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F-1 Students

F-1 Visa 

The F-1 visa is for non-immigrants to enter the United States solely for the purpose of full-time study. In order for prospective students to obtain this type of visa, they will have to show evidence that after completing studies, the individual will return to the country of their permanent residence.

After the student is admitted to WVU, the student must request a Form I-20 (using the link in their admission letter). After receiving a complete request, an I-20 is mailed directly to the student. An email confirmation will be sent to the student's WVU Mix Email address. (Be sure to read the entire I-20 before signing the first page.) The student will then pay the I-901 SEVIS fee. Once the fee has been paid and the student has a receipt of payment, the Form I-20 is then used to apply for an F-1 visa from an American embassy or consulate abroad.

To be admitted to the US, it is necessary to have the Form I-20, a valid F-1 visa, and a valid passport (valid at least 6 months beyond the date of entry).

More information concerning F-1 visas and status can be found here -  https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students


F-1 Status

After being admitted to the US in F-1 status, the student is then eligible to stay in the US for “duration of status” (D/S on the Forms I-94 and the I-20). Duration of status (or to be “in status”) means the time during which the student is in compliance with F-1 regulations. Upon completion of studies, the student has an additional 60-days grace period to depart the US.


Important F-1 Documents

Passport

Your passport must be valid at all times. Keep your passport and other important  documents in a safe place, such as a bank safe-deposit box. Report a lost or  s tolen passport to the police because your government may require a police report  before issuing a new passport. To renew or replace your passport, contact your  country’s consulate in the U.S.

Visa (Foil)

The visa is the foil (sometimes called a sticker or stamp) that the U.S. consular officer placed on a page in your  passport. The visa permitted you to apply for admission into the U.S. as an F-1  student, and does not need to remain valid while you are in the U.S. Visas can only be obtained outside  of the U.S. at a U.S. consulate.  Note: Canadian citizens are not required to have a visa. 

If your visa expires while you are in the U.S., the next time you travel abroad  you must obtain a new F-1 visa before returning to the U.S. You do not need to  depart the U.S. due to visa expiration.

I-20 "Certificate of Eligibility"

Issued by WVU, this document allows you to apply for an F-1 visa if you are outside  the U.S, apply for F-1 status within the U.S., enter and reenter the U.S. in  F-1 status, and prove your eligibility for various F-1 benefits. The I-20 indicates the institution in which you are permitted to study, your program of study, and the dates of eligibility. 

The I-20 must remain valid at all times. Request an extension prior to its expiration date. Allowing  the I-20 to expire before you complete your academic program is a violation of  F-1 status.  

The I-20 is a printout from your SEVIS (Student Exchange Visitor Information System) record. SEVIS is  an internet-based database that allows schools and federal immigration agencies  to exchange data on the status of international students. Information is transmitted  electronically throughout an F-1 student’s academic career in the U.S. Each  student has a unique SEVIS ID number, which is printed on your I-20 in the top  left corner.

I-94 (Arrival/Departure Form)

Paper Form I-94

If you have a paper Form I-94, regulations require that those individuals holding non-immigrant (temporary) visa status turn their I-94 arrival/departure record  card when leaving the U.S. if you have an I-94 that was attached in your passport. Failure to do that will result in the departure not being recorded properly in  Department of Homeland Security (DHS) system and the individual being regarded  as overstaying his/her authorized stay. This can have serious consequences on future entry into the U.S.

Online Form I-94

The issuance of I-94 arrival/departure record cards is now electronic for air and sea travelers. Once a student enters the U.S, a paper I-94 card will not be issued  at the point of entry (for air and sea travelers). Students will have to access the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website to print out the paper copy  of their I-94 card for their records. The Form I-94 is required for processing  social security cards and Driver Licenses. To obtain your I-94, you can visit CBP's I-94 website, click  on "get most recent I-94," enter your passport information, and print. 

