Maintaining F-1 Status

It is your responsibility to understand and comply with the terms of your immigration status during your stay in the United States. A violation of the immigration regulations (for example, failure to maintain a full-time credit load or unauthorized employment) could jeopardize your F-1 status and legal stay in the U.S. Review this information carefully and contact Office of International Programs(OIP) if you have questions.

What is F-1 “Status”?

“Status” is your nonresident category officially granted by an immigration official. To be in F-1 “status” means that you are legally in the U.S. and have benefits and restrictions specified in the immigration regulations for the F-1 visa category. You gain status either by entering the U.S. with F-1 documents (described below) or, for people already in the U.S. in a different status, by applying to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for a change of status.

Period of Authorized Stay
Your admission to the U.S. is for "duration of status," that is, for the length of your F-1 status. F-1 status covers the period when you are a full-time registered student making normal progress toward your degree (or exchange program), plus an optional period of practical training following completion of studies, plus a 60-days "grace period" to prepare to depart the U.S. or change to another status. Your length of authorized stay is not related to your F-1 visa expiration date. The F-1 visa is specifically for entry into the U.S. The F-1 visa might expire before your status expires, and your status might end before your visa expires.

Keep Your Documents Up to Date

  1. I-20: Do not let your I-20 expire. If you need an extension to the completion date on the I-20, please contact OIP immediately. If your I-20 expires before you graduate, you will be out of legal status. Keep all of your I-20s for your records.
  2. Passport: Do not let your passport expire. You should extend your passport six months prior to the expiration date at your country's Consulate in the United States or when you go back home.
  3. I-94 Card or I-797: Keep your I-94 card. It must state "F-1" and "D/S" (Duration of Status). Your dependents I-94 must state "F-2" and "D/S". If you have an expiration date on your I-94 card, then you should speak to the international student advisor immediately.
  4. Visa Stamp: It is okay for your visa to expire while you are in the United States; however, you may need to renew it if you travel outside the United States. Pay attention to the number of entries into the United States you are allowed. It is acceptable for your visa to have another school's name on it. Please contact OIP for information concerning going to Mexico or Canada with an expired visa.
  5. Update both OIP and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of any physical address changes while maintaining legal immigration status (Post Office Boxes are not acceptable for reporting purposes). Reporting changes of address within 10 days after the change, the university will forward the updated address electronically to DHS. Failure to do so could result in losing legal immigration status and being required to leave the United States.

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Maintain Full-Time Enrollment

In general, F-1 students must be registered full-time. This is defined as at least:
  • 12 credits each semester for undergraduate students
  • 9 credits each semester for graduate students

Only one online class (3 credit hour) may count towards the minimum credit amount each semester. According to the F-1 regulations, an online class is one that "does not require the student's physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion of the class.” Therefore, any course that has some sort of physical attendance requirement, such as for a lecture, exam, or faculty meeting is not considered fully online for visa status purposes. 

Do not register for fewer than the required number of credits or withdraw from a course without first receiving permission from ISS. Part-time studies could jeopardize your stay in the U.S. and make you ineligible for F-1 benefits.

If summer is your first semester at NSU or first semester in a new academic program, you must register full-time. Summer is considered vacation time if it is not your first or last semester, and you are not required to take classes for immigration purposes.

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Obtain Work Authorization

Work authorization is dependent on your legal F-1 status and your enrollment at NSU.

On-Campus Work: 

As long as you are in legal F-1 status and meet NSU requirements, you are eligible to work on campus for up to 20 hours per week during the Spring and Fall semesters. You are eligible to work full-time on campus during vacation periods and during the summer semester. 

Off-Campus Work:

You must get proper work authorization prior to working off-campus. You will be out of status and eligible for deportation if you work without Department of Homeland Security authorization. Do not risk it! Work is considered anything for which you are compensated, such as being given cash, food, or room/board. Speak to OIP concerning Optional Practical Training, Curricular Practical Training, or economic hardship work authorization.

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Traveling Outside the United States

While you are a student, the international student advisor should sign your I-20 before you leave the United States. The signature is valid for up to one year or until you graduate if you graduate in less than a year. Be sure that you enter the United States on your F-1 visa. Always make sure your I-94 card is marked "F-1" and "D/S". If you are given a 30-day entry, come to OIP immediately. Do not enter the United States on a tourist (B) visa, the visa waiver program, or on a border-crossing card. You will no longer be on a student visa, and you will lose all student visa benefits such as work authorization.

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Dependents

You may bring your dependents (spouse and/or unmarried children under age 21) to the United States. Please consult OIP about the procedure. Dependents on an F-2 visa CANNOT work or receive compensation for services, such as babysitting. Dependents may attend NSU part-time if accepted by NSU, and they are taking avocational or recreational courses only. Dependents who wish to pursue a degree must change status to F-1 or J-1. Dependents must travel with the proper paperwork, such as your I-20 signed for travel.

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SEVIS Fee

Beginning September 1, 2004, a fee of $200 must be paid by individuals applying for an F-1 or J-1 exchange visitor visa or F-1/J-1 status in order to begin a program of study or exchange visitor program, change status, change exchange visitor category, or be reinstated to legal status after a substantive violation. You can pay it online at the Department of Homeland Security.

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