International Student Services
FOR F-1 STUDENTS
The U.S. government maintains and updates a real-time informational database on international students in F-1 and J-1 status to ensure that they are in legal status. This database is called SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. Every F-1/J-1 student and their dependents in the U.S. must have in their possession a valid SEVIS Form I-20 at all times.
Fulfilling the Requirements of SEVIS—A Guide for Students in F-1 Status (PDF)
As an F-1 student your primary purpose for being in the U.S. is to study. In order to remain in lawful F-1 status, you must comply with the following requirements:
Failure to comply with the regulations cited above is a violation of your F-1 status and may result in serious consequences, including termination of your program of study.
A student in F-1 status is required by the USCIS to complete a minimum academic load of 12 units per semester if an undergraduate, or 9 units per semester if a graduate student. All requests must be approved before the last day to add a course. Certain circumstances that would allow a student to carry a reduced number of units:
- Concurrent Enrollment: When a student enrolls at BG for at least 6 units, and an additional 6 units or more at another university or community college. Student must obtain prior approval from ISS.
- Authorization to Drop Below Full Course: A student may be eligible to take less than the required number of units, if approved by ISS under USCIS regulations. For example: If it is the student's final term, the student is experiencing medical problems, or the student is having academic difficulty due to language deficiencies or improper course placement (first semester only).
- Thesis or Project Only: A graduate student who has less than the required number of units, or is working on a thesis or project during the semester and is not registered for any units must submit a letter from the academic advisor prior to the end of requested period, on BG letterhead indicating that the student is considered to be a full-time student.
Remember: You must receive advance approval (prior to the last day of the add period) from a Designated School Official to take less than the required unit load! To request authorization complete and return the Authorization to Drop Below a Full Course Load Form (PDF)
In order to maintain status with USCIS, international students are expected to complete their studies in a given time. If the student is unable to complete all degree requirements by the program end date on the I-20, an extension must be granted before the completion date on the I-20. This is called an Extension of Program (EOP). To request an EOP, complete the Extension of Program Form (PDF) and return it to ISS at least one week prior to the program end date on your current I-20. Note: Your program extension needs to be authorized in SEVIS before the program end date in item #5 of your Form I-20.
F-1 students who are planning to travel to another country must have their I-20 signed for re-entry by a designated School Official prior to leaving the U.S. The signature on page 3 of the I-20 is valid for 12 months after the date it was signed.
The Designated School Official's signature on the I-20 is necessary for re-entry into the U.S. It is also necessary to have a valid F-1 visa for re-entry. If the current visa expires before the re-entry date, or a student changed to F-1 from another visa status while in the U.S., the student must apply for a new F-1 visa while outside the U.S. All students and their family members who are applying for a new visa should see a Designated School Official before traveling.
The automatic revalidation of visa benefit allows certain F/J nonimmigrants to re-enter the United States after a 30-day or less visit to "contiguous territory" (Canada, Mexico) and the "adjacent islands other than Cuba" without having to obtain a new visa prior to re-entry, and provided the student is in status and all other documents are valid: passport, I-20, and I-94. However, if the student chooses to apply for a new F-1 visa while in the contiguous territory they will no longer be eligible for the "automatic revalidation" benefit during the course of that trip, but would have to wait until the visa is granted in order to re-enter the United States. If the visa application is denied, the student may not reenter the U.S. and will have to return home to apply for a new F-1 visa before returning.
To avoid delays, please come see a Designated School Official and have your I-20 signed at least 1 week prior to your travel date.
A current BG student will be issued a new I-20 for a change of program or degree level. ISS will need to process this new I-20 within 15 days after beginning of new program or degree.
International students may transfer from one school to another to complete a degree or begin a new program. To do so, a student must acquire admission, and a new Form I-20. The student must be enrolled within 5 months of admission to the new program. The student will be required to have the previous school release the student’s record in SEVIS. To initiate this process, a student needs to complete the BGSU Transfer Eligibility Form (PDF) .
On occasion a student falls out of F-1 status and is required to apply for reinstatement. When this happens, a student should come to see the Manager of Student Immigration Services, immediately. The student can petition to USCIS, and may be reinstated only if the circumstances were out of the student's control and it occurred within 5 months of applying. A student who is out of status for more than 5 months is presumed to be ineligible for reinstatement. These students will have to leave the country and re-enter with a new Form I-20 or petition for reinstatement with proof of payment of the I-901 SEVIS Fee. See the Petition for Reinstatement page for more information.
Any one who wishes to change their status from a restricted visa category (B-1, B-2, F-2, etc.) to F-1 must do so prior to beginning their program of study at BGSU. Information about how to obtain F-1 visa and F-1 status can be found on the Change of Status to F-1 Checklist.
The above forms and documents are in PDF format, which requires Adobe Acrobat Reader .
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