Maintaining Your F-1 Status

As an F-1 student, you were admitted to the U.S. for “duration of status” (D/S) (D/S is found on the white I-94 card in your passport or can be printed at This means you are permitted to stay in the U.S. until you complete your program or until the completion date on your SEVIS Form I-20. You must have maintained your status by fulfilling the requirements of being an F-1 student.

Keep in mind that there are important differences between an F-1 visa and F-1 status. The visa is a stamp or sticker placed on your passport by a U.S. embassy or consulate and is granted for entry purposes only. F-1 status is granted when you enter the U.S. and is regulated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Even if your visa is valid, you can lose your legal F-1 status if you do not comply with the immigration laws regulating your stay in the U.S. If you fail to maintain your legal status, you will need to file for F-1 Reinstatement with DHS, or in some cases, be forced to leave the country (e.g., you must leave the country and make a new entry with a valid visa if you work illegally).

Essential regulations, documents

Required actions

  1. Maintain a valid passport at all times (current + six months).
  2. Attend the college that the DHS has authorized you to attend.
  3. Complete an official immigration transfer whenever you change educational institutions (F-1 International Student Transfer In Form and Transfer out request form). An immigration transfer must be completed within 45 days of the beginning of classes of your first semester at the new school.      Note:  An immigration transfer is a separate process from transferring academic credit from another school. An immigration transfer is not complete until a Designated School Official/ International Student Advisor (DSO/ISA) signs a new  showing the completed transfer.
  4. Complete a full course of study during the fall and spring semesters (12 hours per semester). You are not required by DHS to enroll in classes during the summer session unless your  indicates that you start in the summer. In that case, you must complete at least 9 hours in the summer session. You should check with your department to see if they have any requirements for the summer. If you believe that you need to drop a course, make an appointment to see a DSO/ISA in the Office of International Student Services & Study Abroad BEFORE you drop the course. This must be completed before the drop date of the semester; it CANNOT be done after you drop the course.
  5. You are limited to only one class of distance education (on-line class) per semester that will count towards your full-time status.
  6. Apply for an extension of your program if you cannot complete it by the ending date listed on item five of your . You can apply for a program extension within the 30-day window before the expiration date. Failure to do so will result in loss of your status.
  7. Obtain a new  whenever you make changes in your program of study or in degree levels. This includes changing from language studies to an associate's degree, an associate's degree to a bachelor's degree, from a master’s degree to a doctorate, from an optional practical training program to a new degree, from one level of degree to one of the same level (master’s to a second master’s degree), etc.
  8. Obtain authorization from an international student advisor or the DHS to work off-campus. On-campus work requires authorization from your DSO, and is limited to part-time (20 hours or less per week) during the fall and spring semesters. On-campus work may be full-time (more than 20 hours per week) only during the summer and official school breaks. When you work on-campus, you must maintain full-time status or your employment will be considered illegal.
  9. Request a travel endorsement on your  from the DSO/ISA before leaving the U.S.
  10. Report a Change of address Form to your DSO/ISA within 10 days of change.
  11. Maintain a GPA of at least 2.0

Financial responsibility

In compliance with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Federal Codes and Regulations, and the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS); Houston Community College (HCC) requires proof of adequate financial support from each student applicant who requests a SEVIS Form I-20. The financial information of a student must be complete and on file with the Office of International Student Services (OISS) prior to release of the SEVIS Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility).

Any student wishing to be considered for admissions by HCC is required to submit original financial documents to OISS (these documents will not be returned; therefore you must be prepared to submit another set of originals at the time of your visa interview). The financial documents must validate the minimum amount required by HCC. 


The information on the Houston Community College (HCC) Office of International Student Services (OISS) website is intended only for current and prospective international students, faculty, and staff affiliated with HCC.  All matters relating to the immigration status of the student is the student’s responsibility, not the responsibility of HCC.  If a student has an immigration issue that requires legal advice, the student is encouraged to seek professional services from a qualified immigration attorney. Any information on OISS’s website is subject to change at any time and without notice and may not apply to individuals outside HCC. Nothing contained herein should be constructed as giving legal advice as contemplated under any statute, regulation, or other law.