Maintaining Legal Status
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Maintaining Legal Status

It is important that you maintain your legal status as an F-1 student while studying in the U.S. To ensure your stay in the U.S. remains legal, review the following steps:


1. Check with your DOS within 30 days of the start date on your initial I-20

2. Report any changes of address to your DOS within 10 days

3. Maintain full-time study

F-1 student status requires that you to be enrolled on a full time basis. In order to remain a full-time student, you must take a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester. If you are unable to maintain a full time course load for any reason, contact your DOS immediately.

4. I-20 extension

Pay careful attention to the expected completion date of your status. This is not your visa expiration date; it is the end or graduation date on your I-20 form (Section 5). If you are unable to complete your course of study by or before the date noted on your I-20, you will need to provide your DOS with a letter from your academic adviser requesting an extension as well as evidence that you can fund your tuition and living expenses for the remainder of your studies. You must complete the extension progess prior to the expected completion date on your I-20.

5. Employment restrictions

F-1 visa regulations permit employment under a few very specific circumstances. Before accepting an offer of employment, check with your DOS to make sure the employment is legal. Please see Employment Authorization for more information.

6. Departure

F-1 students have a 60 day grace period for departure following the completion of their studies as noted on their I-20s.

7. Keep your passport valid 

You can renew your passport by visiting your closest home consulate (you may need to travel to another state). Your passport should be valid for a minimum of six months into the future. Certain countries have agreements with the U.S. that allow for the automatic extension of a passport for six months (U.S. entry purposes only).