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Maintaining F-1 Status

  • Status Maintenance Checklist

    How To Maintain Your F-1 Status

    While in F-1 status, students are required to follow specific rules and regulations in order to maintain their F-1 status. Failure to properly maintain F-1 status can result in the student's removal from the United States, inability to later seek an adjustment from F-1 status, and inadmissibility to the United States.

    • You must officially report your arrival to Stony Brook through the Immigration Intake form in accessVIS as soon as you arrive.
    • For the first entry for initial school attendance, the school listed on the visa and on the I-20 must both say Stony Brook University.
    • Students must pursue a full course of study during every academic semester unless approved under a specific exception, in advance.
    • Students must make normal progress by completing studies before the expiration of the program completion date on Form I-20.
    • Students must keep Form I-20 valid by following proper procedures for extension of stay, change in level, or transfer of schools.
    • Abide by the F-1 grace period rules.
    • Report a change of address to the DSO within 10 days of the change so that SEVIS can be updated.
    • Abide by rules requiring disclosure of information and prohibition on criminal activity, as well as any special requirements.
    • Students must not work off-campus, unless specifically authorized.
    • Abide by the unemployment rules while on post-completion OPT.
    • A student should also keep their passport valid.
  • Enrollment Requirements

    Enrollment Requirements

    Federal regulations require that students in F-1 and J-1 status be registered for a full-time course load each fall and spring semester until graduation. Failure to be registered as a full-time student is a violation of your nonimmigrant status, will result in the loss of F-1 or J-1 benefits (including employment eligibility both on and off campus) and may subject you to federal immigration sanctions.

    The following table shows full-time course loads according to academic level:

    Academic Level Minimum Total Credits Minimum In-Person/Hybrid* Credits Maximum Online/Remote Credits
    F-1 Undergraduates 12 credits per semester 9 credits per semester 3 credits per semester
    F-1 Master's/PhD 9 credits per semester 6 credits per semester

    3 credits per semester

    J-1 Exchange Students 12 credits per semester 9 credits per semester 3 credits per semester
    * Hybrid courses (those delivered online that require physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion) are considered in-person or FTF for F-1/J-1 enrollment purposes.

    Online/Distance Learning Rules

    F-1 international students may count one online course or up to 3 credits towards their full-time enrollment each semester. However, these restrictions specifically apply to the number of credit hours required to fulfill the student's full course of study requirements (see above). As long as students meet these requirements, they have the flexibility to enroll in additional online or distance-learning courses, as desired.

    Special Circumstances:

    • During your final semester, you must enroll in at least one in-person/hybrid course in order to maintain your status. Even if authorized for a Reduced Course Load for Final Semester of Study, you must still include a course with a physical presence requirement.
    • Enrollment is typically not required during the summer or winter semesters; however, if you will be graduating during the summer or winter term, you must take at least one in-person course during that term.

    Summer/Winter Enrollment

    Summer enrollment is generally not required for continuing students (that is, students who enrolled full-time for the spring semester and intend to enroll full-time for the fall semester). However, there are two important exceptions which require summer enrollment.

    1. Summer Program Start Date: If you begin your academic program at SBU during the summer semester, it is mandatory to enroll as a full-time student during that specific semester. Additionally, you are required to comply with the restrictions regarding the maximum number of fully online classes allowed. This requirement applies not only to new students but also to those who are returning from a break in their studies and intend to resume classes during the summer semester.
    2. Summer Program End Date: If you will complete all degree requirements and graduate at the end of a winter session or summer session, those terms are considered a regular semester for DHS reporting and registration requirements. To maintain F-1 status and stay in the U.S. (including eligibility to apply for post-completion OPT) you must follow the same registration requirements you normally would during the fall and spring semesters. This includes full-time enrollment and a limitation on the number of fully online classes.

      If you need less than a full course load to complete your degree program, then an approved Reduced Course Load for Final Semester of Study is required to maintain status. If approved for a RCL for the summer/winter semester, you must enroll in at least 1 credit.

      Students considering completion of final work while abroad or through another institution must discuss this matter with VIS as your F-1 status and eligiblty for benefits will be impacted.

    If a student who is not required to register full-time during the summer term chooses to register, then there is no maximum or minimum number of credits required as it is not a required term. The student can choose to enroll in as many or as few credits of online or in-person instruction as they wish.

    Exceptions to full-time study
    Problematic grades
    Online programs


  • Immigration Documents

    Understanding Your Immigration Documents

    It is very important that you keep all of your immigration documents in a safe place. Stony Brook University is required by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to keep a copy of these documents in your electronic student file. Be sure to provide Visa & Immigration Services with a copy of any renewed or updated immigration documents by submitting the Immigration Document Update eform in accessVIS.

