Disclaimer: International Affairs is able to provide you with general guidance. However, any advice provided to you by our office, as well as the information on the IA webpages, information handouts and request forms, should not be construed as legal advice. Additionally, due to the fluid nature of governmental interpretation, the USCIS may change its interpretation of these immigration laws/regulations and eligibility requirements for benefits, at any time. We will do our best to provide you with the most current guidance. Each case is fact-specific and it is advised that you contact an experienced immigration attorney if you have questions regarding your situation.
F-1 students are students in F-1 status (holding an F-1 visa), which is issued to international students who are attending an academic program or Intensive English Language Program at a U.S. college or university.
The important immigration documents for F-1 status international students are:
1. Current valid passport
2. F-1 visa
3. I-20 with current signature from international student advisor
4. I-94 record of latest U.S. entry
These documents are important, and international students are advised to keep them safe and secure. If damaged, lost or stolen, notify International Affairs immediately. The passport, visa, and I-20 are needed for initial entry, and re-entry into the U.S. The I-94 is important to have while in the U.S. to show legal status. A continuing student needs a valid signature from the international student advisor on the I-20 (validity is for one year for students, only 6 months for OPT students). For travel, it is also advised to carry proof of current and continuing enrollment at UCCS, financial documentation, and for OPT students proof of proper employment and employment authorization document. Note that travel outside the U.S. is not advised during regular fall and spring semesters for continuing F-1 students during their academic program.
Your U.S. F-1 visa in your passport is your approval to request entry to the United States and receive F-1 student status while here. Note, Canadian citizens do not need a visa to enter the U.S. to gain F-1 status, they simply need the valid I-20 and other items.
The visa may either be for:
- Single Entry
- Double Entry
- Multiple Entries
If your visa expires while you are in the United States, but your Form I-20 and Form I-94 are valid, your legal immigration status in the United States remains valid. You may remain in the United States as long as you are maintaining your immigration status. However, if your visa has expired and you depart the United States, you will be required to obtain a new visa before re-entering the United States.
There are a few exceptions to this rule, so contact your international student adviser in advance if you have visa related travel questions. It is not possible to renew an F-1 visa in the United States.
Accompanying dependents (spouse and children) of F-1 students are issued F-2 visas. For more information about F-2 immigration regulations, or if you would like to bring a dependent to the United States, please contact your international student adviser.
Your Form I-20 must always be kept accurate and show correct information, including:
- Your personal information (name, country, date of birth, etc.)
- Your current major at UCCS
- Your current financial support information
- A valid travel signature on your I-20 is needed for re-entry into the U.S. (validity is up to one year for students, 6 months for OPT students)
You must retain all I-20s you are issued from all schools you attend for your records (even after you graduate), as you may need them in the future.
Expiration date in Form I-20
The end date on your I-20 (shown in Program of Study section on your I-20) is the date that your program of study in the United States ends. However, you have 60 days beyond that date before you are required to leave the United States. You may use this 60-day period to prepare for your departure or to travel in the United States.
You are not permitted to engage in employment of any kind during this time period. You will not be permitted to re-enter the United States if you travel outside its borders after the date listed on Form I-20, even if it falls within this 60-day period.
Form I-94 (arrival/departure card)
You should always have your current I-94 printout in your possession. International Affairs recommends that you carry the I-94 showing your status in the U.S. with you. You can download and print your latest I-94 here. Each time you re-enter the U.S., print the latest version. Contact International Affairs at email@example.com if you are unable to access your I-94 record or if it is incorrect.
You must always have a valid passport for at least six months into the future. This means you should renew it about six months prior to the expiration date. To renew your passport, contact your embassy in the United States for instructions. You may be delayed when re-entering your home country if your passport is expired.
F-1 students have F-1 visa/immigration status in the U.S. This status has regulations that govern what F-1 students, can, cannot, and must do to maintain this legal status. Violations of the regulations outlined below can result in termination of the F-1 status, which can have serious and long-lasting negative consequences. Always consult your international student adviser with any questions about these regulations.
Full-time enrollment and Normal Academic Progress
Undergraduate students must enroll for 12 credits each fall and spring semester, following their degree plan carefully. Graduate students must enroll for at least 5 credits each fall and spring semester, and in addition have and follow a degree plan that will enable them to graduate in the amount of time given on the initial I-20. Summer is considered an "optional" semester, and continuing students can be enrolled part-time or not enrolled during the summer. However, a student completing graduation requirements in a summer term must maintain full-time enrollment (and also follow the online course restrictions below) in the summer they graduate, or apply for a reduced course load with your international student adviser. In all cases, student should be making 'normal academic progress' reaching their degree objective.
Failure to enroll for the required number of credits will result in the loss of your F-1 immigration status, and can result in serious problems with immigration. NOTE: "Audit" courses do not count towards the full-time enrollment requirement for immigration purposes.
