International Students, Apply Now

Maintaining Your Legal Status

All international students studying in the United States must follow the rules and regulations set forth by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The Department of State issues your visa based on your intended purpose--to enroll in an approved academic program full-time.

Duration of status
An F-1 student is admitted to the U.S. for a period known as “Duration of Status.” This is notated in your passport and I-94 as “D/S.” Duration of Status refers to the time you enrolled in a full course of study and any authorized employment after you complete your academic program.

You are required to keep your passport valid six months into the future at all times. If you know your passport will expire soon, contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate to inquire about passport renewal.

Your F-1 student visa is only used to enter the U.S. Once you have entered the U.S., the visa serves no purpose. As long as you are otherwise maintaining status, you are allowed to remain in the U.S. with an expired visa.

If you depart the country with an expired visa, you will need to renew your visa before reentering the U.S. If you have another visa type (B1/B2), make sure to always enter the U.S. with your F-1 visa. If you enter with another visa type, which would be reflected on your I-94, you will not be permitted to study.

The I-94 is your lawful record of admission to the United States. If someone requests your admission information, this is the form you would provide. Each time you enter the U.S., you are issued a new I-94 admission number. If you enter via air or sea, you will receive and electronic I-94. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will also stamp your passport with the notation “D/S” for “Duration of Status” and “F1” indicating your visa type.

If your I-94 says anything other than “D/S” and “F1,” speak with your Designated School Official (DSO) immediately.

The Form I-20 is given to you once you have met the academic and financial qualifications for the school in which you are admitted. This is an important document and you should keep it in a safe place. You need your I-20 each time you enter the U.S. You also will need it when you apply for a driver’s license or a Social Security number.

You are given the normal time to complete your degree. This is notated on the start and end date on page 1. Be aware of the end date, specifically. If the end date is approaching and you are unable to complete your program of study, you need to apply for a program extension before your I-20 expires. If your I-20 expires and you have not applied for a program extension, you will be considered out of status and need to apply for reinstatement.

Full-time requirements
Each semester (fall/spring), you are required to enroll full-time. See the chart below for the minimum amount of credits you are required to enroll in each semester.

Academic level Credits required per semester
Undergraduate 12
Graduate 8

If you enroll less than full-time without an approved reduced course load, you are subject to SEVIS record termination, putting you out of status. You are also required to maintain your full-time enrollment for the entire semester. If you need to drop or withdraw from a class,  always speak with your DSO first. 

Online course restriction
Only three (3) credits of distance education (online) courses will count toward full-time enrollment each semester. See the chart below detailing the minimum number of in-person credits required each semester.

Academic level Minimum number of in-person credits each semester
Undergraduate 9
Graduate 5

If you are enrolled in less than the required minimum on in-person classes, your SEVIS record will be terminated. 

Other Important Terms to know