Office of International Affairs


Topics of Interest:

Maintenance of F-1 Status

  • All students on an F-1 visa must maintain valid status by enrolling in a full course of study each semester until graduation. That is:
    • 12 credit hours for undergraduate programs
    • 9 credit hours for graduate programs
  • F-1 students are subject to mandatory health insurance, to include coverage for medical evacuation and repatriation.
  • All employment must be authorized by an International Visitor Advisor prior to the start of employment. This includes paid and unpaid positions and on or off campus employment.
  • F-1 students are required to report a change of address within 10 days of the move to the Office of International Affairs and submit form AR-11 to the USCIS branch of the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Students must file for timely program extension and/or transfer of their F-1 SEVIS records.
  • All students must maintain a valid unexpired passport, Form I-20, I-94 card endorsed F-1 D/S (duration of status).
  • Inform assigned International Visitor Advisor of any changes in the immigration status.
  • Inform assigned International Visitor Advisor of legal changes to name (i.e. from single to married) within 10 days of change.

  Employment in F-1 Status

  • On Campus Employment: F-1 students are eligible to work part-time which equates to no more than 20 hours per week of on-campus employment. Length of authorized work authorization is based on the end date of the Form I-20, actual completion date, or transfer release date, whichever occurs first.

  • On-Campus-Off-Site Employment: F-1 students may be eligible to work at an off-site location of an institution which is educationally affiliated with UTHealth. Such affiliation should be associated with the school's established curriculum or related to contractually funded research projects. Additionally, the employment must be an integral part of the student's educational program.

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT): F-1 students enrolled at UTHealth may be eligible to participate in Curricular Practical training (CPT) provided the F-1 student meet requirements set by federal regulations,which include all the following conditions: 
    1. The student is currently in valid F-1 status,
    2. The student has been enrolled on a full-time basis in the minimum amount of credit -hours required by the regulations,
    3. The student will continue to be enrolled for a full course of study during the CPT, and
    4. The training is an integral part of an established curriculum.

  • Optional Practical Training (OPT): F-1 students may be eligible for a period of work authorization at the conclusion of their studies. This temporal work authorization is referred to as Optional Practical Training (OPT). Under OPT employment authorization is limited to a specific length of time according to specific regulations. Employers considering hiring a foreign student with work authorization for practical training should be aware that such authorization expires as the practical training period ends and therefore continuation of employment would require employer sponsorship for an appropriate employment-authorized visa type.   

  • 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:

  1. Illness or Medical Condition
  2. Initial Difficulty with English Language
  3. Initial Difficulty with Reading Requirements
  4. Unfamiliarity with American Teaching Methods
  5. Improper Course Level Placement
  6. To Complete Course of Study in Current Term

Contact your International Advisor regarding specific information required to be approved for a Reduced Course Load.

Transferring Out From UTHealth

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.