All F-1 students are responsible for maintain their individual status as full-time students within the United States. F-1 students receive immigration education and support of the Office of International Programs. However, all international students must also educate themselves on the rules and regulations that govern their status while in the United States. Ample resources exist on U.S. Department of State, U.S Department of Homeland Security and other U.S. government websites. It is advised to only follow guidance pertaining to immigration which is published on official U.S. government websites.
What does maintaining status mean?
• Fulfilling the purpose for why the Department of State issued you your visa
• Following the regulations associated with that purpose
What must F-1 students do to maintain status?
All of your documentation must remain up-to-date and valid.
o Form I-20
o All the information on your I-20 should be accurate at all times. If you change your major, if your financial support changes, if you gain employment authorization, your employer changes, or if your expected graduation date changes, you MUST see the international student advisor and request that the form be updated.
o In addition, this form must be validated for travel every 12 months.
o The expiration date on your I-20 is also the expiration date of your immigration status as an F-1 student. You must apply for an I-20 extension prior to the program end date on your I-20 with your international student advisor.
o Students must maintain a valid passport while studying in the U.S. Passports should always be valid for at least six months.
o A student's visa may expire while he/she is studying in the United States. However, if you travel outside the U.S., you will need to apply for a renewal before re-entering the country. Please plan ahead.
o Your I-94 record is an important document and the information on the I-94 record should match the data within your passport, indicate your F-1 status and be issued for D/S, which means that as long as your I-20 is valid, your I-94 is also valid. You can access your I-94 record here: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/
Keep your immigration forms in a safe place. You should always be prepared to present all of these documents to the proper authorities when traveling between countries.
All F-1 students must remain enrolled in a full course of study during the fall and spring semesters.
Undergraduate students must be enrolled in a minimum of 12 credits during all semesters. Graduate level students must be enrolled in a minimum of 9 credits during all semesters.
Only one course during each semester can be distance learning/online and count towards being enrolled in a full course of study.
Maria is still maintaining a full course of approved study as an undergraduate student in the Fall semester:
Maria is enrolled in English 101 (3 credits, classroom instruction), Biology 102 (3 credits, classroom instruction), Biology lab (1 credit, classroom instruction) Acting Performance 110 (3 credits, classroom instruction), Spanish 303 (3 credits, online).
Why: She is enrolled in a minimum of 12 credits and only one course counting towards her full-time enrollment is online.
Maria is enrolled in English 101 (3 credits, classroom instruction), Biology 102 (3 credits, classroom instruction), Biology lab (1 credit, classroom instruction) Acting Performance 110 (3 credits, classroom instruction), Spanish 303 (3 credits, online), French 101 (3 credits, online).
Why: She is enrolled in a minimum of 12 credits and only one of her online courses is counting towards her full-time enrollment. Any credits taken above the minimum requirement of 12 credits can be either be with classroom instructions or online.
Maria is not maintaining a full course of approved study as an undergraduate student during the Fall semester and her I-20 will be terminated:
Maria is enrolled in English 101 (3 credits, classroom instruction), Biology 102 (3 credits, classroom instruction), Biology lab (1 credit, classroom instruction), Spanish 303 (3 credits, online).
Why: She is not enrolled in a full course of approved study with only 10 credits and did not seek prior authorization for Reduced Course Load with her international student advisor.
Maria is enrolled in English 101 (3 credits, online instruction), Biology 102 (3 credits, classroom instruction), Biology lab (1 credit, classroom instruction) Acting Performance 110 (3 credits, classroom instruction), Spanish 303 (3 credits, online).
Why: Maria is enrolled in two online courses that are counting towards her full time enrollment requirement of 12 credits.
If students feel they need to drop below full-time status for any reason, they MUST see the international student advisor BEFORE making any changes to their full course of study status. Failure to meet with the international student advisor to determine if the possibility of Reduced Course Load is an opportunity based upon the situation would result in a termination of the I-20.
Auditing courses will not maintain full-time status. Students may audit courses, but only if already enrolled full-time in credit-bearing courses for that semester.
Students should apply for permission to register less-than-full-time during the final semester if a full load of courses is not needed in order to graduate.
Students who seek permission to drop below full-time status should submit a Reduced Course Load Request Form to their international student advisor BEFORE the start of the semester and must do so BEFORE the add/drop period ends. Requesting permission for a Reduced Course Load does not guarantee that the authorization will be granted. Students must always maintain full time enrollment dependent on the degree level at all times.
Be enrolled in the degree-seeking course of study as indicated on your I-20
Make normal progress towards that degree
Notify OIP of any change of major or degree level within 10 days of the change
Students are eligible to work on-campus. Students will work with their international student advisor once they have been offered employment to process a request for a U.S. Social Security Number.
Students are NOT ELIGIBLE to work OFF-CAMPUS without proper authorization from their international student advisor/USCIS.
Please see the Employment page for details.
Personal Information & Responsibilities
Students must report to the international student advisor any change in physical address within 10 days of a move.
Notify your international student advisor of any change to or addition of F2 dependents.
Complete an Income Tax Return as per IRS regulation by April 15th of every year.
Completion of Program
• Within 60 days of completing the degree program, do one of the following:
1. Apply for post-completion OPT (you can apply before you graduate!)
2. Be admitted to another Mercer University degree program and request a change of level
3. Be admitted to a degree program at another U.S institution and request your international student advisor to transfer of your SEVIS record
4. Apply for a change of status by submitting a I-539 application to USCIS
5. Depart the U.S.
Please note, this list of requirements to maintain your status is not a legal document. It is your responsibility as an F-1 student to learn about all requirements to maintain status. If you have any questions regarding these, or any other immigration regulations affecting status, please make an appointment to see your international student advisor.
Additional Resource: Study in the States – Maintaining Your Status