Enrollment and Maintaining Your Status
All F-1 and J-1 students must pursue a full-time course of study unless otherwise specifically authorized by International Services. International Services must be informed of and approve of any drop below full time. Full-time status for undergraduates is 12 credit hours per semester. Full-time status for graduate students is 9 credit hours per semester.
International Services may authorize a student for part-time enrollment for the following reasons:
- Initial difficulty with the English language
- Initial difficulty with reading requirements
- Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
- Improper course level placement
- Fewer courses are needed to complete full course of study (only possible in final term for undergraduate students)
- Medical condition (must have doctor's request/recommendation)
A note regarding online classes:
- F-1 students are not permitted to take more that 3 credits of online classes toward their full course of study.
- J-1 students are not permitted to take any online courses toward their full course of study.
See your academic adviser or major professor to plan your course schedule accordingly.
Please notify International Services before departing:
- If you are going abroad on a study-abroad program.
- If you are going to another school in the U.S. on the National Exchange Program.
- If you are intending to research abroad to complete your thesis/dissertation.
- If you do not intend to return to school, please complete the Withdrawing from U of I Form.
Maintaining status is the responsibility of every student. No student should expect the office of International Services to monitor document expiration or to be independently notified of any changes impacting status. International Services is obligated to inform the U.S. government through SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information Services) of any changes to an F-1 student's status.
Students must notify International Services if they experience any of the following:
- Address changes
- Change of major
- Degree level change
- Graduate earlier than end date on I-20
- Need additional time to complete their studies
- Change in OPT employment (optional practical training)
- Change in CPT employment (curricular practical training)
- Change in dependents (see F-2 Status)
- Leaves of Absence - students must complete one full academic year before requesting a semester off (ALCP students must complete 5 full sessions)
- Medical Absences
- Any drops below full-time status
- 12 credit hours are required during spring/fall semester for undergraduates; nine credit hours during spring/fall semester for graduates
- Students must be authorized by IPO to drop below full-time credit hours in Spring/Fall semesters
- Full-time enrollment during summer is required only if this semester is the first or last semester of enrollment (eight credits). No more than three credits can be online classes.
- F-1 students are not required to enroll in summer session if summer session is not their last semester (graduation date of August)
- Disciplinary action
- Felony convictions
Note that the above list is not necessarily comprehensive. Students should contact International Services if there is any question about maintenance of status.
International students are eligible for on-grounds employment at the University of Idaho for up to 20 hours per week during the fall and spring semesters and full-time during breaks with International Services approval. Graduate teaching assistantships and graduate research assistantships are considered to be 20 hours per week. Students must bring a completed On-Campus Work Authorization Request to International Services before engaging in any on-campus employment.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) requires the pursuit of employment to fulfill a specific academic requirement.
- The employment must be either required for the degree program, or must be a specific course within the major field of study, or;
- If the employment is not required, then it must bear credit within the student's major degree program. The course that will satisfy this requirement must be specifically named on the CPT application's Adviser Recommendation.
CPT requires a specific job offer and must be approved by the academic adviser. Once a job is offered and the academic adviser's approval and proof of registration for the credits are obtained, final authorization for CPT will be granted by the office of International Services and noted on a newly-produced Form I-20. Unlike OPT, you do not need to submit an application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Curricular Practical Training Instructions
To apply for CPT you must make an appointment with International Services or attend a Practical Training Workshop to receive the application and review the CPT regulations.
Graduating F-1 students can apply for OPT up to 90 days before and up to 60 days after they complete their academic programs. As there are many delays in USCIS processing, students are encouraged to apply as early as possible. Please watch the Post-Completion OPT Workshop training video below and follow the instructions carefully. Although IPO provides application information, the OPT application is your application. The IPO does not approve the application or have the authority to influence the application timeline.
To apply for OPT you must first obtain a new Form I-20 from the office of International Services documenting eligibility for OPT and subsequently submit an application for employment authorization to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. You may not begin working on OPT until you receive the employment authorization card (EAD) from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Post-Completion Optional Practical Training Workshop Training Video
For instructions on how to apply for OPT and further information about rules and regulations you must watch the Post-Completion OPT Workshop training video and follow the instructions carefully.
