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F-1 Visa and F-1 Status
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, 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. (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 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.
After being admitted to the US, 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.
To maintain good standing with your student status at WVU you must take at least 12 credit hours per required semester at the undergraduate level and meet all the other requirements. At the graduate level full course of study is defined by your college but usually 9 credit hours per semester. (Please note that if the student begins during the summer semester, they must also be enrolled full-time.)
Permission to register less than full-time (Reduced Course Load) must be obtained through International Students and Scholars Services. Please note that your Academic Advisor must complete the form before we can complete this request.
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). Off-campus employment is allowed with prior permission from ISSS (and usually an appliaction 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.
Extension of I-20
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 (here). 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
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.
Travel Abroad & Return to the US
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
- been out of the U.S. for less than 5 months
- contact information for ISSS - (304) 293-3519
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 website here (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.
Please go to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) website for complete information on traveling abroad (Travel FAQ for F-1). Please remember to bring your I-20 to ISSS at least two weeks before you leave the U.S. so that we can make sure that your I-20 has been signed within a year of your intended return to the U.S.