Students who are enrolled at NEIU must report to the Office of International Programs (OIP) every semester to indicate their continuing education. The following information will help you maintain your status continuously so that you follow your F-1 student visa regulations at all time during your studies. Consider this information as the Do’s and Don'ts for F-1 students. If you do not see the following information pertaining to your needs, please reach out to the Designated School Official (DSO) at NEIU. 

SEVIS Registration 

In order for Office of International Programs, we must register you into the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Registering you in SEVIS indicates that we notify them that you have arrived in the U.S. and you are actively maintaining your status as a full-time student.  

You will be required to report to the DSO in the OIP with the following information: 

  • Copy of visa with entry stamp. 

  • Copy of I-94. You can retrieve this online through the I-94 web page. 

  • Original financials.

  • The financial documentation you presented for I-20 processing were copies; we will require you to submit the originals to the OIP office.  

  • U.S. address: Provide your new U.S. address. 

  • How to write your address:

    • House Number, Street Name, Apt #,  

                 City, State (IL), Zip Code (6-digit number) 

  • If you have moved, you will have 10 days to notify the DSO of your new address. 

  • U.S. phone number: Provide your contact phone number you will be using in the U.S. 

  • Class registration list: You will need to go to NEIUport > Student Tab > Student Detail Schedule > Current Semester > Print 

Submit all required documents during orientation or when you report to the OIP. 

Maintaining Visa Status 

While studying in the United States, it is important to maintain your F-1 student status. Maintaining your status means fulfilling the purpose for why the Department of State issued your visa. 

In order to keep maintaining your status throughout your full degree program you must be enrolled as full-time student. 

  • A graduate/master’s student is a full-time student who is enrolled in at least 9 credit hours (3 classes) for both the spring and fall semesters.   

  • An undergraduate student is a full-time student who is enrolled in at least 12 credit hours (4 classes) for both the spring and fall semesters. 

(Note: Students enrolled in the summer semester must be enrolled full-time.) 

  • SAELL students are automatically enrolled as full-time for fall, spring and summer. 

If you fail to register for classes, enroll, attend or drop your courses without approval your I-20 will be terminated by the DSO. 

Reduced Course Load 

Under certain circumstances, F-1 students may talk to their DSO about enrolling in a reduced course load and still maintain their student status. 

If an F-1 student is not able to fulfill the full-time requirement due to having initial academic difficulties, a temporary illness or medical condition, or needs fewer courses than a full course load in their last term to complete the program of study, then the DSO may authorize a reduced course load. 

If you are a student in need of a reduced course load, talk with the OIP as soon as possible. You can NOT drop below the full-time study requirement unless your DSO approves it, and it is updated to your SEVIS record. 

Download the Authorizing a Reduced Course Load provided by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. 

Reduced Course Load 


International students under the F-1 visa are allowed to work ON campus and NOT OFF campus. In order for you to get a job you will need to contact Student Employment Services to see if there are any positions available. In order for you to get a job you will need to obtain a Social Security card.  

Working On Campus 

Apply For An On-Campus Job 

International students are eligible to work on campus only for up to 20 hours per week. The money earned can help to supplement personal expenses and it should not be used as a source of income for financing your education. Visit Student Employment Opportunities

Graduate students are able to apply for Graduate Assistantships

Working Off Campus 

The exception to working off campus is through the Curricular Practical Training, Optional Practical Training and Economic Hardship.  

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

  • Curricular Practical Training gives international F-1 students authorization to gain employment and to work in paid internship positions. Students have a chance to work full-time (40 hours per week) or part-time (20 hours or fewer per week). This training is directly related to the student’s major area of study. 

  • Students can have more than one CPT authorization at the same time.  

  • Students who complete one year of full CPT will not be eligible for an Optional Practical Training (OPT).  

  • It is recommended that a student completes no more than 11 months in CPT so as be eligible for OPT. 

  • To apply 

    • You and your advisor must complete the CPT Form 

    • Copy of the course syllabus 

    • Employment offer 

Optional Practical Training (OPT) 

Allows you to work full-time during your final year and after graduation. If you are in your final semester you can attend the workshops that will happen in the fall and spring semester and apply for OPT .

