Enrolled and OPT Students
Students must read the important instructions pertaining to their F-1 status under each tab below to prevent falling out of status with the US government.
Rules and Regulations for F-1 Students
Avoid accrual of unlawful presence which may result in denial of admission to the U.S. and visa benefits
In 1996, section 212(a)(9) of the Immigration and Nationality Act established penalties for visa overstays and unlawful presence. Any alien not a permanent resident, who (1) was unlawfully present in the U.S. for a period of more than 180 days but less than one year (and up to 364 days) and voluntarily departs the U.S. and again seeks readmission within 3 years of that departure, or (2) was unlawfully present in the U.S. for more than one year and departs or is removed from the U.S. and again seeks admission within 10 years of that departure or removal, is inadmissible.
On May 10, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) posted a policy memorandum that changed the way the agency calculates unlawful presence for F, J, and M nonimmigrants (including dependents) who fail to maintain status on or after August 9, 2018. Prior to this memo, unlawful presence was triggered by (1) expiration of authorized stay (I-94), (2) an immigration judge determining a status violation in removal proceedings, or (3) INS (now called USCIS) determining a status violation in adjudicating an application/petition.
On August 9, 2018, a final guidance was issued by USCIS clarifying that individuals in F, J or M status who fall out of status and file a timely application for reinstatement of that status, will not accrue unlawful presence while their application is pending. If the reinstatement application is denied, the accrual of unlawful presence resumes on the day after the denial. If the reinstatement application is approved, unlawful presence is not accrued during the time the individual was out of status.
Although the May 10, 2018 memo provides the "examples" below that trigger unlawful presence due to failure to maintain status, USCIS stated during an August 23, 2018 teleconference that further clarification may be posted about the types of violations that may or may not trigger unlawful presence. Until such clarification is received, the OISS advises F-1 students to comply with all of the rules and regulations outlined in the SEVIS Contract, the OISS website, and 8 CFR 214.2(f) to avoid accrual of unlawful presence.
Individuals in F, J, or M status who failed to maintain their status before August 9, 2018 started accruing unlawful presence based on that failure on August 9, 2018, unless the individual had already started accruing unlawful presence on the earliest of the following:
- The day after DHS denied the request for an immigration benefit, if DHS made a formal finding that the individual violated his or her nonimmigrant status while adjudicating a request for another immigration benefit;
- The day after their I-94 expired; or
- The day after an immigration judge or in certain cases, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), ordered them excluded, deported, or removed (whether or not the decision is appealed).
Individuals in F, J, or M status who fail to maintain their status on or after Aug. 9, 2018, will start accruing unlawful presence on the earliest of any of the following:
- The day after they no longer pursue the course of study or the authorized activity, or the day after they engage in an unauthorized activity;
- The day after completing the course of study or program, including any authorized practical training plus any authorized grace period;
- The day after the I-94 expires; or
- The day after an immigration judge, or in certain cases, the BIA, orders them excluded, deported, or removed (whether or not the decision is appealed).
Report change(s) in your Information within 10 days
Report Change(s) in your information within 10 days.
Please update the following information using our International Students Portal at oiss.pepperdine.edu or by clicking the link below.
To add, delete, update dependent information please complete the Dependent Form.
The following information should be reported by email to firstname.lastname@example.org:
- Name (attach copy of passport)
- Country of citizenship (attach copy of passport)
- Visa classification (attach evidence of new visa status)
- Email address and telephone number
- Permanent foreign address
- Major and minor area of study
- Program end date (if requesting an extension, you must submit your request before the program end date printed on your current Form I-20)
- Employment information while you are in a period of employment authorization under the provisions of curricular practical training (CPT) or optional practical training (OPT).
Maintain "full-time" enrollment, or apply for permission to reduce course load
You must enroll for classes at the full-time level each term and make normal progress toward completion of your program. Reducing your course load below full-time level without the authorization of the DSO will result in termination of your F-1 status. Plan your term-by-term course schedule in advance with your program advisor to ensure continued full-time enrollment and normal progress. Inform the DSO of necessary reductions, interruptions, or gaps in your attendance.
Under certain circumstances, which include medical conditions and initial difficulty with the English language, F-1 students may be allowed by the DSO to reduce their course load below the full-time level. Complete the Reduce Course Load for Academic Reason or The Reduce Course Load for Medical Reason through our Internationals Student portal at oiss.pepperdine.edu or by clicking the link below.
Request an extension before your Form I-20 expires!
Check the "program end date" printed on your Form I-20. This is when you are expected to complete your program of study. If you need to request an extension, you must do so before the date printed on your Form I-20! Failure to request an extension in a timely manner will result in the loss of your legal status.
Submit your request to email@example.com (also copy your academic adviser in the same email). In the subject line, write "request for program extension." Provide your new study plan, including the number of units you will take each term until completion. Please note that you are allowed to take less than a full course load only in your final term.
