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Maintaining Legal F-1 Status

As an F-1 student, you must meet certain obligations in order to maintain legal immigration status. Maintaining status is necessary in order to receive the benefits of F-1 status such as employment and program extension, and can be crucial to a successful application for a change or adjustment of visa status in the future. Failure to maintain your non-immigrant status can result in serious problems with immigration and could lead to deportation from the U.S. Due to the complexity of U.S. immigration regulations.

To maintain lawful status, an F-1 student must:

  • Attend the university you are authorized to attend.
  • Complete immigration school transfer procedure when necessary.
  • Be in good academic standing and make progress towards an academic program.
  • Extend your I-20 prior to its expiration date if you are unable to complete your academic program by the original expiration date.
  • In the event of change of academic program or level, update your I-20 in a timely fashion in accordance with immigration regulations.
  • Maintain full-time enrollment during the academic year.
  • Undergraduate students must enroll 12 credit hours per term while graduate students must enroll for 8 credit hours per term.
  • Suspension, dismissal, enrollment withheld, expulsion, or any other similar action which prevents enrollment may have effect on legal immigration status. 
  • Limit on-campus employment to 20 hours per week during academic year.
  • May not be employed without specific pre-authorization
  • Keep your passport valid at all times. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months into the future on the day you return to the U.S. from a trip abroad.
  • Update your current and permanent address information within 10 days of moving.

Travel Outside the U.S. and Reentry

While studying at PSU and traveling outside the United States you need to have proper documents in order to re-enter the United States. These documents include a valid F-1 visa (the visa stamp in your passport), passport valid 6 months into the future, and your most recent I-20 with a travel signature less than one year old.

Employment

U.S. government regulations require F-1 students to be in the U.S. for the primary purpose of attending school. In general, employment in the U.S. is restricted. The following employment possibilities exist for F-1 students:

  • On-campus employment: Limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session and available as full time during school vacation and holidays. 
  • Off-campus employment: Under certain conditions you may be eligible for off-campus employment either based on economic need or practical training. You may not begin the employment unless you have received official authorization from the university.

Dependents

Dependents are defined as spouse and minor children under 21 years old of the F-1 student. Please be aware that each of your dependents will need his/her own I-20 in order to obtain an F-2 visa at the U.S.embassy/consulate and to enter the United States. F-2 status holders may not accept employment or engage in business under any circumstances.

The F-2 spouse of an F-1 student may not engage in full time study, and the F-2 child may only engage in full-time study if the study is in an elementary or secondary school (kindergarten through twelfth grade). The F-2 spouse and child may engage in study that is avocational or recreational in nature.

Grace Period

When an F-1 student successfully completes their academic program or Optional Practical Training, there is a 60-day grace period during which the F-1 student and any F-2 dependents may stay in the U.S. During the grace period you may not work, or reenter the United States in F-1 status.