To remain lawfully in the United States during your studies, you must adhere to the regulations that govern F-1 students and J-1 Exchange visitors and scholars; guidelines for doing so are below. Although we strive to provide the most up-to-date information, the Department of Homeland Security considers it your responsibility to ensure that you do not do anything that violates the terms of your status. The United States government will not accept ignorance of the law for any violation.
Full Course of Study
You are required by law to register for and complete a full course of study each fall and spring semester at Bentley. Dropping below full-time without prior authorization by CISS is a violation of your F-1 status. A full-time undergraduate student carries at least 12 credits each semester. A full-time graduate student carries at least nine credits each semester.
Distance Learning & Online Course Policy
International students attending Bentley University on F-1 visa have special regulations for online and hybrid classes. The Department of Homeland Security requires F-1 students to maintain a full course of study. A full course of study is defined as a minimum of: 12 credit hours for undergraduate and 9 credit hours for graduate students. F-1 students can count only one 100% online/distance learning class or three credits of online/distance learning course per semester toward the full course of study requirement [8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G)].
For F-1 students enrolled in classes for credit or classroom hours, no more than the equivalent of one class or three credits per session, term, semester, trimester, or quarter may be counted if taken on-line or through distance education in a course that does not require the student's physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion of the class. An on-line or distance education course is a course that is offered principally through the use of television, audio, or computer transmission including open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, or satellite, audio conferencing, or computer conferencing. If the F-1 student's course of study is in a language study program, no on-line or distance education classes may be considered to count toward classroom hours or credit.[8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G)]
For students enrolled in CPT internships, the accompanying internship course can be counted as an “in-person” course provided that the place of employment is within 100 miles of Bentley University (otherwise, the course will count as a distance education course and will satisfy the one course per semester limit for F-1 students). CPT taken during a student’s last semester much be accompanied by other required “in person” course work. In other words, CPT at Bentley can never be the only course taken in a final semester.
For hybrid courses, international students are required to maintain physical presence by attending at least 50% of the class sessions in person. *Please note that any hybrid course in which physical attendance in class totals less than 50% will count as your one allowed online/distance learning course. Failure to comply with the regulation [8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G)] will be a violation of a student’s F-1 status.
Below is the actual immigration regulation regarding online / distance learning courses:
No more than the equivalent of one on-line/distance education class or 3 credits per session may count towards the "full course of study" requirement, if the course "does not require the student's physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion of the class.” If the student's course of study is in a language study program, no on-line or distance education classes may be counted toward the full course of study requirement.
Below is the attendance policy for all students as defined by Academic Services:
Students are expected to attend all class meetings; there is a no “cut allowance.” Students must be registered and in class prior to the start of the second week of classes. If a student has not been in attendance by the first class of the second week, the student will need faculty and department chair approval to enter the class. Instructors retain the right to deny admission to a course to any student who wishes to enroll after the first week of classes.
After the second week, students may not register for a class and may not attend classes for which they are already registered (if they have not attended before that time). The full attendance policy is described in the Bentley University Undergraduate Student Handbook.
The above excerpt about attendance can be found HERE.
Reduced Course Load
To reduce your course load below full-time status, you must request authorization in advance from our office. A staff member will guide you in completing the necessary paperwork.
You must resume a full course of study in the semester immediately following your permitted period of reduced course load (if you will not be completing your program in the reduced course-load semester).
The following are the only exceptions to the full-course-of-study requirement:
- Illness or medical condition
- Initial difficulty with the English language or reading requirements
- Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
- Improper course-level placement
- To complete course of study in current term
During the summer, you are not required to register for courses and may remain in the United States if you intend to register for a full course load during the subsequent fall semester. If you have particular questions about the summer course work, please contact us.
You must complete all work and receive a final grade for any incomplete courses by the end of your final semester of study in order to maintain your F-1 student status.