Take "authorized" vacation breaks only
You must complete two terms before taking an "annual vacation break" in the US. A break in studies of 5 months will result in the termination of F-1 status. Consult your DSO if you plan to be out of school for 5 months or more.
Do not work without obtaining employment authorization
F-1 students in good standing may work on campus, part time (up to 20 hours a week) while school is in session, and full time during vacation breaks. To work off campus, you must obtain specific authorization from the US Department of Homeland Security. Whether you are classified as a volunteer, intern or employee, you may not accept any position off campus without consulting the DSO. Engaging in off campus employment without permission will result in termination of your F-1 status.
Report your tax status to the US government
You must report your presence to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by filing a Form 8843 each year. If you receive income during any year, such as wages from on campus employment or a taxable scholarship, you must also file a "tax return" at the conclusion of that year to calculate the correct amount of taxes you owe the IRS.
The following is a general overview of federal-tax obligations for F-1 students. The staff of the Office of International Student Services is not licensed to offer tax advice. Students should consult a tax professional (known as an Enrolled Agent) or use the government resources listed below for assistance with specific tax questions.
If I don't work, do I have to fill out any tax forms?
- Yes! All F-1 international students must complete and send a Form 8843 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
- The Form 8843 requires information about your visa status, the school you attended, and the number of days you were present in the U.S. during the last three years. You must keep a copy of each Form 8843 that you file. Start a "personal tax folder" that you can easily locate each year.
- If you were present in F-1 status during any portion of a calendar year (January 1 through December 31), you must fill out a Form 8843 to report the number of days you were present. Even if you were present for only one day in a particular year (suppose you entered the U.S. as an F-1 student on December 31), you must file a Form 8843 for that year. Keep a record of your departure and entry dates.
Why do I need to keep track of my days of presence?
- The IRS uses, among other things, the number of days an alien (an individual who is not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident) is present in the U.S. to determine how the individual is taxed.
- Based on the number of days of presence, an alien's tax status maybe one of the following: (1) nonresident alien, (2) resident alien or (3) dual-status alien.
- Regardless of their number of days of presence, F-1 students are automatically considered nonresident aliens for tax purposes for the first five years of presence in the U.S. while in F-1 status. The Form 8843 serves as a record of the F-1 student's exemption from potentially being classified as a resident for tax purposes by disregarding the days of presence.
What if I worked on campus or received a room-and-board scholarship?
- If you obtain a job on campus, or if you receive a room/board scholarship, you must make an appointment with the Payroll Office for a "tax interview." During this interview your taxes will be estimated. Your country of residence may have a tax treaty with the U.S. which may reduce your taxes. If such tax-treaty benefits do not apply to you, taxes must be deducted at the time you receive wages (known as withholding). Accordingly, taxes will be deducted from each paycheck, and in the case of a room-and-board scholarship, taxes will be billed to your student account.
What about off-campus employment?
- If you receive permission to work off campus under the provisions of the F-1 status (CPT, OPT, or employment due to severe economic hardship), you must provide information about your tax status to the employer in order that the appropriate taxes may be withheld.
- Income for services performed by nonresident aliens in F-1 status is not subject to withholding of Social Security or Medicare taxes.
What other types of income do students typically receive?
- For nonresident aliens in F-1 status, interest received on deposits held in the "banking business" is not taxable, unless the nonresident holds large sums in a bank for the purpose of earning money.
- Scholarships that cover tuition, fees, books, supplies and equipment that a student is required to buy, are not taxable. Amounts used for other purposes, such as room and board, are taxable.
- Some students invest in stocks or real property and may receive income such as interest or dividends, rent, or capital gains, while others may receive gambling winnings or prizes, perhaps even alimony and royalties. These types of income are taxable and must be reported on your tax return.
What are the tax forms I may receive?
- In January of each year, you will receive important tax documents pertaining to the preceding tax year. For example, if you worked on campus you will receive a Form W-2 and/or Form 1042S from the Payroll Office or from your non- Pepperdine employer (such as food services or the bookstore). You must provide a current mailing address so that you will receive tax-related documents, some of which may be:
- Form 1098T, Tuition Statement
- Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement
- Form 1042S, Foreign Person's U.S. Source Income Subject to Withholding
- Form 1099-INT, Interest Income
- Form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments (report of state income tax refund received for the previous tax year)
What are the tax forms I must file?
- For every tax year in which you received taxable income in the U.S., you must file a tax return in addition to the Form 8843. A tax return is a report of the taxpayer's income and taxes, filed by the taxpayer on an IRS form. Most F-1 nonresident aliens file a Form 1040NR-EZ and receive a partial or full refund of taxes that were withheld or paid in advance.
What if I have been present in F-1 status for more than five years or changed my visa status?
