Maintaining Legal F-1 Student Status

The F-1 immigration status is available for international students wishing to pursue full-time academic studies and/or language training programs in the U.S.
  • F-1 students need to comply with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations, which can be found under Instructions to Students on page 2 of the I-20. By following those instructions and the specific information below, F-1 students will maintain legal F-1 status in the U.S. and be able to take full advantage of available F-1 benefits.
  • The International Student Services (ISS) website provides general information, forms and instructions for specific benefits and procedures, and advising information. Any questions should be directed to a Designated Signing Official (DSO) in International Student Services (ISS). See Staff Directory.

Maintain Full-Time Enrollment and Progress

  • Undergraduate students must be enrolled for and complete a minimum 12 credit hours each semester.
  • Graduate students must be enrolled for and complete a full-time course load 9 credit hours. Graduate assistants are full time at 6 credit hours.
    • Full-time enrollment does not include audits, withdrawals, or incompletes. Important Reminders No more than 3 on-line credit hours per semester may count toward full-time enrollment for F-1 students.
    • Students may co-enroll with another university or community college; at least half of your courses must be with UNK. Students must meet with their academic advisor for approval and then meet with a DSO in order to obtain paperwork for co-enrollment. Click HERE for form and instructions.
    • Students are also required to make normal progress toward completing the course of study. The measure of normal progress is the rate at which a full-time student in your school or department normally advances toward his or her degree or program objective.
    • Working to complete courses from previous semesters (incompletes) is not maintaining normal progress. If any student finds him/herself in this situation, he/she should consult with a DSO immediately.
    • Summer school: summer break F-1 students are not required to enroll in classes as long as s/he is a continuing student. If you are entering for the first time or you are returning after a leave of absence, you may enter 30 days prior to your program start date. If you choose to enter in May, you must be enrolled full-time during the summer sessions.

Any student considering, for any reason, to drop a course that will cause his/her enrollment to drop below full-time must consult with a DSO before doing so. Dropping below full-time enrollment prior to obtaining written authorization from a DSO will jeopardize the student’s legal ability to remain in the US.

Students who are in their last semester of course work may be under-enrolled, however, he/she must complete a Reduced Course Load Request by the first week of classes to verify that he/she will complete the degree/program requirements in that semester.

Points to Maintaining F-1 Status

Maintain a valid Passport and I-94 Document
  • Students should contact his/her embassy or consulate in the US for instructions on obtaining a passport extension about 6-12 months prior to the passport expiration date. To replace a lost or stolen passport, immediately contact the home country’s embassy or consulate for a replacement passport. Federal regulations require students to maintain a valid passport at all times.
  • The I-94 admission record is created electronically and maintained in Customs and Border Protection systems. CPB will verify the I-94 electronically to re-validate an expired visa if the traveler meets the conditions of automatic revalidation. Students should download their I-94 Form upon their arrival or return to UNK at Keep this form with your immigration documents.

Obtain Proper Employment Authorization before Beginning Any Work or Internship (paid or unpaid)
  • USCIS considers working without proper authorization as one of the most serious violations of a nonimmigrant’s status. A nonimmigrant who accepts unauthorized employment is subject to deportation. It is illegal to begin any work before obtaining written permission first, except for continuing on-campus employment, even if the student has applied for work authorization and is anticipating approval. Refer to F-1 Student Employment Options on the ISS website for detailed information on on-campus employment, the types of off-campus work authorization available, and procedures necessary to obtain approval. Pay special attention to deadlines and processing times! When in doubt, consult a DSO before beginning any work.
Check for Valid ISS Signature and Proper Documentation before Traveling outside the US
  • ISS strongly recommends that you to meet with a DSO prior to traveling outside the US. If you will travel outside the US, you must have a valid F-1 visa (stamp) and a valid travel signature on page 3 of the I-20 Form. Each signature is valid for 5 months. F-1 students on post-completion OPT should seek advice from a DSO before traveling. Signatures can only be obtained by a DSO in International Student Services. See the Travel Information on the ISS website for instructions.
Making Good Academic Progress
  • In order to maintain valid F-1 status, an F-1 student must be in good academic standing and making normal progress – this means enrolling in full-time or more each semester and earning grades of C or better and maintaining a grade point average (GPA) of at least a 2.0 or better. Failure to maintain good academic standing may lead to immigration problems depending on the nature of the academic problem.
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 U.S. beyond the grace period without taking appropriate steps to maintain some kind of legal status in the US.
  • If you withdraw from UNK PRIOR TO THE PROGRAM END DATE on your I-20, your grace period is reduced to 15 days. Click HERE for additional information on Grace Periods.
F-2 Dependents May Not Work or Study
  • If you have a spouse or children in F-2 dependent status, they may not work in the US under any circumstances and may not study except for classes that are avocational or recreational. The only exception is for minor children studying through 12th grade.
  • Open and Read your Loper email account. All UNK office staff, professors and advisors communicate with students through Loper email.
  • ISS usually sends at least one Loper email message per week to international students. Some are simply announcements about upcoming events, but others contain important immigration information to help you avoid serious immigration problems. Students who do not receive regular messages should notify ISS.

SEVIS Reporting Requirements

Update Address, Legal Name, or Major within 10 Days of a Change
  • Federal regulations require F-1 students to report any change of US address, legal name, or major to their sponsoring institutions within 10 days of the change. UNK students can use the Change of Address Form to report all address changes. Should this form not work, send your address change to ISS at
  • A student must have a change of major approved through their academic advisor and the change must be entered in MyBLUE. Students need to then bring the Change of Major approval to ISS and request that a DSO issue a new I-20 to reflect the change.
  • If a student or F-2 dependent changes his/her legal name, consult a DSO to make the changes.
Obtain Program Extension to Continue Study beyond Program End Date on I-20
  • In order to remain in the US to complete the program of study beyond the date authorized on the I-20 (see item 5 on page 1), an F-1 student must request a Extension of Stay through ISS. Apply at least 30 days before the expected completion date noted on the I-20. There must be a valid academic reason for extending the time necessary to complete the program. A student who fails to have his/her I-20 extended prior to the expiration date of the document is considered out of status and may need to apply for reinstatement to regain student status.
Transfer F-1 SEVIS Record when Changing Schools
  • In order to transfer from UNK to another school in the US, an F-1 student must meet with a DSO to discuss his/her plans. At the student’s written request, ISS must confirm that the student is maintaining valid F-1 status and release the student’s SEVIS record before he/she can attend another school. The student must then complete the F-1 transfer procedures with a DSO at the new school.
Obtain a New I-20 from ISS to Begin a New Degree Program
  • To continue at UNK in a different academic level (e.g., bachelors to masters) or, in some cases, when an 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 UNK. The student must verify admission to a new program and his/her ability to finance the program by working with an International Admissions advisor. A DSO with ISS will issue a new I-20 indicating the new program. Please consult a DSO for information and instructions.
Obtain an Updated I-20 from ISS when Your Funding Source Changes
  • Your Form I-20 indicates your current funding source(s). Should such information change, you should meet with a DSO with the new proof of funding to update your current I-20.
Obtain Permission from ISS before Departing or Withdrawing from UNK
  • Students planning to withdraw from UNK or take a leave of absence should consult a DSO prior to making official action; otherwise they may jeopardize their F-1 status. Furthermore, students taking a leave of absence or withdrawing have a grace period of only 15 days to leave the US after obtaining written authorization from ISS. A student who is asked to withdraw from classes, is placed on academic suspension, or leaves UNK for any reason must leave the U.S. immediately after consulting with a DSO. Click HERE for information on Grace Periods.