More information concerning the Form I-94 can be found on the CBP website


US Immigration Regulations for F-1 Students

Students in F-1 status are responsible for learning, understanding, and complying with U.S. federal laws and regulations governing the F-1 visa. Failure to do so will violate the student's legal status in the United States. Summaries for many of the rules and regulations for F-1 students can be found on the third page of the Form I-20. Additional information about maintaining your F-1 status here -  https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/maintaining-status


Due to recent US Department of Homeland Security guidance, we cannot send or give I-20s to extended family members, friends, or third parties. They must sent or given directly to the primary beneficiary (F-1) or dependent (F-2). If you wish to pick up your I-20, you must bring an ID.

Full-time Enrollment

To maintain in good standing with your student status at WVU you must take at least 12 credit hours per the fall/spring semesters at the undergraduate level and meet all the WVU requirements. At the graduate level full course of study is defined by your college but usually 9 credit hours per the fall/spring semesters.  Please note: If you begin your studies at the beginning of the summer semester (May), you must be enrolled full-time for the summer semester (12 credit hours for undergraduate & 9 credit hours for graduate). If you begin your studies during the second half of summer, you must be enrolled for 6 credit hours undergraduate/graduate to be considered full-time.

Permission to register less than full-time (see below) must be obtained through International Students and Scholars Services (ISSS). Please note that your Academic Advisor must complete the form before we can complete this request.


Online Classes (Distance Education) Limits

No more than the equivalent of one on-line/distance education class or 3 credits per session/semester may count towards the “full course of study” requirement per semester.

Academic Integrity

The American classroom culture and expectations are very different from most of the other countries. Plagiarism, (taking someone else’s ideas and claiming them to be your own) is considered  cheating and can lead to suspension or expulsion, any of which would prevent you to enroll full-time. Using someone else’s ideas in written work is permitted as long as you give the originator of the idea their due credit through proper citation. 

To learn more about plagiarism and how to avoid it, visit: 


Obtain prior authorization from ISSS  to drop below 
a full course of study

Request drop below full-time

To obtain permission to drop below a full course of study for academic or medical reasons (see form for details), you must complete a request for a Reduced Course Load (RCL) before the beginning of the semester for which you are requesting it. You will need to upload:

  1. A recommendation form from your Academic Advisor
  2. If applicable - a letter from your licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist explaining the need for you to drop below full-time or withdraw from all classes


Request to withdraw from the semester

To withdraw from the entire semester, you must:

  1. Email both isss-students@mail.wvu.edu and copy ("cc") the registrar@mail.wvu.edu that you wish to completely withdraw from the semester.
  2. Your SEVIS record & I-20 will be terminated for authorized early withdrawal.
  3. Depart the US within 15 days of your request to withdraw.
  4. To return to the US, you must follow the directions in the confirmation email from our office.


Report any address changes to ISSS within 10 days 

U.S. federal regulations require all F-1 students to report a change of address within 10 days (of the address change) to an international student advisor in ISSS. The U.S. federal government requires international students to report directly to ISSS. ISSS is required to provide this and other data to the federal government electronically. No other university office is authorized by the federal government to process this data.


Report any changes in program to ISSS

Students must notify ISSS whenever there is a change in their academic program or program dates. If you have questions, please contact us at isss-students@mail.wvu.edu.


Change of Education Level

If the student wants to change education levels (e.g. Bachelor’s degree to Master’s degree or a even a second Bachelor's degree after completing the first) while remaining at WVU, a new I-20 with the new educational program noted needs to be issued after the student has been admitted.

To apply for a new I-20, the student will need to follow the link in their new admission letter , upload the required documents (e.g. passport, financial guarantee, etc), answer the questionnaires (mark "yes" for Change of Education Level). Once we have reviewed your completed request, we will email you to pick up your newly updated I-20.


Abide by employment regulations

F-1 student status permits you to work on campus for no more than 20 hours/week while school is in session and full-time during university breaks (winter, spring, summer). These 20 hours include the work you do for an assistantship (if you have one). 

You are not permitted to work off-campus without prior authorization. Off-campus employment is allowed with prior permission from ISSS (and usually an application  to USCIS) during and/or after the completion of your studies. These off-campus employment types are CPT/OPT and unforeseen  Economic Hardship.

Additional Information Concerning Worker's Rights

Know Your Rights (Wilberforce Pamphlet) from the Department of State. An information pamphlet describing your rights while working in the United States.