- If you did not receive taxable income during the sixth year in F-1 status, and you do not intend to remain in the U.S. beyond the sixth year, it is not necessary to file a Form 8843.
- Special rules apply for determining tax status for F-1 students who received income during the sixth year. Generally, if you expect to remain in the U.S. for more than six years, you should file a tax return as a resident alien in the sixth year and continue to do so for subsequent years, unless you choose to file a Form 8840 to establish a closer tax connection to your country of residence and intent to eventually leave the U.S. permanently.
- Special rules apply for F-1 students who received permanent residency status; changed nonimmigrant status to an H visa or other status; or left the U.S. permanently during the sixth year. The year in which any of these occurred may be a dual-status tax year.
What are the consequences of not filing tax forms?
- You are responsible for mailing the tax forms to the IRS and keeping a copy. Neglecting to do so, or filing the forms incorrectly, can result in severe penalties, including fines and interest on unpaid taxes. It can also impact future nonimmigrant or immigrant visa applications. If taxes were not withheld, and you do not file a tax return, you may receive a letter from the IRS years later, asking you to pay the taxes plus penalty and interest.
- Tax forms and publications can be downloaded from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service http://www.irs.gov/. California state tax forms and publications can be downloaded from the California Franchise Tax Board.
- IRS Publication 519, US Tax Guide for Aliens, includes information on how to determine residence or nonresident status for tax purposes; what types of income are taxable; the effect of tax treaties on tax liability; how to claim exemption by treaty; and much more.
- IRS Publication 901, US Tax Treaties, lists treaties in effect at the time of publication each year, with brief synopses of tax treaty articles relating to students and scholars.
- IRS tax assistance
- Automated Refund Service
- Sprintax online tax preparation software
Abide by the F-1 grace periods
An F-1 student may be admitted up to 30 days before the program start date listed on the Form I-20, if the Form I-20 is issued for "initial attendance."
An F-1 student may remain in the United States for up to 60 days beyond:
- the completion of the program of study; and
- the completion date of any authorized post-completion optional practical training
An F-1 student who has been granted an authorized early withdrawal by a DSO may remain in the United States for up to 15 days following the withdrawal noted in SEVIS, to prepare to depart the United States.
Provide an "exit statement" and depart within the grace period
Prior to completing or withdrawing from your program, you must provide information to the Office of International Student Services, in order that your record in the US Department of Homeland Security system, known as SEVIS, may be updated properly. Your "exit statement" should indicate what you plan to do upon completion of or withdrawal from your program of study.
- Completion of program of study or OPT: You may remain in the US for up to 60 days to prepare for departure, be admitted to a new program of study, or apply for change of visa status.
- Withdrawal or suspension/dismissal from the University: You may remain in the US for up to 15 days to prepare for departure, be admitted to a new program of study, or apply for change of visa status.
- Transfer to another school, or transfer to another program of study at Pepperdine: Provide a copy of your acceptance letter to the OISS within 60 days of your actual program end date (not the program end date that was initially printed on your Form I-20), or within 15 days of the date you officially withdraw from or are suspended/expelled from the University, so that your record in SEVIS may be transferred out to the new school or updated to continue studies at the same school.
- Change of visa status: Provide a copy of your "receipt notice" or "approval notice" for your application for change of status.
Report your withdrawal, suspension and dismissal from the university
- If you withdraw from the University or are suspended or dismissed from the University, your status will be terminated, and you must prepare to depart the United States (or be admitted, not to apply, to another school) within 15 days. Therefore, read the following information carefully so that you may take early action to set in motion another plan in order to remain in the United States in status.
- If your grade point average (GPA), has fallen below the minimum level required to continue in your program, you will be placed on academic probation or academically dismissed from the University. Before this happens, the OISS strongly recommends that you consult your academic adviser in your program and your designated school official (DSO) in the OISS, so that you may be aware of the risks to your visa status and prepared to seek other options. To see your DSO, make an appointment by calling 310-506-4246.
- According to federal regulations, an F-1 Student must be enrolled full time while working towards an educational goal. Being placed on academic probation may cause the University to restrict the number of units you may take. This will in turn result in your failure to enroll full-time, leading to termination of your visa status. Again, consult your academic adviser and your DSO in advance, so that you will have ample time to seek other options.
- If you are suspended or dismissed from the University, the immediate option you should consider pursuing is to submit an appeal to the University for readmission to your program of study. Another option you should prepare to pursue is to transfer to another school and later submit a petition to be readmitted to the University upon completion of substantial acceptable work at the other school. Keep your DSO notified of your plans as early as possible and promptly updated of your progress, so that your status may not be terminated until all options have been exhausted. At the end of the fall term, it is especially challenging to resolve a suspension or dismissal from the University due to the lack of time to submit an appeal and/or be admitted to another school. Be proactive and seek help early!
