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International Student & Scholar Services


Int'l Student / Scholar Svcs
Fax: 202-885-3354
Butler Pavilion, Room 410

ISSS office walk-in advising hours: Mondays: 12:00 noon - 5:00 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Bakar, Senem S
Director, International Student & Scholar Services

Int'l Student / Scholar Svcs
4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW
410 Butler Pavilion
Washington, DC, USA 20016-8041

F-1 Immigration Responsibilities

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) places responsibility on the student to understand and comply with immigration law.

Below is a summary of the immigration responsibilities for F-1 students (details below). If F-1 students do not fulfill any one of these responsibilities, they may jeopardize their eligibility for immigration benefits, including employment on- or off- campus.

  1. Register for and successfully complete a full course of study each semester.
  2. Obtain U.S. Immigration service approval before changing schools or academic programs.
  3. Complete your program before your I-20 expires. (Get a program extension if necessary).
  4. Always obtain Employment Authorization before you begin working
  5. Keep your passport valid at all times.
  6. Notify U.S. Immigration service and ISSS of any address change.
  7. Leave the US within 60 days after completing your program.

Failure to comply results in the loss of your F-1 status!

1. Register for and successfully complete a full course of study each semester.

The following are the minimum credit hour requirements for F-1 students to maintain full time registration:

Level of Study: Credit Hours Per Semester:

  • Undergraduate or Undergraduate Certificate: 12 credit hours
  • Graduate or Graduate Certificate: 9 credit hours
  • Master of Business Administration: 9 credit hours
  • Master of Laws (LLM): 8 credit hours
  • Juris Doctor (JD): 12 credit hours


Under certain circumstances, F-1 students may be authorized to enroll for less than a full course of study and still meet the immigration regulation requirements for maintaining status.

  • Reduced Course Load Form: If you meet one of the criteria listed on the Reduced Course Load form, then the form must be presented for review by ISSS, with the appropriate academic advisor signature and/or medical documentation. Failure to speak with an ISSS advisor and receive this approval will jeopardize the student's immigration status.

  • If you are a graduate student engaged in Doctoral Dissertation, Doctoral Continuing Enrollment, or Master's Continuing Enrollment, please see your academic advisor to discuss eligibility for Graduate Continuing Enrollment Course Registration.


F-1 students are not required to register for any academic credits during the summer break, unless summer is the first semester of enrollment.

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2. Obtain U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service approval before changing universities or degree programs.

As an F-1 student, you must obtain a new I-20 each time you change your major, transfer to another university, or change academic level of study (i.e., Bachelor's to Master's).

*If you are applying for a new program at American University, please submit a new Personal and Immigration Information Request Form and current financial documents (no more than one year old).

* Transfers must be completed no later than 15 days after the beginning of classes.

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3. Complete your program before your I-20 expires

F-1 students have permission to study in the United States up to the expected completion date as indicated on the I-20. However, once students have completed their program, they have 60 days to either:

  • travel within or leave the United States;
  • change to another status;
  • or begin a new program.

To extend the program completion date on the I-20, students must demonstrate that the additional time is needed because of compelling academic reasons or a documented medical illness. F-1 students who require additional time to complete their academic program must submit a signed Program Extension form and current financial documents to ISSS one month before the current I-20 expiration date. 

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4. Always obtain employment authorization BEFORE you begin working

Students must ALWAYS obtain written employment authorization from ISSS and/or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service BEFORE beginning any employment, including on- and off-campus employment. This includes internships, co-ops, or course work for which you receive any compensation (including salary, tuition, books, supplies, food, or transportation). Please contact ISSS with any questions about employment options. More information is also available in the Employment section of this website. 

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5. Keep your passport valid at all times.

Maintain a valid passport. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service will not approve applications for employment or other immigration benefits unless your passport is valid or in the process of being re-validated.

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6. Notify International Student and Scholar Services of any address change.

Inform International Student and Scholar Services of your address change through your International Student Profile on ISSS will update your SEVIS record with your change of address.

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7. Leave the US within 60 days after completing your program

Once you complete all requirements for your program, even if your I-20 has not expired, you have only 60 days to either:

  • leave the United States
  • change to another visa status
  • begin a new program of study (this requires a new I-20)

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Failure to Comply

Failure to comply with these regulations will mean the loss of your F-1 student status. We refer to this as being "out of status." Falling out of status has very serious consequences. For example, you could be prevented from re-entering the U.S. for three to ten years, depending on the length of your status violation. For status violations of 180-360 days, a three-year exclusion is imposed. If you remain out of status for more than 360 days, you may not re-enter the U.S. for ten years.  If you fall out of status for any reason, we advise you to meet with an International Student Advisor immediately. Simply registering full-time in the next semester or stopping the unauthorized work does not put you back in status. There are steps you can take with U.S. Immigration service to recover your status, but the sooner you begin, the better your chances for approval.