Bienvenidos/ Hosgeldiniz/ Willkommen/ Bienvenue/! You just arrived in the U.S. from another country, excited to study business, engineering, architecture or whatever is your life passion. You have an F-1 visa, the most commonly held type of student visa. You want to make the most of your academic program and do everything the American students are doing these days, like landing that amazing internship at Google! At orientation, you vaguely remember the Designated School Official (DSO) at your university mentioning a few restrictions on what you, an F-1 international student, can do while studying. What are the most common mistakes that could take you from “curious international student” to “scared out-of-status student”?

1. Your physical address. University students move frequently. One month you are sleeping on your friend’s couch and the next you are sharing an apartment with roommates for the true college experience. You move so much you cannot even keep track!

    • RULE: All nonimmigrants must report their change of address to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It’s so easy – simply go to, click on “Forms”, and then click on “Change of Address” (Form AR-11). F-1 students also must report the change of address to the DSO to make sure that their database, which links to the U.S. government, is updated. Be sure to check with your school and DSO for the process to change your address!

2. Online Classes. Your American roommates are taking all online classes this semester and they are finished their day by 12:00 noon. You, F-1 international student, are not the same and online classes are not acceptable to maintain F-1 student visa status.

    • RULE: You can take NO MORE than one online class not exceeding three credit hours during each academic term.

3. Part-time studies. College and graduate school can be tough and sometimes you need a break. You are struggling and just want to take six undergraduate credits or a few graduate credits this semester.

    • RULE: F-1 students must carry a full course load unless they obtain specific authorization from the DSO at their school to drop below full-time. Academic advisors may inadvertently steer F-1 students to reduce their course load but before an F-1 student drops below full-time studies, the student MUST obtain the proper authorization from the DSO. Certain medical issues, academic issues and the final semester may be circumstances where part-time studies are permissible.

4. On-campus employment. You know the DSO said you can work on-campus but there is no way you want wear a hair net and work at the school cafeteria. You saw a posting for the school’s bookstore but you know they are privately owned and located off-campus. Is there any hope of flipping books versus burgers?

    • RULE: On-campus employment must either be performed on the school’s premises, (including on-location commercial firms which provide services for students on campus, such as the school bookstore or cafeteria), or at an off-campus location which is educationally affiliated with the school. Check with your DSO to make sure the employment is considered acceptable for on-campus employment for F-1 students.

5. Working 20 hours per week. You cannot afford the trip back home for winter break, so you have decided that you will stay on campus and work full-time to earn a little spending money.

    • RULE: F-1 students can work a maximum of 20 hours per week on-campus while enrolled. However, they may work on-campus full-time when school is not in session (including holidays and vacations). You should check with your school and your DSO to determine what days are considered holidays and vacations to ensure you do not inadvertently exceed the 20 hours per week of work time during an enrollment period.


Posted by: Holly Hatton