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Maintaining F-1 Status

As an F-1 student, you are fully responsible for following the regulations governing your immigration status under U.S. law. The Designated School Officials (International Admissions and Student Services staff) in the Office of International Engagement will help you understand these rules, but you are required to abide by the rules and responsibilities of F-1 status explained below.

  1. Always study full-time. Enroll for and complete a full-time study course load (12 credits for undergraduate students, 9 credits for graduate students, 6 credits for students in the Artist’s Diploma and Performer’s Certificate programs) every fall and spring semester.
  2. Before you drop, withdraw from, or stop attending a class, obtain permission to study less than full-timeIf you do not believe you will be able to fulfill the full-time requirement for any reason, contact your International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) advisor before you withdraw from or stop attending class. There are a few limited exceptions to this requirement for which you might qualify if you obtain permission in advance. Please see our Reduced Course Load Form in the Forms and Applications section of this page, and contact your ISSS advisor for more information. Students in their final semester of study immediately prior to graduation may not need to enroll full-time. A letter from your academic advisor confirming that you are completing your degree requirements and that this is your final semester should be submitted to ISSS to obtain permission to be less than full-time.
  3. Only work as authorized. Individuals with F-1 status may work on-campus up to 20 hours per week when school is in session and full-time during official school breaks, including winter break, spring break, and summer break. The 20 hours/week limit is an aggregate of all of the hours you work on campus (even if you have multiple jobs), including the work you do for an assistantship or fellowship, if you have one. In order to work in an off-campus job, you must get permission from a Designated School Official in ISSS and from the Department of Homeland Security. Apart from a few limited exceptions (such as unremunerated work for a charitable organization), all off-campus work, both paid and unpaid, requires this authorization.
  4. Make sure your program end date on your Form I-20 is accurate. Your program end date on your Form I-20 must always reflect (to the best of your knowledge) the date you will finish your studies. If you do not think you will be able to complete your program by the completion date on your I-20, or if you are unsure (e.g., if your graduation is dependent on a borderline GPA), you must apply for a program extension before the program end date expires and get an updated I-20. It is not possible to extend your F-1 program after the I-20 end date has passed. To apply for a program extension, you will need the Program Extension Form in the Forms and Applications section of this page. If you expect to complete your program earlier than the program completion date, you must get an updated I-20 before you complete your program.
  5. Obtain a SEVIS transfer to attend another U.S. school. If you plan to transfer to another U.S. school, college, or university (besides Montclair State), you must notify the International Admissions and Student Services staff and be “transferred out” in SEVIS before your status ends. Please see the Transfer-Out Request in the Forms and Applications section of this page, and contact our office for more information.
  6. Obtain a change of education level I-20 to begin a new program of study. If you have been admitted to a new program of study at Montclair State University (for instance, if you are completing a bachelor’s and beginning a master’s or just starting a new program at the same level, like a second master’s degree), you must obtain a new Form I-20 for your new program before your F-1 status for complete your current program of study ends. Please contact us for more information.
  7. Depart the U.S. within 60 days of your program completion date or Optional Practical Training end date. If you have completed your program of study, you must depart the U.S. within 60 days of your program end date, which should reflect the end of your last semester of study. Likewise, if you have completed your post-completion Optional Practical Training or STEM OPT and have no further plans to study or change your immigration status, you must depart the U.S. within 60 days of your Employment Authorization Document’s (EAD’s) end date. If you will depart the U.S. before completing your OPT period, you should depart before exceeding your allowable unemployment time and follow the instructions below in #8.
  8. If you are an F-1 student and plan to leave the U.S. early (before the program end date on your I-20 or before the end date on your post-completion OPT EAD), you must apply for Authorized Early Withdrawal. An Authorized Early Withdrawal will result in a non-violation termination of your record, and you will have only 15 days to depart the United States. If you plan to take a leave of absence, your ISSS advisor will assist you in preparing the documents you’ll need to return to the U.S., which may include a new I-20 and visa, depending on how long you’ll be gone. Please see the Request to Depart the U.S. Early form in the Forms and Applications section of this page, and contact us for more information.
  9. Keep your passport valid at all times. You must always have a valid passport.  If your passport is going to expire, contact your country’s embassy or consulate in the United States to renew it. If you are leaving the U.S. and returning (for instance, during summer vacation), make sure your passport will be valid for at least six months into the future when you return.
  10. Report any address, name change, or employment-related change to ISSS within 10 days of making the change.
  11. Get an updated Form I-20 when any of its information changes. Notify DSO if there are any changes in the information on your Form I-20, such as name, citizenship, degree level, major, funding, or employment information and get an updated Form I-20.
  12. If you would like to have your dependent(s) (spouse or child) join you in the U.S., you will need to apply for an F-2 dependent I-20 for each dependent so that they can apply for an F-2 visa. The F-2 visa and I-20 allow dependent(s) to travel to the U.S. and reside with an F-1 student while s/he is completing his or her studies, post-completion OPT, or STEM OPT. To apply for a dependent I-20, contact your school’s DSO.