Immigration allows a few specific exceptions to the full-time enrollment rule. If you wish to drop below full-time, you must have approval from your international student adviser before dropping below full-time.
In-person enrollment requirement
There are restrictions about which classes international students may count towards full-time enrollment. Undergraduate students must enroll in a minimum of nine in-person credits every fall and spring semester (and in summer, if they are graduating) unless authorized for a reduced course load. Graduate students must enroll in a minimum of three in-person credits every fall and spring semester (and in summer, if they are graduating).
Online and ITV/cable classes
Online classes are not considered in-person unless there is an in-person component. ITV/cable classes are considered in-person only if the class requires all students to meet in a classroom or with the professor periodically throughout the semester.
Check with your international student adviser if you have any doubts about whether a class will be counted as in-person before finalizing your class schedule.
Required immigration reporting
All information on your immigration document (I-20 or DS-2019) should be kept accurate and up-to-date. In addition, you must report all changes to your U.S. or home country address, through your UCCS portal. All changes must be provided in writing by emailing your international student adviser. Do not phone or leave a voice message to report changes. For financial and name changes, you will have to provide documentation proving the change.
See 'How to Update Your Addresses' for information about changing your address record(s) in your UCCS portal.
You should apply for a program extension at least 30 days before the expiration date indicated on your Form I-20 by filling out a Program Extension Form. Drop it off at International Affairs front desk or email the completed form to firstname.lastname@example.org with any related questions. Note that the form requires your academic advisor's approval and signature, and for graduate students the Graduate School as well.
It is impossible to extend your program of study after your I-20 expiration date.
On-campus employment (up to 20 hours/week during academic sessions) is allowed for F-1 students. Off-campus employment is NOT ALLOWED at any time, including vacation times such as summer or winter breaks, for F-1 students unless authorized by your international student adviser. See the 'Employment, OPT and CPT' page linked below for more information.
Transferring out of UCCS
In order to transfer out of UCCS, please complete the following steps:
A. Apply to the other school: Contact the other school for details on their admissions process.
B. Gain admission, and be admitted for the next available start session at the new school.
C. Complete the Transfer Out Form: Once you have been admitted, fill out the Transfer Out Form, provide a copy of your admission letter, and drop both items at the International Affairs front desk or email to email@example.com. Your SEVIS immigration record will be transferred electronically to the other school on the SEVIS release date you indicate on the form.
Withdrawing from UCCS:
To withdraw from UCCS, contact your international student adviser. If you withdraw with approval, you have a 15-day grace period to leave the United States before you fall out of status. No employment is permitted during this grace period. Withdrawing from UCCS means that your F-1 status will be terminated, invalidating your I-20.
If your international student adviser did not authorize the withdrawal, you have no grace period to leave the United States and you are immediately out of status.
Immigration regulations state that you must carry your immigration documents with you at all times. These documents include:
- Current I-20 (this should be kept current with a valid travel signature from your international student adviser)
Furthermore, we recommend you carry photocopies of your immigration documents with you at all times when you are in Colorado Springs. Whenever you leave Colorado Springs, you must carry your original immigration documents with you. This still applies to you even if you have a U.S. driver’s license or state ID.
Traveling outside the US and re-entry
Be sure your I-20 states your current and accurate information and that page two has a valid travel signature from your international student adviser. Each travel signature is valid for one year while you are a student at UCCS (and valid for 6 months if you are on post-completion OPT).
If you need a travel signature, bring your I-20 to International Affairs at least two weeks before you depart Colorado Springs and your international student adviser will e-mail you when it is ready to pick up. You will need to complete a Travel Signature Request form. In addition to a valid I-20, you will need a valid visa and passport for reentry to the United States. It is also highly recommended that you bring:
- Evidence of financial resources (such as the financial support documents you used to get your I-20 or F-1 visa)
- Evidence of student status, such as:
- Recent tuition receipts
- The name and contact information of your International Student Adviser
Keep in mind that you may need a visa to enter a country other than your own. Please contact the consulate/embassy of the country you will be visiting for visa requirements.
Upon return to UCCS, always provide any updates of your documents to International Affairs, in person or by email. This includes a new visa, passport renewal, entry stamp, and I-94.
Changing your status to F-1
Most non-immigrants in the United States may request a change to F-1 student status. However, changes of status have become increasingly difficult and complex, as well as delayed, in the last 1-2 years. For change of status requests, International Affairs strongly recommends working with a good immigration attorney.
To be eligible for the status change, the person must be:
- Eligible for F-1 status and have a Form I-20 issued by UCCS
- Maintaining a current non-immigrant status from which a change to F-1 status can be requested in the U.S.
