Resources for Faculty, Staff & Employers

Staff, faculty, and employers of F-1 international students can refer to this page for information regarding F and J visa regulations and how immigration law may impact academic advising, employment, and more. Contact international@rwu.edu with any questions.

What is an F-1 Visa?

The F-1 Visa (Academic Student) allows one to enter the United States as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program. F-1 Visa-Status Students must be enrolled in a program or course of study that culminates in a degree, diploma, or certificate and the school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students. This authorization comes from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program.
Read more: State Dept. Student Visa Overview

What is the Student and Exchange Visitor Program?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program that administers the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). SEVP ensures that government agencies have essential data related to nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors to preserve national security. SEVP provides approval and oversight to schools authorized to enroll F nonimmigrant students and gives guidance about the requirements for maintaining F status.
Read more: ICE SEVP Overview

Useful Abbreviations
  • DHS: Department of Homeland Security
  • USCIS: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • ICE: Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • SEVP: Student and Exchange Visitor Program
  • SEVIS: Student Exchange Visitor Information System
  • P/DSO: Primary / Designated School Official
Academic Advising for F-1 Students

Students with an F-1 visa must adhere to strict immigration rules in order to “maintain” their student visa status. These rules dictate what students can and can’t do on and off campus while they are in the U.S. Please keep the following considerations in mind when you are advising F-1 students on their academics.

The following are general guidelines for ALL F-1 students, including undergraduate, graduate, and law students. Following are specific guidelines and exceptions for Graduate and Law programs.

Advisement/Registration
  • Full Course of Study – F-1 students must enroll in a full course of study every semester: no fewer than 12 credits. If a student is permitted to drop below a full course of study, they must also receive authorization from International Student Services.
  • Online Courses – Of the 12 credits required to meet a full course of study, 3 credits are permitted to be taken online.
    • Undergraduate students may engage in additional online courses without any restrictions as long as this requirement is met (at least 9 in-person credits).
    • Hybrid courses are permitted as long as the majority of class is in person. Please consult with International Student Services for more information.
  • Summer/Winter Courses – There are no restrictions on F-1 students’ eligibility for courses between 
  • Study Abroad – F-1 students are eligible for study abroad programs after completing one academic year (2 full semesters).
  • Final Semester – F-1 students are exempt from the full course of study requirement in their final semester, if fewer than 12 credits is necessary to complete their program of study.
Work Opportunities
  • On-Campus Work – F-1 students are not normally permitted to work in the U.S., but they are automatically pre-authorized to work on campus. They must first obtain a Social Security Number. International Student Services can advise students further.
  • Off-Campus Work – F-1 students are not permitted to work off-campus. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as required internships. International Student Services must authorize off-campus work.
  • Internships – Internships must be “integral” to a student’s program of study. They must be either required or result in academic credit.
  • Hours Per Week – F-1 students are permitted to work 20 hours per week while school is in session. There is no limit during regularly scheduled breaks. This 20-hour limit refers to the cumulative time spent working 
  • Feinstein Service Learning – F-1 students should confirm with International Student Services if their Feinstein Service Learning requirement must be pre-authorized.
Visa Validity
  • “Duration of Status” – F-1 students visas are valid for the “Duration of Status,” meaning that they have a valid visa to remain in the U.S. until they complete their program of study, regardless of how long that takes.
    • Completion date must be indicated in the immigration documents that they use to enter the U.S. However, the International Student Services Office can edit that date at any time.
  • Extending Course of Study – If a student has legitimate reasons to extend their program of study beyond their anticipated completion date, International Student Services must update their immigration documents to reflect the new date.
  • Shortening Course of Study – If a student will complete their program of study earlier than their anticipated completion date, International Student Services must update their immigration documents to reflect the new date.
Advising for Graduate and Law Programs
Full Course of Study
  • For undergraduate students, DHS regulations specify a full course of study as a minimum of 12 credits; however, for graduate programs, a full course of study is determined by the school and program requirements. This is typically 9 credits.
Work Opportunities
  • The same rules apply as above, with one important exception:
    • If a graduate program requires an internship during the first academic year, F-1 students may be permitted to receive CPT work authorization before the one full academic year requirement has been met.
Work Opportunities for International Students
  • International students with visas are generally permitted to work when such work is conducted on campus property. On-campus employment is one of the few work opportunities available for international students.
  • Off-campus employment must first be authorized and specific requirements must be met (CPT & OPT).
  • Please note that some students may be international (i.e. raised in a foreign country) but may have a form of U.S. citizenship or other status that enables them to work. If a student says they are international, but don't have an F-1 visa, ask if they already have work authorization.
    • The information here concerns F-1 international students.

F-1 and J-1 international students might not have a social security number (SSN) when they apply for a job. They are eligible to receive an SSN with a job offer from RWU. Departments hiring international students should confirm with ISSS that the offered position meets immigration criteria: international@rwu.edu.

