Most international students at Pitt are in F-1 visa classification.
An F-1 student is a nonimmigrant who is pursuing a "full course of study" to achieve a specific educational or professional objective, at an academic institution in the United States that has been designated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to offer courses of study to such students, and has been enrolled in SEVIS (the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). Once the educational or professional objectives have been attained, the F-1 student is expected by the US government to return to his or her residence abroad.
Maintaining Legal F-1 Status
As an F-1 student, you must meet certain obligations in order to maintain legal immigration status. Maintaining status is necessary in order to receive the benefits of F-1 status such as employment and program extension, and can be crucial to a successful application for a change or adjustment of status in the future. Failure to maintain your non-immigrant status can result in serious problems with immigration and could lead to deportation from the U.S. Due to the complexity of U.S. immigration regulations, we recommend that you consult with an Immigration Specialist in the Office of International Services anytime you have questions or concerns related to your F-1 status. To maintain lawful status, an F-1 student must:
- Attend the mandatory orientation program and complete check-in requirements with OIS.
- Attend the university you are authorized to attend (i.e. the school that issued your Form I-20).
- Complete the SEVIS transfer procedure if you decide to attend another school in the U.S.
- Be in good academic standing and make progress towards your degree or academic objective.
- Extend your Form I-20 prior to its expiration date if you are unable to complete your academic program by the original Program End Date (see Program of Study Section of your I-20).
- In the event of a change in your academic program or level, obtain an updated Form I-20 in a timely fashion.
Maintain full-time enrollment during the academic year.
- Undergraduate students must enroll for 12 credit hours each semester.
- Graduate students must enroll for 9 credit hours or full-time dissertation study (FTDS) each semester. NOTE: “Audited” courses do not count toward the full-time enrollment requirement for immigration purposes.
- Suspension, dismissal, expulsion, or any other similar action which prevents enrollment may have an effect on your legal immigration status. See an Immigration Specialist in OIS.
- Limit on-campus employment to 20 hours per week during the academic year.
- Do not work off campus without prior authorization.
- Keep your passport valid at all times. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months into the future on the day you return to the U.S. from a trip abroad. Individuals from some countries are exempt. Check if your country is exempt by reviewing the 6-month club list.
- Complete the OIS Departure Notification e-form via My OIS or otherwise notify OIS if you leave your program before the end date of I-20.
- Maintain a valid home country (must be outside the US) and local US (must be your US residential address) in the My OIS system. Addresses must be updated within 10 days of moving.
View your Compliance Form in My OIS.
U.S. government regulations require F-1 students to be in the U.S. for the primary purpose of attending school. In general, employment in the U.S. is restricted. The following employment possibilities exist for F-1 students:
- On-campus employment: Limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session and available as full time during school vacation and holidays (as permitted by University policy). On-campus employment is defined as work done on the premises of the school who issued the student's I-20. If anyone other than the University of Pittsburgh will be paying you, please consult with OIS prior to accepting employment.
- Off-campus employment: Under certain conditions you may be eligible for off-campus employment either based on economic need or practical training. You may not begin the employment unless you have received official authorization. All off-campus employment authorization must be coordinated through OIS.
When an F-1 student successfully completes his/her academic program or Optional Practical Training, there is a 60-day grace period during which the F-1 student and any F-2 dependents may stay in the U.S. but may not work nor reenter in F-1 status. Students who leave their program for any reason prior to completion may not be eligible for a grace period. Contact an Immigration Specialist if you have questions!