F-1 Student Visa

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General Information

The Center for International Education is the liaison office to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) to help international students at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale with immigration matters. The CIE staff assists with a variety of immigration matters (visa document questions, program extensions, work authorizations, invitation to family members to the US, etc.)

This section includes the most current information about rules and regulations from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for international students and scholars holding F and J visas. Knowing and understanding this information is vital to insure that a student or scholar will maintain their status. The rules and regulations are subject to change and it is the responsibility of the student/scholar to know and follow the rules. International students and scholars must be in compliance with all of the rules and regulations the entire time that they are in the United States.

Know your Form I-20 Expiration Date

It is important for you to know the expiration date of your Form I-20. It must be valid the entire time a student is in the United States. The I-20 may be extended under certain special circumstances. If a student is eligible for an extension it must be approved by an International Student Advisor at least thirty (30) days prior to the expiration of the original document. Please do not discard any Form I-20 that you receive. Keep them for record purposes.

Lawful Status In the U.S.

F-1 students must extend their stay at least 30 days before the expiration of their I-20, or depart no later than 60 days after the completion of their education program or after their I-20 expires (see item 5 on the I-20), whichever comes first. Maintaining Immigration Status.

Full-time Enrollment

According to US Immigration regulations F1 and J1 students must be enrolled full-time or your immigration status will be revoked.

Students who do not maintain full time enrollment must file for reinstatement and may not be eligible for programs like Optional Practical Training. There are exceptions to these rules. If you have questions, please contact CIE to clarify any questions that you may have about your situation.

Duration of Status

An F-1 or J-1 student or scholar will be admitted to the USA for "Duration of Status", noted as D/S on your I-94 form, Passport, and Form I-20 or DS2019.

"Duration of Status" is defined as:

  1. The time during which you are pursuing a full course of study and making normal progress toward completing your degree;
  2. The time you may be working in authorized "Optional Practical Training" (F-1) or "Academic Training" (J-1) after completion of your degree;
  3. Plus, 60 days in which to depart the USA.
    During that 60-day period, students may apply to another education level, transfer schools, or change to another nonimmigrant status.

I-94 Departure Record

Keep the I-94 Departure Record card (white card) stapled in your passport. This document indicates your valid status and is used by USCIS for showing any authorized changes. This document is taken when you depart the U.S. (they are inspected, but not taken, at Canadian or Mexican borders.) You must bring your new I-94 card to ISS, after you travel, so that we can include it with your record.

Signature for Travel

Report to CIE before traveling outside the U.S. Your passport and Form I-20 will be reviewed. A signature on page 3 of your Form I-20 is required to guarantee reentry to the U.S.

Visa Validity

The visa in your passport does not govern your length of stay in the U.S. It is only an entry permit and must be valid only when entering the U.S. Always check the validity date of your entry permit before planning a trip outside of the U.S. If it has expired, report to CIE at least two weeks in advance of departure so a duplicate Form I-20 can be prepared for you to obtain a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, in a foreign country.

Passport Validity

Your passport must be valid for at least six (6) months into the future while you are in the United States. A valid passport is required to hold employment or to reenter the U.S. If renewal of your passport is necessary during your stay in the U.S., check the Web Site for your country to find the procedures required to renew your passport. 

Optional Practical Training

F-1 students must apply through CIE to engage in employment for training in your field for a maximum of ONE YEAR. Optional Practical Training is considered to be a part of a student's education. It is awarded only with specific conditions. OPT may be granted after completion of each progressive degree for a total of 12 months. OPT may be used part time during the academic year or full time in the summer up to a total 12 months. OPT may also be granted if a student participates in an academic internship, a practical or a cooperative, or an alternate education program if it is required or if credit is awarded for work experience.