Frequently Asked Questions

How F-1 international students are different from other international students

  • There are about 45 different non-immigrant visa types, ranging from A to V, and they each have different rules regarding studying and working in the U.S.
  • Any student with a visa type must apply as an international student.
  • The F-1 visa is granted specifically for study and has specific regulations and privileges.
  • An I-20 cannot be issued for programs that are 100% online.
  • F1 visa holders are not eligible to enroll in certificate programs at TWU.
  • Other visa types may have permission to study full-time or part-time.

What is SEVIS and how does it affect F-1 students at TWU?

  • SEVIS stands for Student Exchange and Visitor Information System and was created by the Department of Homeland Security after September 11, 2001 to track non-immigrant students on study visas (F-1, M-1, J-1). Access to the database is limited to Designated School Officials (DSOs).
  • It tracks the same information the university has on a student, as well as info on source of finances, passport/visa, entry in & out of the country, children/spouse, off-campus employment (including OPT up to 3 years), program dates/extensions, transfers between schools, and more.
  • Student is entered into SEVIS when the I-20 is created; SEVIS record goes w/student who transfers to another university.
  • Each F-1 student must be “registered” in SEVIS each semester; DSO must verify that student is in good status and enrolled in the appropriate number of face-to-face credits.
  • Students are either in “good status” with DHS or “out of status.” Being out of status means they have violated a DHS regulation and may have to leave the country. In some cases, they may appeal to return to good status.

What is an I-20, why is it important, and how does a student get one?

U.S. Customs and Immigration form (Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status). It is required in order to request an F-1 study visa. It is issued by the university DSO , who must first ascertain that a student is eligible to receive it. Requirements for issuance of an I-20 at TWU include:

For an INITIAL ATTENDANCE I-20 (coming from another country for a degree)

  • Acceptance letter for semester the student will start.
  • Certification of Financial Resources/bank statement – proof that the student has liquid funds availability for the first year of study. See Funds an F-1 student must show to obtain an I-20.
  • Home country address.
  • Copy of valid passport.

For an F-1 TRANSFER STUDENT (transferring from another U.S. institution)

  • All of the items above, AND
  • Transfer Clearance Form (available on website).
  • Copy of F-1 visa (does not have to be valid).
  • Copy of I-94 record.

Application deadlines

International students have 2 deadlines: an ADMISSIONS APPLICATION deadline and an IMMIGRATION deadline.


SemesterPreferred DeadlineFinal Deadline
Fall March 1 May 1
Spring July 1 October 1
Summer* February 1 March 1

*only available if program begins in summer

(for accepted out of country students to submit all immigration documents to International Education)

Fall July 1
Spring November 1
Summer* May 1

*only available if program begins in summer

This deadline applies to F1 students coming from their home country. Those already in the U.S. who are transferring from a U.S. university are processed until the date of Orientation for that semester.

Note: Applications for admission are processed as they come in, without regard to semester deadlines. Therefore, If the immigration deadline has passed, students who are out of the country may be accepted and then informed by International Education that they need to defer admission to the next fall or spring.

Required admission documents for all international students

  • Original or university-attested copy of transcripts, mark sheets, academic credentials (and english translation).
  • Original or University-attested copy of diploma, certificate of graduation, degree certificates (and english translation).
  • Documents must be originals or copies which have been attested by the issuing university or an academic government agency.
  • Notarized copies are not acceptable.
  • Applicants are encouraged to provide attested copies of any academic credential that cannot be replaced.
  • Proof of general admission english proficiency (TOEFL) requirement (departmental TOEFL requirement is not considered).
  • GRE/GMAT if required by the academic department.

English proficiency requirement

TOEFL Score Requirement
Internet-Based Test (IBT): 79+

IELTS Score Requirement
6.5 Overall Band Score

PTE Academic
53 and above

Intensive English Program Certificate of Completion:

  • UNT’s Intensive English Language Program.
  • University of Houston LCC Intensive English Program.
  • Texas International Education Consortium (TIEP) advanced-level program (generally J-1 scholars).

Other Exemptions

  • TOEFL Exemption Form (separate forms for graduate/undergraduate).

Credential evaluation

The Office of Admissions Processing conducts in-house credential evaluations; external evaluations are NOT required. Admission is based on TWU’s standards of evaluation and that may differ from that of outside evaluators.

All required applications documents, including all academic credentials, must be complete before a credential evaluation can commence. Admissions Processing does not do on-the-spot evaluations.

Evaluation process:

  • Confirm all required documents were received (see required admissions documents).
  • Confirm foreign institution’s accreditation.
  • Check for country specific requirements.

The timeline for this process can range from two to six weeks. For this reason, the preferred application deadline is encouraged.