    Form I-20
    F-1 visa
    I-94 Record


  • Update Your Address

    Updating Your Address

    USCIS requires all F-1 students to report any changes to their local (U.S.) or foreign address within 10 days of moving. If you fail to update your address, you are at risk of losing your lawful status in the U.S.

    The H-1B visa category is for international employees being hired with a professional degree in specialty occupations that require the theoretical or practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge.

    Foreign home address update
    On-campus address update
    Local, off-campus address update
    Correct address formatting


  • Loss of Status/Reinstatement

    Loss of Status/Reinstatement

    If you failed to maintain your F-1 status and your SEVIS record is terminated, you will be considered out-of-status. Consequently, you would no longer be eligible for on-campus employment, practical training, travel signatures for re-entry to the U.S., or any other benefits of F-1 status. It is important to act quickly to resolve your F-1 violation of status to avoid potential immigration complications, such as difficulties in obtaining another visa or permanent residency.

    To correct your status, you have two options: (1) Reinstatement or (2) Travel and Re-entry. These options should be discussed with your International Student Advisor in detail.

    Option 1: Reinstatement

    Reinstatement is a process through which a student submits an application to USCIS to request that their F-1 status be reinstated. The USCIS will evaluate F-1 reinstatement applicants on the following criteria:

    • The applicant has not been out-of-status for more than 5 months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement, or can demonstrate that the failure to file within the 5-month period was the result of exceptional circumstances and that the student filed for reinstatement as soon as possible under these circumstances
    • The violation of status was due to circumstances beyond the student's control. Some examples of "circumstances beyond the student's control" might include serious injury or illness, closure of the institution, a natural disaster or inadvertence
    • The applicant must not have a record of repeated or willful violations of USCIS regulations
    • The applicant is currently pursuing a full-time course of study
    • The applicant must not have engaged in unauthorized employment prior to filing for the reinstatement

    If you are considering reinstatement and believe you meet the above criteria, keep the following in mind:

    • To request reinstatement you must obtain an I-20 from VIS specifically for the resinstatement application (speak with your VIS Advisor for further procedural information).
    • Reinstatement applications may take up to 12 months or longer for USCIS to process
    • You must be engaged in a full course of study while the reinstatement is pending
    • You cannot travel outside the U.S. while the reinstatement is pending.
    • The reinstatement is program specific, so if your program completes (i.e. you meet all graduation requirements) you will need to consult an immigration attorney about leaving the U.S. before the reinstatement is adjudicated and what happens next.
    • Students with a pending reinstatement application are not eligible for F-1 benefits.

    Option 2: Travel and Reentry

    The second option for regaining F-1 status is through travel and re-entry. Under this process, the student requests a new I-20 with a new SEVIS number from VIS and then pays a new SEVIS I-901 fee. The student then must depart the U.S. and re-enter using a valid F-1 visa. The student should check with the respective embassy/consulate that issued the visa to determine whether or not a current visa will still be valid for re-entry, or if the student must re-apply for a new F-1 visa before re-entering.

    If you are considering travel and re-entry, keep the following in mind:

    • You must request a new I-20 from VIS (speak with your VIS Advisor for further procedural information).
    • This process could potentially be quicker than reinstatement, depending on whether or not you need to apply for a new F-1 visa and your consulate/embassy’s processing times.
    • You will only regain status upon successful re-entry as a F-1 visa holder at the port of entry. Entry into the U.S. is always to the discretion of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer, and past violations can be considered when the CBP officer is determining whether or not to grant a F-1 student admission into the U.S.
    • If you need to apply for a new F-1 visa as a method of regaining status, VIS recommends you do so in your home country only.
    • If you have less than one academic year remaining after re-entry, your OPT/CPT eligibility may be jeopardized.
    • If you're unable to demonstrate non-immigrant intent during your visa appointment or if you have previous violations on your record, you should consult an attorney before choosing this option.

    Option 3: Remaining Out of Status

    Choosing to remain in the U.S. out of status is a high-risk decision that VIS does not recommend. If you remain in the U.S. after your I-20 has been terminated or you have violated your status, you are not eligible to receive any benefits of your previous status, such as work authorization (on-campus work, CPT, or OPT).

    Remaining in the U.S. after your SEVIS record has been terminated is a very serious offense of immigration regulations, potentially leading to initiation of removal proceedings and future restrictions on re-entry to the U.S. If you are certain you want to remain inside the U.S. without status, to understand the full consequences, we encourage you to consult with a qualified immigration attorney.