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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.


  • You will be mailed your initial I-20 from the International Student Office (ISO) in mid-June. Your I-20 is required to enter the country. Please keep it in hand when entering the United States. You will be required to produce your signed I-20 at Customs.
  • Once you declare your major, it must be listed on your I-20. Stop by the ISO to have your information updated. Your I-20 must be signed by the International Student Advisor for travelling in and out of the United States every 12 months.
  • During your time at Davidson, if you have your I-20 lost, stolen or misplaced, please contact the ISO to have a new, signed copy sent to you.
  • The end date on your I-20 (item #5) is an estimation only. If you need additional time to complete your program of study, please contact our office before the I-20 expires for an extension. 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 with you. Contact the ISO to facilitate this process. 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.

Passport, Visa Stamp & Address

  • Your passport should always be valid for at least six months into the future.
  • You may renew the passport in the United States through your home country's embassy, or at home while on a trip.
  • If your passport is lost or stolen, please file a police report, notify the Embassy of your home country, and notify the ISO immediately.
  • Report to International Student Services 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.
  • 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.
  • The International Student Office will print your I-94 during International Pre-Orientation.
  • As the I-94 is now issued electronically, you must download and print a copy of your I-94 each time you reenter the United States.
  • You may access your I-94 record at U.S. Customs and Border Protections.
  • Please note: the government will continue to issue paper I-94 records at all land borders (e.g. driving to the United States from Canada.).

Maintain Full-time Enrollment

  • You must pursue a "full course of study" each fall and spring semester, by enrolling in at least three Davidson 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 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 Services before you drop any classes to receive approval in writing.
  • Davidson has very limited legal authority to grant an exception to the full-time enrollment requirement. Examples of circumstances that may qualify for an exception include medical issues or initial academic difficulties. Please note that an exception based on academic issues is available only one time during your academic program.
  • Students are also eligible to drop below the full-time requirement in their final semester if fewer than three courses are needed to finish the degree.
  • No more than one online class per semester will count towards your full-time enrollment requirement.

Obtain Work Authorization

On-Campus Work

  • 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 for a vendor operating on campus (e.g. Campus Summit) is not allowed.
  • You are eligible to work full-time on campus during vacation periods and during the summer session.

Off-Campus Work

  • 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 nine months (two semesters) to be eligible for CPT or OPT.
  • You will be out of status and eligible for deportation 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 the ISO before accepting any position.