Stay in Status

These regulations affect EVERYONE who is in F-1 status. The consequences of not being in compliance with the regulations are severe, so please read through these carefully and thoroughly. If you violate your status, you may not be able to continue your studies. All institutions are now required by law to report students who have violated their status to the DHS. The DHS has an electronic database (also known as the foreign student tracking system) called SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). The primary changes that will directly affect students and the schools are listed below.

  • Update Address, Legal Name, or Major within 10 Days of a Change. Federal regulations require J-1 and F-1 students to report any change of US address and legal name to their sponsoring institution within 10 days of the change. A change of major affects the accuracy of your I-20, this needs updating ASAP. Please submit any changes to
  • You must maintain a Full-time course load for the duration of your studies. For graduate students, this means 9 credits. Undergraduates must take at least 12 credits. The following situations may allow you to drop below full-time. Each requires documentation and has specific rules. You must receive permission from the International Program Office in each case, so your record can accurately updated with the Department of Homeland Security. A request for a PDF Reduced Course Loadmust be obtained by the IPO before altering your course registration.
    • Academic Difficulty:Students may only be authorized ONE TIME to drop below a full course of study due to academic reasons during the course of the program (excluding the last term). This type of situation usually happens in the first or second term and can include unfamiliarity with American teaching methods.
    • Medical Emergency:A letter from a licensed medical doctor, psychologist, or doctor of osteopathy is required to pursue this exception.
    • Last semester before graduation:You can only have ONE "last" semester. Therefore, if you have 2 courses needed to graduate, and one is offered in the Fall, and one not until Spring, you must carry a full course load in the Fall term, and get authorization to drop below full time in the Spring. This is the law.
    • Thesis, Dissertation, and the Equivalent:You may be considered full-time with a minimum of 1 credit hour of dissertation/thesis credit with the approval of your advisor for the time you're working on your thesis, dissertation, or program equivalent (decided by the Graduate Office and your department). You are not allowed to take "0" credit hours, and your SEVIS record could be terminated if you aren't registered for at least 1 credit hour. This causes you to be out of status, and there is a $200 fee to apply for reinstatement. Reinstatement is decided on a case by case basis by USCIS adjudicators, so it is important to remain registered until you graduate. You'll want to figure out your program of study and graduation date with your advisor.
    • CPT:The number of credit hours you must take to maintain full-time status during your internship is determined by your department. Ask your advisor and then see the IPO for proper paperwork.
    • *Students must receive approval from the International Program Office PRIOR to dropping below course of study, or the student will be considered out of status.
  • F-2 dependents may NOT study full time and may only engage in study that is "avocational or recreational" in nature. This is serious! Requests from the DHS are routinely made to schools to provide a record of all courses taken and a letter verifying the F2 potential student has NOT been studying toward a degree. (Example, F-2, if you're a software programmer in your home country, and you take a computer science course here, and then later decide to get your MSIS, that computer science class could cause you trouble, even if it was for "recreation".) If you've applied for change of status in the US, and you're denied for this reason, you'll be required to return home as you'll have violated your F-2 status, as well as being denied for the F-1 change of status. ESL, golf, etc… are usually acceptable choices. Exceptions are made for children in elementary, middle and high schools.
  • You must Transfer before your grace period ends if you've graduated, and in a timely manner when you're still in a program. In SEVIS, once you're transferred out, the old school will have restricted access after a "transfer out date". The "transfer to" school is specific, so you cannot specify more than one school. You may work on campus for the school to which you "belong" in SEVIS.
  • Distance/Online Education - NO MORE than one course or 3 credits of distance education may apply toward full time status in a semester. The reasoning behind this you don't need to be the US to study online—you could do that from your home country.
  • Extensions must be requested PRIOR to the end date on the I-20. You must have your advisor fill out an PDF extension form, and you must have a compelling academic or medical reason for the extension.
  • Obtain a new I-20 from the IPO to begin a new degree program. To continue at DSU in a different academic level (e.g., bachelors to masters or masters to doctorate) or in some cases, when a F-1 student changes to a new degree program at the same level after completing a degree, the student must apply for a change of program, which will extend his/her F-1 study at DSU. The student must verify admission to a new program and his/her ability to finance the program.
  • Every international student and their dependents must be covered by the SDBOR myHealth insurance plan. If you have insurance which is provided by your government or sponsor, please meet with the IPO to discuss.
  • You may work up to 20 hours/week on campus. There is no reinstatement for violating this regulation. Also, there is a new regulation regarding Social Security numbers: You must have a job offer in order to apply for a social security card. You must also be in the US for at least ten days before applying for your social security card. If you are an F-1 who chooses not to work, our office can provide you with a letter detailing the change of the law regarding use of SS #s for IDs. This should help you get a phone, bank account etc… without the SS number. Dependents on an F-2 visa are not allowed to work.
  • Making Good Academic Progress. In order to maintain valid F-1 status, you must be in good academic standing, making normal progress. Failure to maintain good academic standing may lead to immigration problems depending on the nature of the academic problem.
  • FERPA is waived for F non-immigrants for reporting requirements. This means that certain rights to privacy are waived for the SEVIS reporting requirements. In section 11, Student Certification of the I-20 it reads in part, "I also authorize the named school to release any information from my records which is needed by the INS pursuant to 8 CFR 214.3(g) to determine my immigration status."
  • Do not stay in the US beyond the F-1 60-day grace period. F-1 students are allowed a 60-day grace period to stay in the United States after the completion date of his/her studies or post-completion OPT. During this time F-1 students may not work. Do not remain in the US beyond the grace period without taking appropriate steps to maintain some kind of legal status in the US.

The International Program Office is here to help you transition to life in the US. We are very willing to assist you. In order to provide you with exceptional service, we ask that you arrange an appointment to see us so we can be prepared for you. Please provide a little information regarding what you wish to meet about.

Last Updated: 5/22/13