Maintaining F-1 Status


To maintain your valid non-immigrant F-1 status, you must have:

  • An unexpired passport
  • A valid Form I-20 with a current travel signature
  • A full-time course load in each required term of study
  • No more than 20 hours per week of on-campus work during an enrolled term
  • OPT or CPT authorization for any work off-campus
  • Proper transfer, extension, or change of program

Requirements for Maintaining F-1 Status

  • Ensure that the school listed on the visa and on the Form I-20 are the same for initial school attendance. That school is the one you must intend to attend.
  • You must be registered in SEVIS no later than 30 days after the program start date, and within 30 days of the start date of each academic term.
  • Pursue a full course of study at the school listed on the current Form I-20 during every academic term except during official school breaks, or unless approved under a specific exception, in advance, by your OVIS advisor.
  • Make normal progress towards your degree by completing studies on or before the expiration of the program completion date on your Form I-20.
  • Keep your Form I-20 valid by following proper procedures for extension of stay, change in educational levels, change in programs of study or transfer of schools.
  • Abide by the F-1 grace period rules (30-day early arrival, 60 days upon completion of studies).
  • Report a change of address to OVIS within 10 days of the change, so that your SEVIS record can be updated.
  • Abide by rules requiring disclosure of information and prohibition on criminal activity.
  • Do not work off-campus, unless specifically authorized by OVIS under F-1 regulations.
  • Limit on-campus employment to 20 hours per week during an enrolled term. Students may only work more than 20 hours per week when they are on an earned leave term or during official school breaks.
  • Abide by the unemployment rules and reporting requirements while on post-completion and STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT).
  • Keep your passport valid.

Failure to comply with any of the above-referenced rules can result in the loss of your F-1 immigration status and possibly the accrual of unlawful presence.

The Department of Homeland Security has more information on maintaining status on its Study in the States website.

If You Lose F-1 Status

There is a process to apply for reinstatement should you violate the terms of your F-1 status, however it is a very complicated procedure. Your immigration advisor can assist you with basic information on F-1 reinstatement, but you may need to obtain legal advice from a trusted immigration attorney as well. Information regarding reinstatement can be found on the Department of Homeland Security Study in the States website.

Accruing Unlawful Presence

On August 9, 2018 USCIS issued policy guidance on the accrual of unlawful presence for F, M and J nonimmigrants.  Under the proposed policy, USCIS would begin counting unlawful presence when there is a violation of status. The violation could be intentional or unintentional, knowing or unknowing.  Accrual of unlawful presence days begins the day after a violation occurs.  Accrual of more than 180 days of unlawful presence triggers a bar to reentry to the U.S. of three years.  Accrual of more than 365 days of unlawful presence triggers a bar to reentry to the U.S. of ten years.

The Department of Homeland Security was stopped by a federal court from implementing the unlawful presence policy, and during the appeals process the government withdrew its own appeal, ending the litigation.  It is still possible that the federal government will seek to adopt this change through the rulemaking process and introduce it as a new regulation rather than a change in policy.  OVIS will provide updates as new information becomes available.

It is crucial that F-1 students understand and adhere to the rules governing maintenance of status.  OVIS works closely with our F-1 student population to monitor student data reported in SEVIS, advise students on maintaining valid status including reporting obligations, travel and employment restrictions, and to communicate changing policy and regulations.  Students, in turn, are responsible for understanding and following the rules and regulations governing their F-1 status. 

If you have questions about maintaining your status, contact your OVIS advisor.