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Maintaining F-1 Student Status

It is very important for international students to stay in legal immigration status at all times.  The Office of International Student Services (OISS) is here to advise you, but it is your own responsibility to maintain your status.

Why is it important to stay in status?

If you fall out of status, you risk serious problems with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  This could affect your ability to obtain a US visa or enter the US in the future.  In addition, your ability to receive employment authorization depends on you maintaining legal status.

To Stay In Legal Status:

  1. Maintain a valid I-20:

    • If necessary, request an I-20 extension at least 30 days before the expiration date on item 5, page 1 of your I-20
    • Request a new I-20  if you change your degree level, major, source of funding, or number of F-2 dependents
    • Always have a valid travel signature from OIS on your I-20 prior to traveling outside the US.  Travel signatures are valid for one year (exception: travel signatures are valid for only six months while you are on OPT).  Request travel signatures  at least three weeks before you intend to depart South Bend. Your F-2 dependents will require travel signatures for any trips that they make with you or on their own, and you can request a travel signature for your dependents as well.
    • If you decide to transfer to another school in the US, request a transfer of your SEVIS record before beginning studies at your new school.  Click here for more information about transferring to another school.

    Note: It is your responsibility to keep all of your I-20s from each of the schools you attend in the US.  You should not throw any of your I-20s away.  OISS will not keep copies of your I-20s from other schools.  If you have misplaced I-20s from other schools, you may consider contacting their international offices in order to obtain copies of your I-20s.  If you lose or severely damage your current I-20 from IUSB, you may request a new I-20.

  2. Maintain full-time enrollment:

    In order to maintain status, F-1 students must be enrolled full-time for each fall and spring semester.  Enrollment in summer sessions is not required, unless a student begins a program of study at IU in the summer.

    • For undergraduates this means enrolling in at least 12 credit hours each fall and spring.
    • For graduate students this means enrolling in at least 8 credit hours each fall and spring.  
  3. Exceptions to full-time enrollment:

    There are some exceptions to full-time enrollment that are designed to assist students, but all exceptions need to be authorized by OISS before you drop below full-time.  Click here for a list of exceptions to full-time enrollment.

    Dropping below full-time without authorization from OISS is a violation of your F-1 status!  If you are thinking about dropping below full-time, call OISS (574) 520-4419 and set up an appointment to talk with us about your options before you drop.

  4. Attend to grace periods:

    Be aware of the grace periods associated with your status:

    • You have a 60-day grace period following the completion of your degree program and following the completion of your Optional Practical Training (if applicable).  Click here to review your options during these grace periods.
    • If you are dismissed from the university, you have a 21-day grace period beginning the day you are dismissed. (This date is found on the letter that you receive from the university regarding your dismissal.) You must meet with an OISS advisor as soon as this becomes an issue for you. During this time you must either apply for a change of immigration status, transfer to a different school, or depart the US.  If you file an appeal with the academic department that dismisses you, you will be allowed to remain in the US while the appeal is pending.  You must inform OIS if you plan to appeal your dismissal.
    • If you receive authorization from OISS to withdraw from all classes, you have a 15-day grace period, beginning on the date of the withdrawal, during which you must depart the US.
    • If you withdraw from all classes without first receiving authorization from OISS, you have no grace period and must depart the US immediately.
  5. Work only with authorization:

    All international students must have permission either from International Services or USCIS before they begin working.  Click here for more detailed information about your employment options.

    • F-1 students are automatically authorized to work on campus for up to 20 hours per week total (for all jobs combined) while school is in session.  During vacation periods (spring, summer, and winter breaks), you may work full-time on campus.
    • To work off-campus, you must apply for and receive authorization before beginning to work.  Check out the employment section of the OISS website for information related to off-campus employment.
    • Keep in mind that tutoring, internships, accompanying for a recital, and working for your professor a few hours a week are all considered employment and require authorization in most cases!
    • F-2 dependents may not work.
  6. Keep your address updated:

    We are required to have your correct local address on file at all times.  You must update your address within 10 days of any move, even of the move is only temporary (for example, for a summer internship).  For information about changing your address, please click here.

  7. Maintain the validity of your passport:

    Keep your passport valid at all times!  If your passport will expire soon, you need to contact your Embassy to inquire about the procedure for an extension.  Once you have updated your passport, you must provide OIS with a copy of your new passport page showing your new passport expiration date.