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Maintaining Lawful Status

As an international student you are responsible for maintaining lawful F-1 status by meeting specific requirements at all times. Maintaining lawful status will make you eligible for benefits such as employment and extensions of stay. Maintaining status is essential if you intend to change to another non-immigrant status or adjust your status in the future. Failure to maintain lawful F-1 status may result in very serious problems with immigration and could result in you having to involuntarily leave the U.S. and/or could bar you from future entry into the U.S.

Requirements to maintain status

The following are the requirements you need to follow in order to maintain lawful F-1 non-immigrant status:

  1. Attend the university you are authorized to attend (entered on I-20 issued by UNCSA).
  2. Complete transfer procedures if transferring into UNCSA from another U.S. institution.
  3. Enroll full-time each semester for the duration of your program
    • Undergraduate students must enroll in a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester.
    • Graduate students must enroll in a minimum of 9 credit hours per semester.
  4. Maintain your health insurance coverage.
  5. Your passport must be valid at all times. Passport valid for at least six months beyond the program end date on your I-20.
  6. Inform the international advisor if your physical address (where you live) changes. Address changes must be reported into the SEVIS system within 10 days of moving. You must also report a change in your mailing address and permanent home country address. Be sure to also submit address change form to the Registrar’s Office.
  7. Employment:
    • On-campus employment is limited to no more than 20 hours per week during the academic year. You may work more than 20 hours per week during official university breaks and during the summer if you are registered for classes for the next semester.
    • Off-campus employment without prior authorization is not permitted. (See Employment Options)
  8. Complete and submit the Departure Form prior to leaving UNCSA.

Reduced Course Load

There are exceptions to the full-time enrollment requirement, but enrolling less than full-time (reduced course load-RCL) must be approved by the international advisor before dropping courses or enrolling in less than the required number of credits. Courses you may audit or ‘visit’ do not count towards full-time enrollment status.

  • Remain in good academic standing and make continued normal progress towards the completion of your program.

Note: Failure to enroll due to suspension, dismissal, enrollment withheld, expulsion, or any other similar action which prevents enrollment may have serious negative consequences on legal immigration status.

  • If continuing beyond the program end date on your I-20, request an extension or a change of level (B.F.A. to M.F.A. for example) before the I-20 expiration date.
  • If you are graduating from UNCSA and do not at this time have the intention of returning to do another program, complete and submit the Departure Form prior to leaving UNCSA.

Leave of Absence or Withdrawal

Students requesting a leave of absence or complete withdrawal due to unforeseen circumstances:

  • Consult with their department and follow appropriate procedures.
  • Must inform the international advisor and complete a departure form. The international advisor will then report the action in SEVIS.  Failure to inform the international advisor may result in the termination of the SEVIS record for failure to enroll. Termination for failure to enroll, could cause problems while traveling and when applying for any future immigration benefits.

Departure form

Students  who are authorized for early withdrawal have a 15-day grace period to depart the U.S.

USCIS Unlawful Presence Policy for F Nonimmigrants

On August 9, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a final policy memorandum which significantly changes how the agency calculates days of unlawful presence accrued by F, J, and M nonimmigrants.  The policy is effective as of August 9, 2018.  Pursuant to the memorandum, F, J, and M nonimmigrants will begin to accrue days of unlawful presence towards the three-year and ten-year bars on inadmissibility (re-entry to the U.S.) under circumstances where they previously had not. A PDF of this policy is available on the website.

Unlawful Presence Policy Frequently Asked Questions


Contact: Ronit Weingarden, International Advisor and principal designated school official, PDSO
TaWanna Archia, International Advisor, DSO


Ronit Weingarden
International Advisor, PDSO

Welcome. If you are an admitted or current international student, we are here to assist and answer questions about campus life as an international student. The office is located in the Welcome Center where I serve as one of the International Advisors and Principal Designated School Official (PDSO) and TaWanna Archia serves as an International Advisor and Designated School Official (DSO).

Have an admissions question?

Contact an admissions counselor for all admittance requirements questions.

Frequently Asked Questions