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  •  F-1 visa status

    Maintaining your F-1 visa status

    The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) places the responsibility to understand and comply with the immigration laws on the international students.

    Here is a summary of the immigration responsibilities that LaGuardia Community College expects from its F-1 students:

    If F-1 students do not fulfill any one of these responsibilities, they may jeopardize not only their international status, but also their eligibility for immigration benefits, including employment on- or off- campus.

    • Register and attend a full course of study each semester.
    • Keep your I-20 and passport valid at all times.
    • Complete your program before your I-20 expires. (Get a program extension if necessary).
    • Notify ISS of any changes.
    • Leave the US within 60 days after completing your program.

    Failure to comply with these rules may jeopardize your eligibility for immigration benefits, including employment on- or off- campus and even result in the loss of your F1 status.

    Register and attend a full course of study each semester.

    The most important thing you can do to maintain your F-1 Student Status is to enroll and complete a minimum of twelve (12) equated credits during both the fall and spring semesters.

    As an F-1 student at LaGuardia Community College, full-time enrollment means enrolling in and completing at least twelve (12) equated credits of courses that will count towards your major every semester.

    Remember, you must have enrolled and completed twelve units by the end of each semester. LaGuardia Community College has a two-session semester system, and as International Student you are allowed to register for both sessions and add the credits completed in each session to add a total of 12 credits.

    Please Note: If you are having financial difficulties and cannot afford to register in 12 credits during the first session of any semester, please contact our office immediately.


    In very rare circumstances, your International student advisor can approve a reduced course load (less than 12 units) for any given semester. For example, you can be approved for a reduced course load for the following reasons:

    • Illness or other medical conditions: Requires written documentation from a doctor.
    • Academic Problems: Difficulties with the English language or American teaching methods or improper course placement. However, this option is only available to you during your first semester of study.
    • Completion of Major: You may have fewer than 12 credits during your last semester because you completed most of the courses in your program of study.

    if you drop your courses below 12 credits without prior approval from your advisor, or you do not complete 12 credits by the end date of the semester, you will be out of status.

    Leave of Absence

    If you are very ill or have a serious medical condition that prevents you from attending classes for an entire semester, you can remain in the United States without taking any classes while on a Medical Leave of Absence. You must provide written verification from your doctor to qualify for this leave of absence.

    A leave of absence may also be granted to you if you must leave the United States for the duration of one semester. Be sure to inform your international student advisor and to obtain a travel signature for your I-20 prior leaving the U.S. You must request permission for a leave of absence before the leave is taken. Failure to do so will place you “out of status.”


    LaGuardia Community College designates spring semester session II as its summer vacation period. You must enroll in 12 equated credits during spring semester session I in order to be eligible to take spring semester session II as a vacation period. If you enroll in less than 12 equated credits in spring session I, you will be required to enroll in spring session II preventing you from having visa issues.

    Keep your I-20 and passport valid at all times.

    All F-1 students must keep their SEVIS I-20 current at all times. Look at the program end date of your form (Item # 5) to learn when it expires. You must request an extension before the expiration date in order to remain in legal F-1 status in the U.S. Download the I-20 Extension Application

    F-1 students must also keep their passport expiration date valid at least 6 months into the future. Contact ISS if you need information about extending your passport.

    Complete your program before your I-20 expires. (Get a program extension if necessary).

    F-1 students have permission to study in the United States up to the expected completion date as indicated in item #5 of the I-20. However, once students have completed their program, they have up to 60 days to either:

    • Apply for OPT (Optional Practicum Training)
    • Travel within and eventually leave the United States
    • Change to another status; OR
    • Transfer to a 4-year college.

    To extend the program completion date on the I-20, students must demonstrate that the additional time is needed because of compelling academic reasons or a documented medical illness. F-1 students who require additional time to complete their academic program must submit a signed Program Extension application form and current financial documents to ISS one month before the current I-20 expiration date. 

    Notify ISS of any changes.

    The International Students Office requires all F-1 students to report any or all changes made to their:

    • Legal Name or Address. This must be reported within 10 days from the change
    • Withdrawal from courses. F-1 students must obtain their International Student Advisor’s permission to withdraw from a class or classes
    • Academic Major
    • Legal status

    ISS will update your SEVIS record with the changes.

