Please keep your original documents in a safe place. We strongly recommend that you make photocopies of these documents and store them in a location separate from the actual documents. If any of these documents is damaged, lost or stolen, you must have it replaced as quickly as possible. Please keep in mind that the F-1 visa stamp in your passport does not need to be valid at all times; but it must be valid when you reenter the United States after traveling outside the country. You should contact the ISSO if you have any questions about the documents or if you need to have them replaced. Please bring all of these documents with you each time you visit the ISSO.
- Electronic Reporting System
Boston University reports to the government only the information required by federal law. This includes all the information on your Form I-20 and information on "reportable events" that affect your immigrant status.
These events include but are not limited to:
Since SEVIS is an electronic reporting system, it is very important that your information on record at the ISSO, and in the University Information System (UIS), be completely up-to-date at all times. Your name on your academic record at Boston University must match the spelling of your name as it appears on your passport. The SEVIS system will report information about your status from the University’s records to the DHS. Failure to maintain accurate records with the University may result in technical violations of your status. If you fall out of status, and your violation is reported to the DHS, your F-1 status could be immediately invalidated and you may lose all F-1 status benefits.
When to Contact the ISSO
Registration, Attendance and Course
of Study Requirements
Summer Registration - If you begin your program of study with Summer Session I, you must take a combined total of 12 credit hours in Summer I and Summer II. If you begin your program in Summer Session II, you must take at least 8 credit hours during Summer II. You must also be registered for classes in the summer if you will graduate during the summer or in September (see section entitled "Completion of Studies"). If you are completing your program of study in Summer Session I, you must be registered full-time (8 credits). If you will be taking a part-time course load in your final Summer Session, you must request authorization from your ISSO advisor for a reduced course load. If you are completing your program of study in Summer Session II, you must be registered full-time (12 credits combined between Summer I and Summer II). If you will be taking fewer than the 12 credits combined, you must request authorization from your ISSO advisor for a reduced course load in your final semester.
Undergraduate Students - Although F-1 students have the right to register for as many classes as University policy allows, you must register for at least 12 credit hours each fall and spring semester. Immigration regulations require prior ISSO authorization for all legitimate drops below full-time (see the "Registration Exceptions" listed at the end of this section). Dropping below 12 credit hours without prior authorization from an ISSO advisor will jeopardize your immigration status.
Graduate Students - Although you have the right to register for as many classes as University policy allows, you must register for at least 12 credit hours (or the number of credits your school/college determines to be full-time status) each fall and spring semester. Exceptions are made for graduate students receiving a graduate assistantship or fellowship requiring 20 hours of work per week. In this case, your academic department must officially certify you "full-time." Failure to be certified full-time in a timely manner will jeopardize your immigration status.
Graduate Students Who Have Completed All Required Course Work - If a thesis or dissertation is required of your program of study and you have completed all required course work, you need to register only for the number of hours of thesis or dissertation research as required by your department to maintain continued enrollment. In addition, you must be certified “full-time” by your department each academic semester. Failure to be certified full-time in a timely manner will jeopardize your immigration status. If you are completing your thesis during the summer and will not be enrolled the following fall semester, you must be registered during that final summer session.
Registration Exceptions - There are some circumstances that permit a reduced course of study, such as illness or needing fewer than 12 credits in your final semester in order to graduate. In cases where a reduced course load may be permitted, an F-1 student must maintain a minimum of six credits unless it is the student's final semester or they are pre-authorized for a medical leave. Before registering for a part-time course load or dropping below full-time, an F-1 student must obtain prior authorization from an ISSO advisor. Registering for a part-time course load or dropping below full-time without prior authorization from the ISSO will immediately jeopardize your immigration status. If you are considering reducing your course load you must make an appointment with your ISSO advisor to discuss your situation prior to dropping below full-time. You must resume a "full course of study" in the following semester unless you obtain renewed authorization by the ISSO advisor for medical reasons.
