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Staying in Status

Immigration Documents

  • Passport–The legal document of identification required by law to be carried by persons residing or traveling within a country
    • This must not expire. If your passport is expiring, you will need to travel home or check with your U.S. consulate for renewing options at least 6 months in advance.
  • I-20–The legal document that allows someone to apply for a student visa for an academic purpose for an approved amount of time.
    • This must be accurate.  Ensure that any updates to your major, program end dates, or other academic information are accurate and have been approved by your International Student Adviser.
    • If you have misplaced your I-20, or have made a change that requires a new form, you can submit a request for a new one in the ISSS Portal.
  • Visa–The document issued by the U.S. embassy as a seal in a passport, which indicates that student/scholar is eligible to apply for entry to the U.S. in a specific immigration category
    • This may expire.  If you plan to depart the U.S. you will need to obtain a new visa. Your visa must be valid for re-entry to the U.S.
      • Exception: visiting Canada, Mexico, or adjacent Caribbean Island (except Cuba) for less than 30 days will allow you to re-enter the U.S. (unless it is your home country).  See the travel and visa section for more information.
  • SEVIS record–The record which maintains information about F-1 students studying in the U.S. The status in your SEVIS record reflects your visa/immigration status, i.e the legal permission to remain in the U.S. under specific conditions as defined by the F-1 document.
    • Learn about the different SEVIS statuses here.
  • I-94–The Arrival/Departure Record that shows the terms of your admission, including your legal status, length of time you may stay and expected departure date, which is issued upon your admission to the United States at a port of entry.
    • This is a record of your entry.  Ensure you have been admitted as an F-1 student for the Duration of Status (D/S).  You may print it here.
    • If you notice an error on your I-94, contact your international adviser immediately.

Update U.S. Address & Phone Number

  • Instructions for How to Update Your SEVIS-Reportable Addresses
  • Ensure that your local U.S. address is updated every semester. Visa law requires you to report your current U.S. phone number and U.S. address.
  • Provide a U.S. cell phone number, or a number where a message can be left for you in WINGS. When editing WINGS, select the “local phone” label.
  • Update your current U.S. address in your ISSS Profile and in WINGS. When editing WINGS, select the “local address” label.

Enrollment Requirements

  • Undergraduate full-time = 12 credit hours
  • Graduate full-time = 9 credit hours
  • Only ONE online course (3 credits) may count toward full-time enrollment each semester
  • Any credits beyond the minimum full-time requirement may be online or in person (in-person is strongly encouraged)
  • Students must actively attend all scheduled classes
  • Withdrawing from a course may cause a student to drop below the minimum full-time enrollment requirements.  Always speak to an international adviser before making the decision to withdrawal.

Reduced Course Load Requests

There are four valid reasons for a reduced course load.

    1. If a student is in their final semester and less than a full course load is needed to complete student’s program of study
    2. Academic Difficulty due to a) initial difficulty with English language or reading requirements, and/or b) unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods (first semester students only)
    3. Improper Course Level Placement
    4. Medical Reason

Reduced Course Load information and the request form can be found in the ISSS Portal. Remember: if a student fears the possibility of doing poorly in a course but their situation is not reflected by the the reasons listed, they are not eligible for a RCL based on academic difficulty.  Also remember: Instructor/Academic Advisor/Department Head or medical documentation is REQUIRED in order to authorize reduced course load requests.

Program Extensions

The program end date for F-1 students is based on the average time it takes all students to complete a particular program of study. There are three valid reasons for a program end date to be extended:

  1. Change of major or research topic
  2. Unexpected research problems
  3. Documented illness

Program extension information and the request form can be found in the ISSS Portal.

  • A recommendation from your academic advisor is REQUIRED.
  • Program extensions require you to show additional funding requirements for the length of the extension. To locate the amount of funding you need to show, please see the Required Documents for I-20 section of the “How to apply for an I-20” website.
  • Extensions must be requested before the program ending date on the I-20.
  • If the program end date has passed, the program end date can only be changed within 15 days of the current program end date.
  • Extensions will not be granted for the sole purpose of applying for CPT employment.
  • USCIS regulations state “delays caused by academic probation or suspension are not acceptable reasons for program extension.
  • Time to complete writing a thesis/dissertation is not a valid reason. Students in this situation will be advised to apply for OPT. Visa regulations allow students to continue work on their thesis/dissertation during OPT.

Grace Periods

Depending on your situation, you may have a certain number of days to leave the U.S.

  • Completion of F-1 Program/OPT = 60 days to depart U.S., apply for change of status, apply for OPT, or transfer to another school
  • Withdrawing from classes with prior approval = 15 days after notifying our office
  • Violation of Status = immediately

Travel Signature Requirement

Get your travel signature from the ISAP prior to international travel!  The travel signature is required for returning to the U.S.  Do not wait until the day before or day of your planned departure!

  • Each signature is valid for one year. (F-1 students on OPT: travel signature is valid for six months.)
  • The travel signature is issued by a DSO in ISAP to confirm you are maintaining your F-1 student status.
  • The travel signature is located on page 2 of your I-20.
  • If your current travel signature will expire before you return to the U.S., you must request an updated travel signature. Requests can be made in the ISSS Portal.

Starting a New Program of Study

If you have completed a program of study and will start a new program of study, you will need to submit a Change of Level Request (instead of an I-20 Request). Examples of reasons to submit a change of level:

  • Starting a new education level: You have completed a bachelor’s degree program and are moving to a master’s degree program
  • Staying at the same education level: You have completed a master’s degree program and will start a NEW master’s degree program
  • Staying at the same level or starting a new level after OPT: You have completed OPT/STEM and will start a new program of study at any level

Change of Level information and the request form can be found in the ISSS Portal.

Change of Visa Status

If your visa status changes, please notify ISAP immediately so the appropriate updates can be made. You can update us using the Change of Status request in the ISSS Portal.

Last updated: 8/27/2020