Maintaining your F-1 Visa Status

If you are not a U.S. citizen or have a green card, it is very important that your maintain F-1 Visa status.  Please keep the following in mind (more detailed information can be found in the International Student Handbook):

  • Keep your passport valid.  Renew your passport at least 6 months before it expires.
  • Maintain a full course load, which is a minimum of 12 credit hours.
  • Notify a DSO (Designated School Official) within ten days if your address changes (example, if you receive permission to move off-campus your senior year).
  • Notify a DSO if you change your major.
  • Abide by employment regulations.  Generally speaking, you are only allowed to work on campus.  See International Student Handbook for more details and exceptions.  Obtain CPT approval from a DSO for off-campus internships.
  • Obtain necessary signatures from a DSO for travel outside of the United States.  This includes returning home for the summer or other breaks.

Note: Federal regulations require visitors to the U.S. to carry proof of identification and immigration status at all times. If you are traveling within the U.S., be sure to carry a valid passport and a valid I-20 Form with you.


Off-Campus Internship - Applying for CPT

If you have a F-1 Visa, you must apply for CPT (Curricular Practical Training) for any off-campus internship.  This includes both paid and unpaid internships.  Here are some important things to keep in mind:

  • You must have completed a full year of enrolled course work (two semesters) before you are eligible for CPT.
  • You must receive academic credit for your internship.  If this does not fit within the 20 credit hour limit, you will have to pay additional tuition for the credit.
  • You must have an internship offer before you apply.  CREL staff (Career Readiness and Experiential Learning) can assist you with finding an internship and completing the internship approval form.  If your academic adviser has helped you find an internship, you still need to complete the internship approval form with CREL. 
  • Your internship must be directly related to your major.
  • During the school year, you can work a maximum of 20 hours per week in your internship;  during school breaks you can work full-time (40 hours per week).
  • You must have CPT approval before you begin your internship.  It is a quick process, but please allow one week.

How to apply:

  • Submit your internship approval form from CREL to a DSO (Designated School Official).

Once approved, you will receive an updated I-20 form that reflects your CPT authorization.  You will need this when completing the I-9 for your employer.


Optional Practical Training (Post Graduation)


Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows F-1 international students to engage in temporary employment in order to gain practical experience in their field of study.  While OPT is recommended by the Office of Global Programming, it is an application that is sent to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for processing and approval.  While working through OPT, your visa (F-1) and I-20 will still be through Illinois College.

Eligibility for post-completion OPT, you must:

  • Have maintained your F-1 status

  • Have been enrolled for at least one academic year (fall and spring semester)

  • Have applied for graduation by the time of application

  • File your application with USCIS no more than 90 days before your program completion date and no more than 60 days after your program completion

  • File your application no more than 30 days after the DSO recommendation on your new I-20

Important Considerations

  • If you don’t think you will complete your degree requirements (might not pass a class) by the end of the term, then you should not apply for post-completion OPT in advance of graduation.

  • Have myself or Rick Bystry look over your application before you submit it online.  You will need a new I-20 to include with your application.

  • It can take up to 90 days for USCIS to adjudicate your application.

  • You cannot start employment until you have been approved for OPT and you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and the start date on your card has passed.

  • Once USCIS receives your OPT application, you cannot change your requested OPT start date.  

  • It is not recommended to cancel an OPT application once it has been submitted.

  • Once you receive your approval, you will receive an email with instructions for setting up an online account with SEVS.  Please do this immediately and record your login information in a safe place.

  • While on OPT, you must maintain your F-1 visa status; this includes reporting any changes to Global Programming within 10 days and/or updating the information in your SEVS account.

  • Full-time employment in terms of your immigration equates to at least 20 hours per week; anything below 20 hours is part-time.

  • You are responsible for keeping track of your unemployment; you are not allowed to accrue more than 90 days of unemployment while on post-completion OPT.