    Leave the US within 60 days after completing your program.

    Once you complete all requirements for your program, even if your I-20 has not expired, you have only 60 days to either:

    • Apply for OPT 
    • Leave the United States
    • Change to another visa status
    • Begin a new program of study (this requires a new I-20)

    Failure to Comply.

    Failure to comply with these regulations will mean the loss of your F-1 student status. We refer to this as being "out of status." Falling out of status has very serious consequences. For example, you could be prevented from re-entering the U.S. for three to ten years, depending on the length of your status violation. For status violations of 180-360 days, a three-year exclusion is imposed. If you remain out of status for more than 360 days, you may not re-enter the U.S. for ten years.  If you fall out of status for any reason, we advise you to meet with an International Student Advisor immediately. Simply registering full-time in the next semester or stopping the unauthorized work does not put you back in status. There are steps you can take with U.S. Immigration service to recover your status, but the sooner you begin, the better your chances for approval.

    What happens when I am out of status?

    Being placed "OUT OF STATUS” is serious business! DO NOT wait to be contacted by your International Student Advisor. Contact our office IMMEDIATELY.

    Once you are placed “out of status” your SEVIS record is terminated and you are then considered to be in the United States illegally. You must then apply for reinstatement within 5 months of the date on which you were placed “out of status.” Once placed “out of status,” all your privileges as an F-1 student are suspended. This means that:

    • You will not be allowed to accept a Curricular Practical Training (internships).
    • If you are working on-campus your employment can be terminated.
    • You will not be allowed to accept any kind of Practical training employment.
    • If you are transferring to another school, you will be reported as being out of status to your new school.

    How do I get back in status?

    Reinstatement: If you are out of status and want to lawfully remain in the U.S. in F-1 status, you may apply for Reinstatement of your F-1 Status. Reinstatement is a long process that goes through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. The reinstatement process can be time-consuming and complicated.

    To expedite your application for reinstatement, please bring the following items to your appointment to ISS:

    • Completed Form I-539 
    • Reinstatement Application
    • A letter written by you explaining the reason why you are in violation of your status.
    • A personal check or money order in the amount of $290. If you have a spouse or children in F-2 status, add $10 for each F-2 dependent.
    • Cope of your I-94 as well as I-94 for each of your dependents (if applicable).
    • Copies of the front and back of all current and previous I-20s issued to you by LAGCC and all previous schools.

    After we mail your request, you may wait several months for an answer. The immigration service will send the answer to your reinstatement application directly to you.

    NOTE: While you wait to be notified about your reinstatement application, you must continue to attend school on a full-time basis.

    Traveling on F-1 Student Status

    Here are some important details regarding traveling on a F-1 Student Status.

    Within the United States

    Carry your passport, I-20, and I-94 when you are traveling within the U.S. These documents provide immediate proof that you are in lawful status. The law requires you to carry evidence of "registration documents" at all times. Be aware that air passengers may be subjected to extensive security checks before both domestic and international flights.

    Traveling Outside the United States

    Before you travel outside the United States, meet with an advisor to have your I-20, visa and passport reviewed. The advisor will also verify your enrollment. If all is in order, the advisor will sign your I- 20 so you may re-enter the U.S. To ensure re-entry to the U.S., we recommend that you get the travel signature up to two weeks prior your departure; this has to be done every time you travel outside of the U.S.

    Travel signatures are only issued to current full-time students who will be returning to the United States for further study or to students who are on Practical Training and have a valid EAD card and letter of employment.


To travel outside the U.S., you must have the following:

    • A passport valid for six months into the future
    • An F-1 visa valid for re-entry to the U.S. Your visa must be valid beyond the date you plan to return to the U.S
    • A current I-20. Your I-20 must have a program end date beyond the date you plan to return to the U.S
    • Your I-20 must be signed by your international student advisor before you leave the U.S
    • If you are on Practical Training, you will also need to travel with your valid (unexpired) Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) and a letter from your employer certifying your employment.

    NOTE: that if you have not maintained your full-time status or if you have already completed your major or Optional Practical Training (OPT), you will not be eligible to receive a travel signature. A travel signature means that you will return as a full-time student.

