Maintaining F-1 Student Status

COVID-19 & Maintaining Status

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic some rules about maintaining your visa status may have changed temporarily. For details please visit our COVID FAQ page. If you have questions after reviewing our information contact us for assistance.

What does it mean to be in F-1 student status?

You entered the U.S. with an F-1 visa (or, if Canadian, used an I-20 to enter the U.S.)


You entered the U.S. with a different visa, and subsequently applied for and were granted a change-of-status to F-1 by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).

THEREFORE, your primary purpose for being in the U.S. is to study.

How do I maintain my F-1 student status?

To maintain your F-1 status, you must comply with ALL of the following requirements:

Always study full-time and make normal progress toward your degree

  • Register for 12 credit hours each semester.
    • Summer and Winter term do not require enrollment unless it is your first semester or final semester. If you were admitted to start a degree program during a summer or winter session, you are required to enroll full-time during the first summer/winter session in which you were admitted. 
      • Full-time enrollment for Summer is 6 credits.
      • Full-time enrollment for Winter is 3 credits.
      • If summer is your final semester, you must register for at least 6 credits during the same summer session.
  • Register for 9 credit hours each semester if you are a graduate student who holds an assistantship.
  • Register for 1 or more credit hours each semester if you have Certification of Full-time Status from the Graduate School (409 Capen Hall, North Campus) while working full-time on a doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis, project, portfolio, or comprehensive exam.
  • Do not drop, resign, or withdraw courses so that you are no longer registered for a full course load. An academic withdrawal approved after a semester has ended will result in a status violation. 
  • Only three credits of online course work per semester can count towards the full course of study requirement.  In other words, if 12 credits are required, 9 total credits must be seated (not online) each semester.  If it is your final semester, you may not take only online courses. 

FTC vs RCL: What's the Difference?

Full-Time Certification (FTC) Reduced Course Load (RCL)
If you are a graduate student near the end of your program you may be eligible. Contact your department’s graduate coordinator (before the semester begins) to see if you qualify. If you qualify, you will file a form with your academic department and the Graduate School. If you are an F-1 student who meets the eligibility requirements for one of the three types of Reduced Course loads, you may apply for this benefit through ISS.

Limited exceptions to the Full-time Enrollment requirement exists. Visit the Reduced Course Load page for more information.

Maintain a valid and accurate I-20

  • If the Program End Date on your I-20 is approaching and you have not finished your program, you must apply for an Extension of Stay before the Program End Date.
  • If your major field of study, funding source or any other information on your I-20 changes, you must request a new I-20 from ISS. To do so, you can request an updated I-20 on UB Global using the "I-20 Reprint Request" e-form.
  • If your legal name changes you must report the name change. 
    • Report the change to the Office of the Registrar using their online form.
    • Request an updated I-20 on UB Global using the "I-20 Reprint Request" e-form 
  • To re-enter the U.S., the travel signature on page 2 of your I-20 must be valid.  The travel signature is valid for one year for enrolled students and 6 months for students on OPT.
    • For more information visit our page on travel.

Maintain a valid passport while you are inside the U.S.

  • If you renew your passport while at UB as an F-1 student please provide a copy of your new document on UB Global.
    • You will click on “General ISS Requests” then “Document Upload” in the menu. 

Never work off-campus unless authorized by the USCIS and/or DSO at your school

  • For information about on-campus employment, which does not require special authorization, please visit our on-campus employment page.

Don't work on campus for more than 20 hours per week during the Fall or Spring semesters.

  • During the summer and winter terms, you may work more than 20 hours per week if it is not your final semester. 

Notify UB of a Change of Address using the HUB Student Center within 10 days of your move

Provide ISS with your I-94 upon initial arrival

  • ISS is required to verify that new or transfer students entered the U.S. in F-1 status. Failure to provide ISS with a copy of your I-94 and complete the ISS Check-in process may result in SEVIS termination.

Notify ISS if you decide not to continue your studies

  • To do so, complete the “Departure from UB" e-Form found in UB Global before the end of add/drop if you will not register for a required fall or spring semester. If resigning classes in the middle of the semester, you must submit the Departure from UB e-Form before you resign. Failure to notify ISS in a timely manner will result in a negative SEVIS termination reason.

Contact ISS before you complete your studies if you plan to transfer to another school

  • To be eligible for a SEVIS Transfer, the process must be complete BEFORE the end of your 60-day grace period.
  • For additional information on this process, please visit our SEVIS Transfer page.

Comply with all of U.S. federal and state laws

It is important to understand how local and federal laws are related to maintaining student status. 

Comply with all University at Buffalo academic and conduct policies

Comply with all reporting requirements if approved for Post-Completion OPT or the 24-Month OPT STEM Extension.

  • Detailed information on reporting requirements and maintaining status can be found on our pages in the OPT section of our website.

F-1 students have a 60-day grace period upon completion of studies to depart the U.S., transfer to a new school (if eligible) or begin Optional Practical Training (if eligible).

Violation of Status

Failure to comply with these requirements is a violation of your F-1 status, which may result in serious consequences, including the termination of your SEVIS record, and your inability to re-enter the U.S., arrest, detention and deportation from the U.S.  Please direct all questions regarding your F-1 student status to ISS.