Step 5 | Maintain Your F-1 Status
It is your responsibility to maintain F-1 status.
If the U.S. Embassy issued you an F-1 student visa or granted a Change of Status to F-1 by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), they expect your stay in the United States is "to study". This is the only reason why you applied and why you are in the U.S. The following is a list of "your" major responsibilities and actions "you" need to take in order to properly maintain your F-1 student status in the U.S
Full Course of Study
- Report and attend Lehman after entering the U.S.
- Report address change within 10 days of the change.
- Study full-time
- Register for 12 credit hours each semester if you are an undergraduate student
- Register for 12 credit hours each semester if you are a graduate student
- Note: You can only register for 3 credit hours of online courses per semester
- Register for 18 course hours each term if you are an ESL student
- Make normal academic progress toward your degree or your ESL English classes
Normal progress means taking and completing a full-time course with passing grades or successfully completing your ESL program.
- Do not drop your classes
You must be enrolled full time unless your "reduced course load" request has been approved by an international student advisor. You can request permission to drop a course. Please see an International Advisor/DSO for more information. Check our office schedule and information here.
- Complete your degree program by the date stated on your Form I-20. If you are unable to complete by that date and depending on circumstances, you may need an extension of your Form I-20. Note: Please do not let your Form I-20 expire! To extend your Form I-20, please see the International Student & Scholar Office 60 days before your I-20 expires.
- If you change major or program level, you must get an updated I-20
Exceptions to the full-time course registration requirement
If you plan to enroll less than full-time, you must obtain written approval from an ISSO International Student Advisor before the beginning of the term. Here is the list of exceptions to full-time registration:
- During summer or winter break
- During your final semester if you need fewer than 12 credits to graduate
- One (1) time per degree level due to difficulties with the English language or reading load, unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods or improper course placement
- For a medical condition or illness
- On-campus employment must be authorized by the International Student & Scholar Office each semester
- Off-campus employment (paid or unpaid) is NOT permitted during the first academic year and it is NOT allowed unless authorized by Immigration (USCIS). Do not work unauthorized.
Working off-campus (paid or unpaid) without specific written authorization is a serious violation of F-1 status.
- Have a valid passport. You should renew your passport at least six months before it expires. Contact your home country embassy in New York or Washington, D.C. for instructions on how to renew it
- Have a valid, unexpired F-1 Visa
- Have a valid Form I-20 (meaning your Form I-20 is not expired and you are current student)
- If you are traveling outside the USA, you will need the International Student Advisor/DSO signature each time you leave the U.S.
- If you are traveling to Canada or Mexico or other countries please find out if you need a travel visa to those countries
Please check our "F-1 Immigration Regulation" section for more information about maintaining your status, guidelines and procedures