    With all your documents in order, you should not experience any problem at the border. If and when a problem occurs, remember to remain calm. Figure out what the problem is and ask the Customs and Border Protection Officer to either contact your Embassy in the US and/or contact us here at the International Students Office on: 718-482-5145 and we will try to assist you as much as possible.

    Always be sure to visit the ISS office one week before traveling with your passport, visa, I-20, and I-94.

    Traveling to Renew your F-1 Visa

    If your F-1 visa has expired or if you were only granted one entry on your visa, and you plan to travel home, you must renew your visa before you re-enter the U.S.

    Before you travel outside the U.S., check to see if your visa in your passport is valid for re-entry to the U.S. If it is not, you will need to go to a U.S. consulate or embassy in your country of origin before you return to the U.S. and obtain a new visa before you will be allowed to re-enter the U.S.

    You cannot renew your visa from within the United States. Your best course of action is to renew your visa in your home country. If you apply to renew your visa in a third country and the visa is denied, you will not be allowed to re-enter the U.S. and you will need to return to your home country from the third country.

    Processing may take a few days or longer than one month. You will not be permitted to enter the U.S. until your new visa is issued. Please plan ahead allowing adequate time in case you are required to go for an in-person interview. Ensure you have with you the following documents:

    • A letter of recommendation from the ISS Office to be given to U.S. consulate in your home country
    • New financial documents (bank and sponsor letters)
    • Valid I-20 and passport

    Extending your I-20

    The complete date on your I-20 (item #5) is an estimate date. If for any reason you are unable to complete your program by that date then you must apply for I-20 Extension. You must apply for an extension at least 30 days before your I-20 expires. Failure to do so could jeopardize your legal status in the US, interrupt your study, and have other serious legal consequences.


    • Complete the F-1 Extension Application or pick it up at the ISS.
    • Complete the I-20 Application.
    • Submit financial documents showing sufficient funds to cover the expenses for the entire period of the extension.

    Bring the completed application to the ISS (B117) and sign in to speak with the Advisor on Duty. (Do not drop off the forms: speak with an advisor to be sure the extension is processed in time.)

    PLEASE NOTE: This procedure will extend your I-20 but not your visa stamp. If you have an expired visa stamp in your passport, it is ok to remain in the U.S. but the next time you travel out of the U.S. and need to re-enter, you will still need to apply for a new visa stamp to re-enter the U.S.


     Financial Assistance

    Paying for College

    Financial assistance to International Students is limited as their ability to support the education is determined before issuing the I-20.For assistance with tuition payment, deadline and other resources check the Bursars page. 

    Also check

    Applying for Scholarships

    The LaGuardia Community College Foundation has a number of a scholarships available ranging from $500 to $4,200 to assist international students with the rising cost of tuition. Scholarships are awarded based on financial need, academic performance, community service, and extracurricular activities. Scholarship applications are accepted on a rolling basis, so students needing financial assistance are encouraged to apply. Learn more

    Filing Taxes

    All F1 students who work in the U.S or receive any form of scholarship must file the federal tax form 1040 NR or form 1040 NR EZ each year. If you did NOT work in the US, you still must file form 8843 each year that you are in the US. All forms can be printed from the IRS website.  

    The Single Stop USA program in Room C-107 offers FREE tax preparation assistance. Call: 718.482.5135/5129 or email: singlestop@lagcc.cuny.edu.


    On-Campus Employment Opportunities

    Your F-1 Student status makes you eligible to work on-campus for up to 20 hours per week when school is in session. To accept on-campus employment at LaGuardia you must meet the following criteria:

    • You must be in good academic standing.
    • Be enrolled for a full course of study.
    • Hold a valid passport, and have a current I-20 at the time of application for a job as well as during the entire time of employment.

    Stop by the Career Development Center in room B114 for job openings on-campus.

    Once you finish your program, you may no longer work on campus unless you are authorized through Optional Practical Training and the work is directly related to the course of study you have completed. You may also work on campus after you have completed a program if you have been issued a new I-20 for a second program that will begin the following quarter.

