Your status is your nonresident category granted by an immigration official upon entry in the U.S. or, for those already in the U.S., by applying for a change of status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). HPU is authorized to issue documents that allow you to apply for an F-1 Student Visa. To be in F-1 status means you are legally in the United States and have the benefits and restrictions specified for the F-1 visa category. It is your responsibility to maintain lawful status in the United States.
Do keep in mind that your F-1 status is valid only for the duration of your academic program as listed on your Form I-20. In addition to the length of your academic program, you’ll be able to complete any authorized practical training and, provided you are in lawful status at the end of your academic program, will have a 60-day grace period following your program to prepare to depart the U.S. or change to another status.
Your authorized stay in the U.S. is not determined by the expiration date of your F-1 visa, but by the program completion date on your Form I-20. More than likely, your F-1 visa and Form I-20 do not have the same expiration date. The F-1 visa permits you entry into the U.S. When in lawful status, your Form I-20 shows your eligibility for F-1 benefits, which includes staying in the U.S. and studying full time at the school on record.
In order to take advantage of the benefits of F-1 status, you must maintain lawful status. This means you must maintain appropriate academic progress (enrolling in a full course of study, attending class sessions and completing required work, and making forward progress in your degree), maintain valid documentation and immigration records (possess valid passport, F-1 visa, Form I-20, and up-to-date SEVIS record), obey state and federal laws, and not engage in unauthorized employment.
Download the F-1 Maintenance Quick Reference
To maintain F-1 status, you must:
- Pursue a “full course of study” at the school listed on your current Form I-20.
- Complete your studies before the program completion date listed on your Form I-20.
- Keep your Form I-20 valid by following proper procedures for a program extension, change in educational level or field of study, and transfer of schools.
- Remain in the U.S. for no longer than 60 days after completing your current program of study or after completing an authorized period of practical training.
- Keep your passport valid at all times unless you are exempt from the passport requirement.
- Accept no employment except that which is authorized in accordance with the immigration regulations.
- Report any change of address to immigration within 10 days of the change.
If you fail to maintain status, you are ineligible for any of the benefits of F-1 status
Loss of F-1 Status
If you violate immigration regulations, you risk losing your F-1 status. Depending on your situation, you may be able to regain valid F-1 status. You may pursue two options, through a reinstatement application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or through travel and reentry with a new I-20/new SEVIS record.
If you are in the United States and have been out of F-1 status for no more than 5 months, you may apply for reinstatement of F-1 status by submitting the following documents:
- Form I-539: Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status
- A properly completed SEVIS Form I-20 indicating the DSO’s recommendation for reinstatement
- Form I-94 (for yourself and each family member)
- Supporting statement
- I-539 application fee
The immigration officer may consider granting the request if you:
- Are in the United States;
- Have not been out of status for more than 5 months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement (or demonstrate that the failure to file within the 5 month period was the result of exceptional circumstances and that you filed the request for reinstatement as promptly as possible under these exceptional circumstances);
- Do not have a record of repeated or willful violations of the immigration regulations;
- Are currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study in the immediate future at the school which issued the Form I-20;
- Have not engaged in unauthorized employment;
- Are not deportable on any ground other than being out of status; and
- Establish to the satisfaction of the USCIS, by a detailed showing, either that:
- The violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond your control. Such circumstances might include serious injury or illness, closure of the institution, a natural disaster, or inadvertence, oversight, or neglect on the part of the DSO, but do not include instances where a pattern of repeated violations or where a willful failure on your part resulted in the need for reinstatement; or
- The violation relates to a reduction in your course load that would have been within a DSO’s power to authorize, and that failure to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to you. [8 C.F.R. §214.2(f)(16)]
Reinstatement applications take approximately three to four months to process. You must continue to study in order to maintain your F-1 status, but once it is determined that you have violated your student status, you must stop any employment immediately.
Option: Travel and Reentry
In some cases, you may be able to depart the U.S. and re-enter with a new Form I-20, rather than applying for reinstatement. You may do this by obtaining a new I-20 from the school you are currently attending or wish to attend, then departing the U.S., applying for a new F-1 visa if the F-1 visa stamp in your passport has expired, and returning to the U.S. A re-entry to the U.S. after a status violation is viewed by Immigration as “initial attendance” in F-1 status. As such, you are bound by restrictions placed on new students, such as the academic year waiting period for eligibility for practical training. You also will be responsible for paying for the $200 SEVIS fee, plus any expenses incurred for travel and visa applications.
To request a new I-20 for travel and reentry, contact your DSO.
“Duration of status” is determined by the completion date noted on your SEVIS Form I-20. If you wish you extend your studies at HPU, you must seek authorization from both your home institution as well as High Point University. Once approved by both institutions, you’ll need to request an extension to your Form I-20 to avoid being out of status.