F-1 Visa Immigration Regulations
Cabrillo College is is authorized under U.S. federal law to enroll international students. After you are accepted to Cabrillo College, you will be sent an admission packet so that you can apply for an F-1 student visa.
You will need to schedule an appointment at your nearest US Embassy or Consulate to apply for your visa. You may do this up to 120 days before the start of your program at Cabrillo College. Before your visa appointment, you must pay the SEVIS fee at www.fmjfee.com, fill out all your visa application forms and pay your visa application fees. Please check with your local US Embassy or Consulate about the process.
The F-1 visa is a stamp in your passport from the US Consulate. This shows that the Consulate has reviewed your documents and recommends your admission into the US. The visa does not guarantee that you will be admitted into the United States, but shows that you are allowed to apply as a student for admission at a US port of entry. The expiration date of your visa is the last day that you can enter the US using this particular visa. This date does not reflect the amount of time you can spend in US.
You will also have a form called an I-20. This form allows you to apply for a visa and to enter and re-enter the US. It also shows what, where and when you are studying and it must be current at all times. Cabrillo is required to report any changes you make to your study program, your name, or your address to the US Department of Homeland Security through the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) system. The I-20 is one of your most important immigration documents while in the US.
Once you receive your F-1 visa, you may enter the US up to 30 days before your program start date. We recommend that you schedule your arrival to the Santa Cruz area 3-4 weeks before the start of classes.
When you arrive at the US Port of Entry, the officer will examine your documents and then issue either a passport admission stamp. This indicates how long you are allowed to stay in the U.S. and proves you arrived in the country legally. If you have received a passport admission stamp, you will also have an electronic I-94 record. Cabrillo College requires a copy of this record, which you can access at www.cbp.gov/I94. The I-94 form shows how long you are allowed to stay in the US. With an F-1 visa, the stamp is marked D/S, this means that you are admitted for “Duration of Status." This is the time during which you are studying full-time and following all the regulations of your visa category. "Duration of status" permits you to transfer to different programs and to continue your studies as long as you are pursuing an educational goal. There is no specific date or expiration of your stay in F-1 status as long as you maintain your full-time student status.
When you complete your program at Cabrillo College, you are allowed 60-days to apply for OPT, depart the US or transfer to another school. If you plan to study at Cabrillo College past your program end date, you must speak with the International Student Advisor before that date and request an extension to your I-20.
It is your responsibility to be informed about your visa requirements, and to maintain your status. Information on the requirements for F-1 students is provided during the orientation offered by Cabrillo as well as the CG 51 course that all new international students are required to attend. You are always welcome to schedule an appointment with our International Student Counselor if you have any questions.
- Contact your local US Consulate or Embassy to inquire about the visa procedures for your country. A list of Consulates and embassies can be found at https://www.usembassy.gov/
- Upon receipt of your admission package, make an appointment for a visa interview as instructed by the US Embassy or Consulate.
- Complete the required visa application forms.
- Pay the visa application fee as described by your local US Embassy or Consulate.
- Pay the SEVIS Fee. If you are applying for initial attendance at Cabrillo, to change your status or filing for reinstatement, you must pay the SEVIS processing fee. This fee must be paid such that your payment is processed no later than three business days in advance of your visa interview appointment. You can submit this form and pay this fee electronically at www.fmjfee.com with a credit card.
Prepare and bring to your visa interview the following:
- A passport valid for at least six months
- Form I-20 (sign the form under Item 11) issued by Cabrillo College
- Cabrillo admission letter
- Completed visa application forms
- Two photographs in the prescribed format.
- A receipt for the visa application fee
- A receipt for the SEVIS fee.
- Financial evidence that shows you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses for the first year of your studies. This evidence may be your personal funds or funds given to you by a sponsor or family members.
- Any supplemental information that proves you intend to return to your home country upon finishing your educational program in the US. This may include proof of property, family, or other ties to your community.
Remain calm and answer all the Visa Officer’s questions to you openly and honestly.
Contact Cabrillo at firstname.lastname@example.org after you receive your visa or if you have any questions. For initial attendance in a program of study, plan your travel to arrive in the US no earlier than 30 days in advance of the program start date on the Form I-20.
When you arrive in the US, the immigration officer will stamp your passport with an entry stamp that shows how long you are allowed to stay in the US.
It is your responsibility to be informed about your visa requirements, and to maintain your status. Information on the requirements for F-1 students is provided during the orientation offered by Cabrillo as well as the CG 51 course that all new international students are required to attend.
It is not enough to enter the US with an F-1 visa and to be in valid F-1 status. All students must follow the Department of Homeland Security and USCIS regulations in order to keep their status in the US.
- Study full time (at least 12 units per semester) during fall and spring semesters
- Obtain permission in advance in writing from the International Student Counselor if you plan to drop below 12 units
- Enroll in no more than one online class in your first twelve units during each semester
- Demonstrate satisfactory progress in your program
- Keep the International Student Counselor updated on any of your address, name or major changes. Changes must be reported to the International Student Office within 10 days.
- Limit your on-campus employment to 20 hours per week while school is in session. You may work up to 40 hours per week during breaks and vacations.
- Not work off-campus unless you have specific authorization in writing from USCIS
- While on OPT, work in your field of study and keep the International Student Counselor updated about any employment changes
- Have a valid passport while studying in the US
- Extend your I-20 before it expires if you need more time to complete your degree
- Depart the US, or transfer to another school, within 60 days after finishing your program
You must see the International Student Counselor to request permission before any of the following:
Stopping your studies at Cabrillo College (if you are withdrawing, taking a leave of absence or stopping your studies for any reason)
Dropping below full-time study — below 12 units of classes (for any reason)
Not registering for fall or spring semester
Completing your program (if you complete your program of study earlier than the completion date in section 5 of your I-20)
If you fail to follow the F-1 status regulations outlined above, you will be terminated in the SEVIS system and will have to apply for Reinstatement through the USCIS. It is not enough to simply register for full time classes the following term. You must speak with the International Student Counselor to begin the process of regaining your F-1 status and find out about the consequences of your status violation.
If, while studying with us, you plan to travel out of the US for a short vacation and return to Cabrillo, make sure that page 2 of your I-20 is signed by an authorized official from Cabrillo College within the last six months. When you re-enter the United States you must present the I-20, a valid F-1 visa, and your passport in order to be re-admitted. You may also want to bring proof of your enrollment with you.
If you need to renew your expired F-1 visa when overseas, you will also need additional documents:
Updated financial verification/documentation
Your Cabrillo transcript
Enrollment verification letter from International Student Counselor
If you are returning from Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands (except Cuba) after a visit of less than 30 days, your visa does not need to be valid; however, you will still be required to show a properly endorsed I-20 and a valid passport.
Don’t forget to check to see if you need a tourist visa for the country that you plan to visit.
With the current political climate, please see the following resources for current information regarding your rights as an international student in the USA. This is not a substitute for legal advice.
- AILA Know Your Rights: If ICE stops you in public
- AILA Know Your Rights: If ICE comes to your home
- ACLU Know Your Rights: What to do when encountering law enforcement at airports and other ports of entry into the U.S.
- NILC Know Your Rights: Everyone has certain basic rights, no matter who is president
- NAFSA: Tips for Surviving in a Time of Immigration Uncertainty
For more details regarding immigration and government regulations, please see the following US Government links:
- US Citizenship and Immigration Services:
- US Department of State:
- US Visa Homepage:
- US Department of State (lists American Embassy and Consulate links worldwide):
- Internal Revenue Services (Federal):
- Franchise Tax Board (California State): https://www.ftb.ca.gov/