F-1 Students FAQs


We are here to help you with your immigration responsibilities and explain your immigration benefits as international students and scholars. Refer to the Frequently Asked Questions links below to find more information on common questions that may arise during your stay.

For answers to many of your questions:

Staying in Status
Employment Questions
Travel Questions
Other Questions

F-1 Staying in Status


What is a full course load?
If you are an undergraduate student, you are required to be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours per Fall/Spring semester.
If you are a graduate student, you are required to be enrolled in at least 9 credit hours per Fall/Spring semester.

Am I allowed to take online courses?
Only one online course will count towards your full course load hours. If you’re in your final semester before completing your program, you must be enrolled in at least one classroom course.

Can I drop a course?
You should always speak with a Designated School Official (DSO) in the Office of International Student Services prior to dropping a course.  If you are unable to maintain a full course of study, you should request a Reduced Course Load prior to dropping a course. A Reduced Course Load can only be approved under certain circumstances.  Permission from your academic advisor is not enough. You MUST get prior approval from the Office of International Student Services.

Am I required to have health insurance?
Yes, each semester a hold is placed on your Marshall University record that will prevent you from registering for classes until you provide proof of health insurance.

What if I already have health insurance from my home country?
Insurance purchased in your home country will usually not be sufficient. The Office of International Student Services recommends that students buy insurance through Insurance for Students, Inc.  This plan meets all the requirements set by the Office of International Student Services.

What do I do if I lost my I-20?
Contact the Office of International Student Services and fill out a Request for a New I-20.

What do I do if my I-20 is about to expire I need to extend the time period for my program of study?
In order to receive an extension on your program, you must receive permission from both your academic advisor and a DSO in the Office of International Student Services.  You must submit a Request for a Program Extension form with advisor signature along with updated financial documentation to cover the duration of the extension.  All documentation for a program extension request must be received and approved by the Office of International Student Services prior to the end date on the I-20.

What do I do if I change my major area of study?
You must report any change of major to the Office of International Student Services after you have been accepted into a new program. An updated I-20 will be made to reflect this major change. After you submit the Request for Change of Major form for graduate students (available in the graduate office) or your academic advisor’s office (for undergraduate students) and are accepted into the new area of study, you should submit a Request for a New I-20 form to the Office of International Student Services.

Can I transfer to another school?
In order to transfer to another school, you must first apply to and be accepted at the school you wish to transfer to and contact a DSO at that school.  Some schools require a Transfer Release Form to be completed by a DSO at the previous school.  If you are transferring to a school that requires this form, please be sure to complete the student section of the form and submit to the Office of International Student Services at Marshall University.  The Transfer Release Form will be completed by a DSO in the Office of International Student Services and submitted directly to the new school.  Once you are accepted and receive your acceptance letter, you should submit the letter and a completed Transfer Out Form to the Office of International Students Services to request the transfer of your SEVIS record.

How do I change my immigration status?
To inquire about changing your immigration status, please contact the Office of International Student Services for assistance.

What if my passport is about to expire?
You must maintain a valid passport at all times. It is your responsibility to contact your embassy or consulate to have your passport renewed.

F-1 Employment Questions


Can I work as a student in F-1 status?
As an F-1 student, you have permission to work on-campus part-time (up to 20 hours per week) when the university is in regular school sessions (Fall and Spring semesters) and full-time (20+ hours per week) when the university is not in session (December holiday, Spring Break, summer).
Working off-campus without employment authorization is a serious violation of your F-1 visa status. Please see a a DSO to discuss off-campus employment.

What is OPT?
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is “temporary employment for practical training directly related to your major area of study.” The Office of International Student Services offers OPT Workshops throughout each semester. It is highly recommended that you attend an OPT Workshop prior to applying for OPT.

How do I know if I qualify for OPT?
You must be in current F-1 status, have been enrolled consistently and maintaining status for one academic year.

When can OPT be authorized?
Pre-completion OPT can be authorized during annual vacation and other times school is not is session, or while school is in session, provided that it does not exceed 20 hours per week while school is in session.

Post-completion OPT can be authorized after completion of all course requirements for the degree, excluding thesis or equivalent, if you are in a bachelor, master, or doctoral degree program after completion of your course of study.

