Maintaining Your Status and Organizing Visa Documents
Maintaining Your F-1 Student Status
(For information regarding maintaining your J-1 status, please contact the global education office, 413.559.5542.)
An individual admitted to the U.S. in F-1 student status is permitted to remain legally in the U.S. for a period referred to as "duration of status" (D/S). This means that the student may remain in the U.S. for that period of time during which the student is "maintaining F-1 student status," i.e., complying with the conditions specified in the regulations governing the student's legal presence in the U.S. The regulations are complex; this sheet provides a summary. The international student advisor is available for individual consultations. Refer to the USCIS Fact Sheet for more information on maintaining your student status.
- Register with the international student advisor at the beginning of each semester. This has to be done within 30 days after classes begin. The advisor will contact you about meeting in person to officially register you in SEVIS (this is only applicable to students on campus, not those on field-study/exchange).
- Be enrolled as a full-time student each semester and make continuous progress in your program. (If at any time you are considering withdrawing; transferring; going on a leave of absence or medical leave; or going on exchange or field study, then consult with the international student advisor in advance.)
- Obtain a current signature from the international student advisor on page 3 of your I-20 form for travel outside/re-entry to the U.S. Note: Technically, a signature is considered current if it is dated sometime within the last year. In practice, many border officers want to see a signature dated within the last six months. If you forget to have your I-20 signed before traveling out of the U.S., contact the international student advisor.
- Do not participate in any off-campus employment (paid or unpaid) without proper authorization from the international student advisor or Department of Homeland Security. Consult with the international student advisor in advance about any interest in off-campus employment.
- Limit your on-campus employment to 20 hours per week while school is in session (vacation periods are the exception).
- Complete your educational program by the date specified on your I-20 form. If you cannot complete your program by the end date on your I-20 form, you must contact the international student advisor well in advance to discuss your options and procedures. You must seek a program extension at least 15 days before your I-20 expires.
- Report any changes to your U.S. address to the international student advisor within 10 days of moving (this includes changes to your campus room). Report any changes online.
- Keep your passport valid at all times. Must be valid for at least six months before its expiration date.
Failure to maintain lawful F-1 student status
If a student fails to maintain lawful F-1 student status, the student is considered to be unlawfully present in the U.S. Violations of status and being unlawfully present in the U.S. carry serious consequences. The consequences may disrupt your studies, deny you certain benefits associated with F-1 status, and include the possibility of deportation from the U.S. and a ban on re-entering for an extended period of time. Please make sure that you carefully follow the regulations and properly maintain your status at all times. If at anytime you have a question, contact the international student advisor.
Organizing Your Visa Documents
What to keep:
- Keep every U.S. government document ever issued or mailed to you. Includes:
- Every I-20 form ever issued to you.
- Notices of receipt and approval from the government (e.g., receipt and approval of applications, receipt of payment of I-901 fee).
- Original and copy of I-94 card (I-94 cards are surrendered each time you depart the U.S.)
- Original and copy of passport
- Original and copy of F-1 visa stamp
How to organize your documents:
- Keep all your documents in one safe, secure place (e.g., a locked file in your campus room).
- Travel with only the necessary documents you need in an easily accessible folder.
- Do not fold your I-20 forms.
- Do not leave your documents in campus storage during campus breaks.
Foreign Embassies in the U.S.