Resources for Current International Students

SEVIS

Through SEVIS, colleges and universities enter and update various data regarding the international students who have been issued forms I-20 by their institutions. Vital information about you and your F-1 status will be updated regularly in the SEVIS database. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Change of address
  • Change of major
  • Dropping below full-time enrollment
  • Practical training
  • Illegal employment
  • Non-enrollment

These and other occurrences are considered "reportable events" and ECC is required to report these events. It is very important that you know the regulations governing your F-1 visa, including all grace periods and time liness, so that you do not fall out of status and lose F-1 privileges.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) describes SEVIS as the following:

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is a part of the National Security Investigations Division and acts as a bridge for government organizations that have an interest in information on nonimmigrants whose primary reason for coming to the United States is to be students. SEVP collects, maintains and provides the information so that only legitimate foreign students or exchange visitors gain entry to the United States. The result is an easily accessible information system that provides timely information to the Department of State, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Visit ice.gov/sevis for more information.

Maintaining F-1 Status


As an international student, it is very important that you follow all of the immigration laws in the United States. Here are some regulations you must know and follow:

  • You must maintain valid non-immigrant documents at all times while in the U.S. This includes your passport and your Form I-20 document. Complete any necessary extensions of your documents well before they expire. Keep your passport valid at all times, and renew at least six months before expiring.
  • You must always maintain a full-time credit load during the academic year. For undergraduates, this means you must register for and complete a minimum of 12 credits each fall and spring semester. Please note that no credit is granted if you withdraw from a course. SEVIS regulations also require that only one online or distance learning course (maximum of 3 credits) can be counted toward the full-time enrollment requirement each academic term.
  • You are eligible for “annual vacation” during the summer term only if you intend to register either at the same school or transfer to another school for the following fall term. If the summer term is your first term of attendance, you must enroll as a full-time student (6 credits) during the first summer. If you are in the Intensive English Program, you must register for at least 18 clock hours of non-credit instruction. You also must be making normal progress toward completing a full-course of study.
  • USCIS regulations only provide for very limited exceptions to the full-time enrollment requirement. These exceptions include:
    1. academic difficulties
    2. serious illness or medical condition, and
    3. if you have fewer than 12 credits remaining to complete your degree requirements (final semester before graduation only). All exceptions to the full-time enrollment requirement must be documented and approved by the international student advisor before you drop to less than 12 credits.
  • You must report any changes of your legal name or address to the International Office within 10 days of any change.
  • You must notify the International Office at your current school if you intend to transfer to another school. This must be done within 60 days after completing your studies at your current school.
  • You must not work without legal authorization. During the first year in F-1 status, you are eligible to work on-campus only. After you have completed one full year of academic study (two semesters), you may also apply for immigration permission to work off-campus in a position related to the major indicated on your I-20. However, you must obtain specific employment permission from either the International Office or from USCIS to accept ANY off-campus employment, even if it is for a co-operative education or internship experience required for completion of your degree. Any type of unlawful employment may jeopardize your eligibility for future USCIS benefits such as Practical Training and adjustment to other types of non-immigrant or immigrant status.
  • You must submit U.S. Income Tax forms every year. All international students are required to file certain U.S. income tax forms every year even if you had NO U.S. source income.
  • When there are five months or less before the completion date on your I-20, seek the advice of the International Office. There are certain time periods that you must abide by to remain in legal status upon completion of your program.
  • Whenever you plan to travel outside of the U.S., you must take your I-20 to the International Office so it can be signed by a designated school official. You should do this within 30 days of your travel date. This is very important! You may not be able to re-enter the U.S without the signed I-20. Refer to the F1 travel checklist for more information.

This information provides only a general overview of your legal responsibilities as a non-immigrant F-1 student in the United States. Your lawful non-immigrant status is your responsibility. Failure to comply with immigration regulations regarding your F-1 status may seriously jeopardize your eligibility for future benefits granted by USCIS. It is extremely important for you to maintain your status while in the U.S. Failure to maintain the terms and conditions of your F-1 status is a ground for removal from the United States (deportation). Sign your I-20 and keep it in a safe place with your other important documents.