Hiring International Students (F-1 or J-1)

In order for students to receive a social security number, which they need to complete the appropriate hiring forms, they must present a number of documents to a social security office (more details outlined here). RWU is responsible for providing TWO letters:

  • A letter addressed to the student offering employment. Information should include the hiring department, the position title, responsibilities, and start date. This should be signed by a supervisor.
    For Hiring Departments: Please feel free to use the document linked below to complete an employment letter acceptable to the Social Security Administration. You own letter may be used but please include the information noted above when hiring international students. Please sign whatever offer letter format you choose to use.

Employment Offer Letter

  • A letter addressed to the Social Security Administration verifying visa status. This will be provided by the International Student and Scholar Services office upon presentation of an employment offer letter.
Work Study Vs. Payroll
  • F-1 & J-1 visa-status international students are not eligible to receive work study funding. These students may not apply for work study positions.
  • Payroll positions are permitted for international students. Payroll positions are very limited on campus, so staff and faculty who are aware of available payroll positions are encouraged to reach out to international@rwu.edu.
Can International Students Work in the U.S.?

Per DHS regulations, F-1 visa-status international students are not permitted to work in the U.S. (on-campus employment is permitted). This includes internships/externships. However, DHS understands that internships and other practical training opportunities are vital for students' education, and so F-1 international students may apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

What is Curricular Practical Training?

As defined by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE): Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education or other type of required internship or practicum that a sponsoring employer offers through agreements with a student’s school. One of two conditions must be met:

  • Training is required to complete degree
  • Training results in academic credit

Read more information: ICE CPT Fact Sheet
Read Full CPT Guidelines
View RWU's CPT Application

Other Considerations:
  • Students must be authorized for CPT before commencing their practical training.
  • Students must be enrolled in a SEVP-approved school for one academic year before being eligible for CPT.
    • Exception: Graduate students who are required to participate in practical training during their first year may be eligible for CPT authorization.
  • Students must maintain visa status (e.g. maintain full course load) while participating in CPT.
  • Once a student has fulfilled the required practical training to complete their degree, CPT cannot be authorized again to fulfill that requirement.
  • CPT is authorized for specific employers and for specific time periods only.
  • During the academic year, students may only engage in part-time CPT (below 20 hours per week). During school breaks, full-time CPT is permitted (20 hours or more per week).
  • Monetary compensation is NOT a consideration in determining whether or not a student must seek CPT work authorization. "CPT internships" may be paid or unpaid. 
    • Physical location is the important determining factor that must be considered (i.e. on-campus internships may be permitted without CPT authorization).
OPT Considerations for F-1 Students Enrolled in STEM-Designated Programs

F-1 Visa-Status students are eligible for one year of Optional Practical Training, enabling them to work in the United States for up to one year upon completion of their academic program. Students who have completed a program of study that is designated by the Department of Homeland Security as a STEM Program are able to to extend their OPT time for two additional years. Eligibility is based on CIP-code designation as registered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

The Department of Homeland Security frequently adds CIP codes to their list of STEM-designated programs. Please visit the below link to view the most up-to-date information.

DHS STEM-Designated CIP Codes

Scroll down to "Resources" and browse the information on the "DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List and CIP Code Nomination Process" Expandable Section to select the most recent list. Archived versions are saved online, so be sure to look at the most recent version, last updated July 2023.

International Student Services works with Undergraduate, Graduate, and Law Admissions offices. All three offices should use the following form to request an initial I-20 form on behalf of a deposited student.

Initial I-20 Workflow:
  1. Admissions Office: Work with prospective student to collect necessary paperwork for I-20 creation (see below) and collect initial deposit.
  2. Admissions Office: Complete "Admissions Initial I-20 Request" form
  3. International Services: Check Slate for appropriate paperwork, follow up with Admissions office with questions if needed, create I-20 Form, and send directly to student.
             • I-20 forms will be issued within 2 business days upon receiving all necessary information.
  4. Incoming Student: Receive I-20 Form from International Student Services. Check I-20 Form for errors; report to International Services via email. Proceed with visa application, following the "International Services Applying for a Visa" webpage for detailed instructions.
  5. International Services: Upload Initial I-20 Form in Slate and inform Admissions.

Admissions Initial I-20 Request

Necessary Documentation Before Issuing I-20 Form

☑ RWU Admission Application
☑ Undergrad, Grad, or Law I-20 Request Form
☑ Passport(s) and any prior U.S. visas
☑ Verification of financial ability to support one year of study (bank statements, scholarships, etc.)
☑ Enrollment Deposit
If Applicable to Student:
☑ Attestation of financial support (family members, etc.)
☑ RWU scholarship/aid documentation
☑ Confirmation of English ability (test scores)