What You Need to Know
Keep your visa by following these instructions.
Change of Local address
You are required to keep your local address updated. If you are in F-1 or J-1 status and you move (or are about to move) to a new address, you must notify United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within 10 days. In order to notify the USCIS, you’ll need to complete the following steps:
- Log in to
- On the left side of the main menu page, under Personal Information, select Update Addresses and Phones.
- To update your existing address, click on the current link to the corresponding address; this will take you to the page where you can make changes to your address; be sure to provide the valid date from which you want it to start.
- Come to
the ouroffice to fill out an address-change form or email email@example.com to verify the new address in writing.
If you are an undergraduate, you must take and complete 12 credits each fall and spring semester.
If you are a graduate student, you must take and complete 9 credits each fall and spring semester. If you hold a graduate assistantship, you may register for and complete 6 credits each fall and spring semester. A copy of your graduate assistantship letter may serve as authorization to carry a reduced course
Exception to Full-time status
USCIS allows the international student advisor to make exceptions to the full-time requirement in four types of situations. If your current situation qualifies you to drop below full-time enrollment based on one of the four following requirements, please come to the Office of International Education to collect the Exception to Full-time Form. You’ll also need to meet with one of the international-student advisors before the beginning of the semester to see if you qualify for the exception.
Read the information below and prepare the required documentation [PDF] from your doctor or academic advisor. Then schedule an appointment with the
- An illness or other medical condition to interrupt or reduce the student’s course of study (the student must submit a letter from their doctor indicating that they recommend the student take a semester off or to reduce credit load for medical reasons)
- Difficulty understanding the English language, unfamiliar with American teaching methods or reading requirements (this exception is generally allowed only during the first semester in an academic program in the United States, not including English as a Second Language training—the academic advisor must recommend a reduced course load for one semester by completing the Exception to Full-time Form)
- An improper level of study (the academic advisor must confirm that the course level is an improper placement for the student by completing the Exception to Full-time Form and write a separate, detailed letter to explain the situation)
- Last semester before graduation (the student is expected to graduate at the end of the semester and needs less than the full-time credit load to complete their coursework—the academic advisor must affirm this by completing the Exception to Full-time Form)
According to the US Department of Homeland Security, students on F-1 visa student status are required to finish their program of study by the completion date listed on their I-20 (item number five). However, in certain circumstances, it can be permissible to request a program extension.
The program extension can be granted only for documented academic or medical reasons and if the following criteria are met:
- Documentation that the delay was due to academic or medical circumstances (e.g., required summer class to graduate).
- Certification of financial support is provided to meet the requirements to fund the extension (e.g., studies, living expenses)—this required amount will be determined by the Office of International Education once documentation has been received.
- The extension must be requested in a timely manner as determined by the office so that processing allows enough time to issue a new I-20.
If your program end date has expired or you do not meet the eligibility requirements to apply for a program extension, you will have to file for reinstatement with USCIS for F-1 status. Substantial fees may be assessed.
Invalid Reasons to Apply for a Program Extension
To ensure that you meet the requirements for a program extension, please stop by our office prior to submitting the request form. The following are examples of reasons for I-20 extensions that are not valid:
- To enroll in extra courses to improve GPA
- Additional research not required to graduate
- Nonrequired Curricular Practical Training (CPT) (if you graduate you can apply for CPT; see Employment for more details)
- I-20 end date has already passed
Here is the Program Extension Form.