F-1 and M-1 Student Visa

Know the rules for maintaining your status

Students who come to the U.S. are granted nonimmigrant classifications known as "F-1" or "M-1". This is commonly referred to as your "status." A spouse or child under the age of 21 who comes to the United States to be with an F-1 or M-1 student is a "dependent," and is given F-2 or M-2 status. This status is valid as long as the F-1 or M-1 student maintains valid status.

How to Obtain F-1 Student Visa

The information to follow is provided to help you get to Chandler-Gilbert Community College (CGCC) in appropriate immigration status in compliance with the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations. Please carefully review the steps below.

How to Obtain F-1 Student Visa

Your I-20 indicates that we have created a record for you in SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System), a national database for international students and scholars. Your unique assigned SEVIS ID number is listed on the top of Page 1 and 2. Check to see that all information is correct.

If you have dependents (husband, wife, or children under the age of 21) who will come with you to the U.S., each of them will receive their own "dependent" I-20 needed for applying for their F-2 visas and entering the U.S. on an F-2 status. If your family name is different from your dependents, be prepared to show documents that prove your relationship.

When you apply for a visa or enter the U.S., your passport must be valid for at least 6 months into the future. Some countries are exempt from this requirement and have their passports automatically extended for 6 months which means that you can use your passport up until the written expiration date. This rule applies to subsequent entries to the U.S. while traveling as a student. The list of countries exempt from this rule can be found on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service. Students from Venezuela may also be qualified for a 5-year extension of passport validity.

Everyone applying for a non-immigrant visa must complete the Form DS-160 online and bring a printed copy with you to the visa interview.

You will be required to upload a digital photograph taken within the last six months as part of completing and submitting the Form DS-160. You should also bring a copy of your photograph to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate on the day of your interview. For photo requirements, please visit the US visas information resources.

Make an appointment to apply for an F-1 Student visa interview. You will need to have the barcode number from your printed DS-160 electronic visa application form when schedule an appointment. Please follow the link below for more information on visa appointments.

NOTE: that the processing waiting times do not include extra time that may be required for security clearances.


Citizens of Canada and Bermuda who intend to be students in the USA do not need to go to a U.S. embassy or consulate to apply for an F-1 student visa, they do need to be processed at the border to get their proper F-1 student visa status. “F-1 student visa status” is granted upon entry into the USA by an officer of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service (U.S. CBP).

Students do require to show a valid passport, proof of payment of the SEVIS fee and a Form I-20 at the port of entry. You may also be asked for a supporting financial documentation.
Be sure to look at your entry stamp (in your passport) before you leave the inspection area to ensure that it has the notation "F-1, D/S" written on it.

Students from Canada and Bermuda are subject to the same regulations regarding employment in the United States, requirement for full-time study and all other provisions for maintaining status.

The nonimmigrant visa application fee (MRV fee) is $160. The MRV application fee is non-refundable and non-transferable. There will be no refund of the fee, regardless of whether the visa is ultimately approved or denied. The fee is paid at the time you schedule the interview.

Please visit the I-901 student form selection and follow the instructions to make a payment for the SEVIS fee. You will need your Form I-20 to locate your SEVIS ID number and School Code (PHO214F00442000). Please pay the fee at least three (3) business days before you go to your visa interview at a United States embassy or consulate.

For detailed information on how to pay, please see the tutorial.

A consular officer will interview you to determine whether you are qualified to receive a student visa. You must establish that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive a visa.
An F-1 student visa is classified as a non-immigrant visa. This means you need to establish that you have no intention of staying in the U.S. permanently, but are coming to the U.S. for a temporary purpose which is to pursue your education. You will need to demonstrate strong professional and economic ties to your home countries. Please read information below to help you prepare for a visa interview.

Ten Points to Remember When Applying for a Nonimmigrant Visa

Gather and prepare the following required documents before your visa interview:

  • Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page.
  • Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before your interview.
  • Photo – You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. If the photo upload fails, you must bring one printed photo in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements.
  • Form I-20, You and your school official must sign the Form I-20.

A consular officer will interview you to determine your qualifications for a student visa, and may request additional documents, such as evidence of:

  • Your academic preparation/readiness, such as transcripts, diplomas, degrees, or certificates from schools you attended; and standardized test scores required by your U.S. school;
  • Your intent to depart the United States upon completion of the course of study; and
  • Your financial ability to pay all educational, living and travel costs.

After your visa interview, you will be informed on the result whether the visa is granted or denied. If it is denied, you may ask for a denial letter. You may be able to reapply for a visa in the future. The consular officer may determine that your application requires further administrative processing. The consular officer will inform you if this is required.

If the visa is approved, you may have to pay a reciprocity fee (also known as the visa issuance fee) depending on your country’s policy. To review country-specific’s reciprocity fee, please visit visa reciprocity and civil documents by country

Then you have to make arrangements for the return of the passport and visa to you so you can plan your travel to the U.S.

