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F-1 Student Visas


The F-1 visa is the most common international student visa in the US and at VCU. Other visas may or may not be appropriate for studying at VCU. If you have questions about using a visa other than F-1 to study in the US, please contact GEO before applying to VCU or enrolling in classes here.

As an F-1 visa holder, you must maintain your legal status at all times. Here are the basics:

  • Be sure your passport and I-20 are valid at all times.
  • Maintain full-time enrollment: 12 credits/semester for undergraduate students, 9 credits/semester for graduate students.
  • If you cannot maintain full-time enrollment, obtain Reduced Course Load (RCL) approval from GEO before dropping below full-time enrollment.
  • On-campus employment: You may work up to 20 hours/week during the semester, up to 40 hours/week during scheduled VCU winter, spring, and summer breaks. On campus means hired and paid directly by VCU or by an outside contractor with a VCU contract to provide services to students.  On campus work authorization follows from your F-1 status. No additional GEO or USCIS authorization is necessary.  
  • All other employment: Whether on- or off-campus, paid or not, requires written approval in advance from GEO (for Curricular Practical Training, or CPT, during your studies) or USCIS (for post-graduation Optional Practical Training, or OPT). 
  • Travel signature — To return to the US from a trip abroad, be prepared to present the following items upon your arrival in the country: Valid passport, valid F-1 visa stamp, valid I-20 with a travel signature no older than 12 months.

Other F-1 regulations may apply. Violations of F-1 visa regulations can lead to serious legal problems. If you have questions about the F-1 visa regulations, please ask GEO first.

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