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Maintaining Legal F-1 Status

As an F-1 student, you were admitted into the United States for the “duration of status” (D/S on the white I-94 card in your passport).  This means you are permitted  to stay in the U.S. as long as you maintain your status by fulfilling the requirements of being an F-1 student. Keep in mind that there is an important difference between an F-1 visa and F-1 status. An F-1 visa is a stamp placed in your passport by a United States embassy or consulate and is granted for entry purpose only. F-1 status is granted when you enter the United States and is regulated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Even if your visa is valid, you can lose your legal F-1 student status if you do not comply with immigration regulations. Below is an overview of government regulations you must follow in order to maintain your legal status:

  • Maintain a valid passport at all times unless exempt from the passport requirement.
  • Attend the school that USCIS authorized.
  • Maintain full-time status at all times (minimum of 12 credits for undergraduate program, or 9 credits for graduate program).
  • Apply for an extension of your program if you cannot complete your degree by the end date listed in item 5 on your SEVIS I-20 Form. You must apply for a program extension at least 30 days prior to the expiration date.
  • Complete an official immigration transfer whenever you change educational institutions. Individuals with F-1 status must complete an immigration transfer within 15 days of the beginning of your first semester at the new school.
  • Obtain a new SEVIS I-20 Form whenever you make a change in degree level, major or program.
  • Work off-campus only if you have first received authorization from the Office of International Student Services and/or USCIS. On-campus work is limited to part-time (20 hours or less per week) during the semester and official school breaks.
  • Request a travel endorsement on page 3 of the SEVIS I-20 Form from the director of International Student Services before leaving the United States.
  • Report change of address immediately to the Office of International Student Services and the USCIS.
  • Report a change of residence, using Form AR-11,  to USCIS within 10 days of change.

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