Maintaining Legal F-1 Status

As an F-1 student, you were admitted to the U.S. for “duration of status” (D/S as stamped in your passport upon arrival). This means that you are permitted to stay in the U.S. as long as you maintain your status by fulfilling the requirements for F-1 visa students.

Please keep in mind that there is an important difference between an F-1 visa and F-1 status. The visa is a stamp placed in your passport by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and is granted for entry purposes only. F-1 status is granted to you when you enter the U.S. and is regulated by USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). Even if your visa is valid, you can lose your legal F-1 status if you do not comply with the immigration laws regulating your stay in the country. If you fail to maintain your legal student status, you will need to apply for reinstatement, or in some cases, be forced to leave the country.


Here are some guidelines to maintaining your legal F-1 student visa status:

  1. Maintain a valid passport at all times.
  2. Attend the college or university USCIS has authorized you to attend.
  3. If you intend to transfer to another educational institution, you must inform the Office of International Student Advisor (ISA) in writing. This must be done before the start of the semester at the new school.
  4. Enroll in a full course of study during normal enrollment periods (Spring and Fall). This means 12 credit hours per semester for undergraduates, and 9 credit hours per semester for graduate students. If you are ever in less than full-time enrollment, you must have prior permission from the Director.
  5. If you cannot complete your degree by the program end date on your Form I-20, you must apply for an extension of your program, preferably 60 days before the expiration date. If you do not extend in a timely manner, the visa stamp in your passport is automatically invalid. In addition, you may be subject to entry restrictions.
  6. Obtain a new I-20 whenever you change degree levels. For example, if you change from a B.A. program to an M.A. program, you must have a new I-20.
  7. Before traveling outside the U.S. with the intention of re-entering, you must have Page 3 of your I-20 signed by the Director. Please also let the ISA know about your travel plans.
  8. Report any change of address to the ISA and Enrollment Services at Trinity within 10 days of the change.
  9. Do not work off-campus unless you have authorization from USCIS. On-campus employment does not require authorization, but is limited to part time (not to exceed 20 hours) during normal enrollment periods. Please make sure that you maintain full-time status while being employed on campus.  You can apply to USCIS for permission to work off-campus under the following conditions: Economic hardship, Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT).