Maintaining Status


While studying in the United States, it is important to maintain your F-1 or J-1 student and scholar status. Your status relates to the purpose, or reason for coming to the United States. 

Maintaining your status means:

  • Fulfilling the purpose why the Department of State issued you a visa.
  • Following the regulations associated with that purpose.

*Contact your DSO (International Student Advisor) for more information regarding maintaining status questions. 


When arriving to the United States, both F-1 and J-1 students and scholars must:

  • Enter the United States no more than 30 days before your program of study begins. See I-20 for program start date.
  • Contact your DSO to check in at school listed on your I-20.

Duration of Study

While studying in the United States, both F-1 and J-1 students must:

  • Attend and complete all your classes. If classes are too difficult, discuss options with your DSO immediately.
  • If you believe that you will be unable to complete your program by the end date listed on your I-20, talk with your DSO about requesting a possible program extension.
  • You must take a full course of study each term (12 credit hours of undergraduates and 9 credit hours for graduate; if you cannot study full-time, contact your DSO immediately.
  • Do not drop a class without first speaking with and receiving written approval from your DSO.
  • The visa sticker in your passport can be allowed to expire while you are in the U.S. because it is an entry visa.  However, if you travel outside the U.S. with the expired visa, you will need to renew it before you return to the U.S.

Summer and Winter annual vacation for F and J Students

  •  F and J students are eligible for summer vacation (summer vacation starts at the end of the semester in May and ends before classes start in August). F and J students can also take winter vacation after the end of the fall semester.
  • Please note that during summer and winter vacations, students are not required to take classes.   You may choose to take as many, as few, or no courses.
  • Before traveling, be sure to contact your DSO for a travel signature on your I-20. You will not be allowed to re-enter the US without a valid travel signature on your I-20. 
  • Maintain a valid passport at all times. Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months into the future.

Work and Practical Training for F-1 Students

  • All international student may work on-campus, however you must request a letter from our office giving you clearance to work; you will also be required to apply for a Social Security number.  Our office will provide further guidance.
  • An F-1 student may only work off campus when authorized by a DSO.  Some types of employment will require additional authorization from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If you choose to work without authorization, you will be in violation of your visa status and you may not be able to re-enter the United States at a later date. 
  • F-1students are eligible for curricular practical training (CPT) at either the undergraduate or the graduate level during the program of study. 
  • CPT employment must be an integral part of an established curriculum and the position must directly relate to your major area of study. Contact your DSO for guidance.
  • F-1 students are also eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) following the program of study. OPT is a form of temporary employment that directly relates to your program of study. 
  • For more information about employment and training options available for F-1students, visit the Working in the United States page and talk with your DSO.
  • J-1 students are eligible for academic training following the program of study. This training is a form of temporary employment that directly relates to your program of study.  Our office will provide more information upon request.
  • Please refer to the CPT and OPT website for more information.

Upon Program Completion

  • F and J students and scholars must take action to maintain legal status or depart the United States after completing your program of study.
  • F-1 students have a 60-day grace period after completion of your program and/or any authorized period of practical training (see the program end date on your Form I-20) to leave the United States. If you wish to extend your stay in the United States, talk with your DSO before the expiration of your grace period to learn more about doing one of the following:
  • J-1 students and scholars have a grace period of 30 days. For guidance about this process, contact your RO. 

Talk with your DSO First

  • If you are an F-1 student studying in the United States, your DSO should be the first person you talk with if you have any questions regarding the legal requirements of your stay in the United States. Your DSO can assist in answering your questions or help you find someone who can help.
  • F-1 students should speak with their DSO if you are planning to do any of the following:
    • Change your major, program, or degree level.
    • Change your education level.
    • Transfer to a new school or take a leave of absence.
    • Take a break from school.
    • Travel outside the United States.
    • Move to a new address.
    • Request a program extension.
    • Drop a class. 
    • Bring a dependent (spouse or child)

Center for Global Engagement

Hankamer Academic Center, H 160.01
1428 S. 5th St.
Waco, TX 76798

One Bear Place #97012
Waco, TX 76798-7012

(254) 710-1461