Summer is here and that means that F-1 international students across the United States are having their summer break either in their home country or in the US. When dealing with questions regarding F-1 Students summer break, it is important to understand the need to fulfill the steps necessary to maintain their F-1 status during their summer vacation.
As an F-1 status holder, international students must check with their Designated School Official (DSO) before taking an annual vacation outside the United States. F-1 students are usually eligible for a summer vacation if:
- They have completed at least one (1) academic year of their program in the United States.
- The DSO has approved the student’s travel and endorse their Form I-20, which will maintain their status while away.
- a vacation is taken outside the United States, F-1 visa holders will return to the U.S. within 5 months.
What happens if F-1 Students Summer Break is not an option?
Options for F-1 Students Summer Break – Full Time Enrollment Program
Students who are not yet eligible to take their annual vacation have many options available to keep their F-1 status. One option is that the student may enroll as a full-time student at their current SEVP-certified school. Full-time F-1 student status is at the discretion of the school and can be confirmed with the DSO. Another option is on-campus employment. F-1 students may work on campus without the approval of their DSO or USCIS for up to 20 hours a week when school is in session during the summer.
Option for F-1 Students Summer Break – CPT
F1 students who wish to take a summer break may pursue CPT (Curricular Practical Training) for the summer term, which allows F-1 students to engage in an off-campus employment or internship prior to graduation. CPT can only be used if the position is an integral part of the major or academic program or the student’s thesis or dissertation research. Please note that eligible students can use an unlimited amount of part-time CPT (less than 20 hours a week) and get 12 months of OPT (Optional Practical Training) after completing their studies. However, if more than 12 months of full-time CPT (over 20 hours per week) is used, the F-1 student will not be eligible for post-completion OPT.
Options for F-1 Students Summer Break – OPT
F-1 students may also register for pre-completion OPT (Optional Practical Training), which is temporary employment directly related to an F-1 student’s area of study. Please note that while CPT and pre-completion OPT are both work authorization; pre-completion OPT can be used for a job directly related to the field of study but is not necessarily a requirement for the degree program. Eligible students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their program. It should be noted that any pre-completion OPT taken will be deducted from any post-completion OPT that is approved. For example, if you are to take 3 months of pre-completion OPT during the Summer, your post-completion OPT will be reduced to 9 months of employment authorization.
Nearing the End of your F-1 Status?
Once a student has completed their course program, they must leave the United States within 60 days before their F-1 grace period. If students wish to remain in the United States, they must either transfer to another SEVP-certified school or receive authorization from the DSO and USCIS for post-completion OPT as mentioned above.
F-1 Students who have received a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields, may seek a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT employment authorization.
Nearing the End of your OPT Employment Authorization?
F-1 Student also have the option to change their status through an H1B petition (Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) with a sponsoring employer. This is done more often with students who have completed their studies and have received post-completion OPT employment authorization.
Please note that H1B petitions subject to the cap must be submitted within the first five (5) business days of April. If the petition is selected in the lottery and is approved by USCIS, the student’s new H1B status does not officially start until October 1st of that year. An F-1 student who is the beneficiary of an H1B petition may have their F-1 status and any current employment authorization (i.e., post-completion OPT) extended until October 1st. This is known as the “cap gap extension.”
How Can We Help?
Although most of the F-1 issues can be handled by your school but if you are seeking an experienced Chicago immigration lawyer to assist you with your situation or wanting to learn more about other options available to F-1 students, please contact the Cipolla law group today for a consultation. Our Chicago immigration attorneys are experienced in helping international students to find immigration solutions during and beyond their studies. Our Chicago immigration law firm are conveniently located in downtown Chicago.