As an F-1 student, you were admitted to the U.S. for "duration of status," (D/S found in your passport where CBP stamped near your visa). 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. F-1 status is granted when you enter the U.S. and is regulated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
F-1 visa basics
The visa is a stamp or sticker placed in your passport by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and is granted for entry purposes only.
If your F-1 visa expires while you are in the U.S. and you are still maintaining an active F-1 status, you DO NOT have to leave the country for the sole purpose of renewing your visa. You may remain in the U.S. on an expired F-1 visa as long as your currently in active F-1 status.
Possessing a valid visa does not necessarily mean you are in legal F-1 student status. If you do not continue to comply with immigration laws regulating your stay in the U.S., you will fail to maintain your legal student status and will need to speak to an International Student Advisor to discuss the options to restore your non-immigrant student status.
More in-depth information available on our F-1 visa FAQ page.
Government Regulations You Must Follow in Order to Maintain Your Legal Status
Maintain a valid passport at all times;
Attend the school that is listed on your current I-20; Complete an official immigration transfer whenever you change educational institutions. An immigration transfer must be completed within 15 days of the beginning of classes of your first semester at the new school.
Complete a full course of study during each fall and spring semesters;
Minimum 12 hours of
Minimum 9 hours of on-campus coursework
6 hours of on-campus coursework plus GA/GTA
A special note on Online Classes: An “online” course as defined by the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) is a class that “does not require the student's physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion of the class ” or in other words, any course that does not require your presence in a traditional classroom setting. USCIS has set limits on the number of “online” courses a student may take each semester to maintain their visa status. Only 3 “online” credit hours can be counted towards the 12 hour or 9 hour full-time requirement. Please meet with an International Student Advisor if you have questions regarding courses offered online.
Sitting out a semester: If you sit out a fall or spring semester, you will be out of status and cannot remain legally in the U.S. if you are not enrolled in classes. You will need to set up an appointment with an International Student Advisor to discuss options to restore your non-immigrant student status, simply enrolling in courses the semester after you have fallen out of status does not automatically restore your F-1 student status.
Apply for an I-20 extension of your program if you cannot complete your degree by the program end date listed on your I-20; You must apply for a program extension before the completion date on your I-20. Please pay attention to the program end date because if no correspondence is received by you to extend and you enroll in classes for the following semester, you could fall out of active F-1 status due to not properly extending your program.
Obtain a new I-20 whenever you make a change in major or degree levels; A new I-20 must be issued within 15 days of the beginning of classes of your first semester of your new program. This would include changing from English language studies to a university degree, from bachelor's degree to master's degree, from Optional Practical Training Program to a new degree, or from one level of degree to one of, the same level (master's to a second master's degree), etc. Contact a DSO for what items are needed for a new I-20.
Work off-campus ONLY if you have first received authorization from an Immigration Student Adviser (DSO) or USCIS; On-campus work does not require special authorization however it is limited to part-time (20 hours or less per week) during the fall and spring semesters. On-campus employment may be full-time (more than 20 hours per week) during the summer and official school breaks. All “off campus” work must be authorized by an International Student adviser or the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS.) A student must maintain legal status to be eligible for any type of authorized work.
Request a travel endorsement on your I-20 from a DSO before leaving the U.S.; See Travel Information.
Report any change of address within 10 days to the International Services Office. Please come by the International Services Office to fill out an AR-11 when you change your address and also make sure to update your Webworld account.