Maintenance of F-1 Student Status

A student is considered to be maintaining status if he/she (please be advised this is not an exhaustive list):

  • is a full-time student,
  • is making normal progress toward completing his/her course of study,
  • has not engaged in unauthorized employment or activity and
  • is not deportable on any grounds.

A student is considered to be maintaining status if he/she (please be advised this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Report your address within ten days of moving,
  • Keep your documents valid,
  • Enroll full-time every fall and spring,
  • Work only with permission, as per the specific requirements for on campus employment, CPT, or OPT.

Frequently Asked Questions


How and where do I report my address?

F-1 students are required to report any change of address to their school within 10 days of such a change. To report a change of address to WashU, students should update the “Local Address” field of WebSTAC. Details and instructions may be found on our Reporting a Change of Address page.

What if my I-20 is going to expire but I’m not ready to graduate?

Extension of Program of Study Beyond Completion Date on I-20

A student is considered to be eligible for an extension if:

  • the completion of studies date on the student’s current I-20 has not expired,
  • the student has continually maintained status and
  • the student is unable to finish the degree program by the completion date on his/her I-20 because of compelling academic or medical reasons.

To request an extension based on an academic reason, your academic adviser must complete a form documenting the reason(s) for delayed completion of your program and provide the new expected date of completion.

If the reason for the extension is medical, you will need authorization from the Habif Health and Wellness Center.

If you have further questions, your OISS adviser will be happy to discuss extensions with you during walk-in hours. However, for student’s convenience, the completed Extension Application form can be dropped off at the front desk, any weekday between 9 a.m.-5 p.m. If you are eligible for the extension, processing time for this form is three business days. If your extension is granted you will receive an updated I-20 with the new program end date. If the OISS adviser needs further information they will contact you directly.

Choose the Correct Extension Form
Extension based on an academic or medical reason (PDF) Extension based on adding a second or joint degree (PDF)

If your new expected end date does not coincide with the end of a semester, contact your OISS adviser directly for the appropriate form.

Students Ineligible for Extensions of Stay

Students who do not meet the eligibility requirements for extensions of program of study are considered “out of status” and must apply for reinstatement to legal F-1 status. Speak to your OISS adviser to learn more about reinstatement to F-1 status.

What if I lose my I-20?

If your I-20 has been lost or stolen, notify your OISS adviser immediately to obtain a replacement form. Keep in mind that in order for you to maintain your student status and not accrue unlawful presence, you must have valid immigration documents in your possession, including a valid I-20.

What if I lose my I-94 or the information online is incorrect?

F-1 students are admitted to the U.S for “duration of status,” which is defined as:

  • the time during which they are pursuing a full course of study and making normal progress toward completing the course of study
  • if applicable, the time they are working in authorized practical training after completion of studies
  • a 60-day grace period during which to prepare to depart from the country, to apply for a change to another visa status or to begin practical training.

Duration of status is limited by the “completion of studies” date listed in Item number five of the student’s most recent I-20. A student needing additional time to complete his/her program must apply for an extension of program of study before the original end date printed on the I-20.

If your I-94 has been lost, stolen, or the information entered into the electronic I-94 system is incorrect, notify your international adviser as soon as possible.  If your I-94 document is incorrect, you could be violating your status and accruing unlawful presence.  Please contact your advisor immediately after your travel and an incorrect I-94 document.

What if I lose my passport or it is about to expire?

It is extremely important that a student who has lost his or her passport make a report to the police immediately. The police report is required when the student applies for a replacement from the home government. Obtaining a new passport is done directly with the embassy or consulate and does not require any documentation from OISS. Each country has a different procedure. Some require that the application be requested in person, while others handle the request by mail. The student should consult the website of the home country’s embassy for more details on the procedures.

Similarly, it is the responsibility of the student to maintain a valid passport at all times while studying in the U.S. in order to maintain student or exchange visitor visa status. Contacting the home government regarding the renewal of the passport well in advance of its expiration is important. Each country has different procedures and processing times for extending a passport. The website of the home country’s embassy should have instructions regarding passport renewal. Immigration laws require that students are in possession of a valid passport at all times in order to be in compliance with their immigration status and not accruing unlawful presence.

What if I wish to drop below full-time?

