Maintaining Legal Status

As a student on an F-1 visa, it is important to be aware of the key regulations that pertain to your stay in the United States in order to avoid circumstances that could jeopardize your legal status. If you are in doubt about how engaging in a particular activity may affect your legal status, please reach out to ISPaSO for guidance. As a general guideline, please remember that an F-1 visa is a student visa; the expectations around it are that the F-1 visa holder is primarily a student – i.e. academic activity is the purpose for which they have been admitted into the U.S.

We will highlight here some common areas of F-1 visa regulations.


Full course of study: When school is in session you are required to maintain a full course of study. At Principia College this means 12 credit hours during Fall and during Spring semesters. F-1 visa regulations allow students to take a reduced course load (underload) during their final semester. A reduced course load is also allowed in the event of a mental or physical health challenge, with the recommendation from a licensed medical doctor or clinical psychologist.

Remote courses: As a student on an F-1 visa, only 3 semester hours can contribute towards a full course of study. This means that, during a given semester, at least 9 semester hours should be in-person/hybrid classes. Once the 9 semester-hour threshold of in-person/hybrid classes is reached, the rest of the courses for that semester can be remote.

Work Authorization

Employment in the U.S. for students on an F-1 visa is highly regulated. The main forms of authorized employment are: If you are considering an employment opportunity and you are unsure about whether it meets OPT or CPT requirements, please contact ISPaSO for guidance.


If you change your address within the U.S., this should be reported in SEVIS within 10 days. You can update your address by calling/emailing ISPaSO.