- Be able to maintain the current status or a different legal status in the U.S. until the change of status is approved
Applying for F-1 student status
To apply for a change to F-1 status, the following documents must be submitted to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS): Original documents:
- A completed Form I-539
- Your U.S. visa
- All immigration documents related to current and previous status in the United States
- Photocopies of financial support documentation used to request the I-20
- If applicable, dependent family information included on Form I-539
- Letter from applicant indicating why they want to change status
- Passport identifying pages
- Your U.S. visa
- All immigration documents related to current and previous status in the United States
- Photocopies of financial support documentation used to request the I-20
- If applicable, dependent family information included on Form I-539
- Letter from the applicant indicating why they want to change status
The international student adviser will review your paperwork and will provide the address to send the application.
Please see our information handout. The information on this page and in the handout is a summary provided as a courtesy of the International Affairs, and subject to change without notice. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
International students in F-1 status attending University of Colorado Colorado Springs are highly encouraged to have a medical insurance policy that provides coverage for their study in the U.S. J-1 status students are required to have a health insurance policy that is compliant with U.S. Department of State requirements.
These insurance companies listed below are NOT endorsed by UCCS nor the International Affairs BUT are meant as a resource and starting point for our international students that wish to acquire health insurance with preventative care.
|International Student Insurance|
|International Student Protection (ISP)|
|Compass Benefits Group|
Students will need to turn in a copy of their immunization records to the UCCS Wellness Center. The State of Colorado requires that students have proof of immunity to Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) when attending classes at UCCS. In addition the the MMR, all incoming freshmen living in on-campus housing, must provide proof of receiving the Meningococcal Vaccine or must sign a waiver prior to moving in. It is recommended that all other incoming freshmen consider getting the Meningococcal Vaccine. For more information on these vaccinations or for forms, please click here.
Students may submit their immunizations records to the UCCS Wellness Center in person, via email: email@example.com, via fax: 719-255-4446, or via mail:
UCCS Wellness Center
1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
*Note: When submitting records to the UCCS Wellness Center, please make sure that student's full name and UCCS Student ID number are included on the record. Questions regarding immunizations or health services, should be directed to the UCCS Wellness Center at 719-255-4444. Please keep in mind that the UCCS Wellness Center is bound to HIPAA ( Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996)
F-1 employment opportunities
F-1 students may work on-campus 20 hours or less per week when school is in session. This employment permission is available immediately when students begin a degree program. Students may work on campus more than 20 hours during official breaks (such as summer) if returning for the following semester, but the employment maximum is subject to UCCS rules about student employment. The official breaks are:
- Summer break
- Spring break
- Winter break
On-campus employment usually means that you will be getting paid by UCCS. There are a few exceptions, so be sure to check with your international student adviser before beginning any employment. For help in finding on-campus employment, visit the Student Employment office in Cragmor Hall or find their resources online. Note that international students are not eligible for posted positions that are 'work-study' or off-campus.
Off-campus employment regulations
F-1 students are not generally permitted to work off-campus. Students who engage in unauthorized work are subject to:
- Loss of eligibility for benefits
- Termination of valid F-1 status
- Advised to depart the U.S. to avoid further violation
The employer is also subject to fines. The only exception to this regulation is for F-1 benefits that must be authorized before beginning employment. These are not available to students in the first year of a UCCS degree program. The F-1 benefits include:
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
- Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Curricular Practical Training
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is temporary employment authorization for a paid internship/fieldwork experience in the student's field of study for which the student will receive academic credit towards her/his degree, or the internship is a requirement for degree completion for all students in the program. It must be an 'integral part of an established curriculum,' by regulation. It is only possible after completing one academic year in a degree program, and is only possible for degree-seeking students. Students are not eligible for CPT if an internship/employment experience cannot be documented to be part of the academic program/degree. Learn more about CPT by reviewing our CPT information handout and request form, and by emailing your international student adviser in International Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that CPT can affect eligibility for OPT, and the U.S. government is taking an increasingly strict view of CPT.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined in the F-1 regulations as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study." OPT can be during a student's program ('Pre-Completion OPT'), or after graduation. OPT is usually applied for during the last semester of the academic program for a year of work permission following graduation, which is called 'Post-Completion OPT' and must be full-time (more than 20 hours weekly). Note that OPT is not possible until a student completes one academic year in a degree program. Limits also apply to allowable unemployment during post-completion OPT, meaning the student must be properly employed and report that employment to the international student adviser. The process to apply and receive OPT authorization takes approximately 60-90 days in most cases, as it is an application that goes to the U.S. government for approval. Learn more about OPT by reviewing our OPT Information handout, and by emailing your international student adviser in International Affairs at email@example.com.
