Semester Reminder

Whether you're starting your first semester or well into your academic journey, we recognize the significance of adhering to immigration regulations. The reminders and tips below offer indispensable advice for each phase of the semester, ensuring not only academic success but also compliance with U.S. immigration laws.

Start of the Semester

Bookmark the following pages:

Register for a Full-Time Courseload

International students in F-1 status must enroll and complete a full-time course load in the Spring and Fall semester (Summer and Winter session is optional). This means students must take a minimum of:

  • Undergraduate students/Bachelor’s  – a minimum of 12 units of which at least 9 units must be in-person/hybrid.
  • Graduate students/Master’s/Crendital - a minimum of 8 units of which at least 5 units must be in-person/hybrid.

International students are prohibited to purse 100% fully online while in the U.S.

See definition of full-time enrollment at Maintaining Status | Division of International Education (sfsu.edu)

Important Enrollment Dates

International students are strongly advised to enroll full-time before the first day of the semester. To add classes after the first day of the semester:

  • Week 1: Permission numbers ARE NOT required to add most classes.
  • Week 2-3: Permission numbers ARE required.

The above dates are subject to change. Please visit the Registrar's Office (sfsu.edu) for the most updated registration date.

Although students can still add/drop classes within the first three (3) weeks of the semester, it is strongly advised that students finalize their classes within the first week of the semester. To add classes after the first day of the semester, students should show up and attend the first class meeting - even if they are not enrolled. Many instructors do not give permission numbers unless students attend classes in person.

Deadline to Meet the Enrollment Requirement

  • All students must enroll full-time or justify part-time enrollment by the add/drop deadline posted on the Registrar's Office (sfsu.edu).
  • Failure to meet the above requirement will result in I-20 termination and loss of legal status, including eligibility to work in the U.S. in the future.

There are three ways to justify part-time enrollment:

  • Reduced course load (RCL) due to completion of study: Undergraduate students completing their programs with less than a full-time course load left must apply for Reduced Course Load (RCL). Graduate students who continue working on culminating experience courses after the grace semester will submit RCL instead of FTE.
  • Full-Time equivalency (FTE) - graduate students only: Graduate students starting or continuing culminating experience courses with less than a full-time course load left must apply for Full-Time Equivalency (FTE).
  • Concurrent enrollment: Students taking units at another SEVP-certified school in the U.S. to maintain full-time enrollment must apply for concurrent enrollment. See Taking Classes at Another School.

Deadline to Justify Part-Time Enrollment

  • All students must enroll full-time or justify part-time enrollment by the add/drop deadline posted on the Registrar's Office (sfsu.edu).
  • Failure to meet the above requirement will result in I-20 termination and loss of legal status, including eligibility to work in the U.S. in the future.

Students who do not plan to attend SF State should take ONE of the following actions below by add/drop deadline:

  1. Transfer to another school: If you plan to attend another school in the U.S. this fall, submit your transfer-out paperwork.
  2. Taking a semester off: Submit the F-1 Status Time Off Request Form (TORF) and leave the U.S. within 15 days of submission, or the add/drop deadline, whichever date is earlier.

Deadline to Depart the U.S.

Students who do not plan to attend the upcoming semester should leave the U.S. before the drop/add deadline. Their active I-20s will be terminated after the add/drop deadline. The termination of the I-20 will have no impact on the student's eligibility to enroll in future semesters at SF State.

For example, students who left the U.S. can still pursue online study outside the U.S. 

Keeping personal and emergency contact information updated with SF State is crucial for international students. It ensures swift communication in emergencies, supports health and safety needs, aids academic success, and maintains F-1 status compliance.

Students should log on to SF State Gateway to verify their current U.S. address, U.S. phone number, and emergency contact details. If the information remains unchanged, no further action is required. If there have been changes, please follow the instructions posted at Maintaining Status to update them.

Tuition payment deadline: See Student Home | Bursar's Office (sfsu.edu).

International students are encouraged to use Flywire for international payments or pay in person at the Bursar's Office. 

The Division of International Education will email important immigration reminders to students’ SF State student email accounts only. We encourage all students to check their SF State email regularly.

Middle of the Semester

Students receive "W" (Withdrawal) grades for the class from which they withdraw or "WU" (Unauthorized Withdrawal) grades when they cease attending or participating in classes. Receiving a W or WU grade could impact your F-1 status. 

For example, an undergraduate student enrolled in 12 units but receiving a WU grade for 3 units is considered out of status because the student failed to maintain 12 units of enrollment.

Grades that satisfy the full-time requirements are A, B, C, D, F, CR (Credit), and NC (No-Credit). It is important to know that students do not automatically receive an "F" (Fail) grade when they stop attending classes.

If you have an approved RCL/FTE, you must also complete the specific number of units for which you have received approval on your RCL/FTE. For example, if a student is approved for an RCL for 5 units but receives a WU grade for a 3-unit class, the student is considered out of status.

Seek help

Reach out to your instructor, talk to your academic adviosr or Tutoring and Academic Support Center (TASC) for assistance. TASC offers Reading, Writing, and Academic Study Skills Resources to all SF State students Also, contact the international student advisors at f1@sfsu.edu if you would like to withdraw from a course and wish to know how that may impact your F-1 status.
 

Explore the Credit/No Credit (CR/NC) grading option

As you reach the midpoint of a course, concerns about your final grade may arise. You might contemplate opting for Credit/No Credit (CR/NC) grading. See SF State’s university bulletin’s information on Grading Information and Systems.

Generally, students can change their grading option to CR/NC to fulfill full-time requirements. However, not all classes, especially major core courses, offer this option. Students should consult their academic advisors for information on this choice and how receiving CR or NC grades may impact their graduation plan.

The deadline to change grading options is posted at Registrar’s Office’s Dates & Deadlines page. 

End of the Semester

To fulfill the F-1 enrollment requirement, F-1 international students must complete a full-time course load in the Spring or Fall semester.

Grades that satisfy the full-time requirements are A, B, C, D, F, CR (Credit), and NC (No-Credit). If you received a W or WU grade and have completed fewer than 12 units (for undergraduates) or 8 units (for graduates), please contact the international student advisors at f1@sfsu.edu

Students who did not complete a full-time course load will also receive emails from the Division of International Education regarding the consequences of being out of status.

Students must clear outstanding balances of the current semester in full before they can enroll in the next semester. 

Those who have not paid outstanding tuition and fees will receive "Campus Financial Obligation" registration holds that will prevent them from enrolling in the next semester.

  • F-1 students must enroll full time unless it is their final semester or for graduate students, the semester of their culminating experience course. 
  • Full time enrollment is at least 12 units for undergraduate students (with at least 9 of the 12 units as in-person or hybrid courses), and at least 8 units for graduate students (with at least 5 of the 8 units as in-person or hybrid courses).
  • Students are allowed to take multiple fully online courses during each semester. However, no more than the equivalent of one class or three (3) units will count towards their full-time unit requirement.  

See “Definition of Full-Time Requirement” and “Fully Online, Hybrid, And In-Person Courses” on the Maintaining Status page.

If students' I-20 will expire at the end of the semester, they will need to apply for an I-20 extension at least six (6) weeks before the expiration date.

If a student will be traveling outside the U.S. while in F-1 status, their I-20 must be signed by an F-1 international student advisor.

See Travel information for details.

Last updated: May 2024

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