Maintaining F-1 Status

As an international student, it is important to be aware of how to maintain your F-1 visa status to stay in the U.S. legally. 

For more information, visit Study in the States.  You may also reference the handout New International Students: Basic Information.


F-1 Visa Regulations

F-1 students must comply with the following immigration regulations:

  • You must complete at least 12 credits each Fall and Spring semester.
  • Of your total credits each Fall and Spring semester, at least 9 credits must be in-person, flex, or hybrid.  Your remaining credits may be online.
  • You may not withdraw from classes if it will bring you below 12 credits in a Fall or Spring semester, unless a reduced course load is granted.  If you would like a reduced course load, you may submit a Reduced Course Load Request to your advisor.
  • You are not allowed to engage in unauthorized employment.  For more information, visit Employment and Practical Training.
  • Summer classes are optional (unless Summer is your first semester).
  • You should have your current I-20 accessible at all times.
  • You may not stay in the U.S. past the program end date listed on your I-20.  If your I-20 will expire and you need more time to complete your studies, you may submit a Program Extension Request to your advisor.  Program extensions are granted only for compelling academic or medical reasons.


International Travel

Travel within the U.S. is unrestricted.  When traveling outside the U.S., you will need several documents with you in hand in order to return to the U.S.:

  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-1 visa
  • Valid I-20 with valid travel signature
  • Academic transcript and schedule
  • Proof of adequate financial resources
  • SEVIS I-901 fee receipt

Before you travel internationally, notify the international student advisor of your plans, and set up an appointment (at least one week in advance) to get a travel signature on your I-20.  A travel signature is valid for six months.

If your F-1 visa has expired, or if you changed status to F-1 while in the U.S., then you will need to apply for a new F-1 visa while outside the U.S.  Contact the international student advisor for more information.


Post-Graduation Options

After completing your studies at ACC, you have several options:

  • Transfer to another SEVP-certified school, maybe to complete a bachelor's degree
  • Apply for and complete Optional Practical Training (OPT)
  • Complete one year of OPT, then transfer to another SEVP-certified school
  • Leave the U.S. no more than 60 days after completing your program

For more information on OPT, visit Employment and Practical Training.