Insurance


All F-1 and J-1 international students attending on a Form I-20 or DS-2019 endorsed by ECC will be offered comprehensive medical insurance through a group health insurance plan presented by LewerMark. The LewerMark international student insurance medical plan protects you while you are in school and maintaining your non-immigrant visa status during your studies in the U.S. Enrollment in the plan is mandatory except in rare exceptions (refer to Administrative Procedure 4.202). To view information about the plan, including the plan summary and benefits, please visit lewermark.com/elgin.

Like all insurance plans, you will be covered under the parameters outlined in the plan brochure, so long as your premiums and any deductibles and co-pays are met/paid. Please note that you will automatically be enrolled in the plan prior to the start of each semester that you study at ECC, and the charges will be reflected in your ECC student account. Payment is due no later than the published tuition due date for the semester. For current rates, please contact the Center for International Education and Programs.

Temporary Visitor Driver’s License (TVDL)


The Illinois Secretary of State’s Office issues a temporary visitor driver’s license (TDVL) for non-citizens of the United States who have been granted temporary, legal entry into this country and are temporarily residing in the state of Illinois and who are ineligible for a social security number (SSN). Please note this information may change without notice. Visit cyberdriveillinois.com for more information.

Who is eligible for a TVDL? To be eligible a foreign national must be:

  • A non-citizen of the United States
  • Lawfully admitted to the United States
  • Residing in the state of Illinois
  • Be authorized to live in the country for at least one year

What identification documents are required to obtain a TVDL? Applicants will be required to provide acceptable documentation when applying for a TVDL. This includes:

  • Name and date of birth:
    • passport or consular card
  • Verification of written signature from:
    • passport
    • consular card
    • mortgage/installment loan agreement
    • credit card
  • Current address (must provide 2 documents):
    • consular card
    • certified school transcripts
    • bank statement (issued within the last 90 days)
    • rental/lease agreement
    • insurance policy (homeowners or renters)
    • medical claim (dated within 90 days of application)
    • tuition invoice or other official mail from a college/university (dated within 90 days of application)
    • utility bill (dated within 90 days of application)
    • official mail (received from state, county, village or federal agency that includes your first and last name and the complete current address)
  • Illinois residency (at least 12-months):
    • certified school transcripts
    • bank statement
    • insurance policy (homeowners or renters)
    • rental/lease agreement
    • medical claim
    • tuition involve or other official mail from a college/university
    • utility bill
    • official mail (received from state, county, village or federal agency that includes your first and last name and the complete current address)

How do I apply for a TDVL?

  1. If between 18-20 years of age, you must present proof of successful completion of a 6-hour adult driver education and training course.
  2. Request letter of ineligibility (denial letter) from the Social Security Office. This step must be done no more than 90 days before applying for a TVDL.
  3. Obtain the required documentation. This includes one item from each of the categories listed above under required documentation and two documents verifying your current address.
  4. Prepare for your driver’s test. Do this by studying the 'Illinois Rules of the Road' section at cyberdriveillinois.com. If you would like to practice driving before your road test, you will need to apply for an instruction permit.
  5. Schedule an appointment one of the designated secretary of state facilities listed on cyberdriveillinois.com.
  6. Have a licensed driver bring you to the secretary of state facility location.

Be prepared to take the:

  • Written test
  • Vision Test
  • Road test*

*Note: You will need to supply your own vehicle for the road test and this vehicle must be properly insured in the state of Illinois. Keep in mind that road tests are only available until sunset or 30 minutes prior to closing, whichever is earlier.

How long is the TVDL valid?

The TVDL is valid for three years or the period of time the individual is authorized to stay in the country, whichever expires sooner. The period of authorized stay for F-1 international students is indicated by the expiration date on the I-20 document. Visit the Secretary of State’s website for more information at cyberdriveillinois.com.

F-1 Travel Checklist


When leaving the United States to travel, all F-1 students should check his/her travel documents prior to departure. For more information on traveling outside the U.S. on an F-1 visa, please refer to the F-1 travel checklist.