Length of Time You May Remain in the
United States on your Boston University Form I-20
If you need more time to complete your studies than allowed by your Form I-20, you must contact the ISSO before the expiration date (see the date indicated in Item #5 of your Form I-20) to request an extension. Before completing your program of study, you may want to make an appointment with an ISSO advisor to discuss options for extending your lawful status in the U.S. (see section on "Completion of Studies").
Click here for more information about on-campus employment.
Off-Campus Employment - F-1 students are eligible for limited employment off-campus. You must obtain written authorization from the ISSO or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services before you engage in any off-campus employment. Please contact the ISSO for additional information regarding employment options.
You must be in valid F-1 immigration status to be authorized for on- or off-campus employment.
Click here for more information about off-campus employment.
Since a change of address notification is required for all non-immigrants and since SEVIS only permits one U.S. address, F-2 dependents who maintain a U.S. address different than that of the F-1 student must notify the ISSO and DHS of their address by filing Form AR-11. Effective January 2007, Form AR-11 can be completed electronically at: www.uscis.gov/AR-11. If you choose to mail the AR-11, we recommend using Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested as proof that you have submitted the form. Click here for more information on reporting change of address.
If you are married and/or have children, you may be eligible to have your spouse (husband or wife) and/or children (under the age of 21) visit you temporarily or join you for the duration of your studies. Under federal immigration regulations, dependent spouses and children who accompany or follow-to-join an F-1 student must each be issued an independent Form I-20 in order to apply for an F-2 dependent visa. F-2 dependents are allowed to remain in the U.S. as long as the F-1 student maintains legal F-1 status. They may not engage in any form of employment. F-2 spouses may not engage in any full-time study or part-time study leading toward a degree and an F-2 child may only study full-time in elementary or secondary school (kindergarten through 12 th grade). F-2 dependents must be approved by the USCIS for change to F-1 status before commencing full-time study at the college level.
If other members of your family (parents, siblings, etc.) wish to visit you temporarily, the ISSO will be pleased to issue a Letter of Invitation to assist with their applications for visitor visas.
Click here for more information about adding dependents.
Travel Within the U.S. - You may travel within the U.S. provided you maintain your lawful F-1 status and have a valid passport and Form I-20 in your possession.
Travel Outside the U.S. before Completion of Studies – You may leave the U.S. at any time. You are permitted to return in F-1 status if you have a valid passport, valid F-1 visa stamp and a current Form I-20 that has been signed for travel on page 3 by an authorized staff member at the ISSO. Only a Designated School Official (DSO) at the ISSO is authorized to sign a Form I-20. A travel signature is valid for one year except for travel to Canada , Mexico and adjacent islands, in which case the signature is valid for six months.Procedures for returning to Boston University are different from those for returning to attend a different school. If you wish to attend a different school upon your return to the U.S. , you should notify ISSO of your intention before your departure. You must obtain a new Form I-20 from your new school and present it to an immigration officer upon re-entry the U.S.
Travel Outside the U.S. after Completion of Studies - The date you officially complete your studies (see “Completion of Studies” section) is very important to your ability to travel and re-enter the U.S. If you attempt to return to the U.S. in F-1 status after your completion date, you may be denied the right to re-enter the U.S. unless you have been authorized to engage in Optional Practical Training and have received your Employment Authorization Document and obtained a written offer of employment in your field of study.
If you depart the U.S. and wish to return after the date of your completion of studies, you must present the following documents to the CBP inspector upon arrival back in the U.S.:
Application for New F-1 Visa during Travel – F-1 students are allowed to remain in the U.S. with an expired F-1 visa stamp, provided that they are maintaining their status and their passport and Form I-20 are valid. Although you may remain in the U.S. with an expired F-1 visa, it will be necessary to apply for a new visa during your next trip abroad. You will need a valid F-1 visa in order to reenter the U.S.
