Maintaining Legal Status

Students entering the United States using an I-20 Form should be admitted in F-1 status. As such, they must follow specific Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations that pertain to the F-1 category. Students are legally responsible for maintaining their own status by understanding and complying with these regulations. If you are unsure how to maintain your status, consult with your International Student (IS) Advisor

Upon arrival in the United States, F-1 students should verify that their documents were properly processed by the DHS inspector at the border. At the port of entry the immigration inspector should inspect the I-20 Form and return it to the student. The inspector should also inspect the passport with the F-1 visa, issue an entry stamp, write "F-1/DS", and return it to the student. These forms indicate the type of status, the length of authorized stay in the country and the authorized school of attendance. Keep these documents in a safe place with your passport throughout your stay in the United States.  After entry, the student should verify that the entry was properly recorded at  A copy of the electronic entry record should be printed for the student's records after each entry to the U.S.

To maintain legal status, F-1 students must:

  • Report to the Office of Global Services (OGS) in order to activate the SEVIS record after the initial entry in F-1 status. This is a two-step process:
    •  Check in with OGS for an Immigration Document Review
    • Attend mandatory Immigration & Compliance Session

Students who transfer from one academic institution to another must complete the transfer process of their SEVIS record as well. They must report to OGS within 15 days.

  • Register as a full-time student every semester (except summer). Full time for undergraduates is defined as a minimum of 12 credit hours each term. For graduate students, full time is the normative full time credit load on file with the U.S. government and the Graduate School of record. On a case by case basis, using guidelines set forth by the DHS, an IS Advisor may authorize an F-1 or J-1 student to enroll in less than a full course of study. International students must obtain prior written approval from the IS Advisor for a reduced course load before dropping below the minimum credit hour requirement. F-1 students should not depend on their professors or academic advisors for information about immigration regulations and course load requirements. Immigration regulations take precedence over academic policies. Failure to maintain full-time status, as defined by DHS regulations, will make students ineligible for any work privileges and may result in loss of permission to remain in the United States.
  • Not exceed a maximum of 20 hours/week of on-campus employment during the academic year. Students may engage in full-time on-campus work during official school breaks and vacations.
  • Monitor the end date on the I-20 Form. Extension of stay must be approved prior to the end date of the I-20 Form.
  • Notify the IS Advisor with any change in the academic program, including changes in program level, major or leave of absence.
  • Update the local address in their student record through MyAccess anytime there is a change of U.S. address (within ten days of moving).

The U.S. Government considers students who violate F-1 regulations "out of status." Penalties for violating status can be serious and may affect not only a student's entire academic career, but also future applications for U.S. visas or other immigration benefits.