Guide to Apply for OPT Online
Guide to Apply for OPT by Mail
F-1 Student Post-Completion OPT Responsibilities
All F-1 students on post-completion OPT must report the following to International Services within ten days of any change:
- Any change in residential address and email address
- Any change in employer
- Any change in employer address
- Any interruption in employment
A loss of F-1 status will result from:
- Failure to provide International Services with information about a change in address or employment within ten days of any change
- Failure to report address and employment information to International Services at the beginning of any STEM extension and every six months thereafter
- Unemployment for a total of 90 days during the initial OPT period
- Unemployment for a total of 150 days during the initial OPT period and STEM extension
A former student using post-completion OPT who is the beneficiary of an H-1B petition on his or her behalf is eligible to remain in the U.S. and work pursuant to OPT after the expiration of OPT if:
- A timely cap subject H-1B petition on the former student's behalf that is pending or approved;
- The start date of the H-1B petition is October 1 of the same calendar year; and
- The former student has otherwise maintained all the terms and conditions of his or her F-1 visa status.
Note that if the above-referenced H-1B petition is rejected, revoked, withdrawn or denied, the student's employment authorization immediately terminates and he or she enters the F-1 grace period.
The STEM OPT Extension is an additional 24 months work authorization for F-1 students who are currently on their initial 12-months post-completion OPT and have received a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fields.
USCIS has announced that as of April 12, 2021, the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization may be filed online, as an alternative option to sending it by mail. For more information, see this USCIS webpage. Due to this recent change, the IPO is unable to provide any assistance on this new filing option at this time. We will provide more information later.
Eligibility for STEM OPT Extension
- Currently in valid F-1 status and on post-completion OPT.
- Currently employed during the initial period of post-completion OPT by an employer who is registered with the U.S. government's E-Verify program; and
- Has received a degree in a STEM field and employed in a position that directly relates to that degree; and
- Otherwise maintains all of the terms and conditions of F-1 visa status.
To confirm that a STEM field of study appears on your Form I-20, please contact International Services. Visit the Department of Homeland Security website for more information on the E-Verify program.
Complete your I-983 Training Plan
A STEM OPT student and their employer must obtain, complete, and sign Form I-983 before the student may apply for a STEM OPT extension. The I-983 is a training plan which must clearly explain the STEM OPT student’s specific goals, how these goals will be achieved, and confirm the employer’s commitment to helping the student achieve those goals.
When do I submit the I-983?
Only the Training Plan section of the I-983 is submitted before the start of your STEM OPT Extension. The other 2 sections are submitted after the start of your STEM OPT Extension.
You will submit the I-983 Training Plan when requesting a new I-20 in your iVandal.
Submit your request for an OPT I-20 in iVandal
- Log in to iVandal
- Go to the "Employment" tab.
- Select "STEM OPT Extension Request” Application
- Complete all eForms and "Submit" your request.
When should I apply for the STEM OPT Extension?
You can apply for the STEM OPT Extension during the last 90 days of your post-completion OPT. USCIS must receive your application no later than the end date that is printed on your OPT EAD card and no earlier than 90 days before that date.
Waiting for USCIS to approve my STEM OPT Extension request
USCIS to take about 90-120 days to approve your STEM OPT Extension application. During this time, your work authorization and F-1 status are automatically extended for up to 180 days while the STEM OPT Extension application is pending. The 180 days count from the end date of your initial 12-month OPT as long as USCIS has received your STEM OPT Extension application before the end date on your initial 12-month OPT EAD card.
Your I-797C Receipt Notice serves as documentation of your pending STEM OPT Extension application. 8 CFR 214.2(f)(11)(I)(C) and 8 CFR 247a.12(c)(6)(iv)
STEM OPT Approved
You will receive your I-797 Approval Notice and shortly after your new STEM OPT EAD card. Once you have received your STEM OPT EAD card, you must report the following every six months thereafter to International Services:
- Current residential address and email address
- Current employer (or report an interruption in employment)
- Current employer address
A student on STEM OPT can be unemployed for a total of 150 days. Your unemployment days are cumulative between both your initial 12-month OPT and your STEM OPT. For example, if you used 30 days of unemployment during your initial 12-month OPT, you would have a balance of 120 unemployment days left during your STEM OPT Extension period.
There is no 60-day grace period after the 150th day of unemployment. If you are getting close to your unemployment limit, you should do one of the following:
- Transfer your SEVIS Record from the University of Idaho to a new institution.
- Change from F-1 Status to Another Status.
- Request a Change of Program Level I-20 if you are starting another program at University of Idaho.
- Depart the U.S. and report your departure date to the IPO.
Students approved for the STEM Extension of OPT are required to submit a validation report to IPO at the 6 month,12 month, 18 month, and 24 month after the start date of your STEM OPT. The validation report must be submitted to IPO through iVandal (STEM OPT Reporting eForm) on the due date.
