Maintaining F-1 Status | LSU International Students

Maintaining F-1 Status

It is very important for international students to stay in lawful immigration status at all times. International Services provides information and advice on immigration-related issues, but it is your responsibility as an F-1 or J-1 student to stay informed about immigration regulations and maintain your status.

If you fall out of lawful immigration status, you may have serious problems with U.S. Immigration. As a result you may have problems obtaining any U.S. visas or entering the U. S. in the future. While you are in the U.S., falling out of status means that you will no longer be eligible for any F-1 or J-1 benefits, including employment authorization. In some cases being out of status may result in you being put in removal procedures (deportation).

Please read the information below. It is very important for our students to be well informed and knowledgeable about immigration rules. Immigration rules change frequently, and it is your responsibility to read ALL emails from International Services and stay in close contact with our office throughout your studies at LSU.


How SEVIS Works

Once Louisiana State University (LSU) admits an international student who indicates that he/she needs the F-1 (student) status, the student’s information is entered into SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) and Form I-20 is issued to the student. The student visits the U.S. consulate abroad, and the consulate confirms through SEVIS that the I-20 the student is carrying is a valid document. If everything is in order, the consulate issues the visa. An immigration officer at the airport reports to SEVIS the student's entry into the U.S. When the student arrives on campus, he or she reports to International Services at International Student Orientation, and International Services confirms through SEVIS the student’s semester enrollment. International Services continues to provide regular electronic reports to SEVIS throughout the student's academic career. Finally, the student's departure from the United States is recorded in SEVIS.

Data SEVIS Collects

International Services must register new students in the SEVIS database after they have entered the U.S. within 30 days of their program begin date (as per students’ I-20 Forms). For both new and continuing students, International Services is required to report whether or not the student has completed full-time registration within 30 days of the last day to register for that semester (as per LSU academic calendar).

International Services must report within 21 days of their occurrence the following events:

  • Change in the student or dependent's legal name.
  • Change in the student’s street address.
  • Completion of studies: Any student who graduates prior to the end date listed on the I-20.
  • Resignation from LSU.
  • Academic or disciplinary actions taken due to criminal conviction.
  • Whether the student drops below a full course of study with or without prior authorization from the DSO (Immigration regulations refer to international student advisors as "Designated School Officials"- DSO).
  • Academic suspension.
  • Program extensions.
  • School transfers.
  • Changes in level of study and/or major.
  • Change in funding.
  • Employment authorizations (OPT, CPT, Economic Hardship Employment).
  • Reinstatement recommendation.

Maintaining Full-Time Enrollment

F-1 students are required to be enrolled full-time every fall and spring semester. Summer semester enrollment is optional, unless it is a student’s first semester at LSU. "Full-time" means 12 credit hours per semester for undergraduates and 9 credit hours per semester for graduate students. Immigration rules do not specify that all the classes an F-1 student is enrolled in must be related to the student’s major. However, no more than the equivalent of one class or 3 credit hours per semester may be counted towards full-time enrollment if taken on-line or through distance education. A distance education course is defined as a course that does not require the student’s physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion of the class. Students must enroll in physical presence (non-distance education) courses(s) during their semester before graduate.

The exception to the full-time enrollment requirement is a case of a student in his/her final semester of enrollment at LSU who needs less than full course load to complete his/her degree requirement. In such a case the student must officially file for graduation prior to enrolling part-time. International Services cannot authorize part-time enrollment unless the student’s graduation date is posted in the LSU system.

If you are considering part-time enrollment for any other reason, please contact International Services. F-1 students may not drop below a full course of study without prior advising from International Services.

Maintaining a Valid I-20 Form

Your I-20 must be valid and accurate at all times. You must request a new updated I-20 in the following cases:

Your I-20 has an expiration date (see Section 5 on Page 1). If your I-20 is going to expire before you complete your program of studies, you must apply for an extension at least two weeks prior to the expiration date. Applications for program extensions can be submitted at the International Services front desk via a “Green Sheet” request form and must be accompanied by a “Program Extension Request” form filled out by you and your department/college listing your anticipated completion date, reason for extension and funding information.