Overview of OPT application procedure:
1. Attend mandatory OPT workshop (several are offered each fall and spring semester)
2. Gather all items on the OPT application checklist
3. Make appointment with your International Affairs international student adviser, submit all checklist items and OPT I-20 Request form at your appointment
4. I-20 is issued for OPT
5. Prepare the application for mailing to USCIS
6. Student will send in the application packet
7. Student will receive a receipt for the application within about 2 weeks at your address
8. When the application is approved, student will receive an employment authorization card and approval notice.
You should keep all materials that you receive from USCIS in regard to your OPT application, and provide copies to your international student adviser. During your OPT, you continue in F-1 status and must maintain communications with your international student advisor and properly report all employment as well as your address at all times.
F-1 students who are currently authorized for OPT employment based on completion of a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Ph.D. degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) field, as defined by DHS, may be eligible for a 24-month extension of OPT.
In order to be eligible for this extension, students applying for this benefit must:
currently be authorized for a period of valid post-completion OPT
have completed a STEM-eligible degree: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/eligible-cip-codes-for-the-stem-opt-extension
have had fewer than 90 days of unemployment while on the current post-completion OPT
apply before the end of the year of post-completion OPT
be employed or have a qualifying job offer:
from an employer who is registered in the E-Verify employment verification system
that offers paid employment directly related to the STEM degree, of at least 20 hours per week
that will provide formal training and learning objectives directly related to your qualifying STEM degree
that constitutes a bona-fide employer-employee relationship
Mandatory OPT Reporting:
All students with approved post-completion OPT or STEM OPT are required by federal regulations to report employment and address changes within 10 days of any change. All OPT students are eligible to register for the SEVP Portal to report such changes, but at the same time International Affairs requires those changes to be also provided to the international student adviser (in email) in order to advise students effectively. The SEVP Portal collects personal and employer information for SEVP. Through the portal, students will be able to add or edit their phone number, mailing and physical address, and employer information. The SEVP Portal Help site has more information for students.
It is the student's responsibility to comply with regulations by properly reporting employment and address information in a timely manner. Students should be aware that failure to comply with these regulations could adversely affect future immigration benefit applications, such as an application for H-1B status or an application for permanent residence.
**Note that International Affairs DOES NOT use the UCCS portal to do reporting for post-completion OPT or STEM OPT students for address changes, etc. OPT students MUST report directly in email to the international student adviser or to International Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
STEM OPT Reporting:
Students with approved STEM OPT must report all employment changes to the international student adviser in International Affairs and submit proper paperwork for each employment (the Form I-983, completed and approved by the advisor). In addition, every 6 months during STEM OPT additional reporting is required, to confirm that the employment and address information continues to be correct. Students on STEM OPT must work with their international student adviser to properly report. At the 12-month and 24-month mark, students must again report the same information, and in addition provide completed and signed 12-month or 24-month self-evaluation I-983 forms for each employment. When leaving any employment a final evaluation must be submitted.
Social Security number (SSN):
F-1 students are not eligible for a Social Security number unless they have received a job offer or employment authorization, and will be participating in authorized employment. You do not legally need a Social Security number to:
- Open a bank account
- Obtain a cell phone
- Rent an apartment
- Use in any other non-tax related purposes
The purpose of a Social Security number is for income tax reporting.
Applying for an SSN after receiving a job offer
- Once you receive a job offer for on-campus employment, you need to obtain an offer letter (employment letter outlining your job), and provide that to your International Affairs international student adviser at email@example.com.
- Your international student adviser will issue you an SSN letter verifying your student status at UCCS, and sign off on that letter.
- To apply for your SSN, take the original International Affairs letter, your original and signed employment letter, and all your immigration documents to the Social Security office in Colorado Springs. Once you have applied for a number, you will be given a receipt. You may begin working while you are waiting to be assigned a Social Security number.
- If you have approved CPT or OPT, take your employment documents and immigration documents to the local SSA office to apply for an SSN. (Note: It is now possible to apply for your SSN along with your OPT application, which is recommended).
- Once you have an SSN, you keep the same SSN for life. Use the same SSN for any future period of employment.
In addition to the regulations on academics and employment, here are other things to be aware of:
1. Criminal arrests: criminal arrests and convictions can affect your status and visa. The U.S. government may revoke your visa for certain criminal arrests and/or convictions. These include certain traffic offenses, such as driving under the influence (of alcohol).
2. Marijuana: marijuana is illegal for international students to use - marijuana use is still a violation of federal (national) law, and therefore international students cannot legally use it (or any other illegal drug). Admission of marijuana use or involvement with marijuana in any way (even without any arrest) can result in serious immigration consequences and in some cases a bar on being able to re-enter the U.S.
3. Social media and technology: your social media accounts may be checked by U.S. government personnel. In addition, your cell phone and laptop are subject to search when entering the U.S. Any images or information on your devices may be used in evaluating you at the time of entry or re-entry into the U.S.