Completion of Study
U.S. immigration regulations state that your lawful F-1 status automatically ends 60 days after you complete your program, unless you take some action to remain lawfully in the country. Therefore, it is very important for you to be aware of the official date of completion of your program of study as indicated on your Form I-20.
* The 60-day grace period described above is not available to students who do not complete their program of study (e.g. are suspended or withdraw from Bentley, or otherwise do not complete their program objective as stated on their Form I-20.)
J-1 Exchange Visitors and Scholars
The Form DS-2019 is the principal document that verifies your legal status within the United States. The form contains a machine-readable section that will be used for visa applications at U.S. consulates and exit from and entry into the United States.
New incoming J-1 Exchange visitors and research scholars are required to report to our office upon arrival at Bentley and complete the confirmation of arrival, or J-1 Exchange Visitor Data Form.
The following documents are required to enter the US in F-1 status:
1. Passport, valid for at least 6 months into the future
2. Valid F-1 visa*
3. Most recent I-20, signed for travel on page 2 within the last 12 months
*Citizens of Canada or the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda do not need an F-1 visa stamp; admission is granted based on the student’s valid I-20.
Before you step away from the immigration official
at the port-of-entry:
1.Check the entry stamp in your passport — be sure that the officer has written F1/DS in the stamp. This is the official record of your entry into the US; this information is also recorded in the US Customs and Border Protection database as your I-94 information.
You can check your I-94 information online by clicking HERE.
2. Make sure that your I-20 and passport have been returned to you (a paper I-94 card will be given only if you enter the US via a land border).
Renewing Your Visa
As long as you maintain student status and have a valid I-20, you may remain in the United States after your F-1 visa has expired. However, if you are returning home or traveling to a country where automatic visa revalidation does not occur (i.e. Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island) you must have a apply for a valid visa to re-enter the United States. Click here to access the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for more information about re-entry into the United States.
Click here to access the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website to learn more about how to apply for a visa.
Family and Friends Visiting the U.S.
Family members and friends who are planning to visit you in the U.S. for a period of less than 6 months should apply for a tourist visa (B1/B2 visa). Applicants must apply for a B-1/B-2 visa from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. For more information on how to apply for a visa, please visit the U.S. Department of State website.
The U.S. Consulate or Embassy will expect the visa applicant to provide the following documents:
1. An invitation letter written by you.
Your invitation letter should specify the duration of the visitor's planned stay in the United States. The letter must list the purpose of the visit (for example, if the visa applicant is traveling to the U.S. to attend your commencement ceremonies). Please note that the CISS no longer issues invitation letters as the United States Consulates or Embassies Officials will only acknowledge invitation letters from you. Download the CISS Invitation Letter template for help writing your letter: CISS Sample Invitation Letter.docx
2. An Enrollment Verification Letter to confirm your student status.
To request an Enrollment Verification, visit the Registrar's website HERE.
3. A bank statement or other documentation as proof of sufficient funds to support themselves while visiting the U.S.
If you are going to provide any financial support for the visit, you need to furnish your relatives with appropriate documentation. This could be a letter verifying employment or a bank statement. You may also need to submit Form I-134 Affidavit of Support. If your visitors will pay for their expenses themselves though, you are not required to complete Form I-134.
4. The visa applicant needs to prove their intent to return home.
Documents that support the intent to return home inclued evidence of a job, property, business ownership, immediate family members who remain back home, or any strong ties to their home country. Copies of the return airline ticket or reservation will also be helpful.
Leave of Absence Procedure
Leaves of Absence (taking time away from your studies) have implications for your F-1 status. Please see the below document outlining the process for taking a Leave of Absence and returning in F-1 status:
*Note: If you are a graduate student and wish to take time away from your graduate program, you must complete a separate process (not Leave of Absence). Contact Graduate Student and Academic Services for more information:
Office: 295 LaCava Center
Notaries and Apostilles
For certain documents, and to obtain visas to other countries, you may require official notarization or an apostille. Click HERE to access the Registrar's page regarding obtaining a notarized document or an apostille.