An F-1 student who is unable to meet the program completion date on the I-20 may be granted an extension only if the student has continually maintained status and the delays were caused by compelling academic or medical reasons, such as changes of major or change of research topics, unexpected research problems, or documented illnesses. Delays caused by academic probation or suspension are not acceptable for program extensions.

If a student does not apply for an extension of his or her I-20 until after the program end date noted on the I-20, the student is out of status and must apply for reinstatement (application to attempt to regain lawful status). An F-1 student who is unable to complete the educational program within the time listed on the I-20 and who is ineligible for program extension is also considered out of status. If eligible, the student may apply for reinstatement.

If you have got a new major or have changed your primary LSU major, you must request a new I-20 from International Services. Applications for new I-20s due to a change of major can be submitted at the International Services front desk via a “Green Sheet” request form. Your department/college must update your major in the LSU Student Record Database before we can process your new I-20. Please also note that if you need an extension of your I-20 program completion date due to the change of major, you must submit a “Program Extension Request” form. For more information about I-20 expiration date, see the previous section.

You must request a new I-20 if you change your degree level (for example, from Master’s to PhD, from PhD to Master’s, etc.). Please submit a “Green Sheet” request form together with “Change of Program Level Request” form filled out by your department.

If your funding has changed (for example, you received an assistantship, scholarship, or you no longer have an assistantship or scholarship, etc.) you must request a new I-20 with the updated information. Please submit a “Green Sheet” request form accompanied by a copy of your award letter (if you received an assistantship/scholarship/fellowship, etc.) or “Affidavit of Support for Continuing Students” (if you no longer have university funding) to the International Services front desk. If you do not have or did not receive an award letter stating the terms and duration of your financial award you may instead submit a “Department Funding Verification” form as a substitute for an award letter.

If any information on your I-20 is out of date, you must request an updated I-20. For example, if your name has been changed in your passport, your I-20 must have your new name to match your passport. International Services will need a copy of your new passport (together with a “Green Sheet” request form) to update your I-20.

Another example of a change is dependent information. If your F-2 dependent is no longer in the U. S. (and is not planning to return in F-2 status) or changed his/her status to another one (for example, F-1, H1B, J-1, etc.), the dependent’s information must be removed from your I-20.

Of course, if you find any mistakes on your I-20, please make sure to request a corrected I-20.

Working Only With Authorization

All F-1 students must have authorization to work either from International Services and/or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) before they start their employment. Please see “Student Employment” under current students section of our Web site for more detailed information about working in F-1 status.

Reporting Change of Address

Immigration rules require that all non-immigrants (including F-1 students) report their address in the U.S. to USCIS. While most other visa holders are required to use USCIS Form AR-11 to report their address, F-1 students must inform their university’s International Services office of their address. At LSU you report your address to our office by entering it into your myLSU account (see “Local Street Address” field). Your address information is then electronically transferred into SEVIS database and thus reported to U.S. Immigration.

You must update your address in myLSU within 10 days of any move, even if you move temporarily (e.g., for a summer vacation, internship, etc.).

Graduation / Final Semester

Degree-Only Registration

If you are considering registering as Degree-Only for your final semester, please contact our office because this will affect your program end date on your I-20 and your 60-day grace period will begin on the Degree-Only deadline date. Please contact or call the front desk to set up an appointment with one of our advisors. In your graduating semester, you may work up to the graduation ceremony date listed in the LSU Course Catalog, as long as you have a valid work authorization. Students registering for “Degree Only” will have an I-20 end date/program completion date of the “Degree Only” registration date and may ONLY work on-campus UNTIL the “Degree Only” deadline date (with valid work authorization). “Degree Only” students may NOT continue to work or remain in the U.S. until the end of the semester unless they choose an option that extends their status (i.e., OPT, new I-20 for new academic program).

