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Maintaining Your Visa

When you applied for a visa, you received an F-1 student visa. It's very important that you maintain your status as an F-1 visa holder. Duration of Status (D/S) is the period in which the F-1 Visa student "is pursuing a full course of study at an educational institution approved by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) or engaging in authorized practical training following completion of studies, plus 60 days to prepare for departure from the United States. The student is considered to be maintaining status if he or she is making normal progress toward completing a course of study." F-1 visa students are admitted to the U.S. for duration of status and must complete their academic program by the completion date on the I-20 or apply for a program extension.

Below is a list of important documents (please make copies of all of them and keep in a separate place).

Document Issued by You can
Passport home country leave your country
F-1 Visa US government enter the US (stamp in passport)
I-20 university stay in US to study
I-94 US government arrival/departure record card (stapled in passport)

You can remain in-status as an F-1 visa student by:

  1. Keeping your passport valid for at least 6 months. You should apply for a new passport if it will expire in less than 6 months.
  2. Maintaining full-time enrollment and normal full-time progress toward your degree.
  3. Being enrolled for at least 12 credit hours (6 for graduate students) except for last semester before graduation.
  4. Finishing an average load every year (30 credits can include summer).
  5. Advancing regularly towards graduation in you declared major.
  6. Completing two consecutive semesters before a break.
  7. Accepting no employment of any kind off campus.
  8. Obtaining extensions, as needed, of your permission to stay in the United States.
  9. Obtaining a new I-20 when changing programs/majors.
  10. Making sure you meet eligibility criteria before you transfer to another school in the United States.
  11. Having your I-20 signed by a Designated School Official, as needed, before leaving the U.S.
  12. Understanding and following U.S. law and INS regulations.
  13. Making copies of your passport, I-20, I-94 and financial documents and keep in a separate place from originals.
  14. Attending the school you are authorized to attend (school that issued most current I-20).