The Department of Homeland Security defines a full‑time course of study for undergraduate students as 12 semester credits for undergraduate study.

For graduate students, the full‑time course load is defined by the school. Each graduate or professional program at WashU defines full‑time status in its own way. Students with questions about the definition of full‑time course of study should contact their dean’s office.

DHS allows individuals to be less than full‑time in certain situations:

  1. Summer Vacation: An F‑1 is considered to be in status during a vacation period between semesters if they are eligible and intend to enroll for the next semester. For example, a student may take a vacation over the summer break (June ‑ August) and still be considered to be in legal status if they are eligible and intend to enroll for the fall semester.
  2. Valid academic reasons: Initial difficulties with the English language, improper course-level placement, initial difficulties with reading requirements and unfamiliarity with American teaching methods. Documentation will be required. This type of reduced course load is only available once during an academic level and must be authorized by the OISS prior to the withdrawal. F-1 students are not considered to have officially dropped courses that will cause a reduction of course load below the full-time level unless they have been pre-authorized to do so by the OISS. If a student falls below their full course of study without prior authorization by the OISS, the student will be deemed to have been in status violation and accrued unlawful presence.
  3. Medical problem: A student who needs to drop below full‑time for medical reasons is considered to be in legal F‑1 status during the illness. The student must be able to resume a full‑time course of study upon recovery. An F-1 student is only allowed to drop below a full course load for medical reasons for a total of 12 months during each academic level. Documentation from the Habif Health and Wellness Center must be provided to the OISS prior to the leave for a medical reason
  4. Completing all course requirements in the current semester: Those students who are in the last semester of the degree program may take less than a full‑time course load if a lesser course load is necessary to complete the course of study during the current semester. These students must be authorized to drop below full-time by the OISS prior to the end of the add/drop period. Documentation that the student is in the last semester is required.

The OISS is required by DHS to report the student’s status every semester, including after the student drops below the required full-time course load.

Students should provide appropriate documentation in all cases and are required to get approval from an international student advisor before dropping below a full‑time course load. Failure to receive permission from an international student advisor will cause an F-1 student to violate their immigration status and accrue unlawful presence

For your convenience, the Application for Reduced Course Load (PDF) can be completed and dropped off at the OISS front desk for an adviser to review. Applications can be dropped off Monday-Friday, between 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and require three business days to process.

What if I’m not enrolled full-time or I drop a class after the semester starts?

Under certain circumstances (listed below), a student not enrolled for a full-time course load may still be considered to be maintaining F-1 status. Eligibility for reduced course load (RCL) authorization is determined by the international advisor. The student will fall out of F-1 status and thus begin to accrue unlawful presence if RCL authorization has not been secured from the international advisor before dropping below full-time enrollment status.

Academic Reasons for RCL

The following circumstances constitute valid academic reasons for authorized RCL status:

  • Initial difficulties with the English language (only eligible in first year)
  • Initial difficulties with reading requirements (only eligible in first year)
  • Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods (only eligible in first year)
  • Improper course level placement (only eligible in first year)
  • Completion of the course of study (can only be requested in the first week of your final semester)

A student is eligible for RCL authorization for academic reasons during only one semester of each degree program / educational level. To be authorized for academic RCL, the student must provide the international advisor with approval of the part-time enrollment status from his/her dean, registrar or academic advisor. Students should refer to the signatures required on the RCL form to find the faculty or staff member best suited to document the situation. To continue to maintain F-1 status after RCL authorization for a valid reason listed above prior to the reduced course load, the student must resume full-time enrollment status in the semester immediately following the RCL semester.

Medical Reasons for RCL

A student may be authorized for RCL status,  or a complete withdrawal from coursework, due to an illness or medical condition. A student may be authorized for RCL status more than once during each educational level/degree program, but the total number of months in RCL (medical) status may not exceed 12 per degree program/educational level. To be authorized for medical RCL, the student must provide the international advisor with approval of the part-time or non-enrollment status from the Habif Health and Wellness Center or a private physician. The international advisor must authorize the RCL status each semester of its duration, and prior to the semester in which the student starts their RCL status in order to maintain their immigration status

For your convenience, the Application for Reduced Course Load (PDF) can be completed and dropped off at the OISS front desk for an adviser to review. Applications can be dropped off Monday-Friday, between 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and require three business days to process.

