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Maintaining Status for F-1 Students

Visa and Status

A visa is a permit to apply for entry into the United States for some specific purpose: study, business, tourism, employment, etc. It is placed in your passport by an official at a U.S. Consulate outside the United States after your application for that type of visa is approved. (United States Embassies and Consulates are part of the Department of State) However, having a visa is not a guarantee that you will be permitted to enter; the US immigration official who inspects you at the port of entry has the right to reject you. However, refusal is rare, and happens only when issues of fraud or security arise. (Immigration regulations are enforced by officials working in the Department of Homeland Security)

Once you use your visa to enter the United States, you have a legal non-immigrant status which matches the visa you used. If you use a B2 tourist visa, you have B2 tourist status. If you use an F1 student visa, you have F1 student status, etc.

The length of your status depends on what the immigration officer has written on your I-94 form (your “Arrival-Departure” card, which you obtain, usually from airline personnel, and complete before you speak to the immigration official at the port of entry). Those entering using F1 “student” or J1 “exchange visitor” visas are admitted for “D/S” (“Duration of Status”), which means that you will remain in status “as long as you continue to follow all the rules of your category and your paperwork doesn't expire.” But people coming in as tourists (B2) and in some other categories are given a specific expiration date on their I-94 cards, by which date they must leave the United States.

Remember, once you enter the United States, it does not matter if your visa expires, as long as you maintain your status. You only need a valid visa if you intend to leave and re-enter the US.

How to maintain F-1 Status:

  • Report to the International Programs Office (IPO) at the beginning of each semester, and complete a Student Data Sheet if required.
  • Maintain a valid passport at all times. Passports can be extended through your Embassy.
  • Attend the University that the Immigration Service has authorized you to attend, by stamping your I-20 when you entered the U.S., or by being notified of your transfer to another school.
  • Continue to carry a full course of study (12 hours for undergraduates) each semester (Fall and Spring). If problems arise which may cause you to carry less than a full course of study, talk to the IPO staff and get authorization before you drop any courses. Dropping below full time without prior authorization puts you out of status.
  • Keep your form I-20 valid at all times. Check the expiration date in item #5 to make sure that it is still valid, and request any required extension in advance of your end date. Request a new form if any major changes occur in your situation (changes in marital status, major, degree program, finances, etc.)
  • Do not change schools without first contacting the IPO and requesting a SEVIS transfer.
  • Do not engage in any employment without proper authorization. An application for off-campus need-based employment for 20 hrs per week may be submitted to USCIS only after you have been in F-1 status at Muskingum College for one academic year (9 months). Curricular practical training (CPT) can be authorized by the IPO after you have completed the required paperwork and enrolled for internship credit.
  • Limit on-campus or off-campus employment to 20 hours per week while school is in session. Request assistance from the IPO in applying for a Social Security Number if you have an on-campus job or an off-campus internship.
  • Report a change of residence to the IPO within 10 days of the change.
  • Request travel documents from the Office of International Education two weeks before leaving the U.S. if you intend to return.
  • Abide by local and federal laws.
  • File state and federal tax returns and/or pay income tax as required, for each calendar year or partial calendar year that you are here as a student.
  • Please do not hesitate to call the International Programs Office regarding any immigration questions. Do not rely on your friends or the international Muskie grapevine for immigration information!

Remember, it is your responsibility to maintain your legal status in the United States!