must submit the OISA Check-In for Students with Initial I-20s before the first day of classes.

  • F-1 Visa Holder Studying Abroad

    Before you study abroad, you must contact OISA to obtain instructions on remaining in valid F-1 status while you are out of the U.S. 

    Before you return from study abroad, you will receive an email from OISA with instructions to obtain a new I-20 with travel signature in preparation for your return.

  • Extending Your Current Program at Wesleyan

    Federal F-1 visa regulations require you to enroll full-time each semester, make normal progress toward your degree, and complete your program by the end date listed on your I-20. It is unusual to need additional time beyond your I-20 end date, however, there may be extraordinary circumstances which necessitate additional time to complete your program. Read on to see if you qualify and how to proceed. Read more about Extending Your Current Program at Wesleyan

    Reasons for program extension: 

    1. You need to make up for the time lost when you were authorized for a reduced course load for academic or medical reasons.
    2. You need to make up for time lost during an approved leave of absence. 
    3. There was a significant change to your thesis/dissertation topic or you had unexpected research problems. This may apply to graduate students only. 

    When to apply: 

    You must request an extension at least 30 days prior to your current I-20 end date. Your I-20 cannot be extended after the end date has passed. If you feel that you meet one of the above reasons for extension, contact OISA. 

  • Beginning a New Program at Wesleyan

    If you are a current Wesleyan student and plan to begin a new program at a higher degree level here, it is known as a change of educational level. 

    When moving from one program to another at Wesleyan, you must apply for a new Certificate of Eligibility (COE) for the new program. Obtaining a new I-20 will update your SEVIS record and extend your F “duration of status,” which is the time you are permitted to stay in the United States as a student.

    Read more about Beginning a New Program at Wesleyan

    When to apply:

    Earliest Date to Apply: As soon as you are accepted to your new full-time program at Wesleyan.

    Latest date to apply: No later than 50 days after your current program completion (to allow time before the 60-day deadline).

    How to apply

    Please gather and submit the following documents to OISA: