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Maintaining Your F-1 Status

Students in class in the new Classroom Building.



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. The Cranwell International Center is the only office authorized to advise international undergraduate students on immigration matters.

Maintaining Legal F-1 Status

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.    Attend the school and degree program indicated on your Form I-20.

2.    Report to Cranwell International Center upon your arrival to Blacksburg, VA. New students can read additional information here. 

3.    You must be enrolled full-time. Undergraduate students must be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours per semester. NOTE: Only 3 online credits may count towards the 12-credit requirement

a.     Exceptions to full-time enrollment can be approved only by a DSO at the Cranwell International Center. Do not drop before receiving prior authorization from an Immigration and Advising Specialist at Cranwell.

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

5.    You must obtain a new Form I-20 if you change majors, or add a major/minor.

6.    You must have continuous health and accident insurance coverage. All F visa holders are required to have health and accident insurance. You may purchase the university insurance plan, or an alternative insurance plan that meets university requirements.

7.    Off-Campus Employment. You are not allowed to work off-campus in the United States without authorization. You must consult with a DSO at the Cranwell International Center regarding off-campus employment options.

8.    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.). Information regarding CPT and OPT can be found here.

9.    All students must file tax forms every year, even if they have not earned any income. You can read more about filing your taxes as an international student here

10.  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 a DSO at the Cranwell International Center to request the transfer of their SEVIS record to the new university.

11.  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 a DSO 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 a DSO, you are out of status and must submit a petition to DHS for reinstatement of your legal status.

12.  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.

13.  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.

14.  Obtain a travel signature before departing the US. You must obtain a travel signature on your Form I-20 from a DSO at the Cranwell International Center if you plan to depart the US and reenter 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, as long as there have not been any changes to your Form I-20. 

15.   Address Changes and Name Changes. You are required, by law, to report any address changes to a DSO at the Cranwell International Center within 10 days of moving so that your SEVIS record can be updated. You must also notify your DSO of any changes in your name. (NOTE: Updating HokieSPA does not update your immigration record).

16. 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