On Campus Employment


F-1 students in status are allowed to work on-campus up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and 40 hours a week during school breaks (if available). On-campus employment is facilitated through the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships. On-campus employment opportunities are limited and not guaranteed. Students should not rely upon on-campus employment to fund their studies or as a substantial contribution to their finances. Find out more about student employment.

Social Security Numbers

If you are an international student in F-1 non-immigrant status and have received an offer for on-campus employment or other legally authorized off-campus employment, you may apply for a social security number from the U.S. social security administration. A social security number is a federal tax identification number used to file U.S. and state income tax forms and to apply for other federal benefits.

To qualify, students must prove one of the following:

  • Student has received an offer for on-campus employment. You must present a letter from the DSO certifying your eligibility for on-campus employment (this letter is generated by the International and Programs Office and must be signed by the DSO) and a letter from your on-campus employer verifying employment (this letter is generated by the Scholarships and Financial Aid Office and must be signed by the director of financial aid).
  • Student has been authorized by a designated school official (DSO) for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) to engage in an approved cooperative education or internship program. You must present your SEVIS I-20 showing your authorization for curricular practical training on page three of your I-20.
  • Student has been authorized for Optional Practical Training or Severe Economic Hardship by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. You must present your employment authorization document (EAD) card issued USCIS.

If you meet one of the above requirements, you will need to prepare the following documents to apply for a social security number.

  • Complete a social security card application, form SS-5. You may obtain this from the Social Security Administration Office or download it from their website located at ssa.gov.
  • Obtain the proper employment authorization documents as indicated above.
  • Obtain a letter from the international student advisor verifying your F-1 status and full-time enrollment at Elgin Community College.
  • Current original SEVIS I-20 document.
  • Valid passport and one additional document establishing your identity.
  • Copy of I-94.
  • If you have changed your immigration status after entering the U.S., you will need to show your approval notice for change of status to F-1 international student.
  • If you have transferred your immigration status after entering the U.S., you will need to show your approval notice for change of status to F-1 international student.
  • If you have transferred to ECC from another U.S. college or university, you will need to show all original I-20 documents for any previous school attended.
  • Print-out of full-time registration for the current academic semester.

The nearest Social Security Administration Office to campus is:

790 Fletcher Drive
Elgin, IL 60123
847-742-0596
ssa.gov

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)


Curricular practical training (CPT) allows F-1 students to seek authorization for practical training to engage in temporary employment to gain practical experience in his or her field of study.

What is Curricular Practical Training (CPT)? 

CPT allows F-1 students to seek authorization for practical training to engage in temporary employment to gain practical experience in his or her field of study. CPT must be “an integral part of an established curriculum.” CPT can be an alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with ECC for which the student receives credit. This can be a required part of the program where employment is required in the field of study to graduate or a non-required part of the program where the practical experience is for credit and directly related to the student’s field of study. Students must be enrolled in a course that provides academic credit for CPT.

Who is eligible for CPT? 

To be eligible for CPT, an F-1 student must have completed at least one full academic year of study (full-time enrollment in the fall and spring semesters) and work in a position that is an integral part of the established curriculum. Students in the Intensive English Program are not eligible for CPT. Students applying for CPT must be in good academic standing per SOAP (Standards of Academic Progress) guidelines.

CPT may be granted for either part-time (maximum of 20 hours per week) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week) employment. Students may engage in CPT only for the specific employer, location, and period approved and recorded by the DSO in SEVIS. The student must have an offer of employment from an employer offering work that qualifies as curricular practical training and receive written authorization from the DSO before work begins. USCIS approval is not required. Students on CPT must maintain a full course load at all times unless previously approved for a reduced course load (RCL).

Effect of CPT on OPT

There is no regulatory limit on either the number of times or the length of time a student may engage in either part-time or full-time CPT. This will be governed by the nature of the training and the requirements of the student’s program. F-1 students who engage in an aggregate of 12 months or more of full-time curricular practical training, however, become ineligible for optional practical training (OPT) at the educational level the CPT is authorized.

