International College Students: US Visa Status Tips

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Tips to help international students make sure they maintain their student visa status and that nothing interferes with their studies in the U.S.

US higher education is recognized for its top quality all over the world. This is the main reason why US universities attract a huge number of international students. 

One of the most stressful, but most important, steps in the journey of becoming an international student in the US is obtaining a student visa. After completing this step, international students may think they have overcome a huge barrier. But, don’t let your guard down once you obtain your visa! Maintaining your visa status is essential to make sure nothing interrupts your studies.

How do I make sure I maintain my US Student Visa?

1. Keep a full-time credit load

Those students with an F-1 student visa or a J-1 exchange visitor visa should take a full course load each year they plan to study in the United States. Minimum full-time enrollment requirements may vary from institution to institution. These requirements determine the minimum course load for international students.

For instance, F-1 and J-1 undergraduate students typically take 12 credits each quarter. Graduate students take at least 10 credits. Bear in mind that some institutions don’t allow J-1 students, only F-1 students to take one online class each quarter.

Some F-1 students may drop below a full course load due to illness or academic difficulties. In this case, experts highly suggest that students notify their international student service office.

Other universities allow students to drop below a full course load if they are a part-time commuter attending school 75 miles from the U.S. border.

Dropping below a full course load will jeopardize your F-1 status and cause trouble with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) if you do not obtain authorization from the international student services office.

2. Do not violate any U.S. laws or university code of conduct

Steer clear of any offences that may put your visa status in jeopardy. You must adhere to local laws and university rules. You must bear in mind that all international students are held accountable to the institution’s code of conduct, state laws, and federal laws. If an international student has several violations, they may be disqualified from the university. Disqualification from the university would result in a termination of their visa status.

3. Understand international travel requirements

First, always let friends and family know about your travel plans. This includes when you travel within the country. 

Second, when traveling, students should always have copies of their immigration documents including the I-20 and their passport. The Form I-20 is the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. Students should have scans or photos of these documents in their mobile phones.

Are you planning to leave the country? If you are on the F-1 visa, you will need a travel signature on the I-20. If you are on the J-1 visa, you will need a Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status.

NOTE: Always have your travel authorizations signed!

4. Keep passport valid and U.S. address current

While studying in the U.S., international students must remember to keep their passport valid and their contact information current. Regardless of an international student’s country of origin, they should always have their passport valid for a minimum of six months.

As soon as a student changes their residence, students must notify their school of the change in address.  

J-1 visa students must report to their sponsor or sponsor designee within 10 calendar days of any changes in telephone number, email address, and current US address. 

F-1 students must complete a Form AR-11, Alien’s Change of Address Card, that notifies U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of any address change within 10 days.

5. Be aware of the grace period after graduation

Once international students complete their studies, they have several days for which they can remain in the U.S. J-1 students can stay for 30 days while F-1 students can stay for 60 days. 

Students can also apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) which allows them to obtain a 12-month work period.

If you follow these tips verbatim, you will be able to complete your higher education studies in the US without problems in your visa status.

Get Instant Information about the University

By clicking “Get Information Now,” I hereby authorize, their dependents, subcontractors, or associates to contact me in regards to education proposals offered by universities in the United States.