SEVP Portal will send an automatic email reminders when you are due for a validation report. However, you are responsible for keeping track of when your validation reports are due. You must submit your validation report within 10 days of your due date.
What do I need to submit with my Validation Report?
- 6 months - No section of the I-983 needs to be completed at this time.
- 12 months - Upload pages 1-5 of the I-983, including the "Evaluation on Student Progress" section (top half of page 5) to your F-1 STEM OPT Reporting Form in iVandal.
- 18 months - No section of the I-983 needs to be completed at this time.
- 24 months - Upload pages 1-5 of the I-983, including the "Final Evaluation" section of the I-983 (bottom half of page 5) to your F-1 STEM OPT Reporting Form in iVandal
What should I do if I change my employer or if there any changes in my current employment/personal information?
If you have a change in your employment/personal information and you are due for one of your 6-month validation reports around the same time, you should submit both forms in iVandal.
If you change your job title or job location, please submit the STEM OPT Employment Update eForm in iVandal.
If you change your employer, you must submit a completed Final Evaluation (page 5 of the I-983) from the previous employer. The last day of employment should be clearly stated on the Final Evaluation. You should also submit a completed I-983 (attached) for the new employer.
Once we receive these two documents, we will issue you an updated I-20 reflecting the new position and employment. Please note you should submit these forms within 10 business days of the change.
How to submit my report?
- Log in to iVandal
- Go to the "Employment" tab.
- Select "STEM OPT Report”.
- Complete the eForm and "Submit" your request.
Completion of OPT
After the completion of your OPT, you have a 60-day grace period. During your 60-day grace period, you can do one of the following:
- Depart the U.S.
- Transfer your SEVIS record to another school to start another academic program.
- Request a Change of Program Level I-20 if you are starting another program at the University of Idaho.
- Change your status. If you are planning to apply for a change of status to H-1B, please check our Cap-Gap Extension page for more information.
Students and scholars wishing to re-enter the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status after a temporary leave from the U.S will need a valid travel signature on their I-20/DS-2019 forms to return to the U.S. Please review all information below to understand how to get a new travel signature.
F-1 and J-1 Students:
For F-1 students, the travel signature is located on page 2 of your I-20 form. The travel signature is valid for 12 months from the date it was signed.
J-1 students, the travel signature is located on page 1 of your DS-2019 form. The travel signature is valid for 12 months from the date it was signed.
F-1 OPT and STEM OPT Extension Students:
F-1 must have a travel signature within six months of the time in which their travel and return occurs. Students returning to the U.S. after filing for or obtaining post-completion optional practical training employment authorization should be prepared to present evidence of their OPT and a job offer letter.
J-1 Academic Training Students:
J-1 must have a travel signature within 12 months of the time in which their travel and return occurs. Students returning to the U.S. after filing for or obtaining Academic training should be prepared to present a job offer letter or proof of employment (if employed).
- Valid passport (valid up to six months or more after reentry date).
- Valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp in the passport.
- Valid Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 (and forms of any traveling family members with a valid travel signature on page 2 of I-20 (F-1 students) or page 1 of DS-2019 (J-1 students).
Students and scholars in F-1 or J-1 status should request a travel signature on Form I-20/ DS-2019 two weeks before any planned travel abroad. Please submit your Travel Signature Request in your iVandal.
Dependents wishing to return to the U.S. in F-2 or J-2 status must comply with the same conditions including a travel signature on their I-20 or DS-2019.
You must be enrolled in at least 12 credits (undergraduate) or 9 credits (graduate) at the U of I during the Fall or Spring Semester. Exceptions are made if you are enrolled below 12 academic units but have an approved Reduced Course Load authorization, or If you have applied for or have an approved F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) or J-1 Academic Training (AT) employment authorization.
- Log in to ivandal.uidaho.edu
- Go to Student Services tab.
- Select "Travel Signature Request (I-20/DS-2019)".
- Complete your request.
- Submit your request.
Please allow us three business days to review and complete your request. The IPO will send you an email when your request is ready.
After you return from you trip:
Within 15 days after arrival into the U.S., please upload your new I-94 in your iVandal (“Upload I-94 Record” under Immigration Documents) and review if the information is correct. There is no need to notify the International Programs Office when you have uploaded your I-94 form unless you are unable to find it on the CPB website.
International students and scholars at the University of Idaho often ask the staff at International Services whether there are any steps they might take to assist family members or friends in making a successful application for a B-2 visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad. Please use this template to write a letter to invite your family member. Any applicant for a B-2 visa must demonstrate non-immigrant intent.