Your immigration status is just that: yours. Take ownership of this responsibility.

It’s important that you understand your responsibilities as an international student on a nonimmigrant visa. Upon initial arrival to campus, you must check in with the Global Engagement Office (Moody 102) in person so we may register your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 and activate your immigration record. Thereafter, we encourage students to stop by the office or email us to check in at least once per year. Here are a few other basic requirements to maintain your immigration status:

Keep up with important documents

It’s important that you keep proper documentation of your immigration status. Here are the documents you should always have on-hand:

  • Form I-20 or Form DS-2019: This is your certificate of eligibility and the most important document in terms of your immigration status. Make sure to sign in blue ink on Page 1. You should keep ALL old versions for your records, but only use the most recent.
  • Visa: This is the stamp in your passport. It serves as an entry document only, meaning it can be expired if you are in the U.S. and plan to remain so. However, if you travel outside of the U.S. with an unexpired visa you will need to get it renewed in order to re-enter. If your visa expires and you intend to travel, see GEO for visa renewal information.
  • I-94 Entry / Departure Records: Created by Customs & Border Protection (CBP) when you enter or depart the U.S., the I-94 is official documentation of your immigration status. You can access your I-94 record online. Make sure it lists your correct visa status upon initial entry into the country. If “D/S” is listed on your record, that means you are allowed to remain in the U.S. for "duration of status," i.e. until your current program end date as long as you maintain active immigration status.

It’s your responsibility to monitor expiration dates on your immigration documents. Take note of the program end date listed on your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019, and the expiration date listed on your visa, and set calendar reminders. Ask GEO how to renew or extend your documents before the expiration date, or you will go out of status.

Enroll As a Full-time Student (undergraduate = 12 hrs/semester and graduate = 9 hrs/semester)

You are required to be enrolled full time (undergraduate = 12 hrs/semester and graduate = 9 hrs/semester)during the academic year. All students may take a one-semester vacation after two consecutive semesters of full-time enrollment, usually enrolled fall/spring with a vacation during the summer.

Exceptions to the full-time enrollment rule may be granted for the following reasons:

  • Final Semester: You have less than 12 hours of undergrad / 9 hours of graduate coursework left in your degree plan. In this case, you may be authorized to enroll part-time to complete your degree in your final semester.
  • Severe Medical Situation: Requires specific documentation from licensed medical professional stating you cannot maintain full course load.
  • Limited Academic Reasons: There are a few academic situations (primarily in the first semester) where you may qualify for a reduced course load. Your academic advisor and GEO advisor will evaluate your situation to see if you qualify.

All of the above require advanced approval from GEO. If you need to drop below full time, schedule an appointment with a GEO immigration advisor to discuss your options.

Receive Proper Work Authorization

Do not begin any type of employment — job, internship, volunteer work or otherwise — without first checking with GEO and receiving authorization. Violating this rule will jeopardize your ability to legally stay in the U.S. and continue your studies. Learn more about employment opportunities available to international students on the work authorization page.

Take Action Upon Completion of Your Program of Study

F-1 students have a 60-day grace period to depart the U.S. upon program completion; whereas J-1 students have a 30-day grace period. Other options to extend your stay include, but are not limited to:

  • F-1 Students: Apply for Authorized Post-Completion OPT work authorization
  • Transfer to another school/program
  • Change your education level (e.g. bachelor’s to master’s)
  • Apply to change to another nonimmigrant visa status
  • Apply for a work visa

Plan ahead and contact GEO if you wish to pursue any of these options.

Status Violations

With immigration, it’s important to remember that many decisions are outside of our control. If a DSO learns you have violated your immigration status in any way, they must take appropriate action, which may include the termination of your Form I-20. Common termination reasons include:

  • Failure to register initial I-20
  • Failure to request program extension before program end-date
  • Failure to maintain active full-time enrollment
  • Failure to make “satisfactory academic progress”
  • Working without authorization
  • Being arrested for violation of any local, state, or federal law

If you go “out of status,” inform GEO immediately to discuss your options for regaining status. We will do everything we can to support you, but please help us by always reading and responding to emails! Most issues can be resolved easily with your cooperation.