Maintaining F-1 Student or J-1 Scholar Status

Upon entering the United States, your job as an F-1 student or J-1 scholar is not complete. You must "maintain your visa status." Please use the information and resources on this page to learn more and update the ISSS office.

What does it meant to "Maintain Status"?

Your status relates to the purpose of your travel to the U.S. Your U.S. visa is issued to you based on this purpose. If you are a student and have been issued an F or J visa, this means that your purpose for being in the United States is to study. No action should be taken that detracts from that purpose. While you are a student with a nonimmigrant visa status, you must take care to follow the regulations that come with studying in the United States.

Please browse the following information for guidance on how to maintain your nonimmigrant student or scholar status.

Maintaining status begins upon arrival in the United States. There are several regulations that you must comply with:

  • Ensure that the information on your I-20 form is accurate and up-to-date at all times.
  • Enter the United States no more than 30 days before your program of study begins. This date can be found on your I-20 form here:

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  • Immediately contact RWU when arrive in the United States.
  • When you arrive at RWU, you must check in physically with the Designated School Official in the ISSS office. New Student Orientation includes mandatory immigration sessions for international students.


Maintain Full Course Load

As your purpose in the United States is to study, you must maintain normal academic progress. Follow these points to ensure that you are maintaining your academic responsibilities.

  • Attend all classes and maintain normal academic progress. This means complying with RWU requirements for Academic Regulations and Requirements: RWU Satisfactory Academic Progress
    • If you encounter difficulty with maintaining your academic progress, please speak with your Designated School Official (DSO) as soon as possible to formulate an academic plan that meets RWU requirements.
  • Maintain a full course of study each term.
    • Undergraduate Students: Enroll in at least 12 credits per semester (typically students enroll in 15 per semester)
    • Graduate & Law Students: Full course of study depends on your program, but typically 9 credits per semester. Speak with your academic advisors or dean and your DSO to ensure that you are enrolled in a full course of study.
  • Speak to your DSO before dropping a class.
  • Speak to your DSO after changing your major. 
    • (Speak with your academic advisor before changing your major)
  • Extensions to your program end date may be granted if you are not able to complete your program before the date listed on your I-20 form. Speak to RWU's DSO as soon as you know that you will not be able to complete your program by the date listed on your I-20.

Update International Services with Significant Changes

Your I-20 form and your SEVIS record include important personal and academic information that must be kept up-to-date. If changes are made to the following items, you must update International Services immediately, within 10 days of the change:

  • Address: This includes your physical U.S. address, U.S. mailing address, and foreign address.
  • Major: Please update ISSS when your major is changed in Roger Central.
  • Work Opportunities: CPT or OPT must be authorized with RWU's DSO beforehand. View RWU's page on CPT for more information.
  • Finances: International students initially enrolling at RWU submit financial evidence indicating support for the first year of study. Beyond that, it is assumed that the financial situation remains about the same, so this does not need to be updated unless you have taken a significant leave of absence from RWU.
    • If you experience financial hardship, please contact the ISSS office.

Additional Considerations

F-1 students must have their I-20 form signed by RWU's DSO before re-entering the United States.

This signature is not necessary to leave the U.S. You must have this section completed with a valid signature upon your re-entry to the United States.

  • All students with an I-20 form must check this section of the form before departing the United States and confirm that the signature is valid for your planned re-entry. If you need to request an updated travel endorsement signature, please contact the ISSS office at

  • This section is not necessary for initial-status international students. When your status changes to "active" and you leave the U.S., you must check this section of your I-20 form.
  • When signed, this signature is valid for one year. 
After you complete your program of study, you must maintain legal status or depart the United States.

F-1 students have 60 days after the completion of their program to leave the United States. Extending your stay in the United States is possible by speaking to your DSO about the following topics:

  • Inquire about the possibility of working in the U.S. with OPT authorization
  • Transfer to another school
  • Change your education level (e.g. bachelor's to master's)
  • Apply to change status to another visa status (e.g. H-1B temporary worker, etc.)

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Your DSO - Designated School Official - should be your first point of contact when you have questions related to your immigration status. You should speak to your DSO if you plan on doing any of the following:
  • Change your major, program, or degree level.

  • Change your education level.

  • Transfer to a new school or take a leave of absence.

  • Take a break from school.

  • Travel outside the United States.

  • Move to a new address.

  • Request a program extension.

  • Request Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training.

What is a DSO?

DSO stand for "Designated School Official." This refers to the person authorized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to issue I-20 forms and maintain SEVIS student information to assist students in maintaining their status. The DSO is the primary point of contact for nonimmigrant international students studying at RWU with immigration concerns.