Maintain Your F-1 Status

In order to remain legally in the USA, there is important information you must understand.

It is the student’s responsibility to maintain their non-immigrant status, to exit and reenter the United States appropriately and to refrain from unauthorized work. Students who fail to comply with their immigration responsibilities may lose legal non-immigrant status and will not be eligible for work or immigration benefits, or to continue in their academic program.

Students in F-1 status must follow the requirements described below to maintain legal immigration status.

If you are unsure of how situational changes may affect your visa status, contact your DSO.

Make normal progress towards your degree

F-1 students are generally considered to be “making normal progress” if they pursue and complete the full course of study on or before the program end date the Form I-20.

Suspension from Sweet Briar: Your DSO is required by immigration regulations to terminate the SEVIS record of any student who is no longer attending classes due to academic or behavioral suspension. Should this occur, the 60 day grace period for leaving the United States is no longer applicable. You will need to make arrangements to leave the country immediately.

You may find that the time given on your I-20 is not sufficient to meet your education requirements at Sweet Briar. This is especially true if you have changed or added a major, or you wish to obtain several minors prior to graduation. If you find that you need an extension of your I-20, you must get your advisor’s recommendation and email your DSO PRIOR TO THE EXPIRATION of your current I-20. Your DSO is unable to extend the I-20 after the program end date of your current I-20.

Also, note that Sweet Briar is legally not permitted to extend your I-20 if you need the extension only because you have performed poorly academically and have therefore not accrued the number of credits you need to graduate.

Maintain a Full Course of Study

F-1 students must maintain a full course of study throughout their education. At Sweet Briar, an undergraduate full load is considered at least 12 credit hours in the fall and at least 12 credits in the spring. This minimum credit requirement must be maintained for every semester. Failure to maintain a full course of study will result a termination of your immigration status.

Immigration regulations dictate that a Reduced Course Load (RCL) must be authorized by your DSO prior to dropping below full-time status. SEVIS limits the reasons for the RCL and the duration of an RCL:

  • If you have a medical condition that limits your ability to attend class, you must complete a request for reduced course load with medical documentation from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy or licensed clinical psychologist.
  • If you have an academic concern or this is your final semester, please see your academic advisor to discuss the circumstances that might qualify you for the RCL and complete a request for a reduced course load.

The following may be a legitimate reason for a reduced course load:

  • Illness or medical condition.
  • Initial difficulty with English language.
  • Initial difficulty with reading requirements.
  • Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods.
  • Improper course level placement.
  • To complete course of study in current term.

If you believe you may be eligible for the RCL, you must schedule an appointment with your DSO and submit documentation verifying your circumstances. Permission to drop below full-time must be approved first, then classes may be dropped after your request is approved.

Follow Employment Regulations

Learn more here.

Registration in SEVIS

At the start of each semester, your DSO will review your academic schedule to ensure you are registered in at least 12 credits. Additionally, you must be present at the College and attending classes. If this is true, you’ll be registered in SEVIS for that semester.

If you change or add a major/minor, your cell phone number changes or you need to change any information listed on your I-20, email your DSO.

Maintain a Valid Passport

A current passport is an essential part of maintaining your legal non-immigrant status in the USA. Check the expiration date on your passport now and ensure that it is always valid for at least six months in the future. If your passport expires you will not be permitted to work on-campus until it is renewed.

If you need to renew your passport, notify your DSO.

It is recommended to renew your passport while in your home country during a winter or summer break. If you are unable to return home or your travel dates prevent you from being able to renew your passport in your home country, you should contact your country’s embassy in the United States for information about the steps necessary for renewal.

Most countries have embassies located in Washington, D.C. where you can apply and they will mail your passport back to you within several weeks. Some countries have a longer processing time, so begin the application process at least eight to nine months before your passport will expire. The Electronic Embassy maintains a list of all Embassies found in Washington, D.C.

Once you have your updated passport, send your DSO a photo of the photopage.

Follow Required Processes

Keep your Form I-20 valid by following proper procedures for:

  • Extension of stay - Email your DSO if your estimated graduation date will change.
  • Change in educational levels - Email your DSO if you are considering the Master’s in Teaching program at Sweet Briar.
  • Change in programs of study - Email your DSO if you change or add a major or minor.
  • Transfer of schools - Email your DSO for an advising appointment before accepting an offer of admission at another school.
Concluding Your Studies at Sweet Briar

After your program end date (after you graduate), you have several available legal options:

  • Apply for OPT
  • Enroll in a higher degree program at another school
    • You may not need to apply for a new visa! Talk to your DSO.
  • File an application to change your immigration status (marriage to U.S. Citizen, Sponsored Employment)
  • Depart from the U.S.

Abide by the F-1 grace period rules staying in the USA, departing the USA or changing your visa status within 60 days of your program end date.

Additional Requirements

These are requirements that you must abide by, but are very straightforward for most F-1 students:

Sweet Briar has been authorized by the federal government to sponsor F-1 students and their dependents. Ensure that the school listed on your visa and on the Form I-20 are the same for initial school attendance. The school listed on your I-20 is the one you must attend. If you want to transfer, talk to your DSO.

Report a change of address to your DSO so that your SEVIS record can be updated. Sweet Briar is a residential college and all students reside at 134 Chapel Road, Sweet Briar, VA 24595. Students who would like to move off-campus must get special permission from the Dean of Student Life and their DSO.

Abide by rules requiring disclosure of information and prohibition on criminal activity.

Failure to comply with any of the above-referenced rules can result in the loss of your F-1 immigration status and possibly the accrual of unlawful presence.

If You Lose F-1 Status:

There is a process to apply for reinstatement should you violate the terms of your F-1 status, however it is a very complicated procedure. Your immigration advisor can assist you with basic information on F-1 reinstatement, but you may need to obtain legal advice from a trusted immigration attorney as well.