STEM Extension

The STEM OPT extension is a 24-month period of temporary training that directly relates to an F-1 student's program of study in an approved STEM field. 

Eligible F-1 students with STEM degrees who finish their program of study and participate in an initial period of regular post-completion OPT (often for 12 months) have the option to apply for a STEM OPT extension. 

STEM Extension 

Economic Hardship 

If you lose your sponsorship funding and are in economic crisis, you can apply for the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You will have to gather documentation and make your case on why you lost your funding, and provide additional documentation and pay the fee to USCIS.  

Social Security 

The Social Security Administration (SSA) assigns nine-digit Social Security numbers (SSN) to U.S. citizens, permanent residents and eligible nonimmigrant workers in the United States. Social Security numbers are issued for working and tax purposes only. SSA uses SSNs to report wages to the government, track Social Security benefits and for other identification purposes. 

Find out more information on how to obtain an SSN

Download the International Student and SSN guide for further information. 

Fill in the form to request a letter from the OIP to the Social Security office

Download the Social Security Card Application and submit it along with the other required documents. 

Letter Request 

We have created a Google form to help with your letter requests. Please go to the link to choose from Driver’s License Letter, Social Security Letter, Enrolling and Payment letter, and Graduation Letters.  

Fill out the form to send to the OIP for a letter request. 

Adding Dependent 

F-1 students who have a spouse and/or minor can bring their dependents with them and accompany them to the U.S. Please notify the DSO and provide the necessary documentation for the dependents to receive the F-2 I-20 to apply for the F-2 visa.  

Please note that the following rules and regulations for F-2 dependents: 

  • F-2 will maintain their status as long as you, the principal F-1, are maintaining your student status.  

  • F-2 will not be eligible to work. 

  • F-2 may be eligible to study.

    • F-2 spouses may study part-time at a SEVP-certified school for recreational and vocational studies. 

    • F-2 minors will study full-time from kindergarten to twelfth grade.

      • Minors can obtain an F-1; please visit Study in the States to find out more on the Kindergarten to Grade 12 Students page.

    • If the dependents want to pursue a degree, they must change their F-2 to F-1. 

Please follow the F-2 Dependent document on how to add your dependent. 

Annual vacation  

Students are eligible to take a vacation during the summer session. To qualify you must have completed one full academic year and be registered for the following semester.  

Summer session usually starts in May and ends in August. Students have a choice of enrolling for classes or taking the semester off. If you are planning to take the summer semester off and visit your home country, make sure you are up-to-date with NEIU’s academic calendar to know the exact dates of when school is not in session. You will need to have your I-20 signed before you leave for vacation.  

If you are not planning to go home, then you can stay in the U.S. and your I-20 is considered in status.  

Working during the vacation periods 

Students working on the campus during the vacation period are allowed to work full-time (40 hours per week). Once the fall and spring semester starts, they will go back to working part-time (20 hours per week). 

Winter Break is after the fall semester in December. You can work full-time during this period. 

Spring Break is during the spring semester in March. You can work full-time during this short break.  


Students traveling to their home country cannot travel with an expired visa and/or expired passport. If you do you will need to go back home and apply for a new visa at the U.S. Consulate. 

Before you go: 

  • Know your exact dates of travel. 

  • Make sure your visa and passport are up-to-date. 

  • Get your I-20 endorsed by PDSO/DSO/ARO/RO. 

  • Have a copy of your class registration. 

Coming back 

Students must submit the new I-94 copy and stamp on your passport at the OIP. 

If you have more questions, visit U.S Immigration and Custom Enforcement to find more information. 

Authorized Early Withdrawal 

Authorized Withdrawal is an excuse for current students who are not planning to attend the semester at NEIU due family emergency, or for whatever case it may be. To be eligible you must: 

  • Speak with the DSO 

  • Depart the U.S 

  • Communicate with the DSO before your arrival (a month in advance) to reactivate your I-20. 