Important reminders about CPT:

  • If the CPT application is approved, the DSO will inform USCIS and will issue a new Form I-20 with CPT authorization. CPT cannot begin until authorized by the Center for International Education and Programs. This authorization is only valid for a specific employer, location, and period of time and on a part-time or full-time basis as approved and recorded by the International Office. If there are any changes regarding a student’s employment, the student must notify the DSO so that student’s SEVIS record can be updated. Processing time is 3-5 business days.
  • Students on CPT must apply for and receive a social security number prior to beginning work.
  • It is the student’s responsibility to comply with all immigration regulations which apply to F-1 students, including employment regulations. Working without the proper authorization is a serious violation of F-1 status and may jeopardize the student’s stay in the U.S.

Applying for Curricular Practical Training

To begin, complete and submit the curricular practical training application.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)


Allows temporary employment authorization for F-1 students to secure practical training directly related to their major area of study.

What is Optical Practical Training (OPT)? 

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment authorization that allows F-1 students to secure practical training directly related to their major area of study. There are three types of OPT: pre-completion OPT (OPT done prior fulfilling all graduation requirements and while enrolled full-time); post-completion OPT (OPT completed after all requirements for graduation have been met) and 17 month STEM OPT (associate’s degree students are ineligible for STEM OPT). All OPT requests must be submitted in writing, approved by the DSO and recommended by the DSO in SEVIS.

Who is eligible for OPT? 

To be eligible for OPT, an F-1 student must have completed at least one full academic year of study (full-time enrollment in the fall and spring semesters) and work in a position directly related to their course of study. Students in the Intensive English Program are not eligible for OPT. Students applying for pre-completion OPT must be in good academic standing per SOAP (Standards of Academic Progress) guidelines. F-1 students are allowed 12 months of full-time OPT at each educational level (associates, bachelor, masters, and doctorate). OPT may be granted for either part-time (maximum of 20 hours per week) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week) employment and may be used during the following time periods as indicated:

  • During the summer term (or annual vacation) – part-time or full-time
  • During the academic year – Part-time only
  • After completion of all degree requirements - Full-time only

What is pre-completion OPT Pre-completion? 

OPT is OPT “authorized to be worked before the student's program end date. Students with approved pre-completion OPT may work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session. Students who are eligible to register for the next term, and who plan to do so, may have approval to work full-time when school is not in session” (SEVP OPT Policy Guidance 3.2.1-2).

Students must remain enrolled in a full course of study during pre-completion OPT. Students may apply for pre-completion OPT “up to 90 days before being enrolled for one full academic year, provided that the period of employment will not start prior to the completion of the full academic year” (8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(11)(i)(B)(1)).

Students are allowed 12 months of OPT at each educational level; the time worked during pre-completion OPT counts towards the 12 month total and is deducted at a rate of 50 percent. For example, if a student work six months pre-completion OPT; they will have taken away three months of post-completion OPT. Only nine months of post-completion OPT would then be available. ECC encourages students to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of completing pre-completion OPT while maintaining a full course of study.

What is post-completion OPT? 

Post-completion OPT is granted to students who will work after completion of a course of study. Students may file for post-completion OPT up to 90 days before the program completion date and before the end of the student’s program completion grace period (60 days after degree completion). A student must file for OPT within 30 days of the DSO’s recommendation in SEVIS. Students should apply for OPT before completion of coursework. The application for OPT must arrive at the USCIS office before the 60 day grace period is over. The OPT start date must begin within the grace period (i.e. within 60 days of graduation) and cannot be changed once processed.

Post-completion OPT requires that you work at least 20 hours or more per week. Before applying for post-completion OPT, you must submit a signed letter from the ECC Assistant Registrar that you are eligible for and have applied for graduation.

