International Services

Information for Current F-1 International Students

The International Programs and Services office is committed to supporting the academic and personal growth of our F-1 international students. Whether you need assistance with immigration related issues, resources at the college, or want to learn more about the Charlotte community, we are here to help.

  • Maintaining Your F-1 Status

    As an F-1 student, there are several regulations that you must follow to maintain your student status. Most students on an F-1 visa were admitted for D/S, which is stamped or written on your I-20 or I-94. This means you are allowed to remain in the U.S. for the Duration of Status until the program end date your I-20. It is your responsibility to maintain this status and understand the regulations set forth by the United States Customs and Immigration Services. Even if your visa is valid, you can lose your legal F-1 status by not complying with the following regulations. As an F-1 student you must:

    • not let your I-20 expire (program end date on I-20)

      • if you need additional time to complete your program, please contact our office
    • maintain a full-time class schedule of at least 12 credit hours (nine credit hours if your first term is in the summer); you must be registered full time within 10 days of the semester start date!
      • you are not permitted to take classes only in a short session and must have classes throughout the entire semester
      • if you receive a W or AU grade, your full time status may be jeopardized.
      • to see if you qualify under the DHS guidelines for a reduced course load, please visit our office
      • take no more than three credit hours of online course work per term toward your full time requirement; online classes are not permitted in a required summer term
    • notify our office within 10 days of a change in contact information
    • not work in the U.S. without authorization
    • make academic progress toward your degree program (review the Academic Standards of Progress)
      • obtain a new I-20 whenever you make changes in your program of study or in degree levels; this includes changing from language studies to an associate degree, changing optional training program to a new degree, from one level of degree to one of the same level (associate to a second associate degree), etc.
    • if transferring to another institution, you must provide a transfer form and acceptance letter no later than the first day of the Central Piedmont term

    It is your responsibility to notify International Programs and Services of any changes in your contact information, intent to transfer, and understand what your responsibilities are to maintain your status. Failure to do so could result in your I-20 termination. Even if your visa is valid, you can lose your F-1 status by not complying with the immigration laws regulating your stay in the U.S. If you fail to maintain your legal status, reinstatement may be an option. The International Programs and Services Office can assist.

  • Registering for Classes

    All F-1 students who are taking college level classes are encouraged to visit Counseling and Advising before registration begins to choose classes for the next term. All students are encouraged to register early for the best class selection. It is the student's responsibility to register for a full time course load of classes.

    Please note that you must be registered full time no later than 10 days after the start of the semester. For students transferring to another institution, you must provide a transfer form and acceptance letter from the institution you are transferring to no later than the first day of the term. Students are not permitted to take classes in a short session only and must be in class during the full semester. 

    Paying for Classes

    Be sure to pay for classes by the due date to avoid being dropped. If you are a sponsored student, a new financial guarantee or letter of sponsorship is required before the start date of each term. If your classes are dropped for non-payment you may not be able to register for the class if all seats have been taken.

    Sponsored Students

    An updated sponsorship letter or financial guarantee is required each semester. This must be submitted before the start of each term. If your classes are dropped because a new sponsor letter was not provided. It is your responsibility to register for classes again.

  • Reinstatement

    A student who has fallen out of status may have the option to apply for reinstatement through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) OR qualify for a new I-20 to depart and re-enter the U.S.

    Under the USCIS code of federal regulations 8 CFR 214.2(f)(16), an F-1 student is only eligible for reinstatement if all of the following conditions apply to the applicant:

    • have not been out of status for more than 5 months or demonstrate that the failure to file within the 5-month period was the result of exceptional circumstances
    • have not engaged in unauthorized employment
    • are not deportable on any grounds
    • are currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study in the immediate future at the school which issued your Form I-20
    • does not have a record of repeated or willful violations of USCIS regulations
    • establishes to the satisfaction of USCIS in detail showing that the violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond your control. Such circumstances might include serious injury or illness, closure of the institution, a natural disaster, or inadvertence, oversight, or neglect on the part of the DSO, but do not include instances where a pattern of violations or willful failure on the part of the student resulted in the need for reinstatement, OR that the violation relates to a reduction in the student's course load that would have been within the DSO's power to authorize and the failure to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to the student.

