Topics of Interest:
Maintenance of F-1 Status
OPT STEM Extension: F-1 students approved for standard post-completion optional practical training based on a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field that appears on the DHS STEM-Designated Degree Program List can apply to USCIS for a one-time 17-month extension of post-completion OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 29 months). To be eligible for the extension, the student's employer must be registered in E-Verify and must agree to report to the DSO when the student is terminated or leaves employment. The student must apply for the OPT STEM extension before their standard period of post-completion OPT expires, and must also agree to make periodic reports to their International Visitor Advisor at UTHealth.
The links below provide information about the rule as well as instructional information and a request form:
Travel and Reentry in F-1 status
Travel abroad on an F-1 or F-2 student visa requires the signature of the Designated School Official (DSO) at the University of Texas Health Science Center. If you are attending one of School of Public Health’s Regional Campuses, please allow sufficient mailing time in order for travel endorsement to be processed at UTHealth - Houston. To secure the proper travel endorsement on the Form I-20 prior to traveling abroad, schedule an appointment to meet with your International Visitor Advisor at OIA. Failure to obtain the appropriate signature prior to travel abroad could prevent and/or delay readmission to the U.S. F-1 student are required to present a passport valid at least six months into the future, a valid F-1 visa stamp (except for Canadian citizens), and original Form I-20 containing travel endorsement located on the third page of the Form I-20 upon reentry into the United States. If you will require a new F-1 or F-2 visa stamp to re-enter the U.S., please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate at which you plan to obtain a visa in order to confirm its hours of operation and application procedures prior to your departure.
F-1 Program Extension
An F-1 student who has continuously maintained legal F-1 status and is making normal progress towards completion of educational objectives but is unable to complete their academic program within the end date of the Form I-20, must follow a procedure to submit a request for a program extension to the Office of International Affairs 30 days prior to the program end date.
Reduced Course Load Options
The exceptions to the "full course of study" requirement are limited, but very important. In the situations described below, F-1 students are considered to be maintaining status even if they are not registered for a full course of study, and they continue to be eligible for F-1 benefits if they are otherwise eligible.
An International Advisor at OIA must authorize a drop below full course load (commonly referred to as a "reduced course load," or RCL ) and update SEVIS prior to the student reducing his or her course load. A student who drops below a full course of study without the prior approval of their International Advisor will be considered out of status.
SEVIS limits the reasons for which an RCL can be granted to six (6) choices:
Contact your International Advisor regarding specific information required to be approved for a Reduced Course Load.
Students admitted to a new program of study at a different academic institution must complete a request form providing the UTHealth Office of International Affairs the information needed to release corresponding SEVIS record to the new sponsoring program.
Contact us for questions related to issuance and endorsement of Form I-20 for F-1 students.