Important reminders about OPT:

  • Terminate all on campus employment
    • You may only work until the last day of the term in which you complete your degree requirements. You cannot be engaged in on-campus employment and OPT (off-campus employment) at the same time.
    • Verify completion of all degree requirements
    • All degree requirements need to be completed before beginning post-completion OPT.
    • If degree requirements are not finished, OPT employment cannot begin until degree requirements are completed and OPT employment time already granted by USCIS will be lost.
  • Verify your mailing address
    • Home address needs to be valid for at least 90 days after filing application to avoid the return of the application by USCIS. College address may be used if you are unsure of an address change. You are required to inform ECC of any address or phone number changes within 10 days. USCIS requires you to update this information with the International Office to maintain your immigration status while on OPT.
    • Be aware of travel risks
    • You should not travel outside the U.S. until receiving the EAD card from USCIS. USCIS may consider pending applications to be abandoned if the applicant departs the U.S before receiving the EAD card.
    • For travel outside the U.S. after receiving the EAD card, you must have the following documents in your possession to be granted re-entry to the U.S.: a letter from your employer verifying employment; latest pay stub; a valid passport, valid F-1 visa, and a valid I-20 document with a travel signature that is less than 6 months old. Note you cannot travel outside the U.S. without a job offer that is verifiable through your employer.
    • If you travel outside the U.S. and your F-1 visa is not valid, you must apply for one at the U.S. Embassy in your home country. Please note that it may be difficult to obtain a new F-1 visa if degree requirements are already completed and the sole reason for returning to the U.S. is to complete Optional Practical Training.
  • Keep in contact with the International Office
    • You are still considered a student at ECC while engaging in OPT. It is your responsibility to ensure your contact information is up to date with ECC and the International Office.
    • You are required to notify the International Office of your planned departure date upon completion of OPT.
  • Unemployment while on OPT

You must not be unemployed for more than 90 days while on OPT or you will be considered out of status. USCIS has allowed volunteering on OPT as long as the work is directly related to your major.

Applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT)

To begin, complete and submit the optional practical training application.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) Information and Employer Verification

For F-1 students currently on OPT, you are required to report any changes of employment to the Center for International Education and Programs within 10 days of any change. You are still considered a student at ECC while engaging in OPT. It is your responsibility to ensure your contact information is up to date with ECC and the Center for International Education and Programs.

Reporting Requirements

Federal regulations require an F-1 student on OPT to report "any change of name or address, or interruption of such employment to the DSO for the duration of the authorized training.” A student is also required to maintain full-time employment and report the details of the employment, including any changes in employment status. Employment must be related to the student’s completed degree. A student may be required to show proof that employment is related to his/her degree.

SEVP's OPT Policy Guidance states that the following activities are considered allowable employment on both pre-completion and standard post-completion OPT, provided that the job is directly related to his/her program of study.

The following activities constitute employment for post-completion OPT:

  • Regular paid employment in a position directly related to the student’s program of study. For post-completion OPT, the work must be for at least 20 hours per week. A student may work for multiple employers, as long as it is directly related to his/her program of study.
  • Payment by multiple short-term multiple employers. Per SEVP, a student may work for multiple short term employers (gigs) BUT must maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration.
  • Work for hire. Per SEVP, this is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by DHS, a student should be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.
  • Self-employed business owner. A student may start a business and be self-employed. The student must be able to prove that he/she has the proper business licenses and are actively engaged in a business related to his/her degree program.
  • Employment through an agency. Per SEVP, if a student is on post-completion OPT, he/she must be able to provide evidence showing he/she worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.
  • Volunteers or unpaid interns: Standard OPT. Per SEVP OPT Policy Guidance, a student may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern, where this practice does not violate any labor laws. The work should be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-completion OPT. A student should be able to provide evidence, acquired from the employer, to verify that he/she worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment. Please note that if a student is unable to find paid employment and/or elects to work in a volunteer or unpaid internship capacity, he/she must consult with a DSO before accepting employment.

90 Day Unemployment Rule

Immigration regulations for OPT state that if a student is not employed 90 days after the start date listed on the EAD card, he/she is considered out of status. Unemployment is described as time spent without a qualifying job during OPT. Each day that the student is not employed is counted toward the limit on unemployment time. If a student is unable to secure a paid job and are coming to the 90 days of unemployment, he/she may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern, where this does not violate any labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week for post-completion OPT, and he/she must be able to provide evidence from the employer that he/she worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of unpaid employment.

