After International Students obtain a visa and enter the U.S. in F-1 status, they must continue to maintain that status and follow F-1 regulations upon entry until final departure.
An F-1 student may be authorized to drop below 12 units but only once in their academic program for reasons not associated with a medical condition. It is imperative that F-1 students maintain a minimum of 12 units each quarter they attend FIDM; however circumstances may exist where a student needs to drop below that minimum (Note: failing the course or finishing the first-year contract does not warrant such an exception).
SEVIS has already determined what reasons can and should be present in making such a determination and the reason for such must be selected from the choices offered:
Use concurrent enrollment to avoid losing your F-1 status due to an unauthorized drop in full-time unit requirements.
An F-1 student can be enrolled in two different SEVIS-approved F-1 schools at the same time (concurrent enrollment), as long as the enrollment in both schools amounts to a full time course of study, and both schools are SEVIS-certified. The concurrent enrollment provision requires the school from which the student will earn his or her degree or certificate to issue and maintain Form I-20, to handle all SEVIS and other reporting requirements, and to ensure that the student is pursuing a full course of study.
The concurrent enrollment provision is applicable only to those who will be registered less than full-time at the school that issued their I-20, and who are relying on enrollment at another school in order to meet the requirement that they be enrolled for a full course of study. As long as a student is enrolled full-time at the institution that issued his or her Form I-20, he or she does not need special permission to take an additional class at another school.
The second school (institution that did not issue your SEVIS I-20) will require a concurrent enrollment authorization form issued by FIDM's International Students Office. The course to which you will be enrolled in must coincide with FIDM's quarter schedule, meaning both classes must be conducted at the same time. This doesn't have to be exact but they must coincide at some point during the quarter you wish to receive the authorization.
An F-1 student may be granted a temporary leave of absence at any time in their program but a distinction has to be made as to whether it is an emergency break or a vacation break. A vacation break can only be taken after completing one full year of studies at FIDM (which can constitute 3 consecutive quarters). The Leave of Absence will be classified as a quarter break, and the student,s I-20 registration dates should adequately reflect the time off. A notation is also made in the remarks section of the student’s I-20 to indicate the quarter break and list the date the student will resume his or her studies. Students can remain in the U.S. while on a vacation break. However, they cannot work (no CPT) since the only work available would be an internship, which must coincide with the students curriculum (if they are not in class there is no class to assign the internship to). For any other type of break from studies (not classified as annual vacation break) the student's I-20 will be terminated for an authorized early withdrawal and then re-activated prior to the student's re-entry. The student must be outside of the U.S. during the absence from studies and may not exceed one quarter off. Any absence from studies and the U.S. for five months or more will automatically terminate a student’s I-20 and F-1 student status.
The annual vacation provision references both the classic "summer break" situation for schools that are on a traditional semester-based academic year, as well as the situation of programs that do not follow the traditional semester system. DSOs of short-term programs (e.g., 4- or 6-week ESL courses) and those that do not follow the traditional semester system (e.g., trimester or quarter-based programs) must pay particular attention to the second sentence of 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(5)(iii), which requires students in such programs to have spent the equivalent of an "academic" year before being eligible to take a break from studies that would be covered under this regulation. DSOs working with such programs should develop clear and justifiable policies to define the equivalent of an "academic year" for F-1 vacation purposes.
Students who do not maintain their F-1 and wish to continue to pursue their program of study at FIDM will only be permitted to register for courses if they file for a reinstatement with the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) or leave and reenter the U.S. with a new initial I-20 and valid F-1 visa to regain their F-1 status.
The reinstatement application includes the following documents:
The USCIS District Director may consider approving a student’s reinstatement if the student can show the following information: