The Office of International Student Advisors is here to help students understand US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rules and regulations of F-1 status. It is the student's responsibility to maintain F-1 status by observing the conditions outlined on page 2 of the I-20. The Office of International Student Advisors hosts several information sessions each semester to familiarize students with the limits of F-1 status. Click here for the current semester's Information Session Schedule. To maintain status, you must observe the following conditions:
- Maintain a valid I-20, valid passport (for at least the next 6 months), and valid I-94 record of your most recent US entry at all times.
- Register and complete a minimum of 12 credits each Fall and Spring term. (Graduate students are required to maintain enrollment in 9 credits every term and matriculate while completing the thesis.) Only one 3-credit course per semester may be taken online to satisfy this requirement; at FIT, both online and blended courses (those with sections coded "OL" or "BL") are subject to this requirement. Under special conditions, only the International Student Advisor may authorize enrollment in less than 12 credits. To determine whether you are eligible for a reduced course load, consult our office for instructions.
- Complete your degree program within the prescribed time period in Section 5 of the I-20. If you are unable to do so, an application for an Extension of Stay must be filed before the I-20 expires. Consult our office for instructions.
- If you plan to change your major, degree (including going from lower to upper division), or schools, you must notify the FIT Office of International Student Advisors before completing or withdrawing from your current program. A new I-20 must be issued prior to beginning attendance in the new program of study. The mandated transfer procedure must be completed, in person, with the International Student Advisor within 15 days of beginning attendance in your new program. Keep in mind that any substantive change to the information on your I-20 (i.e., citizenship, name) must be reported immediately to our office.
- Inform DHS of your US street address using form AR-11. Also, keep your current US address, as well as your permanent address in your home country, on file with the FIT Registrar's Office at all times. Any address change must be reported within 10 days of the change. Students with dependents in F-2 status must also inform the DHS of their dependents' addresses.
- To reenter the US to resume studies at FIT, you must present a passport valid for at least the next six months, valid F-1 visa (Canadians are exempt from the visa requirement), and properly endorsed I-20. Have your I-20 signed by the International Student Advisor once per semester; the I-20 must be presented to the OISA for signature at least 5 days before it is needed for travel. See Reentering the US for other documents to take.
- As an F-1 student, you are not permitted to work off campus, engage in paid or unpaid internships, or perform any type of income-earning activity without specific written authorization from the Immigration Service. Only US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) can authorize internships and employment. After one academic year in F-1 status, you may apply for employment authorization based on the needs for practical training or severe economic hardship that arise after receiving student status. See F-1 Employment Options for important details on conditions of employment.
- Depart the US, transfer to another program, or adjust your F-1 status within 60 days of the completion of your program or any period of authorized Practical Training thereafter. Students authorized by the International Student Advisor to withdraw from classes may remain in the US up to 15 days from the date of withdrawal, but students who withdraw without prior approval from the International Student Advisor must depart the US immediately.
Observing these terms and conditions will allow you to travel freely while at FIT; it will also allow you to apply for and participate in benefits extended to individuals in F-1 status, such as employment and practical training. Neglect of F-1 regulations may subject you to serious penalties (including the loss of practical training) and unnecessary expenses.
Click on USCIS for further information on all US immigration matters.
Transferring F-1 Status from another school in the US
F-1 students are required to possess an I-20 from their current place of study. Any students who have been maintaining F-1 status at another school in the US may transfer their F-1 status from that institution to FIT without leaving the US; to obtain an FIT I-20 in this way, you must follow the DHS transfer procedure. DHS regulations require the transfer procedure be completed within the first 15 days of beginning attendance at FIT; failure to follow this procedure will render you out of status.
Before the FIT I-20 can be issued, you must notify the International Student Advisor at your current school of your intent to transfer to FIT so access to your immigration record can be transferred to us. Once you have been admitted to FIT and submitted to the OISA your properly completed International Student Financial Statement (ISFS) and supporting documents, we will issue you the FIT F-1 Transfer Recommendation Form. Have your current International Student Advisor complete the Transfer Recommendation form, and be sure that the OISA has received it. Once your SEVIS record has been released to FIT, we will issue your FIT I-20. If you decide not to attend FIT, you must tell your current International Student Advisor the name of the new school you plan to transfer to before the release date specified by your Advisor (usually, your current session or semester completion date, or the completion of full-time OPT).
Admitted students beginning studies in the Fall must pick up their new FIT I-20s by September 15, and those beginning studies in Spring by February 15. Nonimmigrants not currently in F-1 status must consult with the Office of International Student Advisors immediately upon gaining admission to FIT.
Any student admitted to FIT and currently in the US who plans to travel outside the US before the first day of classes must notify the Office of International Student Advisors immediately; call us at 212 217.3700. We will issue your FIT I-20 and send it to you for your reentry into the US, or you may make arrangements with this office to pick it up. You may use your FIT I-20 to reenter with your valid F-1 visa (even if another school's name appears on it) or to apply for a new F-1 visa.(See Travel and Entering the US for information on traveling as an F-1 student, or Obtaining an F-1 Visa if you need a new visa.) Do not reenter the US with an I-20 issued by another school once you have been admitted to FIT. Students transferring their F-1 status from another program or school may reenter the US at any time prior to the start date in Section 5 of the FIT I-20. Incoming students who depart the US and reenter on an FIT I-20 must attend the current semester's International Student Orientation.
Transferring F-1 Status from FIT to another school in the US
Current FIT students (including those on post-completion Optional Practical Training) who wish to transfer their F-1 status to another school need to contact the OISA as soon as they have been admitted to that school. You must notify us of your intent to transfer at least 2 weeks before the end of your last FIT semester (or the expiration of post-completion Optional Practical Training) so that we can release your immigration record to your new school.