F-1 Student Frequently Asked Questions

Our office has prepared a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Please see below for answers to some of our most common questions.

USCIS Minimum Course Load Requirements for F-1 Students 

All Active F-1 international students must be enrolled in at least nine (9) fully in-person or in-person/partially online courses (hybrid) as part of their 12-unit minimum, full-time course load in order to enter and stay in the U.S. 

Please review the FAQ’s below regarding this requirement: 

  1. How many in-person classes am I required to take if I have an active I-20? 
    International students on an active I-20 are required to enroll in at least 9 units in person.  
  2. After enrolling in 9 units in-person, may I take more online classes if I choose? 
    Yes, once you have reached 12 units (with at least 9 in person), you may enroll in more online classes if you’d like.  
  3. If this is my final semester, can my final class be taken online? No, you will need to be in at least 1 in person class if authorized for final semester Reduced Course Load (RCL).
  4. Do Hybrid (Partially online) classes count as “In-Person”? 
    Yes, hybrid courses (partially online), or any classes with at least one in person meeting requirement, will count as in-person.
  5. What defines an online class? 
    Online classes are defined as courses that are 100% online, no physical attendance is required for class meetings, exams, labs, etc.
  6. How many online classes am I permitted to take? 
    You are limited to no more than one online class or 3 units which can count toward your full time (12 unit) requirement. You are permitted to take more online classes once this requirement has been met.
  7. Am I allowed to take online classes from my home country if I am a current international student? 
    Yes, however your current I-20 will not remain in active status. If you choose to re-enter the U.S. later you will need a new I-20.
  8. If Summer is my first semester, how many units have to be in-person? 
    Summer first semester students must have at least 3 units in person. The rest can be taken online.
  9. If I am finishing my program this summer, can I take my final classes online?  
    No, you will need to be in at least 1 in person class if Summer is your final term.
  10. If I am taking, Summer classes, and it is not my first or final semester, may I take my classes online? 
    Yes, continuing students may take online classes in the Summer and are not required to take any in-person.
  11. If this is my final semester, can my final class be taken online? No, you will need to be in at least 1 in person class if authorized for final semester Reduced Course Load (RCL). If you are not authorized for an RCL, you will need to enroll in 9 units in person (12 units minimum total).

Admissions Requirements

I-20s and F-1 Visas

  1. Do I need to show financial support evidence to be admitted even though I will be enrolling in online courses from my home country? No. You only need to provide financial support evidence if you plan to study in person at DVC. Financial support evidence is required to receive an I-20, which you need to apply for an F-1 visa.  Please contact your college’s International Student Office if you have questions or concerns.

  2. I have been admitted but do not plan to enter the U.S. and want to study online from home. Do I need to apply for an F-1 visa?  No. You only need to apply for an F-1 visa if you plan to study in the U.S. 

  3. I have already paid the SEVIS fee. Do I need to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee again if my I-20 program start dates are updated?  No. You will not need to pay the fee again if your I-20 was updated with a new program start date. (However, if you received a new I-20 with a different SEVIS ID, then you will need to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee again) 

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Deferring Enrollment

  1. If I was admitted for spring and took courses online from my country, yet I am still unable to travel to the U.S. for fall, am I allowed to continue taking courses online and defer my in-person enrollment until spring?   Yes. 

  2. If I've been admitted and received an I-20 for fall, may I defer to spring?  Yes, an updated I-20 will be issued with a new program start date. Please email your college’s international student office to request a Deferring Enrollment Form and updated I-20. If you must defer for more than one semester, please contact your International Student Office for details about deferral requirements.  

  3. If I’ve been issued an F-1 visa for fall, yet defer to spring, do I need a new visa? You do not need a new visa if your current visa is valid past the date of your (future) entry into the U.S. Please check the visa expiration date on your visa. However, you will need an updated I-20 with a new program start date. Please email your college’s international student office to request an updated I-20.

  4. If I was admitted for fall but would like to defer enrollment to spring, do I need to prepare updated financial support documentation? If you have already been issued an I-20 for fall yet have not obtained a visa, it is strongly recommended that you prepare updated financial support documentation for the visa appointment.

  5. May I defer enrollment for more than one (1) semester?  Yes, however, you must request a Deferring Enrollment Form and:  
    -Submit a new application for admission. 
    -Pay another application fee. 
    -Provide updated financial support evidence (e.g., bank statement). 
    -Provide updated English language proficiency documentation (if your test score is more than two years old from the start date of your program of study). 

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Travel to the U.S.

  1. Will I be able to travel to the U.S.?  
    Travel to the U.S is dependent upon your ability to obtain an F-1 visa.  Please click here to view visa appointment wait times in your country/region. It is also recommended that you confirm this information with your local U.S. Consulate or Embassy.

  2. Should I take a printed I-20 in carry-on luggage on flight(s) to the U.S.?  Yes.  

  3.  Are there any special entry requirements to the U.S.? As of May 12, 2023, noncitizen nonimmigrant air passengers no longer need to show proof of being fully vaccinated with an accepted COVID-19 vaccine to board a flight to the United States.

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College Requirements: COVID-19 & Health Insurance

  1. Are vaccinations required to study at DVC?

    No, effective January 2, 2023, the COVID-19 vaccinations are not required for students taking in-person classes or who need to visit any campus facility. You can read more about it here.