If a student exceeds the 90 day period of unemployment then he/she has violated his/her F-1 status. A student is then required to either:

  1. Apply to continue his/her education by a change of level or transfer to another SEVP certified school; OR
  2. Take action to otherwise maintain legal status by applying for another immigration status; OR
  3. Depart the United States.

Employment Verification and Reporting Requirements

A student must report his/her employer and position to ECC, including any changes to this information. To comply with federal regulations in reporting OPT employment, a student must complete the form and submit a letter from the employer on company letterhead with the following information:

  • Employer name
  • Employer address, phone number, and email
  • Supervisor’s name and contact information
  • Position title
  • Start date of employment
  • End date of employment (if applicable; this is generally used only for contract or short-term gigs)
  • Indicate whether the position is paid or unpaid
  • Number of hours worked each week
  • A description of the position’s duties and responsibilities

Updating OPT Employment Information

Students on OPT should remember to keep copies of all pay stubs, contracts, and position descriptions. To update your OPT employment information, please submit the aforementioned documents.

To begin, complete and submit the OPT employment update application.

Economic Hardship


Economic hardship allows F-1 students affected by certain conditions and who have suffered severe financial hardship to apply for off-campus employment.

What is Economic Hardship Employment?

Economic Hardship Employment allows current F-1 students who experience an unforeseen financial hardship while studying in the United States to obtain off-campus employment authorization from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) under certain conditions. Economic Hardship Employment can help in difficult instances to supplement a student’s income and/or sponsorship. Economic hardship employment authorization will not allow an F-1 to earn enough to bear the cost of full-time course of study required to maintain F-1 student status. It is a supplement to the student’s income and should not be the sole source of support.

Who is eligible for Economic Hardship Employment? 

To be eligible for Economic Hardship Employment, an F-1 student must meet the following conditions per federal regulations:

  • Completed at least one full academic year of study (full-time enrollment in the fall and spring semesters) and be in good standing with ECC.
  • Prove to USCIS that employment is necessary due to severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond his or her control that arose after obtaining F-1 status. Examples of unforeseen economic hardship include “loss of financial aid or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student, substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate, inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs, unexpected changes in the financial conditions of the student's source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses."
  • Be capable of continuing full-time study while engaging in Economic Hardship Employment.

Economic Hardship Employment is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session and 40 hours per week during official school breaks. Students may work in any field and, unlike OPT or CPT, the job does not need to be related to the student’s course of study. Authorization is granted in one-year intervals, up to the expected date of completion of studies. Students must reapply to USCIS each year to renew work authorization; authorization becomes invalid if a student transfers schools.

Economic Hardship Employment requires a student to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS and receive the EAD before employment begins. Students must be able to demonstrate the unforeseen economic hardship and receive the recommendation of the International Office in order to apply for Economic Hardship Employment.

Important reminders about economic hardship employment:

  • If an application is preliminarily approved, the International Office will inform USCIS and will issue a new Form I-20 with work authorization. Students cannot begin work until he or she receives an EAD card.
  • Apply for a social security number only after receipt of the EAD card and a job offer.
  • It is the student’s responsibility to comply with all immigration regulations which apply to F-1 students, including employment regulations. Working without the proper authorization is a serious violation of F-1 status. Failure to comply with regulations means students may not be eligible for benefits normally granted to F-1 students and may jeopardize a student’s stay in he U.S.

Applying for Economic Hardship

To begin, complete and submit the economic hardship application.

Reduced Course Load (RCL)


F-1 students may apply for a reduced course load (RCL) for medical reasons, academic difficulty, or final semester provided s/he meet certain criteria and provide appropriate documentation. An F-1 student who drops below a full course of student without the prior approval of the designated school official (DSO) will be considered out of status.

What is a reduced course load?

A student enrolled in less than a full-course of study. Federal regulations allow for a reduced course load (RCL) in limited instances if approved by a designated school official (DSO).