  • Undergraduate students - admission decision is made by Office of Academic Processing.
  • Graduate students - Grad Form is forwarded to the respective graduate department for decision..

Registration holds

Students are blocked by International Education from registering until they have cleared holds for:

  • International orientation.
    • Required in-person for new initial students coming from out of the country.
    • Can be completed online for students transferring from another U.S. institution.
  • Present original academic credentials (if applicable).
  • TB test (must be blood test, not skin).
  • Meningitis vaccination if under 22.

On-campus employment

  • F-1 visa holders do not need permission from International Education to work on campus as a student assistant, graduate assistant, or graduate teaching assistant.
  • They are restricted to 20 hours/week while school is in session.
  • They may work in the summer session if they are pre-enrolled for the fall semester.
  • F-1 visa holders are not eligible for work study.

Can F-1 visa holders receive federal financial aid or scholarships?

  • F-1 students are not eligible for federal financial aid.
  • F-1s are required by DHS to prove they have funding available for their education before they arrive in the U.S. They are not eligible for need-based funding.
  • They are eligible for merit-based scholarships.
  • F-1 students may apply for merit-based scholarships as soon as they have been accepted to the university.
  • Students receiving a scholarship or GA position may subtract those funds from the amount they must show to obtain an I-20 .

Do passports and visas have to be valid at all times?

  • Passports must be valid at all times and can be renewed at a U.S. consulate.
  • Visas are used to enter the country and can expire while the student remains in the country. If they leave the country with an expired visa, they must apply for a new visa in order to return. Visas are not renewable in the U.S.

How much money does an F-1 student have to prove they have to obtain an I-20?

DHS requires the university to obtain proof from the student that they have liquid funds available to them (person, sponsor, government, scholarships, etc.) to finance their education so they will not be a burden in the U.S. This amount is updated each year by International Education. It is an estimate, calculated using information from the Bursar (tuition), Financial Aid (books, supplies, room and board, personal expenses, transportation), Student Health Services (insurance), and the Department of Health and Human Services (dependent cost).

For Fall 2019–Summer 2020 the estimate is as follows:

scroll to see the full table

 Total CostTuition/FeeLiving ExpensesBooks/Insurance
Total cost w/no waiver or scholarship $35,892 $19,765 $10,701 $5,426
Tuition w/in-state tuition waiver   $10,128    
Living Exp. w/room & board waiver $6,993   $3,708  
Total Undergraduate cost w/in-state tuition $26,255
Additional Exp - SPOUSE/EACH CHILD $3,500      
Total cost w/no waiver or scholarship $32,717 $16,590 $10,701 $5,426
Tuition w/in-state tuition waiver   $7,596    
Living Exp. w/room & board waiver $6,993   $3,708  
Total Graduate cost w/in-state tuition $23,723
Additional Exp - SPOUSE/EACH CHILD $3,500      

What happens when a student finishes their degree?

When an F-1 student completes their program they have a 60 day “grace” period to do one of the following:

  • Apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT).
  • Leave the country.
  • Apply for a change of status to another visa type.
  • Obtain acceptance into another degree program and obtain a new I-20, either at TWU or at another university. If at another university, their SEVIS record must be transferred within 60 days. New program must begin within 5 months after the end of the 60 day grace period.
  • They may not work during this 60 day grace period.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

OPT is one of the circumstances in which an F-1 visa holder may work off campus with prior permission from OIE. F-1 students are eligible for a year of work eligibility for each degree level. (Rarely, a student begins OPT while still enrolled.)

  • Standard OPT period is one year. STEM students may apply for an extension of another 2 years.
  • Employment must be in the field of study.
  • Students must have been in good F-1 status for an academic year.
  • Cost to apply is $410.
  • It is not necessary to have a job in advance, and students may change jobs at will. May accrue a total of 90 days of unemployment during the OPT year.
  • All employment and periods of unemployment must be recorded in SEVIS . As of May 2018, student have the ability to log into the SEVIS Portal and record their employment (previously, this was done by the DSO).
  • Must work at least 20 hours a week. Can be paid or unpaid (STEM extension requires paid employment).
  • Requires adjudication from USCIS, application process is managed by International Education. Nothing is required from the academic department for OPT.
  • Student may not begin employment until the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is received and the start date on the card has arrived.
  • Although OPT is almost always used post completion, it is possible to apply for OPT before completion, in which case, part-time enrollment is required and the student may only work part-time.
  • When OPT end date arrives, students have 60 days grace to:
    • Leave the country.
    • Obtain acceptance into another degree program and obtain a new I-20, either at TWU or at another university. If at another university, their SEVIS record must be transferred and new I-20 issued within 60 days. New program must begin within 5 months after the end of the 60 day grace period.
      • If a student transfers to another institution while on OPT, the remainder of the OPT will be cancelled on the day the SEVIS record is released to the new institution.
    • Apply for a change of status to another visa type.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

CPT is one of the circumstances in which an F-1 visa holder may work off campus with prior permission from International Education. It is an academic program that allows students to participate in either an internship or training required of all students in that major, or employment for degree credit that is an integral part of the degree plan.

