Frequently Asked Questions


May I take a break in between my studies?

To qualify for OPT, an F-1 student must study for a minimum of 3 consecutive quarters (12 units each quarter). F-1 students may enroll in less than 12 units in their final quarter (usually 3rd quarter) with approval from an international student adviser.

An  F-1 student who completes a quarter with less than 12 units without approval from an international student adviser is in danger of losing F-1 status.

F-1 students who complete 3 quarters of full-time study (12 units for each 3 quarters) can qualify for a vacation quarter in their 4th quarter if the student plans to return for a following quarter. Students cannot take a vacation quarter and apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) without resuming their studies for the following quarter. Students cannot enroll in courses in the certificate program when taking a vacation quarter. International students interested in taking a vacation quarter should contact the International Student Advisor to obtain appropriate authorization in SEVIS.

You can visit the Maintaining Your Status Page to learn more about F-1 requirements at UCSC Extension.

May I travel while my OPT is pending?

It is common for students to want to travel after completing their studies and before starting work. However, traveling at anytime can involve some degree of risk. Depending on where you are with your OPT application and F-1 visa/status, there are factors to consider. Please note that if you applied for a change of status to F-1 with USCIS or the F-1 visa in your passport is expired, you will need to go through the F-1 visa interview to get an F-1 visa in your passport and return to the US on F-1 status.

Traveling while OPT is Pending:

If you have applied for OPT, but it is not yet approved you should carry:

  • Passport that is valid for at least 6 months
  • F-1 visa in passport (go to visa interview if necessary and carry I-797 change of status approval notice from USCIS. You may contact the consulate/embassy to see what other documents you will need to prepare for their visa interview and what fees apply.)
  • I-20 signed for travel with proposed OPT dates (page 2)
  • OPT receipt

You should also have someone you trust check on your mail in case you receive some notice from USCIS regarding your OPT application. If your OPT is approved while you are outside of the US, you will need your OPT EAD card mailed to you so you can use it when returning to the US.

Traveling after OPT is approved:

Students who have their OPT approved and are working should carry the following while traveling:

  • Passport that is valid for at least 6 months
  • F-1 visa in passport (go to visa interview if necessary and carry I-797 change of status approval notice from USCIS. You may contact the consulate/embassy to see what other documents you will need to prepare for their visa interview and what fees apply.)
  • Proof of employment such as job offer letter or pay stubs
  • I-20 signed for travel and with employment details (page 2)
  • EAD Card
  • OPT approval notice


What if my program does not offer enough units to be full time this quarter?

In some quarters, there may not be enough classes offered within a student's program to reach the full time requirement of 12 units and maintain F-1 status. In these cases, we recommend F-1 students pursue one of the following options:

  • Enroll in courses from other certificate programs. Units from these classes will count towards your 12 unit quarterly requirement, but may not count towards your certificate.
  • Enroll in a 3 unit internship. Click here for additional information regarding our Internship for Credit Program.
  • Enroll in courses at another institution. Students should consult with the International Student Advisor before enrolling. Click here for guidelines regarding enrollment at another school, other than UCSC Main Campus.
  • Take courses at UCSC Main Campus through UCSC Extension’s Open Campus Concurrent Enrollment ProgramStudents should consult the International Student Advisor if they plan to enroll in this program. Please keep in mind our main campus is 40 miles from Silicon Valley.
What if I cannot study full time due to a medical condition?

A student on a valid F-1 status who is suffering from an illness or medical condition that prevents them from completing a full course of study may apply for a medical reduced course load (MRCL). The student must provide a signed doctor's note stating they cannot study full time for the remainder of the quarter. After approval, the F-1 student is not required to enroll in any courses for the current quarter and will remain on a valid F-1 status. If the condition continues into the following quarter, the MRCL must be renewed by providing an updated doctor's note. The MRCL cannot exceed 12 months. You can learn more about a MRCL by visiting the DHS website, Study in the States.

Please note this is a benefit only eligible to a student on a valid F-1 status. If you have a change of status pending to F-1, you may not qualify for a MRCL.

When can I apply for a social security number?

The earliest our international students can apply for a social security number is nearing the end of their program when applying for an OPT EAD card with the form I-765. You will receive your SSN in the mail within 1-2 weeks after receiving their OPT EAD card.

You may also apply for your SSN after receiving your EAD card in the mail. You'll need to take your passport, I-20, I-94, EAD card and form SS-5 to a social security administration office. You should also update your student account with your SSN.

How do I qualify for OPT with UCSC Extension?

To qualify for OPT with our programs, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Have finished or be on track to finish a professional certificate program
  • Be completing a minimum of 3 consecutive quarters of full time study (12 units per quarter, except in the final quarter)
  • Be on valid F-1 status at the time of applying for OPT. 

You can learn more about OPT requirements by visiting our Internships & OPT Page.

May I enroll in classes outside of my program?

You are not limited to courses from a single certificate program. You have the opportunity to explore and enroll in courses outside of your declared certificate program. For example, if you are working to complete a User Experience and Web Design certificate, you can also enroll in courses from the Business Administration certificate.

Please note that if you have a 12-unit quarterly requirement, units outside of your declared certificate program will count toward that requirement, but they will not count toward your program. All students with F-1 status must be enrolled in a minimum of 12 units each quarter (except in their final quarter).

Do my internship units count towards my certificate?

With the approval of UCSC Extension's Internship Coordinator, international students can earn 3 units per quarter for completing an unpaid internship. These units do not count towards any certificate program, but do count towards the quarterly 12 unit requirement to maintain an F-1 status. You can learn more by going to our Internships & OPT Page.

Does UCSC Extension offer housing?

UCSC Extension does not offer housing for international or domestic students. Students will need to secure their own housing.

To learn more about housing, costs, and help you get started searching for housing around the Bay Area, you can visit our Housing and Transportation Page.

Am I allowed to do CPT or paid internships during my studies as an F-1 student?

Our certificate programs do not support CPT and our F-1 students may only do unpaid internships for credit while studying. You can learn more about the unpaid internship program by going here.

Our F-1 students may only do paid work after completing their studies and being approved for OPT. You can learn more about requirements by going here.