Resigning From LSU

F-1 students who resign for the fall or spring semesters (summer semester as well, but only if it is the student’s first semester at LSU) will be reported to International Services by the LSU University Registrar. International Services is required to report the official resignation of the student in SEVIS. The resignation reporting to SEVIS terminates the student’s status and their current I-20/DS-2019 Form. A student has 15 calendar days after the official resignation date to leave the U.S. If they do not depart within those 15 days, they will be out of lawful status.

A student who wishes to study at LSU after a resignation should contact International Services at to request a new I-20/DS-2019 form to use to re-enter the U.S. and determine their eligibility and if any action for re-admission is necessary by the Office of Admissions and department (if applicable).

A student can re-enter the U.S. to continue their academic program only 30 days prior to the semester they will re-enroll, as restricted by U.S. federal regulations, which is determined by the program begin date on their new I-20 form.

Grace Periods for Departing the U.S.

F-1 Students:

F-1 students have a 60-day Grace Period: An F-1 student who has completed a course of study (graduated from LSU) or Optional Practical Training (OPT) following completion of studies has a 60-day grace period to remain in the U.S. You cannot travel outside of the U.S. and return as F-1 during the grace period. No employment is allowed during the grace period. You have the following options BEFORE 60-day grace period ends:

  • Apply for OPT (after completion of studies)
  • Receive a new LSU I-20 for a new program of studies, if you are admitted into a new degree program at LSU
  • Transfer your F-1 SEVIS record and receive a new I-20 from another school, if you are admitted into a new program at another U.S. school
  • Prepare for departure and leave the U.S.

F-1 students who terminate their course of study without obtaining prior approval from International Services are not eligible for any grace period and must depart the U.S. immediately.

F-1 students who have been authorized by IS and officially withdraw/resign from the University and classes during a semester have 15 days to depart from the U.S. from the date of the resignation/withdrawal (MANDATORY).

Transferring To and From U.S. Schools

F-1 students are permitted by immigration regulations to transfer between SEVIS-approved institutions in the U.S. The student first must be fully admitted into a new school. Then he/she notifies the current school of his/her intent to transfer. The current school updates the student’s SEVIS record as a “transfer out” indicating the school the student intends to transfer to and a “release date” - the date of the expected transfer. The current school retains control of the student’s SEVIS record until the release date is reached.

The student may cancel the transfer request at any time prior to the release date. After the release date, the current school will no longer have access to the SEVIS record, and thus will be unable to cancel the request after the release date. The student is required to contact the school where he/she is transferring to within 15 days of the program start date.

When transferring between SEVIS-approved institutions, students must resume classes within 5 months of transferring out of their current school or within 5 months of the program completion date as indicated on the SEVIS Form I-20 issued by the current school, whichever date is earlier. For transfer students authorized to engage in OPT, the student must be able to resume classes within 5 months of transferring out of the school that recommended OPT or the date the OPT authorization ends, whichever is earlier.

Please note that the 5-month period mentioned above is meant to cover possible gaps between the end of one program and the beginning of the next available semester at another program. The student is expected to begin on the next available start date/semester or term following completion of the previous program. Students ineligible for a transfer may depart the country and return as an initial entry in F-1 status. A student is not otherwise permitted to remain in the U.S. when transferring between schools.

What does this mean for you? If you are completing your studies at LSU and wish to continue studying at another U.S. institution, or if you are simply transferring schools, you can apply to as many schools as you wish. However, you must choose only ONE school to transfer to, as the SEVIS system will only allow LSU to release your file to one school. Once you have made a decision, you must complete the Transfer Out form (found at the International Services front desk or online) with any applicable Transfer In form from your new school and turn the form(s) and a copy of your new school official admission letter into International Services for processing.

Please note: Beginning study for a new degree or transferring to another school means that any current OPT period is automatically cancelled.

