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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 follow up admission email. If you have not received this link within 3 business days after receiving confirmation of admission, please email to inquire about the link. 

After receiving a completed request for an I-20, international student advisors (DSOs) will review eligibility.  ISSS cannot guarantee turnaround times for processing an I-20, but strive to complete requests within 15 business days.  Once complete, an I-20 is issued by ISSS to the student and an email confirmation will be sent to the student's WVU Mix Email address about the method of delivery and how to access the form. (Be sure to read the entire I-20 before signing the first page. The back page of the I-20 will contain important regulations for you to know while in F-1 status in the U.S.).  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 -

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


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 or somewhere where it won’t be damaged. Report a lost or stolen 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. for further instructions.

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: Neither citizens of Bermuda nor Canada are 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.

Form I-20 "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status"

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. Although ISSS does its best to provide information about the I-20, it is ultimately the student’s responsibility to understand when their program end date is approaching and communicate the need for an extension to an ISSS staff member. After a program end date has passed, an extension of the I-20 is unlikely and you may need to depart the U.S., complete the onboarding process again, and re-enter on a new I-20/SEVIS record if you failed to request an extension in time.

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. only 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 -

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.

Authorization to register less than or drop below full-time (see below) must be obtained through International Students and Scholars Services (ISSS) prior to less than full-time enrollment or dropping below full-time. Dropping below full-time without prior authorization is considered a violation of status that would result in your visa status being terminated if not corrected.


  • A grade of "W" (for withdrawal) does not count towards full-time enrollment.
  • Neither the "Winter Intercession" nor the "Maymester" count towards full-time enrollment.

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 (please check with the ISSS staff for exceptions to these regulations during the pandemic and if you are eligible).

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

Request to drop below full-time

Pursuing a "full course of study" is one of the cornerstones of maintaining status. A student must continue to pursue that full course of study throughout each semester in order to maintain status and be in good standing. The maintenance of status is principally the responsibility of the student. If you feel that you will need to drop below full time, you must first request permission to do so and have been notified by a Designated School Official ("DSO") within ISSS that you have received authorization prior to enrolling in less than a full course of study or prior to dropping any courses during the semester. 

International students must have authorization for a "Reduced Course Load" ("RCL") and have this information updated in SEVIS prior to reducing their course load. Dropping below a full course of study without the prior approval of a DSO in the ISSS office will be considered a violation of status.

To obtain permission to drop below a full course of study for academic or medical reasons, you must complete a request for a Reduced Course Load. The request for a reduced course load in a final semester should be made before the beginning of the semester for which you are requesting it. If the request to drop below full-time occurs during the semester, it must be authorized before dropping any courses.

Please note that some university scholarships may require full-time enrollment. Be sure to speak to the appropriate office managing your scholarship(s) for more information on how it may be impacted by dropping below full-time.

Please also remember: You must maintain full-time enrollment at all times. 

***Do not drop any of your courses until you receive notification from ISSS that the request has been authorized. 

If you have dropped a course(s) in error or prior to authorization and cannot add the course or another course in STAR, please e-mail and indicate the error and ask to be added back into the course(s) immediately after discovering the error. Permission to be added back is not guaranteed, so this should be done as soon as possible. E-mail immediately if you have dropped below full time without authorization and cannot fix the error and we can further advise; however, this may still be considered a violation of status that would result in the termination of your F-1 status.

If you are enrolled full time and would still like to proceed with a reduced course load request, eligibility requirements can be found here - Study in the States

Directions for making a Reduced Course Load (RCL) request:

  1. Be sure you are enrolled full-time.
  2. Complete a request for a Reduced Course LoadWhen you make the request, you will need to:
  • Obtain a recommendation from your Academic Advisor. (To get your academic advisor's approval, you will need to click on "Request Electronic Recommendation," look up your academic advisor, and complete the steps.) The recommendation must be completed before we can complete the request.
  • If the request is for a Medical Reduced Course Load you will also need a completed Medical RCL Form 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.
After the request is made, you must wait to be notified by ISSS that your request has been authorized before enrolling in less than or dropping below full-time. An advisor will communicate with you about any issues regarding meeting the regulations for a reduced course load or inform you of authorization via email.

