F-1 students must maintain full-time student status each semester until they receive their degrees. All F-1 students are allowed a "vacation" semester after first completing two full-time semesters. For example, if you start ASC in the fall, you should enroll full-time for the fall and spring semesters and then it is your choice of whether or not you want to enroll for the summer school, travel or work on campus.How to Maintain F-1 Status
- Have a valid passport (preferably a validity greater than 6 months)
- Hold a valid, current I-20 document
- Attend the school you are authorized to attend
- Pursue a full course of study (minimum of 12 credit hours per term)
- Apply for program extension before the expiration date
- Follow USCIS procedures for changing your academic program
- Follow USCIS procedures for transferring to another institution
- Have appropriate written authorization for employment
- Notify the OIE of any change of address within 10 days of the moving date, including moving from one dorm room to another
If you have not done so already, you should bring all of these documents to the OIE so that we can make copies for your file. You should also keep a set of copies in your own files and carry them with you when you travel.
- Passport. It is your responsibility to make sure your passport is valid. Know when your passport will expire. File for a renewal with your embassy up to six months in advance of the passport’s expiration date. For addresses of your country’s consulate or embassy, visit www.embassy.org.
- Visa. A United States visa is a stamped or affixed entry placed in your passport by an U.S. consular or embassy official. It allows you to request the immigration officer at the port of entry to grant you permission to enter the United States under the specific conditions of the visa type. The USCIS officer at the port of entry has the same right as a consular officer to question you as to your financial status, your intentions regarding work in the United States, and your intent to attend the school to which you were admitted. The F-1 visa will indicate the date by which you must enter and the number of entries to the United States permitted: If you have a single-entry visa and travel outside the U.S. while you are outside of the United States, you will need to get a new student visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in order to re-enter the United States. If you have a multiple-entry visa, you are able to leave and enter the United States as often as you like prior to the visa expiration date, provided you maintain your status and carry proof of your student status (Form I-20). The expiration date on your visa does not affect how long you may stay in the United States whereas the end date on your Form I-20 does. The only reason to be concerned with an expired visa is if you wish to leave the United States and re-enter. It is not possible to renew your visa within the borders of the United States. Note: Canadians do not require an F-1 visa in order to obtain F-1 status.
- Form I-20. The I-20 document is obtained from the school one plans to attend. The school issues the I-20 document after checking your academic credentials, English language proficiency, and your proof of financial ability to pay for at least one year of full-time study. Students with F-1 status are allowed to enter up to 30 days before the program start date indicated on the I-20 document and stay 60 days beyond the program completion date to obtain admission into a higher degree program, to begin practical training, or to gather their belongings and make arrangements to return home. If you graduate before the completion date indicated in your I-20, you are considered to have completed your program of study and your I-20 is no longer valid. Besides allowing you to enter the United States, the I-20 is also used to notify the USCIS of a transfer to a new institution or program and to record reentry into the U.S. and employment authorizations.
- Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Card). The Form I-94 is your official Arrival-Departure Record. It is a small white card that you will obtain from the flight attendants before you land in the United States. The immigration officer will stamp your I-94 and I-20 to indicate the date that you arrived in the U.S. and the limit of stay and/or duration of status (D/S). This "D/S" means that you are admitted for the length of your program of study, plus any period of Optional Practical Training, plus a 60-day grace period. Your "D/S" allows you to remain in the United States to complete your program within the dates specified on the I-20 or DS-2019. When you leave the United States, your I-94 will be taken from you and a new one must be obtained when you re-enter. The I-94 form is very important and should be stapled in your passport.