  2. Is health insurance mandatory for international students?
    If you are inside the United States, health insurance is mandatory for all F-1 students. You will be automatically enrolled into the mandatory health insurance for international students.

  3. If I stay in my home country, do I need to pay for health insurance? No.

  4. How much is health insurance?  
    The current cost of health insurance and coverage dates can be found on our website.
  5.  Is there any safety information I should be aware of before reporting to campus?   Yes, please review the Student Safety Checklist for our colleges.

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Accommodation and Housing

  1. Will accommodation be easy to find in January?  
    No, accommodation may be limited. Students are encouraged to secure housing as soon as possible.

  2.  Is there any COVID-19 related requirement for Diablo Valley Homestay?
    Yes, all homestay students must be vaccinated and send Diablo Valley Homestay by email (info@diablovalleyhomestay.com) a copy of their proof of vaccination. 

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Courses and Support

  1. Will online courses be asynchronous (time zone does not matter)?
    Mostly, though each course section will have its own schedule. Students should carefully check the scheduling notes for each course section to determine if a given section of a course includes synchronous instruction. Here is a link to the course schedule search (searchable by college and semester).

  2.  How will students know which online courses have set class meetings when looking at course descriptions?   
    • Asynchronous courses (no set class meetings) will have “ONLINE” included in the meeting days/times column, and no days or times will be listed. Also, the comments section will not include references to any required orientations or synchronous class sessions.
    • Synchronous courses (online courses that have set class meetings on specific days using Zoom software and on California/Pacific Standard Time) will list the days and times of instruction OR there will be specific synchronous meeting sessions listed in the comments section.

  3. What are operating system requirements for taking online courses?
    Students can use any operating system (PC, Mac, Android, iOS) for taking online courses.

  4. What are other technical requirements for taking online courses?
    It is recommended that students have access to a desktop or laptop with audio and video capability and reliable Internet access. Students may use mobile phones, though they will be expected to do extensive typing.

  5. What video software will online courses use?
    All courses will use Zoom.  Students should contact course instructors to ask if any social media such as YouTube will be used that may not be accessible in their regions.

  6.  How will students access online courses?  
    All online courses will be delivered through the online management system. Here is a helpful online learning link for students at DVC.

  7.  Do online courses have the same units (credits) as in-person courses? Yes.

  8.  Are the units for online courses accepted by 4-year universities and colleges? Yes.

  9. Do I need to purchase textbooks for online courses?  
    Yes, most online courses require the purchase of textbooks. Textbooks can be purchased online from the college’s bookstore or through other vendors such as Amazon, etc.  Some courses require the purchase of an online ‘course pack,’ which includes access to reading, exercises and quiz materials. Students can purchase online textbooks or course packs using a credit card. However, many courses use open online resources and do not require purchase of course materials. Those courses are designated as Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC).   DVC Book Center.

  10. How do I get help over the summer (e.g., pre-arrival workshops, Canvas page, etc.)?
    Please contact the International Student Office. You may also wish to visit the DVC Counseling Center website.

  11. How do I register for online courses?
    Registration can be done online through InSite from your home country. Priority registration dates and times are listed in InSite under the Registration menu. 

  12. By when do I have to pay the tuition?
    Students should pay the tuition for their courses as soon as possible after the drop/add deadline. However, if they need to pay in installments or wait to pay, they will not be charged late payment fees. Students should note that, if they have a balance on their account, a registration hold will be placed on their account. This hold will block them from being able to register for the following semester. Once the tuition has been paid, this hold will be automatically removed from their account.

  13. Will I be allowed to attend the first few classes/sessions of online courses before deciding whether to continue in or drop a course?  
    Yes, you may attend online courses for several classes. You are allowed to drop an online course at no charge as long as you do so by the drop deadline listed on your course schedule. If you do not drop by the drop deadline, you will be responsible for paying for the class even if you do not attend.  Please refer to the Academic Calendar

    *Short-term class add/drop dates, refund dates and pass/no-pass dates are  calculated individually by class based on the specific number of meeting days; therefore, these dates are not included in this calendar. Add/drop and refund dates are  printed on the class roster. Check with the instructor. You may also go to Insite,   “Registration” “My Class Schedule” for drop and refund dates. The dates are listed  under the “Last Date to Drop” column. 

  14. Will students be able to receive online tutoring?  
    Yes, free online tutoring is available to all students through any Canvas course.

  15. How much time per week can students expect to spend for an online course?  
    Expect to spend 6 to 9 hours per week (on and offline) for a 3-unit course.

  16.  What other online learning expectations should students be aware of?  
    Students should be prepared to actively participate in online courses through frequent interactions with instructors and classmates. This includes contributing to online discussions. Students should review course syllabi for more information about grading policies.

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F-1 Check-in Day 

  1. Is F-1 Check-in Day Mandatory?  
    Yes. All new F-1 students who entered the US in initial status, transferred, or are recently approved Change of Status students, are required to attend. The event will fulfill your immigration reporting requirements.  Details will be sent by email closer to the event date. 

  2.  If I have been in the U.S. (transfer students and Change of Status students), do I need to attend?

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Student Life

  1. May I join a student club if I spend my first semester studying online from my home country? Yes, you may still join a student club(s) as some have online meetings. The colleges have a variety of clubs that have been active in the remote learning environment. Please inquire with the club(s) you are interested in for more information. Here is the link to the Student Life office at DVC.

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If you have any additional questions please contact the International Student Office.