Maintaining F-1 Status

The Department of State issued you an F-1 visa so that you can come to the United States to study. It is a non-immigrant visa that allows you to pursue education with the intent of returning to your home country after your studies. You should not take any action that detracts from that purpose.

Maintaining your F-1 student status is an important aspect of your stay in the USA. Students who fail to maintain their status can be deported from the country or barred from re-entering the USA in the future. In addition, maintaining your status grants you certain benefits, such as the ability to apply for a driving license or apply for work authorization.

The follow actions are some of the ways you can maintain your F-1 status:

  • Arrive no more than 30 days before your program start date.
  • Notify OISP of your arrival in the USA by filling out the International Student Check-In & Information Update Form  before your program start date.
  • Register for a full-time course load at least ten days before the trimester begins
    • For undergraduate students, full-time course load is twelve or more credits.  Only one course may be online.
    • For graduate students, full-time course load is six or more credits.  Online one course may be online.
  • Attend school full-time for two terms before earning a vacation (“break”) term
  • Do not drop a class without talking to OISP first to verify that it does not impact your F-1 status.
  • Maintain a valid passport and I-20 – check their expiration date regularly.  If they will expire in the next six months, take action!
  • Work only with the appropriate work authorization and after consulting OISP
  • Inform OISP within 10 days if you change your address at Information Update Form
  • Inform OISP prior to travel and make sure your I-20 is signed
  • Keep all your I-20s and I-94s

After completion of studies, you have a 60-day grace period to depart the United States. Note that it is not possible to re-enter the United States during this grace period, regardless of the validity of visa or travel signatures.

Details are available at https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/maintaining-your-status

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