West Texas A&M University

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International Maintaining Status

Maintaining Student Status

As an F-1 or J-1 student, you were admitted to the U.S. for "duration of status" (D/S is found on the white I-94 card in your passport). This means you are permitted to stay in the U.S. as long as you maintain your status by fulfilling the requirements of being an F-1 or J-1 student. F-1 or J-1 status is granted when you enter the U.S. and is regulated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (USCIS) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

The visa is a stamp or sticker placed in your passport by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and is granted for entry purposes only. If your F-1 or J-1 visa expires while you are in the U.S., there is no cause for concern unless you have violated status.  Even if your visa is valid, you can lose your legal F-1 or J-1 status if you do not continue to comply with immigration laws regulating your stay in the U.S. If you fail to maintain legal student status, you should speak to an immigration adviser to discuss your options for restoring your immigration status.


Government Regulations You Must Follow in Order to Maintain Your Legal Status

  • Maintain a valid passport at all times;
  • Attend the school that is listed on your current I-20 or DS-2019 form;

Complete an official immigration transfer whenever you change educational institutions. Note: An immigration transfer is a completely separate process from transferring academic credit from one school to another. An immigration transfer is not complete until an immigration adviser at the new school processes the transfer on the new school's I-20 form. An immigration transfer must be completed within 15 days of the beginning of classes of your first semester at the new school.

  • Complete a full course of study during each fall and spring semesters;

Full time is 12 credit hours per semester for an undergraduate student and 9 credit hours per semester for a graduate student. Correspondence courses and in absentia registration do not count toward a full course of study. If you are a continuing student, you are not required to enroll in classes during the summer sessions.  If you believe that you need to drop a course, see an immigration adviser at the International Student Office before you drop the course.

  • Apply for an I-20 extension of your program if you cannot complete your degree by the ending date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019;

You must apply for a program extension before the completion date on your I-20.  Because the International Student Office staff can have large volumes of request at any given time, it is best to apply for an extension at least 2-3 weeks prior to the expiration date on your I-20 or DS-2019.  Please see “Program Extension” for procedures.

  • Obtain a new I-20 or DS-2019 whenever you make a change in major or degree levels;

A new I-20 must be issued within 15 days of the beginning of classes of your first semester of your new program. This would include changing from English language studies to a university degree, from bachelor's degree to master's degree, from Optional Practical Training Program to a new degree, or from one level of degree to one of, the same level (master's to a second master's degree), etc.

  • Work off-campus ONLY if you have first received authorization from an Immigration Adviser or USCIS;

On-campus work does not require special authorization however it is limited to part-time (20 hours or less per week) during the fall and spring semesters. On-campus employment may be full-time (more than 20 hours per week) during the summer and official school breaks. All “off campus” work must be authorized by an International Student adviser or the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS.)  A student must maintain illegal status to work.

  • Request a travel endorsement on your I-20 or DS-2019 from the ISO before leaving the U.S.;
  • Report any change of address within ten days to the ISO.

We will notify USCIS of your change of address while you are a student at WTAMU.