  • Plan to return within five months

    • If you are planning to return after the five-month limit your I-20 will be terminated. You will need to obtain a new I-20, pay for the new I-20 and enter the U.S. with the new I-20.

    • If you are gone more than a year, you will need to reapply to the program. 

  • You will have a 15-day grace period to depart the U.S. once you are authorized. 

Applying for OPT 

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is one type of work permission available for eligible F-1 students. It allows students to get real-world work experience related to their field of study. 

  • PRE-OPT 

    • Pre-opt allows you work during your final year of your degree completion, but it will take away from your POST-OPT and you will have to re-apply.


    • You are able to work full-time after you completed your degree requirements.  

While a DSO recommends OPT in SEVIS, it is the student who must apply for the work permit with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If the OPT is approved, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The student must not begin working before the start date on the EAD. 

         Apply for OPT 


An F-1 student is eligible to transfer to another school or program of study. To start the process of transferring, you must bring the following to your DSO: 

  • Written confirmation of acceptance from a SEVP-certified school. 

  • Contact information for the new school’s DSO. 

  • The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) school code for the transfer-in school form. 

Your DSO will then work with you and the DSO at your new school to choose a transfer release date. This date is when the DSO at your transfer-in school takes responsibility for your SEVIS record. Several factors go into selecting this date: 

  • Academic needs 

  • Travel and employment plans 

  • Projected start date of your new program 

Once your transfer release date arrives, the DSO at your previous school will not have access to your SEVIS record, and your new DSO can create a new Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status,” for you. It is important to get a new Form I-20 (signed by your new DSO and you) as soon as possible. To maintain your status, register for classes and contact your new DSO within 15 days of the program start date listed on your new Form I-20. 

If you have arrived in the United States but want to transfer to a new school before you begin classes at the school listed on your Form I-20, talk to the DSO at the school listed on that form. You need to inform the DSO that you have arrived in the United States and want to transfer immediately to another SEVP-certified school. You must show proof of acceptance to your new school. You must report to your new school and enroll in a full course of study within 30 days of arriving in the United States. 

                 Download Transfer Verification Form

Advancing degree at Northeastern Illinois University 

If you are graduating or completing your SAELL program at NEIU and are thinking of continuing to advance your degree with NEIU, you can apply online and submit the required documentation to be admitted. 

Documents to Provide 

SAELL Students Applying to Undergraduate Program 

SAELL Students Applying to Graduate Program 

Undergraduates Applying to Graduate Program 

I-20 Copy 





Visa Copy 




I-94 Copy 




English Proficiency 


Request John Armour to turn in to Admissions. 


Request John Armour to turn in to Admissions. 




Official high school or college transcripts will need to be evaluated. 


Official bachelor’s degree transcripts will need to be evaluated .


-NEIU transcripts will be sent internally, no request is needed. 

-If you went to another school in the U.S. you will need to request those and be sent to NEIU. 

-If you transferred from a school abroad, those will need to be evaluated.



Some graduate programs may require additional test requirements; check with that department. 


Some graduate programs may require additional test requirements; check with that department 

2X Letter of Recommendation 




Statement of Purpose 




After you are admitted, please send the original documents mentioned below to the Office of International Programs to obtain an updated I-20.

NEIU Financial Statement Form 




Supporting Official Bank Letter/Statement 




Returning Home 

If you are returning home after you completed your studies or completed OPT/STEM, you will have 60-day grace period before your status is completed indefinitely. This means if you passed the 60-day grace period your status is no longer active, and you will be accruing unlawful presence (see section on Unlawful Presence for more information). If you are planning to depart before the 60-day grace period, please inform the DSO to properly complete your I-20. This way the SEVIS system does not terminate your record negatively. 

If you have any items you wish to donate for future international students, please donate them to our free store located in LWH 0009. 


International students who do not comply with the F-1 visa regulations are subject for their I-20s to be terminated. If your I-20 is terminated you may be able to apply for reinstatement. If you are not able to apply for reinstatement you must depart the U.S. Unfortunately, SEVIS does not allow a grace period after your I-20 is terminated. During this time if you are still in the U.S. you are out of status and will be accruing unlawful presence. Please speak with the DSO if this has happened to you.  

