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Maintaining Your F-1 Status

An F-1 student is a nonimmigrant who is pursuing a "full course of study" to achieve a specific educational or professional objective, at an academic institution in the United States that has been designated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to offer courses of study to such students, and has been enrolled in SEVIS (the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). Once the F-1 student has completed their academic and professional objectives, the student is expected by the US government to return to their home country.

This section is not a comprehensive list and should not take the place of one-on-one consultation.If you are unsure or need further clarification, please contact the Cranwell International Center. Below is a summary of F-1 regulations and commonly used immigration terminology. Familiarize yourself with these basic principles and terms to avoid violating your immigration status.

1. You must attend the school and degree program indicated on your Form I-20.

2. You must report to Cranwell International Center upon your arrival to Blacksburg, VA. Students will need to submit the Immigration Check-In e-form through the InltHokies Portal after they arrive in the US/to campus.

3. You must be enrolled full-time.

  • 12 credit hours for undergraduate students – must enroll in at least 9 in-person/hybrid credits.
  • 9 credit hours for graduate students without an assistantship – must enroll in at least 6 in-person/hybrid credits.
  • 12 credit hours for graduate student with an assistantship - must enroll in at least 6 in-person/hybrid credits.

Once minimum in-person/hybrid required credit hours are met, students may enroll in as many online/virtual credit hours as desired or needed.

Research hours are considered in-person for immigration purposes. Enrollment in full-time co-op course (Graduate Students) or ceip course (Undergraduate Students) is considered in-person and full-time enrollment.

Exceptions to full-time enrollment requirement must be approved by an International Student Advisor at the Cranwell International Center. Do not drop below full-time before receiving prior authorization.

4. You must make satisfactory academic progress. Undergraduate students must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA, while Graduate students must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA.

5. You must obtain a new Form I-20 if there are any changes to your program of study. Changes include things like a change in or addition of a new major, or a change in your program end date.

6. You must seek proper authorization for any off-campus employment. Students are not allowed to work off-campus in the US without authorization. They must consult with an International Student Advisor at the Cranwell International Center regarding off-campus employment options.

7. You must work within the restrictions for on-campus employment. F-1 students are allowed to work on-campus, up to 20 hours per week, when school is in session. Students may work on-campus, more than 20 hours per week, during official school breaks (e.g., summer, winter, etc.).

8. All students must file tax forms every year, even if they have not earned any income.

9. Students who plan to transfer into or out of Virginia Tech must speak with a DSO at the Cranwell International Center. If you are transferring to Virginia Tech from another school within the US, you must have your SEVIS record transferred to Virginia Tech. Additionally, students who plan to transfer out of Virginia Tech will need to meet with an International Student Advisor at the Cranwell International Center to request the transfer of their SEVIS record to the new university.

10. You must keep your Form I-20 valid at all times. Always keep track of the expiration date of your Form I-20. If you need to extend your Form I-20 beyond the expiration date, you must work with an International Student Advisor at the Cranwell International Center to submit a request for an extension before your Form I-20 expires. If the ending date on the Form I-20 expires before you notify an International Student Advisor, you are out of status and must submit a petition to DHS for reinstatement of your legal status.

11. Your passport must be kept valid for the duration of your stay and for travel purposes. Maintaining a valid passport is the responsibility of the student. The passport can be renewed by the home country consulate or embassy in the US. Letters certifying enrollment at Virginia Tech that assist students in obtaining passport revalidation are available from HokieSPA or the Registrar’s Office.

12. You must maintain your visa. If the visa stamp in your passport expires while you are in the US, this has no impact on period of authorized stay in the US. However, you will need to renew your visa if you leave the US and seek to reenter. Note that a visa may only be obtained at a US Embassy or Consulate outside of the US; nonimmigrant visas cannot be renewed from within the US.

13. You must obtain a travel signature before departing the US. You must obtain a travel signature on your Form I-20 from an International Student Advisor at the Cranwell International Center if you plan to depart the US and re-enter to continue your studies. Please plan ahead and submit your request at least 5 business days before traveling. Travel signatures are valid for one year from the date they were last signed for current students and valid for 6 months for students on OPT/STEM OPT.

14. You must keep your address changes and/or name changes up-to-date. You are required, by law, to report any address changes to Virginia Tech 10 days of moving so that your SEVIS record can be updated. You must update your information on HokieSpa.

15. You should be aware of your 60-day grace period. After the completion of your program of study at Virginia Tech or after the completion of Optional Practical Training, international students in F-1 status have 60 days in which to depart the US, transfer to another school, or apply for a change of status