A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. A visa only allows a foreign citizen to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry (generally an airport) and request permission to enter the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the port-of-entry have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States.

After you present your passport, visa, and Form I-20 at the port-of-entry, a CBP official will make this decision. Once you are allowed to enter the United States, the CBP official will provide an admission stamp or paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record.

If you enter the U.S. successfully, please report to the IEP so we can assist you on class enrollment.

Maintaining F-1 or M-1 Student Visa

Maintaining F-1 or M-1 Student Visa

In order to remain legally present in the United States, you must "maintain" your status; that is you must follow the rules that apply to your status. It is your legal responsibility to understand and follow these rules. To help you stay in compliance, this section provides information regarding the most important rules for F-1s and M-1s. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact CGCC’s International Education Program (IEP) office.

Requirements for maintaining legal status

Here are the most important things to remember to stay in compliance with USCIS regulations:

  1. Your passport must be valid at all times. Do not let it expire!
  2. You must attend the school that issued your SEVIS I-20
  3. You must carry and complete a full course of study (minimum of 12 credits) every Fall and Spring semester. Summer sessions are optional.
  4. Do not enroll for more than ONE online/internet course (or 3 credits) per semester
  5. SEVIS I-20 must not be expired
  6. Engage ONLY in authorized employment and do not work for more than 20 hours a week while school is in session
  7. Apply for a program extension BEFORE your I-20 expires
  8. Inform IEP of your current U.S. address within 10 days of any relocation move
  9. Notify IEP by letter if you intend to discontinue enrollment at CGCC
  10. Notify the IEP Office if you intend to cancel your enrollment or will graduate and return home prior to completion of your program listed on the I-20
  11. Depart the U.S. within the 60-day period following completion of your program, or depart the U.S. within 15 days if you terminate your program in the middle of a semester or regular session or fallout of status.
  12. Disclose fully and truthfully all information requested by USCIS
  13. Obey all federal and state laws that prohibit the commission of crimes of violence

Keep your immigration documents safe
It is extremely important to keep your original documents in a safe place. You will need them in the future to identify yourself, apply for employment authorization, prove your status, and maintain a record of your status throughout your stay in the United States.

Do not let your immigration papers expire!
F-1 students are responsible for maintaining their legal status while studying in the U.S. Consequences for an F-1 student who fails to maintain legal status can be serious. Students who are out of legal status are ineligible for school transfer, travel endorsement, employment, OPT, program extension, change to another status, as well as other benefits. Out-of-status students must either apply for reinstatement or leave the U.S. and reenter with an initial SEVIS I-20 (see below, “Out-of Status”).

Immigration regulations require that all international students with F-1 and M-1 visas register for a minimum number of credits each semester to maintain their student status in the United States. They also require that CGCC verify that its international students are registered for a full course of study. Minimum credit levels for Undergraduate students: (including transfer undergraduate students and non-degree undergraduate students) is 12 credits.

F-2 Dependents
F-2 dependents may study part-time (11 credits or less per semester) in any certified program at a school certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

Online / Internet courses
F-1 Visa students can enroll in ONE online or internet course or 3 credits per semester as part of the 12 credit hour requirement.

In some circumstances, students may request permission to take less than a full course of study during an academic term. However, you must have prior approval from IEP before registering for less than a full course of study or dropping below a full course of study. Immigration regulations allow only a few reasons for a reduced course load. If you fall below full-time status during a term for any reason that is not recognized in the regulations, you will lose your legal status in the United States. This is the most common way students lose their legal status! Meet with a staff person at IEP to receive prior approval before you finalize your plans to register for less than a full course or to withdraw from a class.
Reduced Course Load (RCL)
If you plan to register for less than a full course of study, or cancel a course and drop below the full course load during the term, you must submit a Reduced Course Load (RCL) Form to IEP, which lists acceptable reasons for a reduced course load.
Reasons that are NOT acceptable:

  1. I don't have enough money
  2. I'm too busy finishing incomplete classes from last semester
  3. I'm too busy with employment
  4. I'm too busy with extracurricular (or non-academic) activities
  5. I'm pregnant
  6. I'm suspended from my college, and cannot register. (Always consult your academic adviser and an IEP staff person in such cases.)

Request a RCL form
You can email a request to iep@cgc.edu and we will send it to you electronically.

Chandler-Gilbert Community College requires all international students to enroll in the Maricopa Community College International Student Health Insurance Plan. The health insurance is made in two annual payments divided by Fall (five months) and Spring/Summer (seven months). To be considered in legal status, you need to have your insurance cost paid or enrolled in the payment plan.