    Off-Campus Employment

    Should you experience financial difficulties while studying at LaGuardia Community College and you have already been in lawful F-1 status for one year, you may be eligible to apply for Economic Hardship Work Authorization.

    Economic Hardship Work Authorization

    Severe Economic Hardship is a type of work authorization for F-1 students who are experiencing severe and unforeseen economic problems. Under this work authorization, F-1 Student Visa Holders are eligible to seek work off-campus.

    Eligibility for Economic Hardship

    • Student has been in F-1 status for at least one full academic year.
    • Student is in good academic standing (i.e. GPA of at least 2.0)
    • Student has always registered for a full course load/12 credits per semester
    • Demonstrated the necessity for employment due to unforeseen circumstances beyond his/her control.
    • Unable to obtain On-Campus employment or On-Campus employment source insufficient to meet the needs.

    Procedure for Economic Hardship

    Bring in the following documents to International Student Services (B117):

    • Form I-765. Also available for pick up at International Student Services office.
    • Two photos as specified in the instruction of the Form I-765 (write your name and I-94 number on the back with pencil)
    • Complete the Economic Hardship Application
    • Original SEVIS Form I-20 (signed by student on page 1)
    • Copy of I-94 card or the electronic type
    • Copies of passport biographical page, expiration date page, F-1 visa page and page bearing stamp of last entry into the U.S
    • Money order of $380.00 made payable to the USCIS
    • Supporting documents/evidence detailing the unforeseen circumstances.

    *ISS will review your application before sending it to USCIS for adjudication. It takes USCIS from 120-150 business days to adjudicate these applications. You may not begin employment until you receive your employment authorization document. The decision to grant authorization rests entirely on USCIS.


    After Graduation

    After completing your program at LaGuardia Community College, you have four options to choose from:


    1. Return Home.
    2. You can remain in the U.S. for a maximum of 60 days. During this time you can travel anywhere in the U.S., but you cannot leave the U.S. Reentry will be denied if you do.
    3. You may apply for and engage in Optional Practical Training.
    4. You must apply for OPT before graduation. You will remain in F-1 status while you are on OPT. You can transfer to another U.S. school.

    Your transfer must be processed within 60 days of finishing your program of study at LaGuardia. In order to transfer, you must:

    • Get accepted to a transfer school
    • Complete transfer form from LaGuardia
    • Receive new SEVIS Form I-20 from a transfer school
    • Attend the school you are transferring to (be sure to visit their International Student Service office within 15 days of classes beginning to register) 

     Campus Resources

    Academic Support Services

    LaGuardia offers many resources and opportunities to help students succeed.

    Writing Center

    (718) 482-5688
    9:00 AM - 9:15 PM, Monday - Friday.

    One of the most important resources available to LAGCC students is the Writing Center. Whether it's how to get started on a research paper or how to correct a marked in class paper essay, or simply how to proof read, the Writing Center's staff of skilled, trained tutors can help you to become better writers. Students do not need an appointment.

    Crisis and Personal Guidance
    (718) 482-5471

    Pursuing your education in a foreign country can bring a lot of stress to student especially if you have lack a personal support system. The Center for Crisis and Personal Guidance can provide individual counseling services to assist you in identifying and working through any academic or personal issues.

    NOTE- The International Students Office also offers counseling services through Graduate Interns who focus on helping individuals transition from one culture to another and guide students through the challenges of pursuing a degree in an American university.

    (718) 482-5426

    LaGuardia Community College has a world-class library facility. Friendly librarians are at your disposal to help you with your research needs. You may also access many full text databases, indexes, abstracts, photo archives and other resources through the website.

    Health Services Center:
    (718) 482-5280

    The Health Services Center helps students with health problems, and/or immunization needs that significantly affect your ability to remain in school and graduate. The Heath Center also occasionally offers free immunization clinics. You can call to find out more about the center.

    SGA Study Hall Tutoring Lab:
    (718) 482-6064

    The SGA Study Hall is a multidisciplinary tutoring center that provides academic support to meet students’ needs in various subjects. They offer:

    • One-on-one tutoring
    • Group tutoring sessions
    • Study skill workshops
    • Student friendly hours
    • Tailored lesson plan

    Campus Events Resources

    International Students Network: International Students Network provides a platform for international students to explore and overcome different challenges that they face when being exposed to a new environment.