  • Employment permission while student is still pursuing an academic program.
  • Always associated with a class that is related in some way to the job/major.
  • Employer and date specific; must obtain permission each semester.
  • I-20 with CPT work permission is the only work permission required.
  • Full-time over 20 hours a week; must be enrolled part-time (3 hrs. GR; 9 hrs. UG).
  • Part-time up to 20 hours a week; must be enrolled full-time (9 hrs. GR; 12 hrs. UG).
  • Part-time CPT has no effect on OPT eligibility; full-time CPT for 12 months or more negates OPT eligibility.
  • CPT form signed by student/advisor/employer is considered a “contract,” no other contract is needed.
  • May not work on campus and on CPT unless the CPT job is unpaid.
  • CPT permission is given by on-campus DSO; no USCIS adjudication required.

Enrollment requirements

  • F-1 students are required to be enrolled in full-time credits each fall and spring. This is 9 hours/semester for graduates and 12 hours/semester for undergraduates.
  • May enroll part-time, full-time, or not at all in summer.

There are 6 circumstances in which a student can be considered full-time with PRIOR permission:

  1. Graduate students
    1. Graduate Assistants are considered full-time with 6 hours.
    2. Graduate students are considered full-time with 3 hours if:
      1. preparing for comprehensive exams.
      2. registered in thesis, dissertation, or equivalent.
  2. Medical condition
    1. Medical documentation on letterhead signed by a licensed medical doctor, licensed doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist MUST be on file with International Education.
    2. Recommended number of credits may vary.
    3. Notated in SEVIS system as approved reduction of course load.
    4. Maximum of 12 months.
  3. Concurrent enrollment at another college
    1. Student must be pursuing a TWU degree.
    2. Must be enrolled in a minimum of 1 course at TWU.
    3. TWU academic department must approve in advance coursework taken at other institution.
    4. Students who are not able to obtain approval to attend another institution concurrently must transfer to the other institution in order to take courses.
  4. Reduced course load
    1. Final semester – completing final degree requirements this semester; no further enrollment is required.
    2. Less common reasons for reduced course load (maximum of one semester per degree):
      1. Initial difficulties with the english language.
      2. Initial difficulties with reading requirements.
      3. Unfamiliarity with american teaching methods.
      4. Improper course level placement.
  5. Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
    1. See Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
  6. F1 visa holders with Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
    1. Temporary designation granted to eligible non-immigrants living in the U.S.
    2. Currently 8 countries (El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal (set to expire 6/24/18), Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan).
    3. Students should also maintain their F-1 status.
    4. Can work outside the university without OIE permission (does not have to be in field of study).
    5. Allowed to take less than full-time coursework.
    6. Cannot be forced to leave the U.S.

Online course restriction

  • F-1 visa holders may not consider more than one 100% online class (no more than three credits) per semester toward full-time enrollment requirements.
    • But a student may add online courses over the number counted toward the full-time enrollment requirement.
    • EX: an undergraduate taking 15 hours or a graduate student taking 12 hours may take 2 online courses.
  • If a student finds him/herself in a situation where there are not enough face-to-face courses, they may need to be concurrently enrolled in a junior college to meet the requirement above.
  • A student in their last semester may request of their professor to meet in person once per month during the semester. In-person meetings are at the professor’s discretion; if they are unable or unwilling to grant this request, a student may have to enroll concurrently at another college.

Getting a Social Security card

F1 visa holders must have a SSN in order to work on campus. To get one they:

  • must have been in U.S. for 30 days;
  • be enrolled full-time;
  • have a letter of employment from department on letterhead; (name, date of employment, job title, hours per week, contact info, salary)
  • Be registered in SEVIS (and have a Continued Attendance I-20).
  • See International Education Forms for a checklist.

They must take the following to the Social Security office (2201 Colorado Blvd.):

  • TWU ID;
  • Passport;
  • Continued Attendance I-20;
  • I-94;
  • Letter from International Education verifying their F-1 status;
  • Letter from the hiring department on department letterhead.

How does an international student get in-state tuition?

  • Employment by the university in a Graduate Assistant position (GA, GTA, GRA) that grants an in-state waiver.
  • Showing proof of Texas residency through the Core Residency Questionnaire.
  • Scholarship of at least $1000 may qualify for in-state tuition.

Page last updated 11:21 AM, August 9, 2019