Maintaining Your Legal Status
As an F-1 student, you were admitted to the United States for "duration of status" (D/S). This means you are permitted to be present in the U.S. as long as you maintain your status by complying with the rules and regulations pertaining to F-1 students as set forth by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Please keep in mind that there is an important difference between an F-1 visa and F-1 status. An F-1 visa is the stamped page in your passport placed there by a U.S. Consular Officer for entry purposes only. F-1 status is granted once you enter the U.S. and is regulated by the USCIS. Even if your visa in your passport is valid, you can still lose your legal F-1 status if you do not comply with the applicable immigration laws regulating your stay in the U.S. If you fail to maintain your legal F-1 student status, you will need to apply for reinstatement or, in some cases, be forced to leave the country. With the recent changes in immigration law brought about by the U.S. Patriot Act, it is extremely important that all non-immigrants remain in close contact with the office of international student services in order to ensure they are maintaining their status.
It is not hard to maintain your status, but you will need to be mindful of the expiration of all your travel documents. Also, the following reminders will help you to keep your immigration status valid while in the U.S.:
- Always register for full-time studies.
- Observe limitation on employment.
- Keep your I-20 or DS-2019 current and accurate.
- Keep your passport renewed before it expires.
- Keep your medical insurance up to date.
- Inform the University registrar or the office of international student services of your address within 10 days of a change.
Government Regulations You Must Follow in Order to Maintain Your Legal F-1 Status
Maintain a valid passport at all times (unless exempt from passport requirements).
Attend the college/university USCIS (Citizenship and Immigration Services) has authorized you to attend (NOTE: This is indicated in Section 2 of your I-20 Form).
Complete an official transfer whenever you change educational institutions. An immigration transfer must be completed prior to the beginning of classes during your first semester at the new school (NOTE: An immigration transfer is a completely separate process from transferring academic credit from one school to another. An immigration transfer is not complete until a designated school official/international student advisor, from the school to which you are transferring, endorses your I-20 authorizing the transfer).
Complete a full course of study during normal enrollment periods. You are not required by USCIS to enroll in classes during the summer sessions.
Apply for an extension of your program of study if you cannot complete your degree by the ending date listed in Section 5 of your I-20 Form or section three of DS-2019 Form. You can apply for an extension up to 60 days in advance. Please note that if you do not extend in a timely manner, you will be "out-of-status"/"illegal" in the United States. Subsequently, you will need to submit an application for reinstatement to Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Obtain a new I-20 Form whenever you make a change in degree levels. This includes changing from a bachelor's degree to a master's degree, from master's degree to a doctorate degree, from Optional Practical training to a new degree, from one major to another major within the same degree level (e.g., Bachelor of Science in engineering to Bachelor of Science in computer science).
Do NOT work off campus UNLESS you have first received authorization from the Cedarville designated school official. On campus work does not require authorization, but is limited to part-time (20 hours or less per week) during normal enrollment periods. On campus employment may be full-time (more than 20 hours per week) during the summer and official school breaks. When you work on campus during normal enrollment periods, you MUST maintain your full-time student status or your employment will be considered illegal. Please notify the office of international student services when you accept on-campus employment.
Before traveling outside the U.S. with the intention of re-entering, you must have the Cedarville designated school official sign Page 3 of your current I-20 Form authorizing you to re-enter the United States.
Please Note: The information outlined above is not intended to be exhaustive. If you have questions or need additional information about maintaining your F-1 status, please contact the Office of International Student Services.