    Towards A Global Self:
    Is a weekly discussion series hosted by ISN for students who wish to share their experiences in a new culture and build communication skills in academic and social situations. The group provides information as well as opportunity to discuss cultural adjustment, communication styles, relationship issues, and career/future plans. The meeting also gives students an opportunity to meet other international students going through similar experience. Learn more.

    Memoir Writing Workshop:
    it is a weekly workshop held at the Women’s Center (MB-10), where students can improve their writing skills.

    Learn more about campus events:

    • Facebook
    • twitter
    • flickr
    • Campus Events and Activities

    • Off Campus Resources

      Health Insurance

      Although federal regulations do not mandate health insurance for F-1 students, it is highly recommended that CUNY F-1 international students and their dependents purchase international student health insurance to:

      • Reduce the high costs of out of pocket medical expenses
      • Have access to a wide-range of bonafide health care providers
      • Ensure that they have medical evacuation and repatriation benefits to their home countries.
      Get more information


      Free Immigration Services: There are Immigration Clinics in CUNY campuses free to all members of the community- CUNY students and non-CUNY students. Click here for more information.

      You can contact Single Stop in Room C-107 to help you find affordable housing.

      Most CUNY colleges offer resources and referral services to help students find affordable off-campus housing and apartments in the general vicinity of the college.


      • RentHop is another site for affordable housing.
     OPT & CPT Employment

    Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

    Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an internship that carries academic credit and is part of your major. Work experience is an integral part of your major or field of study. To be eligible for CPT, you must:

    • Complete nine months of full-time study in F-1 status
    • Receive passing grades and be in a major or certificate program that gives academic credit for internships.
    • You must have a work offer from an employer before you apply for CPT.
    • If your total time in F-1 status is only nine months when you complete your major or certificate program, you will not be eligible for an internship.


    • Get permission from an International Student Advisor. 
    • Provide two letters to the International Students Office, one from the prospective employer or paid internship, stating the work responsibilities, dates and location on the company's letterhead, and another letter from the student's program director or undergraduate student advisor, stating the work is related to the student's major area of study. 

    Please note that CPT is valid only during the beginning and ending dates of the student's SEVIS I-20. In addition, students are responsible to keep count of how many total months they engage in Curricular Practical Training. They must not exceed eleven months of Curricular Practical training because time may be deducted or not granted at all from Post Completion Optional Practical Training.

    Students DO NOT need Employment Authorization Document when applying for CPT.

    Does paid CPT affect my Optional Practical Training? You can work and be paid either part-time or full-time for one semester while on CPT. Working for more than 20 hours per week is considered full-time.


    Optional Practical Training (OPT)

    OPT allows F1 students to work on a full time basis for one year after they have completed their studies, in a field related to their major. Although you can apply for OPT before you complete your major, you can begin work only after you have graduated and have received your EAC (Employment Authorization card). When you are ready to apply for OPT, contact your International Student Advisor. You must apply for OPT before you complete your program.


    • Student must be in legal F-1 immigration status
    • Student must be a full-time student for at least one academic year
    • Student must be in the last semester of your major or certificate program to apply.

    A job offer is not required in order to apply for OPT, however the eventual employment must be directly related to the student's field of study.

    When to apply

    Students may apply for OPT as early as 90 days before the date of program completion (item #5 on the Form I-20) OR within 60 days after the date of program completion. In order to avoid complications, International Student Services strongly recommends students to apply before completing their degree. 

    Applying for OPT

    The application for OPT must include:

    1. Complete OPT Application
    2. Complete Form I-765 
    3. Photocopy of Page 1 and Page 3 of student’s I-20 with your ISS Advisor’s recommendation for OPT
    4. All previous I-20 issued to student
    5. Photocopy of Form I-94
    6. Photocopy of Student’s passport 
    7. Photocopy of F-1 visa
    8. 2 Passport photos (with your name and I-94 card number written on the back with light pencil)
    9. Check or money order of $380.00 made payable to USCIS

    Submit the complete documents to International Students Services in room B117, so the office can review your application before sending it to USCIS.

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