Students needing to apply for a new visa during a trip abroad should inform the ISSO before travel. Security checks and supplemental visa application forms developed since September 11, 2001 have significantly delayed the visa application process in many countries. Students planning to apply for a visa in Canada or in a country other than their home country should first consult an ISSO advisor.
Click here for more information about applying for F-1 visas.
Form I-515A issued at the Port of Entry upon entry to the U.S. – If a Customs and Border Protection Officer determines your documentation is incomplete when entering the U.S., you may be issued a Form I-515A and a date-specific I-94 card. These documents will grant you temporary admission to the U.S. (generally for 30 days). You must submit the required response and documents to the Form I-515A prior to the expiration date of your I-94 card to prove that you entered the U.S. lawfully. If you receive a Form I-515A, you must contact the ISSO immediately to ensure that proper procedures are followed in a timely manner. Failure to submit the proper original documentation prior to the expiration date of your I-94 card will result in termination of both your F-1 student status and your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record.
Holidays and Vacations
Study Abroad or Physical Absence from
the U.S for Graduate Research
Any physical absence from the United States for a period of five (5) months or more may affect your eligibility for Optional Practical Training or other opportunities for off-campus employment. Please discuss this with your ISSO advisor in an appointment before finalizing your travel plans or leaving the United States.
Click here for more information about a leave of absence.
Course Work at or Transfer to a Different
Click here for more information about SEVIS transfers.
Leave of Absense, Suspension or Withdrawal
Important: if you are working on- or off-campus, you must cease employment immediately upon withdrawal.
You must contact the ISSO before you interrupt your studies for any of the following reasons:
In the event that you are suffering from an illness or other medical condition that compels you to interrupt your studies at Boston University , you can request authorization for a medical leave of absence from your advisor at the ISSO. Such authorization will enable you to maintain valid F-1 status during the time you are not enrolled.
If you request a leave of absence or withdraw from school (due to suspension or personal reasons), you may be granted a 15-day grace period to leave the country if, and only if, you are granted authorization prior to withdrawal. Only your ISSO advisor may authorize this benefit. If you do not gain prior ISSO authorization before withdrawing, you will violate your status and will be required to leave the country immediately. If you are considering a withdrawal, please discuss options such as a change of status or school transfer with an ISSO advisor prior to finalizing your plans.
Note: If you fail to register for a semester, you will have violated your status and must leave the country immediately or seek reinstatement to F-1 status.
Click here for more information about a leave of absence.
Completion of Studies
* Important: The 60-day pre-departure period described above is not available to students who do not complete their program of study (e.g. are suspended, withdrawn, or otherwise do not complete their program objective as stated on their Form I-20.)
Students and Graduate Students Who Are Not in Thesis or Dissertation
Programs - Your date
of completion will be the University's official graduation date
for the semester that you complete all program requirements, as
Students in Thesis or Dissertation Programs - Your official
date of completion will be the the day of the graduation ceremony
of the semester in which submit your thesis/dissertation. You
must be enrolled in that semester, as well. Please note that all students
who will complete and submit their thesis/dissertation during the
summer must be registered as continuing students during the summer
semester to maintain lawful F-1 status.
Non-Degree Students - Because the objectives of non-degree students do not include the attainment of a degree, your completion date is the last day of exams for the term in which you finish your non-degree studies, or the date specified on your Form I-20, whichever is earlier.
All Undergraduate Students and Graduate Students - Once you complete your program, you must do one of the following:
Failure to Comply with Responsibilities
Immigration laws in the United States provide for severe penalties if you fail to comply with your immigration responsibilities. Maintenance of accurate records at the ISSO and in the University Information System (UIS) is especially important since details of your status are reported automatically to DHS through SEVIS. You should work closely with the ISSO staff to make certain that you comply with all F-1 regulations. The staff of the ISSO is always pleased to provide you with information, counseling and assistance so that you may achieve your educational goals while at Boston University .