Maintaining F-1 Status
Immigration status is your legal permission to remain in the United States under specific conditions according to specific visa categories.
Most international students at Davidson hold F-1 student status. Below are some simple steps you can take to ensure that your stay in the United States as an F-1 student remains valid.
Please remember to keep your documents up-to-date.
F-1 Status vs. Visa Stamp
F-1 status and visa stamp are separate but interconnected. They each have their own expiration dates and regulations.
F-1 status: depends on full time enrollment at Davidson. Your I-20 contains all information pertaining to your status. The end date of your status is your graduation date, unless you apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) or continue on to graduate school. If you choose not to apply for OPT or continue your education, you will have a 60 day grace period after graduation to remain in the United States.
Visa Stamp: gives you permission to request entry to the United States. It is only needed when you are traveling to the U.S. and being processed at customs. Your visa expiration date will most likely be different than your I-20 end date, but there is a chance that they will be the same.
- Since the visa stamp is a travel document only, it is okay for it to expire while you are in the United States. If this happens, you must plan to apply for a new visa the next time you leave the US in order to re-enter.
- Exception: A valid visa is not necessary for most students when returning from Canada, Mexico and most Caribbean islands if you have been gone for less than 30 days. This exception does not apply to students from Cuba, Iran, Sudan, or Syria.
- Upon admission, you will be given instructions for completing the I-20 Questionnaire and submitting a copy of your passport and financial documentation. Once these documents have been reviewed and approved, an ISP team member will create a SEVIS record for you and issue your Form I-20.
- You will be sent your initial I-20 from International Student Programs after your admission to Davidson—by April 1 for Early Decision students, and by mid-May for Regular Decision students. As of March 2020, federal regulations allow the I-20 to be emailed directly to you. You must print this I-20, sign it, and carry it with you in hand for your F-1 visa appointment and when entering the United States. You will be required to produce your signed I-20 at Customs.
- ISP will update your I-20 for you after you declare your major. If you have not received your updated I-20 within the semester of your major change, please contact ISP for an update.
- Your I-20 must be signed by a member of the ISP team for entry to the U.S. every 12 months. Submit this request through WildcatSync (Davidson login required).
- During your time at Davidson, if your I-20 lost, stolen or misplaced, please contact ISP for a replacement.
- The end date on your I-20 is an estimation only. If you need additional time to complete your program of study, you must contact ISP for an extension BEFORE the I-20 expires. Should your I-20 expire before you complete your program, you will be out of legal status in the United States.
- If you would like to transfer to another school, your SEVIS record needs to be transferred your new school. Contact ISP to facilitate this process.
- Your I-20 is an official document within your immigration record. As you may receive multiple I-20s during your time in the United States, it is important that you keep every I-20 for your records.
- After receiving your I-20, you may file Form DS-160 and schedule a visa interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy near you.
- Once granted an F-1 visa, you may enter the United States within 30 days of your initial program start date. You may also trave in and out of the country through the duration of your program as long as your visa remains valid
- If your visa expires while you are still within your program, you may renew your visa during your next trip outside the United States (see Automatic Visa Revalidation for an exception).
- Your immigration status remains valid while you are within the United States, even if your visa has expired (see F-1 Status vs. Visa Stamp for an explanation)
- You may not renew your visa from within the United States
- Your passport should always be valid for at least six months into the future.
- You may renew your passport in the United States through your home country's embassy, or while at home.
- If your passport is lost or stolen, please file a police report, notify the Embassy of your home country, and notify ISP immediately.
- Report to International Student Programs any change of address or telephone number within 10 days of your move so that your SEVIS record may be updated.
- You should also maintain a permanent address outside the United States to which you intend to return.
- Upon entry to the United States, Customs and Boarder Protection (CBP) issues you a Form I-94. This is the U.S. government's record of your arrival and will also serve to document your departure when you travel out of the United States.
- This document will not exist until your first entry into the United States, and is updated each time you reenter the country.
- The I-94 is issued electronically and you must download and print a copy of your I-94 each time you reenter the United States.
- Review your I-94 for accuracy and contact ISP if you find any errors, particularly related to your name, status, and "admit till" date
- Please note: the government issues paper I-94 records at all land borders (e.g. driving to the United States from Canada).
Maintain Full-time Enrollment
- Your F-1 immigration status requires that you pursue a "full course of study" each fall and spring semester, by enrolling in at least three Davidson courses. The academic requirement for full-time study at Davidson is four courses.
- You are not required to take classes during summers while you are enrolled at Davidson. You can choose to remain in the United States without affecting your immigration status. If you would like to work off campus in the U.S. during the summer, Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization is required.
- If you need to fall below the required number of courses or withdraw entirely during the semester, please contact International Student Programs before you drop any classes to receive approval in writing and discuss the immigration implications of your decision.
- F-1 regulations limit the amount of time for completing degree requirements. The program end date for F-1 students is based on the average time it takes all students to complete a particular program of study.
- F-1 regulations permit program extensions for most any academically justifiable reason except for poor academic performance.
- If you will not complete your program requirements before the program end date on your I-20, submit a Program Extension Request in WildcatSync.
- A program of study can only be extended up to one year at a time.
- Program extensions require you to show additional funding for the length of the extension.
- Extensions must be requested before the program ending date on the I-20.
Obtain Work Authorization
- You are automatically eligible to work on campus for Davidson College for up to 20 hours per week during the spring and fall semesters. Working more than 20 hours/week is a violation of F-1 status.
- Working for a vendor operating on campus (e.g. Campus Summit) is not allowed.
- You are eligible to work full-time (more than 20 hours/week) on campus during vacation periods and during the summer session.
- You must receive official work authorization prior to working anywhere off-campus.
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT) can be granted for internship experience within your major field of study. Optional Practical Training (OPT) grants work authorization for one year after graduation (STEM majors are eligible for two additional years).
- You must be in status for two semesters to be eligible for CPT or OPT.
- You will be out of status and your I-20 will legally be terminated if you work without authorization. Do not risk it.
- Work is considered anything for which you are compensated, such as money, food, or room/board. Volunteering may be considered employment as well, so please check with ISP before accepting any position.