What kind of work can I do and how many hours can I work?

F-1 students are allowed to work on-campus no more than 20 hours per week during the regular semester, but, may be employed full time during breaks between semesters, if the student is eligible and intends to enroll for the subsequent semester. Employment may not interfere with the student’s academic program.  If a student works more than 20 hours per week during the regular semester, they would be considered to have violated their immigration status and could be accruing unlawful presence. Please contact the OISS for more information.

All off-campus employment must be pre-authorized with assistance from the OISS. For more information, visit the F-1 Students Employment and Training page.

What if I want to transfer schools?

Students who are transferring to WashU should have been issued an I-20 form indicating a pending transfer. To complete the transfer, the student must report to the OISS for a new I-20 no later than 15 days prior to the start date of the program at WashU in order to continue maintaining their immigration status and not accrue unlawful presence

An F‑1 student may transfer from one academic institution to another. A student who has completed a degree and wants to begin a new program at another school must be released to the new school within 60 days after graduation. A student who is transferring schools during an academic program may choose any release date as long as the release has been scheduled after completion of coursework at the first school and before coursework begins at the second school. A maximum of five months is allowed between pursuing coursework at one school and beginning academic program at the next school. If a student is not in legal status when transferring, the student should consult with international student advisers at both schools about the reinstatement process considering the transfer. To transfer to another school, the student must inform the OISS of the intent to transfer, and this action must be entered into the SEVIS system.

If a student has transferred schools and has a valid F-1 visa with the name of a different school, the visa may be used to enter the U.S. as a student until the expiration date (unless it has been invalidated). The visa page in the passport does not need to contain the name of the current school to be considered valid if the student is transferring or has transferred schools. If the dates are valid, then the visa is still considered valid (unless canceled due to a violation of student status).

What if I graduate but want to pursue another degree?

A student who completes one degree and wishes to pursue another degree at WashU must obtain a new I‑20 for the new degree. To obtain a new I-20 the student must provide an admission letter and documentation of sufficient financial resources. This process must be done within 60 days of completion of the first degree program in order for the student to maintain their status and not accrue unlawful presence

What if I stay in the U.S. after my status has expired?

The Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 imposes certain penalties on those who overstay their status in the United States and those who are “unlawfully” present for certain periods of time. The law provides penalties for those who stay beyond the period authorized and those who are unlawfully present. If a student overstays or stays beyond their authorized time period, they will be deemed to have violated their student status and the student will begin to accrue unlawful presence.

The visa of an individual who stays beyond the period authorized is automatically considered void (even if it appears to be valid in the student’s passport), and all subsequent nonimmigrant visa applications must be made in the country of nationality unless the circumstances have been defined as “extraordinary” by the Department of State. If an individual has been unlawfully present in the United States for more than 180 days and less than one year, the individual is not eligible to be admitted to the US for three years from departure from the U.S. Those who have been unlawfully present for more than one year are not eligible to be admitted to the U.S. for 10 years from departure from the U.S.

Immigration authorities have stated that an overstay and unlawful presence occurs when the date on the I‑94 has expired, or an immigration judge or immigration officer determines that a status violation has occurred. Thus, students are advised to pay close attention to the date on the I‑94; sometimes students are admitted on an I‑515 with a specific ending date (usually 30 days). Failure to renew the I‑94 in time will cause a violation of status, an overstay, and unlawful presence. Those with “Duration of Status” (D/S) can be ruled to have violated status and will be considered an overstay and unlawfully present. Thus, it is extremely important for students to remain in legal status.

What if I fall out of status?

Procedures for F-1 Students who Have Not Maintained Legal Status

The failure to maintain your F-1 status will have long lasting consequences that will  affect your eligibility to study at Washington University as well as your ability to obtain other visa statuses in the future.

If you have failed to maintain your status, you may not be able to continue to study at Washington University until you have taken the appropriate steps to restore your status, if at all possible. If you believe that you have failed to maintain your status, it is important to notify the OISS immediately. Do not ignore this issue as it can make your status situation worse.

It may be possible to file for reinstatement of your student status.  Please talk to your international student advisor to determine if this option would be available.