Staying Legal

Maintaining Legal F-1/J-1 Status

As an international student in the U.S., you are responsible for learning, understanding, and complying with U.S. laws and regulations that apply to your F-1/J-1 student status. This is referred to as "maintaining status" or "being in status." Failure to be aware of and comply with these regulations for the duration of your program could jeopardize both your legal status in the U.S. and your future academic plans. Below is a summary of the immigration responsibilities for F-1/J-1 students.


  • Your passport should be valid at least six months into the future at all times. If your passport is expiring soon, plan to renew it at your embassy or consulate in the US or back home.
  • Your I-94 record should be correct and printed out every time you travel outside the U.S. to ensure you entered the country in F-1 or J-1 status. To learn more, visit I-94 Arrival/Departure record.
  • Your I-20 or DS-2019 must be accurate and unexpired. You have permission to study in the U.S. until your program end date. Students who are unable to finish their program by their program end date may be eligible for a program extension. Contact ISSS for more information.
  • Students can stay in the US with an expired visa. Visas are only used to enter the US and do not determine the length students can stay in the US. However, if a student travels outside the US with an expired F-1/J-1 visa, the visa must be renewed abroad before re-entering the US.


  • Remain a full-time student. You must be enrolled for at least 3 blocks each semester unless granted PRIOR permission from an ISSS advisor to be less than full time.
    • Exceptions to the full-time enrollment requirement: Academic/Medical/Final Term of Study Reduced Course Load
  • Get ISSS approval if taking classes at another school (including online courses) and if the classes are counting towards fulfilling your full-time enrollment requirements.
  • Inform ISSS if planning to transfer to another school at the same or different program level.
  • Inform ISSS if you will not graduate in time. Program extensions must be approved PRIOR to the end date listed on your I-20/DS-2019.


  • Do NOT work off campus without prior authorization. Obtain prior authorization for CPT, OPT, STEM OPT, and Economic Hardship Employment and comply with related reporting and unemployment rules.
  • Abide by On-Campus Employment regulations and limitations. Do NOT work on campus more than 20 hours per week while school is in session.


  • Have an ISSS advisor sign your I-20/DS-2019 before traveling outside the U.S. if you plan to return to continue your studies.
  • Carry all the required documents when traveling and reentering the US as an international student.


  • Make normal progress towards completing your course of study documented on your I-20/DS-2019 form.
  • Update your address every semester during term check-in. If you move, even from one room to another, you must notify our office within 10 days.
  • Depart the U.S. no more than 60 days after the end date listed on your I-30 (30 days after the end date on your DS-2019 form) unless you are transferring schools or have been granted a program extension.
  • Comply with U.S. tax filing requirements
  • ALWAYS read emails from ISSS
Report an issue - Last updated: 12/17/2020

ISSS Advising Hours

Want to speak with an advisor? ISSS offers walk-in hours for students, Monday-Friday, 1:30 pm - 4:00 pm. For complex immigration issues (work authorization, change of status, etc.) students can make an appointment to meet with an advisor. Appointments are generally scheduled for 30 minutes at a time. Please contact ISSS to make an appointment.