Regulations for F-2 Dependents

Spouses and minor children of F-1 students may be eligible for F-2 visas and F-2 status in the U.S. The F-1 student must apply for F-2 I-20 Forms for his/her dependent(s) with International Services by submitting a “Green Sheet” request form and proof of financial ability to support his/her dependent(s) in the U.S. After the F-2 I-20 is issued, the F-2 dependent must use the original I-20 to apply for F-2 visa. If he/she is granted a visa, the dependent may seek admission into the U.S.

F-2 spouses are not allowed by immigration rules to pursue a full-time college course load or academic degree program. An F-2 dependent “may not engage in full-time study … The F-2 spouse and child may engage in study that is a vocational or recreational in nature” (8 U.S. Code of Federal Regulations). If an F-2 wishes to study at LSU on a full-time basis in an academic degree program, he/she must apply for a change of status to F-1 and be approved prior to enrollment.

F-2 dependents are not allowed to work in the U.S. under any circumstances.

There are specific requirements for enrolling part-time during your last semester and if you do not complete your program for any reason, there could be severe immigration consequences. Please contact or if you are considering part-time enrollment your final semester or call the front desk to set up an appointment with one of our advisors.

Please contact if you are considering travel during your last semester or call the front desk to set up an appointment with one of our advisors. Depending on when you will complete your coursework and program requirements, you may or may not be able to travel. You could lose the opportunity to re-enter the U.S. as an F-1 student or apply for OPT, so please make sure you contact our office if you are considering travel during your graduating semester.

We will be sending a graduation survey to students regarding their completion at LSU and future plans. We appreciate your responses and this information helps us to close your record in the correct manner and with appropriate remarks, such as “Student has already departed the U.S.” , etc.

Resigning From LSU

All F-1 students must have authorization to work either from International Services and/or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) before they start their employment. Please see “Student Employment” under current students section of our Web site for more detailed information about working in F-1 status.


The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) established penalties for visa overstays and unlawful presence of non-immigrants.

Prior USCIS policy (1997-2018): Status violation did not initiate unlawful presence for non-immigrants in the US.

It could be initiated by:

  •  status expired and remained in US
  •  Immigration judge determined status violation
  •  USCIS determined a status violation in the adjudication of an application

New USCIS policy effective August 9, 2018:

Specific to students and scholars, F- and J- non-immigrants (including dependents) who failed to maintain status on or after August 9, 2018 and remain in the US begin to accrue unlawful presence on the earliest of the day after:

  • expiration of date specific I-94 record (US POE arrival/departure document) and remained in US
  • (note that F and J status holders currently do NOT have date specific I-94s: expiration is “D/S” = Duration of Status) failing to pursue the course of study or program objective of authorized activity
  • engaging in unauthorized activity
  • completing course of study, program, or practical training and any grace period and remained in the US, or
  • removal order by Immigration judge or Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) 


Unlawful presence policies apply to all non-immigrants. USCIS Policy Memorandum: “Accrual of Unlawful Presence and F, J, and M Nonimmigrants”, with some narrow exceptions, documents that F- and J- status holders will begin to accrue unlawful presence the day after a violation of status, and may subject them to a 3-year bar (if unlawfully present for 180 days but less than one year) or 10-year bar (if unlawfully present for one consecutive year or more) on returning to the US when they depart the US.

Technically this is not a new rule but this extreme change in policy can have grave consequences to non-immigrant student and scholars. There are many ways students and scholars can lose legal status, including working without authorization, failure to extend an I-20/DS-2019 timely (certificate/visa document), enrollment below full time without authorization, not pursuing original program objective, cease of studies/activities without authorization and departing the US as required, or any violation of any applicable federal regulations.

It is important for LSU F-1 and J-1 students and scholars to consult with advisors in International Services for any Immigration matters with any questions or concerns. LSU F-1 and J-1 participants will be notified by International Services if the office is aware that a violation has occurred.

For more information concerning the change in the unlawful presence policy, see:,_J,_and_M_Nonimmigrants/