F1 Visa Eligibility and Full-Time Enrollment
To maintain F1 status, an F1 Visa holder must enroll in a full course of study from their first semester of enrollment, and in every fall and spring thereafter as a continuing student, through program completion. A full course of study is 12 credit hours for undergraduate students, and of these 12 credit hours at least 9 credit hours must be in-person or hybrid. A full course of study is 9 credit hours for graduate students, and of these 9 credit hours at least 6 credit hours must be in-person or hybrid. Additional hours taken to meet the 12 credit hour minimum (undergraduate students) or 9 credit hour minimum (graduate students), may be taken online.
Continuing F1 Visa holding students have the option, but are not required, to enroll during the summer semester. If an F1 Visa holder is pursuing Curricular Practical Training during the summer semester, the student must be enrolled in coursework during the summer.
Upon completion of all academic requirements, on or before the program end date printed on the student's I-20, F1 Visa holders SEVIS records will be marked as Completed and no additional coursework will be counted for the program issued for that specific I-20 [8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(iii)(C)]. F1 Visa holders have options within a specific grace period to either apply for OPT (if eligible, and within the authorized timeline for USCIS applications), transition to a new academic program meeting F1 eligibility, apply for a change of visa status, or return to their home country.
International students who are F1 Visa holders have the option to change their major, and must do so by first meeting with their academic advisor. Once the advisor has verified with the student that the new program will support F1 regulations and has officially made the change, the student will need to submit a Change of Major request through the International Portal. The request in the International Portal will initiate the activation of a new I-20 for the student with the new academic program information, once the academic program is once again verified as F1 eligible by the ISSS office.
Upon initial registration at TWU, F1 Visa holders are provided with a program end date on the I-20. This is the date F1 Visa holders are expected to complete all of their academic requirements. If international students on an F1 Visa change their major, or have extenuating circumstances which will delay the anticipated program completion date, students must notify the ISSS office at least one semester before the program end date printed on the I-20.
Requests for a program extension must show that a student has continually maintained status and that they have compelling academic or medical reasons, such as a change of major or research topic, or a documented illness. Academic probation or suspension are not acceptable reasons for program extension approval. A DSO may not grant an extension if the student did not apply for an extension until after the program end date noted on the Form I-20, per USCIS policy 8 CFR § 214.2 (f) (7) (iii)
The program extension request can be submitted in the International Portal. The limit for Program Extensions are two (2) requests for undergraduate students, and three (3) requests for graduate students. Each approved extension is limited to one calendar year.
An international student holding an F1 Visa may take courses at another institution [8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(iv)] as long as the student is enrolled in at least 1 credit hour at TWU. If coursework is not being offered at TWU in a particular semester, and is needed for the F1 Visa holder to meet the full-time enrollment requirement or meet prerequisites for the following semester, the F1 Visa holder may submit a request for approval of Concurrent Enrollment in the International Portal, after registering for both TWU credits and credits of the secondary institution. Full-time enrollment and course modality (six out of nine graduate hours must be in person or hybrid, nine out of twelve undergraduate hours must be in person or hybrid) must be maintained at both institutions. F1 Visa holding students must work with their academic advisor prior to enrolling in courses at a secondary institution to ensure that the courses will transfer back to TWU as appropriate equivalents and apply towards the student's degree plan.
Per the TWU Incomplete grade policy an F1 Visa holding student must have successfully completed two-thirds of their assigned work in the class, and have an extenuating circumstance which delays completion of all remaining coursework by the schedule course completion date. The student must discuss their circumstances with the instructor and an Application for Grade of Incomplete must be filled out. Students who are issued a grade of INC - incomplete for a course must communicate with their instructor to determine the new date of completion for the course. An F1 Visa holding student should never re-register for an Incomplete course. This will result in a failing grade for the first registration and a new grade for the second registration.
International F1 Visa holding students who are issued an Incomplete for a course cannot apply the hours of that course in the subsequent semester towards full-time enrollment requirements for F1 status. The F1 Visa holding student is required to register for the required full-time number of hours and complete the Incomplete coursework in addition to full-time enrollment.
F1 Visa holding graduate students enrolled in the appropriate number of thesis/professional paper or dissertation hours deemed equivalent to full-time status by the TWU Graduate School, are automatically reported as maintaining F1 Visa status in SEVIS reporting for that semester. No additional request by the F1 Visa holding student is required.
TWU Graduate School policy indicates the minimum required credit hours for graduate students holding an assistantship is 5 semester credit hours. F1 Visa holding graduate students with an assistantship may submit a request for Full-Time Equivalency in the International Portal to have their full-time equivalency status reported each semester.
An F1 Visa holding student in one of the following four situations has the opportunity to apply for a Reduced Course Load, either academic or medical.
Academic difficulties - one (1) authorization to drop below a full course load of study (12 hours for undergraduates, 9 hours for graduate students) for academic difficulties can be requested during a student’s academic program at TWU, and only during the student’s first academic year in their program. Difficulty with the English language, reading requirements, U.S. teaching methods, or improper course level placement are options eligible for review by the ISSS office for an academic RCL petition. Once the F1 Visa holder has used one academic RCL for academic difficulties, a second request cannot be made for academic difficulties.
Medical reasons - An F1 Visa holding student facing a temporary illness or medical condition may request a medical RCL not to exceed a total of 12 months throughout their academic program at TWU at each program level. The F1 Visa holding student must submit medical documentation from a licensed medical doctor, psychiatrist, doctor of osteopathy, licensed psychologist, or clinical psychologist. This information must be submitted each semester that the F1 Visa holding student is requesting the medical RCL for DSO approval to drop below full course of study.
Last semester of coursework - An F1 Visa holding student in the final semester of their academic program, in need of fewer than full-time hours (12 hours for undergraduate students, 9 hours for graduate students) to complete academic requirements may request an academic RCL for their final semester. This is a request to register only for the remaining number of hours needed to complete the degree. If the F1 Visa holding undergraduate or graduate student needs only 3 hours, those 3 hours must be taken in-person or hybrid. If the F1 Visa holding undergraduate or graduate student needs 6 hours to complete their degree, at least 3 hours must be taken in-person or hybrid. If an F1 Visa holding undergraduate student needs only 9 hours, 6 hours must be taken in-person or hybrid.
Students engaged in certain practical training opportunities - F1 Visa holding students enrolled in an academic program in which a full-time internship or clinical rotation is required for completion of the degree, and this requirement is designated as full-time enrollment for all students by the academic department are considered to be enrolled full-time by the TWU ISSS office. In addition to a Curricular Practical Training request, the F1 Visa holding student must also submit a request for an Academic RCL through the International Portal.