How to Resolve a Termination of Your F-1 Status
Your F-1 status will be terminated, and you will be out of status, for any of the following reasons:
- Absence from classes or the United States for 5 months
- Failure to enroll
- Failure to report while on OPT
- Unauthorized drop below full course of study
- Unauthorized employment
- Unauthorized withdrawal from school
- Otherwise failing to maintain status
In order to reestablish lawful F-1 status, you may:
1. Obtain a new "initial attendance" Form I-20 with a new SEVIS ID number and reenter the US.
If you choose to depart and reenter with a new status, you must pay the I-901 SEVIS fee again, and you will lose any time that you have accrued toward qualification for practical training (curricular or optional).
2. Apply to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to be reinstated to lawful F-1 status.
- If you choose to apply for reinstatement, you must demonstrate that you:
- Have not been out of status for more than 5 months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement (or demonstrate that the failure to file within the 5 month period was the result of exceptional circumstances and that you filed the request for reinstatement as promptly as possible under these exceptional circumstances)
- Do not have a record of repeated or willful violations of Service regulations
- Are currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study in the immediate future at the school which issued the Form I-20
- Have not engaged in unauthorized employment
- Are not deportable on any ground other than section 237(a)(1)(B) or (C)(i) of the Act
- Establish to the satisfaction of the USCIS that either:
(1) The violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond the student's control. Such circumstances might include serious injury or illness, closure of the institution, a natural disaster, or inadvertence, oversight, or neglect on the part of the DSO, but do not include instances where a pattern of repeated violations or where a willful failure on the part of the student resulted in the need for reinstatement; or
(2) The violation relates to a reduction in the student's course load that would have been within a DSO's power to authorize, and that failure to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to the student.
While a request for reinstatement is pending with USCIS, out-of-status students:
- Are not eligible to apply for any student-related benefits
- Can and should continue a full-time program of study at the school where they are enrolled
- Must comply with all the requirements for maintaining student status
- Should not travel outside the United States, as doing so will be considered an abandonment of the pending reinstatement application. If the student decides to do so, he or she will have to reenter on a new, initial attendance Form I-20 as well as pay the SEVIS fee
- Cannot work on or off campus
If USCIS denies the reinstatement application, you must depart the US.
Obtain Travel Permission
F-1 Students in Continued Attendance
Before traveling outside the US, make sure your data is updated and accurate in order to facilitate your readmission to the US. Prior to each trip, you must complete the Travel Permission or I-20 Update Form online through our International Students portal at oiss.pepperdine.edu or by clicking the link below.
Please allow up to five business days for processing, depending on the number of requests received ahead of yours. We will notify you by email when your Form I-20 is ready. If you have an emergency, please make an appointment by calling 310.506.4246.
F-1 students returning to the U.S. to continue study must present the following documents at the port of entry:
- Valid Form I-20 signed less than 12 months before the date you will return to the US.
- Valid Passport (must be valid at least 6 months beyond your entry date)
- Valid F-1 Visa Stamp
F-1 Students on OPT
Before traveling outside the US, make sure your data is updated and accurate in order to facilitate your readmission to the US. Prior to each trip, you must complete the Travel Permission for OPT form online at our International Student Portal located at oiss.pepperdine.edu.
Please allow five business days for processing. We will notify you by email when your new Form I-20 is ready for pickup or has been mailed. If you have an emergency, please make an appointment by calling 310.506.4246.
F-1 students returning to the US to engage in OPT must present the following documents at the port of entry:
- Updated Form I-20 signed less than 6 months before the date you will return to the US
- Valid Passport (must be valid at least 6 months beyond your re-entry date)
- Valid F-1 Visa Stamp
- Form I-797C Receipt or Approval Notice from USCIS
- Employment Authorization Document (card)
- Employment Letter certifying you are employed or will begin employment
Additional Travel Permission Resources
For more information on Reentry for F-1 Nonimmigrants Traveling Outside the US, log on to http://www.ice.gov/sevis/travel/faq_f2.htm
For more information on Renewing your F-1 visa go to http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en.html
Inviting Family and Friends to the US
International students may wish to write a Letter of Invitation to be presented at a US Consulate abroad by their family or friends who plan to visit them in the US.
Here is a sample letter for you to use.
The Office of International Student Services (OISS) suggests you provide the following supporting documents:
- Copy of your current Form I-20
- Enrollment verification from the Office of the University Registrar
- Copy of passport, visa stamp and Form I-94
- Copy of graduation announcement, if available
- It is important to demonstrate that the visitor has ties to the home country, intent to return home after the visit and the ability to cover expenses during the stay. To learn more visit:
To learn more about the US Embassy or Consulate where the visitor will apply, see http://www.usembassy.gov as instructions may vary.