    The International Programs Office at Central Piedmont will only be able to provide the necessary reinstatement documents if all of the above conditions are met.

      The sole decision to reinstate an individual to F-1 status is at the discretion of USCIS. Individuals out of status for 5 months or more are advised to consult with an attorney to assist with reinstatement.

      Procedure to Apply for Reinstatement

      1. Step 1: meet with the International Programs and Services office to assess your eligibility for reinstatement and discuss options. If reinstatement is an option, the International Programs and Services office will provide an updated I-20 that you will need to include with your reinstatement application
      2. Step 2: complete the paper I-539 form found on the USCIS website. Please note that you must pay the applicable fees to USCIS. When using the paper I-539 application, be sure to follow the instructions carefully and mail to the correct address

      Please note that while a reinstatement is pending, you are required to be continually enrolled as a full time student.

    • I-20 Extension

      If additional time is needed to complete your program of study, you may request an extension. You should do this at least 30 days prior to the end date on your I-20. If you let your I-20 expire you will be out of status and will be required to apply for reinstatement, so be sure to watch the dates on your I-20. For an extension, you will need

      • a completed I-20 extension form (PDF) signed by an academic advisor
      • proof of financial support (bank statement, bank letter, or sponsorship letter) showing the estimated expenses of at least $16,850; financial proof must be dated within the last 2 months

      You must be making academic progress in your degree program to be eligible for an extension of time. Please note that this procedure will extend your I-20, but not your visa. If your visa expires, it is ok to remain in the U.S. as long as your F-1 status is valid. The next time you travel outside of the U.S., you will need to renew your visa before re-entering.

    • Travel

      We hope that you will be able to return home for visits from time to time. Before leaving the United States be sure to have one of our staff sign page two of your I-20 for re-entry. We suggest you bring important documents with you such as:

      • proof of registration
      • financial support documents

      To re-enter the U.S. after a trip abroad, you must present the following documents at Port of Entry:

      1. valid passport (for at least 6 months into the future)
      2. valid F-1 student visa
      3. valid SEVIS I-20 endorsed for travel by the International Programs and Services Office

      If you are engaging in post-completion OPT, you also need to carry your:

        • Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
        • proof of employment letter
      • F-1 Employment Options

        F-1 students are allowed to work in the U.S. with the proper authorization from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). There are two types of employment available to you.

        1. On-Campus Employment

        F-1 students in good status are permitted to work on campus no more than 20 hours during the term or full time when school is not in session or during the annual vacation. Employment opportunities can be found on our website and at our on-campus vendors. On-campus employment may begin no sooner than 30 days prior to the start of classes for students admitted for initial entry to begin a new program. A student may not work on campus during the 60-day grace period following completion of a course of study, except in the following situations:

        • employment authorized for OPT
        • employment between academic levels at the same school
        • employment between programs when transferring school
        • concurrently-enrolled students.

        On-campus employment is "incident to status," meaning that as long as you are maintaining your F-1 status, on-campus employment is allowed. If you fall out of status for any reason, your employment eligibility ends immediately.

        2. Practical Training, OPT/CPT

        Practical Training

        F-1 students may engage in off-campus work with prior authorization from USCIS to gain practical experience in your field of study. There are two types of off-campus work authorization:

        • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
        • Optional Practical Training (OPT)

        Curricular Practical Training (CPT):is an off-campus work authorization in your field of study. Once you have been in valid F-1 status for a minimum of one year, you may be eligible to participate in work based learning only if it is a part of your degree program. For more information, please visit Workplace Learning. Please visit the International Programs office for us to authorize CPT on your I-20 once you have registered for the work-based learning (WBL) class.

        Pre Completion Optional Practical Training (Pre-OPT) is a 12 month work authorization granted by USCIS to work part time, no more than 20 hours/week, in your field of study while you are still attending school full time prior to completing your degree. Time on Pre-OPT is deducted at half the rate from the 12 month total of OPT upon graduation.

        Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a 12-month work authorization granted by USCIS to work in your field of study upon completion of your degree. OPT requires USCIS authorization, and the application can be found in our office.

        Severe Economic Hardship Employment

        F-1 students may be eligible to apply for off-campus employment authorization based on severe economic hardship after being in valid F-1 status for one academic year. Prior to beginning employment you will need to receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS. As part of the application, you need to demonstrate that there is an unforeseen severe economic necessity beyond your control and that other employment opportunities are not available or insufficient. Please visit our office for details and application information.

      • Social Security Number/Taxes

        F-1 students are only eligible to receive a social security number if they will receive payment for on or off campus employment with the proper authorization from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). For students entering health science programs, please remember that a social security number may be required depending on your program for state licensure. We can assist you in finding on campus employment.

        Taxes*

        Most international students are required to file federal income tax forms regardless of if you were employed in the U.S. Free tax assistance is available to Central Piedmont students through our Single Stop office. Tax season in the U.S. is between January 1 through April 15 in most cases. All international students and their dependents are required to file IRS Form 8843. during the tax period. Students who earned income in the U.S. are required to file other tax forms in addition to Form 8843, so please be sure to check with a tax professional to ensure you have filed required forms be the deadline. The IRS Tax Guide for Aliens (PDF) is available for additional information.

        Note that the IRS has issued warnings to protect people from potential scam phone calls from criminals claiming to be from the IRS in an attempt to get your personal information or money. They have provided tips to help you avoid falling victim to a scam on their IRS Alert Scam Phone Calls page.

        *This information is intended for information use only, as the International Programs and Services staff are not qualified to provide tax advice and disclaims any and all liability resulting from providing this information.

      • Completion of Study

        Grace Period Post Graduation

        Upon completion of degree program or authorized practical training, you are allowed 60 days to decide if you will continue to study, apply for OPT, or prepare for departure from the U.S. During this time you may leave the U.S. but will not be able to re-enter in F-1 status. Students who notify the International Programs and Services Office of their intent to withdraw from classes before they have completed their program will only have 15 days to depart the U.S.

        Continue in Another Degree Program at Central Piedmont

        If you elect to stay at Central Piedmont and pursue a different degree program, you will need to provide updated financials so that we can update your I-20 with the new degree program. You must do so within the 60 day period after your I-20 ends. 

        Transfer to a University

        If you would like to transfer to a university to continue your studies, you must provide International Programs and Services with your acceptance letter from the school you will attend within the 60 days. Please note that the 60 days will be included in the time you are required to be in class at the transfer in school.

        Return Home

        If you have completed your studies and plan to return to your home country, you are able to use this time to prepare for your departure within the 60 day period. 

        Our office is available to assist you during this time with any of these options.

        Please Note: FOR STUDENTS CHANGING THEIR STATUS OR APPLYING FOR OPT, YOU MUST HAVE AN APPLICATION PENDING WITH USCIS PRIOR TO THE 60 DAYS ENDING.

      • Sponsorship

        All sponsored students are required to provide an updated letter of sponsorship each semester. It is your responsibility to submit the updated letter before the tuition due date. Your sponsor will then be billed for your tuition and fees for that semester. Note that students sponsored by the Saudi Cultural Mission are responsible for covering the cost of all fees associated with their tuition.

        North Carolina Nonprofit Entity Sponsorship

        G.S. 115D-39 (c) A nonprofit charitable or religious corporation or civil league may sponsor a person lawfully admitted to the United States and living in this state who attends a community college. In this case the nonprofit charitable or religious corporation will pay the in-state tuition rate on behalf of the student. The entity must meet the following conditions:

        • be incorporated under the laws of North Carolina
        • submit to the college a copy of the entity's article of incorporation and federal tax identification number or federal employer's identification
        • submit a signed affidavit agreeing to pay the student's tuition and required fees
        • may not sponsor more than five students per year under this provision
        • pay the in state tuition and required educational fees using  a check bearing the printed name of the nonprofit charitable or religious corporation