F-1 Status

International students admitted to and enrolled in UAF academic degrees

International student information for students in F-1 status:
The information provided is for the benefit of Academic Advisors and other staff members at UAF to help them understand some of the regulations surrounding an F-1 student's legal status in the United States. If you have any questions about the requirements outlined here, please contact Reija Shnoro. Select any of the topics below for more information on the subject.

Under U.S. immigration regulations, before U.S. schools can issue I-20 forms to international students to enter and begin their academic programs, the students must show English proficiency and proof of financial ability to pay for all expenses while in the U.S. These requirements are in addition to any institutional admission requirements.

Students are required to notify the International Advisor if there is a significant change in their funding situation. Students losing funding sources are may be considered out of status if they are unable to locate and provide documentation of new funding in order to continue their programs.

Departments awarding assistantships are assumed to be continuing the funding for the duration of the academic program unless otherwise noted on the GraduateAdmission Recommendation Form. Funding information requested on the form is “No funding provided” or the number of credits and stipend amounts per semester and the number of semesters covered by the award. The department should be reasonably certain that they have funding or anticipated funding in place for the duration of the student’s program. If department funding is lost, student must provide UAF International Programs & Initiativeswith proof of other funding source(s).

Students are required to show proof of English proficiency before the I-20 can be issued. The UAF standards are the TOEFL and IELTS exams. Students experiencing academic difficulty during their first semester of attendance due to English proficiency may be authorized to enroll in English skills class(es) during that semester.

Students may arrive up to 30 days before their program start dates noted on their I-20 forms. The program start date is generally the date of New International Student Orientation, the Friday prior to the start of classes.

To maintain appropriate immigration status, students must be enrolled full-time and making satisfactory progress towards the completion of the degree every semester they are in the U.S.

Undergraduate students: 12 credits mininum of which at least 9 credits must be traditional in-class course credits.

Graduate students: 9 credits of which at least 6 credits must be traditional in-class courses and/or required thesis or research credits.

Reduced Course Load (RCL): During the student’s final semester of attendance, they may be authorized to be less than full-time, with prior approval of an International Student Advisor, should they not need the minimum required number of full-time credits to complete their degree program. He or she must be enrolled in at least one required in-class course during the final semester. Additionally, students may be authorized less than full-time status due to unforeseen medical conditions. However, approval must be received before the student drops below full-time status.

Distance Education/Independent Study: a maximum of 3 credits of distance education or independent study can apply towards the full-time requirement per semester.

Exceptions to full-time requirement (see also "Reduced Course Load"): Must be approved before the student drops below full-time status.

Documented illness or medical condition. Request/recommendation from a licensed Medical Doctor, Osteopath or Licensed Clinical Psychologist is required.

Academic difficulty (can only be used one semester) based on one of the following: (1) Initial difficulties with the English language; (2) Initial difficulties with reading requirements; (3) Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods; or (4) Improper course placement. Request/recommendation from academic advisor required.

Students wishing to change academic majors and/or degree programs must notify the International Advisor before they begin the new program. They must obtain a new I-20 reflecting that program before they begin.

Students may request an extension of their academic programs if they have continually maintained status and the extension is needed due to compelling academic or medical reasons such as changes of major or research topics, unexpected research problems or documented illness. Extensions due to a lack of English proficiency are not allowable as English proficiency is required for a student to be admitted. Extensions must be fully processed and the new I-20 issued before the program completion date shown on the current I-20.
Extensions are officially requested by the faculty advisor and/or chair of the graduate committee addressed to the International Advisor and must include the student's name, compelling reason that the extension is needed, anticiated completion date and that the student has maintained satisfactory progress towards degree completion. Templates are available.

Students placed on probation are not considered to be making satisfactory progress towards their degree. Should students be placed on probation, if their notification letter does not address this as a “warning”, they are considered out of status by U.S. immigration authorities. There is no grace period for people in an “out of status” situation and they are required to leave the U.S. at midnight of the day they receive notification. However, as long as the end date on the I-20 has not been reached, they are able to utilize any available appeal process.

Students being dismissed from their program are considered out of status and are required to leave the country at midnight of the day they receive notification. Since UAF has an appeals process for this, a dismissal letter should have an effective date that incorporates the 30-day appeals process time. Under USCIS guidance issued August, 2018, students begin accruing unlawful presence immediately following dismissal.

Generally, the date of program completion is the last day of final exams during the semester students will graduate.

Note: Employment authorization ends on the date of program completion.

Graduate students with only thesis or project defense requirements in the final semester need to refer to "Special Notes for Graduate Students" - "Program Completion."

Students in F-1 status have a 60-day grace period following program completion during which they may travel and sightsee within the U.S. as a tourist, make arrangements to leave the U.S. and ship personal belongings home. If they wish to enroll in a subsequent academic program, the admission must be finalized prior to the end of the 60-day grace period. Employment authorization ends on the date of program completion and cannot continue through the grace period.

Students in F-1 status are authorized to work on-campus without additional immigration authorization. Employment is restricted to no more than 20 hours per week while classes are in session. There is no immigration restriction on number of hours worked during vacation periods. The job may be any UAF or Statewide position on the UAF main campus as long as the 20-hour restriction is not exceeded.

Students in J-1 (exchange students) must have a letter of employment authorization from one of the UAF Department of State Responsible Officers (International Student or Study Abroad Advisors).

Note: Employment authorization ends on the date of program completion.

All students who have received an on-campus job offer, to include graduate assistantships, are required to obtain an SSN. The students need to obtain a letter from the International Advisor indicating their eligibility for employment. They must also have a copy of their employment letter. The letter and social security application form must be submitted in person at the SSA Office in Fairbanks. Students are advised to wait until they have been in the U.S. at least 10 days, and their SEVIS (immigration) record must be activated by the International Advisor before attempting to submit a SSN application. The IPI will provide complete information to students along with the necessary letter and application form.

Special Notes for Graduate Students

To document satisfactory progress, it would be helpful for UAF International Programs & Initiativesto receive notification of the students’ committee, committee chair and research topic when they are decided, copies of annual reports, Graduate Study Plan and Advancement to Candidacy.

Program completion for immigration purposes is deemed to be the final day of the semester for students enrolled in a semester-long course which meets on regularly scheduled, specified days and times for the duration of the semester. Students enrolled in condensed courses are deemed to have completed their programs on the last day of required attendance during their final semester.

Graduate Students with Thesis/Project Requirements

For those students who are enrolled only in graduate thesis or research credits in their final semester and who have met all other course requirements in a previous semester, program completion is calculated from the date of thesis or project defense not the last day of the semester. The official program completion date for these students is the earlier of (1) two months from the defense date or (2) the approval date on the Report of Thesis/Dissertation Defense form or the Report of Project Defense form when signed by the academic department chair.

You can read the official policy memo here.

Immigration regulations restrict employment to 20 hours per week while school is in session. Also see Graduate Student Funding above. Employment authorization ends on official date of completion noted above for programs with thesis and research defense requirements.