Some Reasons for Termination: 

  • Failure to Enroll

    • Students who have not reported their enrollment, or are not registered for the semester, or are who are not authorized for reduced course load, will have their I-20 terminated. 

  • Academic dismissal

    • Students who have failed and did not pass their academic probation and are now dismissed will have their I-20 terminated

    • Students who were caught plagiarizing or are in academic dishonesty will have their I-20 terminated. 

  • Unauthorized Early Withdrawal

    • Students who are not attending the semester and did not inform the DSO, will have their I-20 terminated. 

Unlawful Presence 

Effective Aug. 30, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security issued a new rule of unlawful presence. This means that if your I-20 is expired, terminated, completed and you are still in the U.S. you will be accruing days of unlawful presence.  

"Individuals who have accrued more than 180 days of unlawful presence during a single stay, and then depart, may be subject to three-year or 10-year bars to admission, depending on how much unlawful presence they accrued before they departed the United States. Individuals who have accrued a total period of more than one year of unlawful presence, whether in a single stay or during multiple stays in the United States, and who then reenter or attempt to reenter the United States without being admitted or paroled are permanently inadmissible. 
Those subject to the three-year, 10-year, or permanent unlawful presence bars to admission are generally not eligible to apply for a visa, admission, or adjustment of status to permanent residence unless they are eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or another form of relief."

As of May 3, 2019, the unlawful presence is temporary preventing the Department of Homeland Security from enforcing this rule for F, M, and J students until further notice. USCIS has issued an alert stating: 

ALERT: On May 3, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina issued an injunction (PDF, 274 KB) regarding PM-602-1060 and PM-602-1060.1, policy memoranda titled, “Accrual of Unlawful Presence and F, J, and M Nonimmigrants,” issued on May 10, 2018, and Aug. 9, 2018, respectively. Due to the nationwide preliminary injunction, USCIS is preliminarily enjoined from applying the policies in these policy memoranda to F, J, and M nonimmigrants. Until further notice, USCIS will apply the prior policy guidance in AFM Chapter 40.9.2, issued on May 6, 2009: Consolidation of Guidance Concerning Unlawful Presence for Purposes of Sections 212(a)(9)(b)(i) and 212(a)(9)(c)(i)(I) of the Act (PDF, 2.90 MB). (…)  

Read more on unlawful presence


If you are out of status and your I-20 has been terminated you may be able to reinstate your I-20. To do so you will need to set up a meeting with the DSO and see what your options are.

Change of Status 

If you want to change the purpose of your visit while in the United States, you (or in some cases your employer) must file a request with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the appropriate form before your authorized stay expires. 

In general, you may apply to change your nonimmigrant status if you were lawfully admitted to the United States with a nonimmigrant visa, your nonimmigrant status remains valid, you have not violated the conditions of your status and you have not committed any crimes that would make you ineligible. Until you receive approval from USCIS, do not assume the status has been approved and do not change your activity in the United States. 

For detailed information on changing to a nonimmigrant student status or changing to a nonimmigrant student status from B-1/B-2 status or changing to H-1B status, read Study in the States. 

Change of Requests 

If you are an F-1 student studying in the United States, your DSO should be the first person you must talk to. Any things regarding the legal requirements of your stay should be informed to your DSO.         

     F-1 students can contact your DSO for the following changes:      

  • Change of contact information 

  • Change of minor 

  • Change of name 

  • Change in address 

  • Change in program 

  • Travel outside 

  • Transfer 

  • Program Extension 

Extending I-20 

Students may need to extend their F-1 status for an academic reason, a medical reason, or a DSO error. In these cases, DSOs can extend a student’s program of study prior to the program end date in SEVIS. SEVIS allows for an extension period of up to one year. 

Before you extend: 

  • Obtain a written explanation from your advisor/instructor for the extension and new program end date. 

  • Obtain current financial documentation showing enough funds to pay tuition and living expenses. 

  Download Extending I-20