Maintaining Your F-1 Status

Once you have arrived in the United States as a student, you have a number of responsibilities in order to maintain your visa status. It is a good idea to become familiar with your responsibilities as they relate to the Student Exchange and Visitor Information System (SEVIS).


The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is a government database that is used by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to monitor the status of F-1 students and their F-2 dependents. It also allows schools and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to exchange data on the visa status of international students.

Marymount University is required to report certain changes to F-1 students’ statuses, such as

  • academic admission or deferral of admission
  • change in personal information (name and address), financial information, and academic program changes
  • registration each semester or failure to register for a semester
  • academic or disciplinary actions taken due to criminal conviction
  • program extensions
  • drop below full course of study
  • resumption of full course of study
  • Optional Practical Training, Curricular Practical Training, off-campus employment
  • premature termination of studies
  • completion of program of study, including any student who graduates prior to the end date listed on the I-20
  • bringing dependents to U.S., updating dependent information, departure of dependents and re-entry of dependents.

Your Responsibilities:

In order to maintain your F-1 visa status, it is important that you are aware of the following responsibilities. Please keep in mind that there is an important difference between an F-1 visa and F-1 status. The visa is a stamp or sticker placed in your passport by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and is granted for entry purposes only. F-1 status is granted when you enter the U.S. and is regulated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Even if your visa is valid, you can lose your legal F-1 status if you do not comply with immigration laws regulating your stay in the U.S. If you fail to maintain your legal status, you will need to apply for reinstatement, or in some cases, be forced to leave the country. Please read the following duties carefully below and learn more here. You can also find them attached to requests in the ISSS portal. 

  1. Students new to University must physically meet with an International Student Advisor, who is a Designated School Official (DSO), within the first two weeks of classes.
  2. Maintain a valid passport and carry your I-94 on you at all times. Your passport should be valid for six months into the future.
  3. Attend the college or university you are authorized to attend as noted on your I-20. You must get permission from ISSS and your academic department before you take any coursework outside Marymount University (MU).
  4. Maintain a full course load each spring and fall semester, 12 credits for undergraduate students and 9 credits for graduate students, unless authorized for a reduced course load request by the office. You MUST consult ISSS before you consider dropping a course, changing a course from credit to audit, or discontinuing attendance or withdrawing from all courses in a semester. Acceptable reasons for reduced course load include: 
    • Students who experience academic difficulties (for example, unfamiliarity with American teaching methods) may take a reduced credit load, but only in the first semester of their studies in the United States.
    • Students in their final term of study.  These students need only to register for the credit hours required to complete the degree. If this means that a student will be registered part-time, a reduced course load request needs to be completed on the ISSS portal, including a sign-off from a student’s academic advisor.
    • Students who have a medical issue. This requires medical documentation signed by the student’s physician recommending a reduction in course load and what specifically that reduction should be. Prior authorization is required for this situation as well.
  5. You may not use more than 3 credits of online or distance course work to count toward your full-time status each semester. (No more than 3 of 12 credits as an undergraduate and no more than 3 of 9 credits as a graduate student.)
  6. Maintain an up-to-date I-20 that reflects the level of study, course of study, and financial support. If you change your major, please have the Academic Certification Form signed by your Academic Advisor. Then, respond to the email ISSS will send you confirming this change a few days after as soon as possible. If you have changed or added a major, you will be sent an updated I-20. 
  7. Apply in advance for a program extension if you are not able to complete your degree requirement before the end date on your form I-20.
  8. Do not work off-campus without prior authorization. To read more about working off-campus, please to go the CPT/OPT page. On-campus employment is permitted part-time during fall and spring semester and full-time during winter and summer breaks for students maintaining F-1 status. 
  9. Before you travel outside the U.S. with the intention of re-entering, ISSS must endorse the back of your I-20. Each signature is valid for one year. Please complete the travel signature request on the ISSS portal at least a week before traveling. 
  10. Report any changes of address, phone number, and email within 10 days of the move by updating your information on Marynet. Please also keep ISSS informed of changes to your address in your home country or country of permanent residency immediately.
  11.  Notify ISSS immediately if you decide to transfer or discontinue your studies, or if you are suspended or dismissed by the University for any reason. Complete an official immigration transfer whenever changing educational institutions. This must be done within 15 days of the start date on the form I-20. (NOTE: An immigration transfer is not complete until you register for full-time classes at the new school, and it is noted that your transfer has been completed on your new school’s I-20).
  12. Obtain a new I-20 whenever you make a change in degree levels, and make sure your degree level change is processed within 15 days of the start of your new program (Bachelor’s to a Master’s degree, etc).
  13. F-2 spouses and dependents may study at an SEVP-certified school in the United States as long as they are enrolled part-time for recreational or vocational purposes. F-2 spouses and dependents may change status to F-1 if they wish to study full-time at the post-secondary level. F-2 dependents may study full-time at the secondary level.

To learn how to make requests, please visit the Immigration Requests page