Please Note: RCL requests for academic reasons still require a student to be enrolled in at least six credit hours (or half the clock hours for IEP).

Consequences of not Enrolling in or Dropping Below a "Full Course of Study" Without Prior Authorization: You will be considered out of status and your SEVIS record will be terminated. You will need to depart the U.S. immediately if you cannot regain a full-time course load. To regain status, you would be required to complete an on-boarding request for a new I-20, pay the SEVIS fee again, and travel outside and re-enter the U.S. on the new I-20. Please e-mail for any questions related to maintaining full-time status.

Request to withdraw from the semester

To withdraw from the entire semester, you must:

  1. Email both and copy ("cc") the that you wish to completely withdraw from the semester. 
    1. Please note, refund requests are processed through Student Accounts.
  2. Your SEVIS record & I-20 will be terminated for "authorized early withdrawal."
  3. You must depart the US within 15 days of your request to withdraw.
  4. Send us a PDF copy of your I-94 travel history (click "view travel history") to evidence your departure from the US.  
  5. At least 2 months before you intend to return to the US to resume your studies, contact International Admissions ( to see whether you need to be readmitted into your academic program.
  • If you are readmitted and receive a new admission email, follow the link on the admission email to start the process of applying for a new I-20.
  • If Admissions does not need to readmit you to your program, contact our office ( to get the link for the Student On-boarding so you can apply for a new I-20.

6.  Complete the request to obtain a new I-20 with a new SEVIS number.

7.  Pay the SEVIS fee ($350) at

8.  Apply for a new F-1 visa if your old F-1 visa is no longer valid at a US embassy/consulate abroad.

9.  Complete SEVIS Check-in  upon your return to Morgantown.

Note: A leave of absence follows the same basic procedures. Please be sure to coordinate with your department about any assistantship requirements before departing and what requirements you may need to meet before returning.

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

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 email, upload the required documents (e.g. passport, financial guarantee, admission email), answer the questionnaires (mark "yes" for Change of Education Level). Once we have reviewed your completed request, we will email you about your newly updated I-20.

Continuing evidence of financial ability to meet expenses for the cost of attendance of the first academic year is still required: (ex. official bank statement) - 

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). I-20s may only be extended up to one (1) additional year per extension request.

Although ISSS does its best to provide information about the I-20, it is ultimately the student’s responsibility to understand when their program end date is approaching and communicate the need for an extension to an ISSS staff member. 

To apply for an I-20 extension, the student will follow the link on the requests page. Select "Extension of I-20". In the request, the student will need to supply:
  • certify continued financial ability to meet expenses.
  • a request via our system to your Academic Advisor who will explain why you need an extension, etc. and answer the questionnaires. 
Note: 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 

Once we have reviewed your completed request, we will email you to obtain 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. For more information about on and off campus employment, payroll processing, and frequently asked questions about employment, please visit our student employment webpage.

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.

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. Please utilize the Transfer OUT request to begin this process.

Your new school will also need to help you coordinate their transfer-in process. Please be in contact with a DSO at your new institution regarding their processes as well and provide ISSS contact information to the new school DSO if further coordination is needed.

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

When preparing to travel abroad, and in addition to obtaining a travel signature from ISSS, 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 the website of their embassy. 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 endorsed with a travel signature from a DSO - 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
  • 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 (please consult with ISSS for exceptions to this regulation during the pandemic).
  • Emergency contact information for ISSS - (304) 293-9456

If you are not in Morgantown to have your I-20 signed, please contact to inquire about a travel signature. All students regardless of the current location may request a travel signature from our request page.  Please be sure to try to make this request as soon as possible prior to travelling if possible. Electronic issuance is an option while the updated pandemic guidance by DHS allows it.

If you choose to do so and you have enough time to mail your I-20 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. 

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

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 may be 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:   

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.