Apply for an extension prior to the I-20 expiration

If the student will not be able to complete their program by the program end date listed on their Form I-20, they will need to apply for an I-20 extension. Please note: A student cannot apply for an I-20 extension after their I-20 expires (after the program end date on the Form I-20).

To apply for an I-20 extension, the student will follow the link on the Requests page. The student will need to upload a financial guarantee (less than 6 months old), passport, a letter from your Academic Advisor explaining why you need an extension, etc. and answer the questionnaires. Once we have reviewed your completed request, we will email you to pick up your newly updated I-20.  

Please note that the official letter from your advisor should:

  • be on department letterhead and signed by your academic advisor
  • provide a description of the academic reasons why the student's program could not be completed within the allotted time
  • specify an expected date of completion of the student's program
  • if the need for an extension is due to medical reasons, an additional letter from an MD/DO/Licensed Clinical Psychologist explaining the situation will need to be provided 

Receive transfer authorization before leaving WVU

Students must receive authorization from ISSS before leaving WVU in order to transfer your SEVIS record (I-20) out to another institution. Please note: you must maintain your F-1 status at the school that holds your SEVIS record (WVU) until your transfer out it completed. For example, if you request to transfer out at any time during a required semester, you must remain enrolled until the transfer is approved.


Obtain a travel signature prior to departing the U.S. for your return to WVU

When preparing to travel abroad it is important to ensure you have the required documents for entry to another country and re-entry to the U.S. Entry requirements to other countries are typically available on their embassies websites. Depending on the country to be visited and the student’s nationality, there may be the need to apply for a visitor’s visa.

In order to return to the U.S., a student must have:

  • a valid passport - Check your passport expiration date. Make sure it will not expire sooner than six months from your re-entry date. If your passport expires in less than six months, it is crucial that you renew your passport in the US through a consulate or embassy before traveling, or renew it while you’re back in your country of citizenship (if home for a long enough period).
  • a valid U.S visa - Check your visa expiration date. If the F-1 visa foil in your passport will expire before your intended re-entry date to the U.S., you’ll need to obtain a new visa to re-enter the US. Please see ISSS if you need a new I-20.
  • a current/valid I-20 - Carry your most recent original I-20 that is signed by an ISSS Staff member (DSO) for the most recent semester.           
  • verification of enrollment - a copy of enrolled courses
  • proof of I-901 SEVIS fee payment - You can find this at fmjfee.com.
  • Financial Verification - Financial information showing proof of necessary funds to cover tuition and living expenses 
  • been out of the U.S. for less than 5 months
  • contact information for ISSS - (304) 293-3519

If you are not in the Morgantown area to get your I-20 signed in person and you have enough time to mail it to us for a travel signature, you can mail it to the address at the bottom of the web page. Be sure to include a self-addressed, "stamped" envelope as you are responsible for paying for the return shipping charges. 


Other Obligations 
    • Strive to understand and tolerate a host country’s educational and cultural setting, including standards of conduct, law, respect for others, honesty and integrity. 
    • Respect the rights of self-determination of others. 
    • Observe the laws and respect for culture of the host country. 
    • Participate as fully as possible in the life of the host university and country. 
    • Seek to participate in joint and cooperative ventures of an educational, social or cultural nature with citizens and students of the host country and with other international students and scholars. 
    • Individually and in groups, act with respect for the rights of persons from other countries, cultures and subcultures, without abridging those rights even in pursuit of one’s own rights.  

    Depart the U.S. within 60-day grace period

    F-1 visa holders must depart the U.S. within 60 days of their I-20 expiration date or upon completion of their degree program (if not applying for practical training), whichever is earlier.


    Report departure date and reason to ISSS

    Sometimes, and for a variety of reasons, students leave the university early or unexpectedly. Some of these reasons include early graduation, completion of practical training, leave of absence, suspension, or expulsion. U.S. federal regulations require F-1 students to inform ISSS if they plan to leave the university before the expiration date of their I-20 form as well as the reason for doing so. Please send us an email at isss-students@mail.wvu.edu