F-1 Immigration Regulations

It is the responsibility of each student to be familiar with the immigration requirements related to their status. Following the guidelines below will help you to avoid violation of your F-1 status.

Effective August 9, 2018, USCIS updated policy regarding Unlawful Presence, which increases potential consequences for F-1/J-1 students who violate their status. The best way to avoid these consequences is to make sure you properly maintain your F-1/J-1 status while you are a student  and during any F-1/J-1 post-completion training periods. Unlawful presence days begin accruing from the day you violated status and can impact your ability to return to the US in the future, including 3 or 10 year bars on re-entry (dependent on number of days accrued).

Basic Guidelines

  • Keep your passport valid for at least 6 months.  
    Contact your home country's embassy in the U.S. for information about renewing your passport validity.
  • Keep your local address updated. 
    Keep your local residential address current through Cal Central. It must be updated every time you move.
  • Maintain full-time enrollment. 
    You must be enrolled in full-time units each semester. For immigration purposes, in most cases, students must complete a minimum of 12 units per semester. Check your college (UG) or dept (Grads) for minimum unit requirements.
  • Get Berkeley International Office approval before a withdrawal from UC Berkeley
    If for some reason you must reduce your enrollment below full-time units or withdraw from your program, you are required to have approval from BIO before doing so.
  • Attend the school noted on your I-20.
    You must have a current, valid I-20/DS-2019 from the school you are attending full-time. If you transfer from another school to UC Berkeley, or from UC Berkeley to another school, make sure you follow the proper procedure to transfer.
  • Keep your I-20 valid at all times.
    Your I-20 is only valid as long as you are a continuing, full-time student in your degree program, or on your approved post-completion training. If you graduate early, your I-20 or DS-2019 will be shortened to the last day of your final semester of enrollment. If your final semester is Summer you MUST be enrolled in Summer! You must notify BIO of your early completion in order to avoid overstaying. If you need more time to complete your program, apply for an Extension of Program BEFORE the current completion date on your I-20 or DS-2019.The completion date can be found on page one of the I-20 form under "Program End Date". You must also request a new I-20 if you change your major or your degree level, e.g. Ph.D. to Master's.
  • Get a travel endorsement.
    Before any international travel, review the necessary travel documents and obtain a travel signature from BIO. Travel endorsements are valid for one year during the program of study, but BIO recommends to obtain a new signature every 10 months. Exception: Travel endorsements during F-1 post-completion OPT/STEM are only valid for 6 months.
  • Be aware of your grace periods.
    You have a 60 day grace period at the end of your F-1 program. The grace period ends when you depart the U.S., or no later than 60 days after the end of the I-20 or your EAD card (if on OPT), whichever comes first.
    An F-1 student may enter the U.S. initially up to 30 days before, but no later than, the program start date on the I-20.
    An F-1 student may remain in the U.S. for up to 60 days beyond:
    • the completion of the program of study
    • the completion date of any authorized post-completion OPT, including STEM OPT and Cap Gap.
  • Get proper employment permission and follow employment reporting rules: 
    • On-campus employment -- Limit employment to 20 hours per week during the academic year. Employment on-campus may be full-time in the summer (if summer is not your first or last semester of enrollment) and vacation periods. No special work permit is required.
    • Off-campus employment --Work permission must be approved through Berkeley International Office and the USCIS. See Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical Training.   Be aware of employment authorization application procedures, eligibility, deadlines and rules for maintaining status during post-completion employment OPT, including STEM OPT and Cap Gap).