General Requirements *
Once an alien is admitted to the United States in F-1 status, s/he must meet certain obligations in order to maintain student status. The student must:
- have a passport that is kept valid at all times, unless exempt from the passport requirement
- attend the school s/he was authorized to attend
- continue to carry a full course of study
- follow certain procedures if the student must remain in the United States longer than the length of time estimated for completion of his or her educational program, as stated on the initial I-20 A-B issued to begin the program of study
- follow certain procedures to continue from one educational level to another (e.g. from the bachelor's to the master's level) at the same school
- follow certain procedures to transfer to a school other than the one originally authorized
- limit employment, both on campus and off, to a total of twenty hours per week when school is in session
- refrain from off-campus employment without authorization
- report a change of residence to the Ivanhoe International Center for INS reference within ten days of the change
- not count more than one course (3 credit hours) of distance education toward full time status
Any allowable exceptions must be requested and approved PRIOR to the semester in which the exception occurs.
Note: The information contained on this page is subject to change as federal laws and regulations are modified. Students are advised to periodically check with the designated student officer (DSO). At the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, the primary DSO is at the Ivanhoe International Center.
Duration of Status (D/S)
The F-1 student is admitted to the United States for "duration of status", defined in the regulations as the period during which the student "is pursuing a full course of study at an educational institution approved by USCIS for attendance by foreign students, or engaging in authorized practical training following completion of studies, plus sixty days to prepare for departure from the United States. The student is considered to be maintaining status if s/he is making normal progress toward completing a [full] course of study.[8 CFR 214.2(f)(5)(i)]
Full Course of Study
The minimum number of credit hours in EACH of the fall and spring semester is twelve for undergraduate students and nine for graduate students.
If the F-1 student is not pursuing a full course of study at the institution s/he is authorized to attend, s/he is out of status and must apply for reinstatement to student status. S/He is also not eligible for transfer to another institution, on-campus work (including assistantships), off-campus work, or practical training.
An F-1 student is admitted to the United States for "duration of status", that is, to complete an educational program.
However, if a student must remain in an educational program beyond the date originally estimated for completion of the program, the student must comply with USCIS procedures for program extension. Application must be made to the designated school official (DSO) "in a 30-day period before the completion date" An F-1 student is eligible for program extension if s/he
- has "continually maintained status" and
- delay in completion is "caused by compelling academic or medical reasons, such as changes of major or research topics, unexpected research problems, or documented illnesses."
The regulations go on to state that "delays caused by academic probation or suspension are not acceptable reasons for program extension."
Change in Level of Program | Change of Program | Begin a New Program
In each of the following cases, you will need to obtain a new I-20. Please do so immediately upon admission to the new program.
- Change in level of program: completing a bachelor's degree and then pursuing a master's degree, or changing from MS to PhD
- Change of program: transferring from one department to another without completing a degree
- Begin a new program: starting a new program after completing a program in one department (must be different departments)
Change of Address
The US government requires you to report your physical address within ten days. If you are an F-1 student (including OPT), you must report your address to the Ivanhoe International Center. We will enter that information in the SEVIS program. It would also be helpful to have a current telephone number.
If you are not in F-1 status (H-1B status, for example) the US Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) form required for the change of address is the AR-11, which is available on the USCIS web site at http://uscis.gov.
The form may be completed online and printed out, but it is not yet possible to submit it online.
Requirements for re-entry into the United States*
In order to re-enter the United States after a temporary absence of five months or less, an F-1 student must have the following documents: a valid passport or travel document, a valid visa, and a properly endorsed Form I-20. CBP officials at ports of entry require that the Form I-20 bear a designated student officer (DSO) certification for reentry executed in the current term – if a student is reentering during the academic year – or, if a student is returning from his or her annual vacation, executed in the term preceding the vacation. The endorsement on p. 3 may be executed even if there has been a change in the date the student is expected to report to the school. If a student loses the Form I-20, a DSO may issue a duplicate Form I-20.
A "temporary" absence for the purpose of readmission with an endorsed p. 3 of Form I-20 is defined as an absence of five months or less.
A student must have a valid F-1 visa in his or her passport. Consequently, a student who entered the United States in another nonimmigrant classification and has changed status to that of an F-1 student must obtain an F-1 visa before re-entering the country. It is not possible to obtain an F-1 visa inside the United States. An F-1 student who needs to obtain a visa in order to enter the United States after a temporary absence must apply for the visa at a US consular office abroad.