What is F-1 “Status”?
To be in F-1 status means that you are legally in the United States as
an F-1 visa holder, obeying the F-1 rules, procedures and regulations, and
engaging in the F-1 activity. The purpose of F-1 Status is to study full time
in the United States. You should not consider any action that detracts from that purpose.
What is SEVIS?
The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)
is the web-based system that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses to
maintain information on Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified
schools and the F and M students who come to the United States to attend those
Can I get a Social Security Number?
A Social Security Number (SSN) is issued to track earnings
over a worker's lifetime. Only students holding F-1 status who are authorized
to work in the United States may apply for a SSN. Please meet with an International
Advisor for additional information.
Can I work in the United States as an F-1 student?
There are limited work opportunities available in the United
States for F-1 students. For this reason, before coming to the United States,
F-1 students must prove they have the financial ability (e.g., present bank
statements) to pay for tuition and living expenses while studying. If you
decide that you want to work, the first step is always to speak with your
designated school official (DSO).
On-campus employment is available to F-1 students whose status
is Active in SEVIS. On-campus employment is specific to
work that takes place on campus or at an off-campus location that is affiliated
with the school.
Off-campus employment is work that takes place outside
of a school campus. Off-campus employment is only available to F-1 students who
have completed at least one full academic year of their program of study,
and/or who have an economic hardship that qualifies for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's emergent circumstances.
Curricular Practical Training
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is only available for
F-1 students when it is part of an established curriculum within a school. CPT
must relate to your program of study, however, unlike Optional Practical Training (OPT), and other work, CPT
can be full time and is not restricted by a weekly 20-hour work limit. CPT is
available to Berkeley College F-1 students in a degree program while taking the
required Internship Course.
Optional Practical Training
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a form of temporary
employment that directly relates to your program of study. You can apply for
OPT during your program of study after you have completed one full academic
year, which is known as pre-completion OPT, or after you finish your program of
study, known as post-completion OPT. In order to apply for OPT, students must
meet with an International Advisor.
Please see our F-1 OPT Questions and Answers Guide for more
What do I have to do to drive in the United States?
Any F-1 student in lawful status may apply for a driver’s
license or state identification card, per state or territorial law. The student
must present necessary supporting documents required to verify legal presence
in the United States.
Please see our ID and Driver’s License Information Guide outlining the documents you need to receive a driver’s license or state
The U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement offers further information on obtaining this benefit as an F-1 student.
What are the different documents and forms I need?
SEVIS I-901 Fee
There is a one-time fee for each SEVIS I-20 that you
receive. You must pay this fee before
you can apply for a visa at a United States Embassy or Consulate. To pay this fee visit
www.FMJfee.com and once you pay your I-901 SEVIS Fee, you must print the receipt as
proof of payment and take it with you to your visa appointment and when you
travel to the United States.
A passport is a travel document that proves your
citizenship. If you are reentering the United States, your passport must be valid at
least 6 months in the future. To renew your passport, please contact your
country’s Embassy or Consulate.
SEVIS I-20 - Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant
The SEVIS I-20 document is issued by an International
Student Advisor through SEVIS, a database that allows the U.S. Department of
Homeland Security to receive information about international students. I-20 is
the primary document to show that you have been admitted to school in the
United States and that you are authorized to apply for admission to the United
States in F-1 class of admission.
A visa is a document that allows a visitor to travel to a
United States port of entry and request permission to enter the United States in that
visa category. Your passport and I-20 must remain valid at all times while you are
in the United States. It is possible your F-1 visa may expire during the course of your study. You may remain in the United States on an expired F-1 visa as long as you are maintain your student status. However, the next time you travel abroad you must obtain a new F-1 visa before
returning to the United States
Form I-94 shows that you have been legally admitted to the
United States, the class of admission, and the authorized period of stay. It is
very important that the information on the record is correct. Since your
purpose is studying full-time, your I-94 should indicate that you have been
granted F-1 status for D/S. D/S means “duration of status”, meaning as long as
you are maintaining your student status.
The I-94 Entry record is required evidence for application for any
benefit of F-1 visa sponsorship (ID license application, work authorization, H1B application, etc.).
Who do I notify about changes in my contact information?
You are required to notify an International Advisor of any
change of address within 10 days of moving so we may report it to the U.S. Department
of Homeland Security.
How many classes am I required to take?
F-1 students must pursue a full-time course of study (at
least 12 credits) per semester or obtain permission to take a reduced course load (RCL).
Students must receive prior approval from an International
Advisor before taking a RCL. There are limited reasons as to why you may take a RCL:
temporary medical reasons
• Last semester of your degree program and you have less than 12 required credits to
Can I take time off?
F-1 students may take an annual vacation semester and remain in the United States while not registered full-time. You are eligible for a vacation semester after completing two full-time consecutive (in a row) semesters with plans to register for the following semester. During this annual vacation you may register for online classes, part-time classes, or no classes.
Before taking a vacation you must meet with an International Advisor to discuss your eligibility and fill out an International Student Change Form.
When am I required to update my I-20?
The International Division is required to report any updates
to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and update your I-20 in SEVIS. It is your responsibility to ensure the
information on your I-20 is up to date and accurate. You must meet with an International Advisor
before any of the below events:
• Program Extension
• Change of
• Change of
• Change of
• Change of
Make sure you keep every I-20 you receive for your records.
Is health insurance required?
Berkeley College does not require F-1 students to have health insurance coverage. However we strongly encourage students to obtain a health insurance plan due to the high costs associated with the United States health care system. You can also purchase health insurance plans specifically for F-1 students.
How can I meet other international students?
Each year the International Student Department sponsors cultural events. In the past, those events have included ballet performances, United Nations tours, and lower Manhattan dinner cruises.