Cal Poly

Responsibilities and Benefits of F-1 Visa Status

Your visa status in the U.S. is ultimately a matter between yourself and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The DHS expects you to learn and understand the requirements and benefits of your F-1 visa status, meet those requirements, and maintain status at all times while in the U.S. You also have the responsibility to inform the International Center at Cal Poly of any changes that might affect your ability or interest to maintain F-1 visa status.

There are specific reporting requirements for F-1 international students. The SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) is a mechanism to electronically transmit the required information to the DHS throughout a student’s stay in the United States. Schools are required to regularly update SEVIS regarding quarterly enrollment, change of address, change of major or degree objective, school transfers, etc. Maintaining visa status and full-time enrollment is critical and reinstating F-1 status may be difficult and not always possible depending on the violation of status.

The International Student Advisor is available at the Cal Poly International Center office to help you understand your immigration responsibilities and apply for F-1 status benefits. You are encouraged to meet with the Advisor as often as needed in order to make informed decisions before you take any action that could result in the loss of your visa status. Please also read New International Students page for updated information. Also read online information on Applying for a Visa.

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  • Only attend the school listed on your currently valid I-20 unless you receive authorization for concurrent enrollment.
  • Carry health insurance. The California State University requires your insurance to provide a minimum coverage of up to $50,000 per accident or illness; $7,500 for repatriation of remains; $10,000 for medical evacuation to the home country; and the deductible must not exceed $200 per accident or illness. Proof of coverage must be provided to the Cal Poly International Center office in order to enroll in classes.
  • Enroll and complete full-time coursework (a minimum of 12 units for undergraduate and 8 units for graduate students) during fall, winter and spring quarters.
  • Notify the Cal Poly International Center office immediately if you change your major, degree objective or want to transfer to a different educational institution.
  • Report any legal changes to your name, or any change of address to the Cal Poly International Center office within 10 days of the change.
  • Make satisfactory progress toward completion of your degree.
  • Complete your degree by the date listed on your I-20, or apply for an extension before it expires.
  • Do not work off-campus without authorization from the USCIS and the Cal Poly International Center office, and limit on-campus employment to a total of 20 hours per week or less while school is in session.
  • Notify the International Student Advisor at the Cal Poly International Center office before you begin any on-campus employment.
  • Do not work on-campus more than a of 20 hours while school is in session.
  • Request a travel signature on your I-20 at least one week before leaving the U.S. in order to return and continue your degree program.
  • Obey all federal and state laws.
  • Respond completely and truthfully if the DHS requests any information from you.
  • Keep your passport valid at all times (if expired, renew at your country’s Consulate or Embassy in the U.S.).
  • Apply for optional practical training during your final quarter. OPT applications must be received by immigration within 60 days after your final quarter.

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  • Eligible for immediate part-time on-campus employment, 20 hours or less per week while school is in session and full-time during vacation periods. Full-time employment is any amount of time more than 20 hours per week.
  • May apply to the USCIS for off-campus work authorization for Practical Training after one academic year in F-1 status, or earlier if needed because of Severe Economic Hardship.
  • May be authorized for 12 months of optional practical training (OPT), and becomes eligible for another 12 months of practical training when he or she changes to a higher educational level. Some majors may be eligible to apply for an additional 17 months of OPT.
  • Can stay in the US with an expired visa stamp as long as student status is maintained. There is no restriction on travel anywhere within the U.S.
  • Eligible to transfer to other educational institutions within the U.S. without having to leave the U.S. by following USCIS transfer procedures.
  • Not required to enroll during Summer Quarter as this is considered vacation period.
  • Not required to enroll full-time for your last quarter of enrollment. Fill out the Final Quarter Form and submit to Cal Poly International Center for approval.
  • Have 60 days to depart the U.S. after completion of a degree or Optional Practical Training. Can remain longer if waiting for Optional Practical Training employment approval.
  • You may be authorized for 12 months of practical training, and become eligible for another 12 months of practical training when you change to a higher educational level.
  • Have 5 months to begin a new degree program at the next available term.

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I-20 Extensions

In order to receive a new I-20, an international student is required to submit a letter of support for an extension from his/her academic advisor or the advisement center staff. The letter must include the reason for the delay in completing the academic program and indicate a projected date of graduation. If the student has maintained status and there is a valid academic reason for the extension, the I-20 will be extended. Extensions must be made prior to the I-20 end date. Please request I-20 extensions between 2 and 4 weeks prior to the end date. NOTE: This extends your F1 status and allows you to stay in the USA as a student, but does NOT extend your F-1 visa. Your visa may only be extended while you are outside the USA.

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Contact Information

Contact International Students and Scholars by email at, call us at 805-756-5837 or visit us in the Cal Poly International Center in Building 52, Room E-32.

Note: The information obtained from the Cal Poly International Center Office should not be used as the sole source of information for making decisions that may affect one's legal status in the U.S. or one's right to study, teach, conduct research, or work. Each student is individually responsible for maintaining his or her visa status.

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Cal Poly International Center
Building 52, Room E32
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407-0721
Phone: (805) 756-1477
Fax: (805) 756-5484

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