If you fail to follow the legal status guidelines, you and your dependents will lose legal status and all related benefits. This is very serious and you want to avoid this situation if at all possible. It means that you will not be eligible to enroll for classes for the following semester, apply for any employment — even on-campus jobs — and you will not be able to receive a reentry signature on your SEVIS I-20 for travel. Further, your SEVIS record (and those of your dependents) will be terminated and SEVIS will automatically notify the immigration services of your loss of legal status. You may be asked to appear at an immigration office and become subject to deportation from the U.S. If you lose your legal status, meet with someone in the International Education Program office immediately to discuss your options.

Regaining your legal status
Failure to maintain status can happen by either dropping under 12 credit hours, working off campus illegally, or not beginning classes by the date indicated on the SEVIS I-20. You cannot regain your legal status without new documents. There are two options to regain your legal status:

  1. Reentering the U.S. on an initial attendance document (under certain circumstances)
  2. Filing an application for reinstatement with USCIS

Unfortunately, both methods carry risks and success cannot be guaranteed.

Option I — Reinstatement by reentry into the US
This is done by departing the U.S. and re-entering with a new "Initial Attendance" I-20. You may also need to apply for a new entry visa before your return. You are at an increased risk for denial of your visa and reentry if embassy or immigration officials find you have violated your legal status. In addition, your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT) work authorization is affected when you regain your status through reentry. You will also need to obtain a new "Evidence of Financial Support" form along with a new bank letter.

Option II — Reinstatement with the U.S.C.I.S inside the United States
This is done from within the U.S. by mailing an application with supporting documents to the immigration service. Remember, while your reinstatement request is being processed (in pending status), you cannot:

  1. Legally work on-campus or off-campus while in the U.S.
  2. Relocate to a new residency — mail from USCIS is not forwarded

Any reinstatement may result in a greater risk that future visa applications may be denied. Also, if you leave the United States while your application is pending, your application will be canceled. If you have been out-of-status for longer than 5 months, you are ineligible for reinstatement. CGCC is required to report to USCIS within 21 days when a student drops below 12 credits. Email iep@cgc.edu to make an appointment with an International Support Specialist Sr. to discuss applying for USCIS reinstatement application.

F-1 students who have maintained lawful status and who are unable to complete their program of study prior to the completion date listed on the I-20 may be eligible for a program extension. Please note, you must apply for an I-20 PRIOR TO THE EXPIRATION DATE listed in item #5 of your I-20. The IEP office can grant a program extension to a student under two conditions:

  1. The student has continually maintained legal status; and
  2. The delays are caused by compelling academic or medical reasons, such as changes of major, original length of time to complete the program was not reasonable for the program, beginning in remedial courses such as ESL courses, loss of credits upon transfer to another school, or documented illnesses.

Delays caused by academic probation or suspension are not acceptable reasons for extension. An F-1 student who is unable to complete the educational program within the time period written on the I-20 and who is ineligible for program extension or fails to apply for a program extension prior to the completion date, is considered to be out of status. If you qualify for an I-20 program extension, you will need the following to apply for it:

  1. A Program of Study and Degree Check sheet. Make an appointment with your academic adviser to get these forms.
  2. A new "Evidence of Financial Support" and bank letter (no more than 6 months old)

Concurrent Enrollment for F-1 International Student

Concurrent Enrollment for F-1 International Student

F-1 students are eligible for simultaneous enrollment with a combination of courses at current institution and another SEVP-certified school, only if approved by the current school’s International Student Office. Source: 8CFR:214.2[f][6][iv]

Please follow the instructions below to apply for the F-1 Concurrent Enrollment. There is NO application fee.

Concurrent Enrollment for F-1 International Student

Complete an online application and upload immigration documentations listed on #2 and #3.

Submit proof of valid immigration status

  • Passport identification page
  • F-1 visa stamp (in your passport)
  • Printout of I-94 record or a change of status approval to F-1 status
  • Current I-20 (all 3 pages)

Submit unofficial transcript (s) from current home institution showing enrollment up to the current term/semester

Request Permission Letter to take class (s) outside the college/university from an international student office at the home institution Please request your current institution to send us an email directly to iep@cgc.edu.

For non-MCCCD F-1 students, please submit a complete Course Selection Form to iep@cgc.edu.

Visit Find A Class website to find Course Title, Course Prefix (Ex: ENG101), and Class Number (Ex: 12345)



  • Co-enrollment applications will NOT be accepted after the official start date of the intended semester.
  • To enroll in a closed class, please contact an instructor for permission to override. Approval is not guaranteed.
  • Tuition payment is required on or before the tuition due date (either by paying in full or setting up a payment plan). For more information visit our Payment Options page.
  • Any changes in enrollment (drop or change class number) must be processed by IEP staff.

We reserve the right to require original documents in order to finalize your application. For more information or questions, please contact us via email at iep@cgc.edu.

Mailing Address:
Chandler-Gilbert Community College
International Education Program
2626 East Pecos Road
Chandler, Arizona 85225-2499 U.S.A.
Contact Information:
International Education Program
Phone: (011) 480-732-7391
E-mail: iep@cgc.edu