What is full-time enrollment status?

An international student on an F-1 visa is legally required to maintain full-time enrollment during the fall and spring semesters. F-1 students are not required to enroll in classes during the annual summer break or scheduled college recesses. Please note that students may only count a maximum of one online or distance education toward full-time enrollment. Full time at ECC is defined as:

  • 12 semester hours minimum per semester for college-level classes
  • 20 clock hours per week per session for the Intensive English Program

What are the consequence of dropping below a full course load?

An F-1 student who drops below a full course of study without the prior approval of the (DSO) will be considered out of status pursuant to 8 CFR 214.2 (f)(6)(iii). Falling out of F-1 status is a very serious violation of your responsibilities as an international student, and it can have long-term consequences on your immigration benefits in the United States. A student who is out of status is no longer eligible for benefits such as practical training, on-campus employment, and travel signatures to re-enter the U.S. If a student fails to rectify his/her status, he/she is at risk of being deported and/or being unable to secure visas to enter the U.S. in the future.

Prior Approval Requirement

Reduced course load requests must be received at least two weeks before a student anticipates reducing his/her course load. F-1 students must verify that their RCL request has been approved prior to registering for less than a full course load and/or before dropping a course that will result in less than a full course load. Submission of this form does not guarantee a RCL request will be approved. Reduced course load requests must be received at least two weeks before a student anticipates reducing his/her course load. Please note that a reduced course load based on financial need is not a qualifying reason.

Special Documentation Required

  1. Students seeking an RCL during their final semester must submit a verification letter and education plan from the International Academic Counselor.
  2. Students seeking an RCL for academic difficulty must present a typed letter from the International Academic Counselor verifying the need for an RCL. Students enrolled in the Intensive English Program who request an RCL based on initial difficulties with the English language must submit a letter from the Director of the Intensive English Program verifying this need.
  3. Students with a temporary, serious medical condition may apply for an RCL based on medical necessity provided they submit a letter recommending an RCL from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist, to the DSO to substantiate the illness or medical condition. The letter must adhere to the following:
    • Typed on physician’s letterhead, dated, signed by the physician and clearly state the student’s medical condition.
    • State that full-time enrollment is not advisable due to the said medical condition for a specific semester.
    • Specify a recommended number of enrollment hours for the semester the RCL is requested.
    • Indicate a date the student is expected to resume a full course load. Please note an RCL for medical reasons cannot exceed an aggregate of 12 months while the student is pursuing a course of study at a particular program level. If an RCL is requested beyond one semester, a student must submit a new request form and updated medical documentation.

Applying for Reduced Course Load

To begin, complete and submit the reduced course load application.

Early Program Completion


F-1 students are initially given 36 months (three years) to complete their program of study at ECC. Your program completion date is indicated on your I-20. When you anticipate that you will complete your program early, you need to apply for graduation through the Registration and Records Office.

What is Early Program Completion? Early program completion allows a student who anticipates completing his/her program earlier than the date listed on the I-20 to graduate early in the program of study.

Applying for Early Program Completion

  1. Apply for  through the Registration and Records Office.
  2. Requests for early program completion must be accompanied by confirmation from the Registrar that the student has applied for graduation. This confirmation can be satisfied by a signature from the Registrar (or Registrar’s representative). The student is responsible for meeting all degree requirements and deadlines to apply for a graduation. The Center for International Education and Programs cannot assist in graduation dilemmas that may arise from a student’s failure to apply for graduation in a timely manner.
  3. Notify the DSO of the anticipated graduation date.
  4. Complete and submit early program completion application to the DSO. Once the program completion is shortened, it cannot be undone; a student cannot apply for an extension and any deadlines for OPT or CPT will be affected by a change in the program end date.

To begin, complete and submit the early program completion application.

Transfer Out


F-1 students planning to transfer to another school in the U.S. must request their SEVIS record be transferred to their new school.

Applying for Transfer Out

To begin transfer to another school in the U.S., complete and submit the SEVIS transfer out application.