How much can I work on OPT?
A cumulative maximum of 12 months per educational level.  Part-time, pre-completion OPT is utilized at a rate of 1:2.

What field or level of work is acceptable for OPT?
Employment during OPT must be directly related to and commensurate with the level of your course of study.  Unpaid and paid internships or volunteerships are acceptable for 12-month standard OPT.  If you have any questions about whether a position is acceptable while on OPT, please contact a DSO.

Who approves my OPT?
Optional Practical Training is recommended by a DSO and authorized by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Once approved by USCIS, you will receive an EAD card (I-766 Employment Authorization Document) which serves as your proof of authorization to work in the United States.

Can I reenter the US if my OPT application is pending?
There is some risk involved in reentering the US before your OPT is approved. Please contact the Office of International Student Services prior to traveling if your OPT application is pending.

Can I reenter if I left while on OPT?
If your OPT has been approved and you depart before you get a job, your OPT ends and you cannot reenter unless you have a written job offer.

If you have a job, you may travel and reenter to resume work at the same job or you have a written offer for another job.

What is CPT?
CPT is Curricular Practical Training and students must have been enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year before being eligible for CPT. Students may engage in CPT only for the specific employer, location, and period of time approved.  Students must continue to be enrolled for a full course of study during the period of CPT.

How much can I work on CPT?
You can be approved for part-time (20 hours or less). In specific situations, you may be approved for full-time (over 20 hours).

What field or level of work is acceptable for CPT?
Your work must be an integral part of an established curriculum, in your course/field of study. You must have an offer of employment from an employer offering work that qualifies as curricular practical training.

Does CPT affect OPT later?
Use of full-time CPT for one year or more eliminates eligibility for Optional Practical Training. Use of part-time CPT does not affect eligibility for OPT.

Who approves my CPT?
A DSO in the Office of International Student Services will authorize CPT in SEVIS and issue an I-20 with notation, before your work can begin. USCIS approval is not required.

F-1 Travel Questions


I plan on traveling outside of the United States, may I?
If you are planning on traveling outside the United States for LESS THAN 5 MONTHS, you will need the following documents to re-enter the U.S.:

  • A passport valid for 6 months beyond your date of entry
  • A valid F-1 entry visa
  • Current I-20 with valid travel signature
  • Financial information showing proof of necessary funds to cover tuition and living expenses

May I travel to Mexico, Canada, or an island near the U.S during MU Break IF my visa has expired?
You can travel to Mexico, Canada, or an island adjacent (except Cuba) to the United States for less than 30 days with an expired visa and re-enter the U.S. through automatic visa revalidation. You MUST see a DSO prior to traveling.

What if my entry visa is about to expire?
It is permissible to be in the United States with an expired visa; however, you must have a valid visa to re-enter the United States.

What documents do I need to renew my visa?
You will need to contact the U.S. Consulate in your home country for a complete list of requirements, but you will definitely need the following: your current I-20, a current financial statement, a current academic transcript and a passport valid for at least 6 months.

F-1 Other Questions


What do I do if I move to another address?
You will need to notify the Office of International Student Services within 10 days of moving to a new address so we can update your information in SEVIS. Please fill out a Change of Address Form.

Can I get a Social Security Card?
You may apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) you have been offered a job on-campus. If the position is off-campus, you must have proper employment authorization (OPT or CPT).  An application for a SSN can be submitted to the Social Security Administration as early as 30 days prior to the start of the position.

How can I get a Social Security Card?
First, you must have a job or an offer of a job. You will need to bring a letter from your employer stating your job description, location of employment, and number of hours you will work per week. Additionally, you must submit an SSN Status Verification Letter Request Form. The Office of International Student Services will provide you a status verification letter to submit with your SSN application.  For more information, view the SSN Information handout.

How do I get a driver’s license?
F-1 students are eligible to apply for a WV driver’s license. You will need a letter issued by an DSO stating you are currently studying at Marshall University. To request a letter, you must fill out the Status Verification Letter Request Form and return to the Office of International Student Services. If you are applying for a driver’s license, you will need to take a written exam and will also need to complete a driving test.

For more information, please go to http://local.dmv.org/west-virginia/cabell-county/huntington/dmv-office-locations.php.