In order to remain lawfully in the United States during your studies in F-1 status, you must obey the regulations that govern F-1 students. Failure to maintain your status could result in serious consequences and may affect your ability to remain in or return to the United States. Therefore, it is very important for you to understand and comply with the requirements governing your stay to ensure that you do not jeopardize your immigration status.
1. Begin by reading the “Instructions to Students” on page three of your I-20. By following those instructions, as well as the other guidelines listed below, you should be able to maintain lawful F-1 student status with little difficulty.
2. Maintain Required Documentation
Maintain accurate and valid immigration documents at all times, and apply in a timely fashion for any needed changes or extensions of any of these documents.
- Keep your passport valid at all times (preferably valid at least 6 months into the future).
- Obtain I-20 extensions to continue your studies, as needed, at least one month prior to the current document's expiration.
- Consult with the OIS to have your I-20 updated to reflect any change of degree level, program, or funding before making the change itself.
- Ensure that your I-94 card is marked "F-1 D/S".
- Make copies of all of your legal documents (I-20, I-94, passport, tax forms, etc.) and maintain them in a safe place.
3. Report to the Office of International Students upon arrival
Report to the OIS within 30 days of the report date on your Form I-20 to complete a mandatory "check-in" procedure. Bring your passport, I-20, and all other immigration-related documents to the OIS with you.
4. Maintain full-time enrollment and normal, full-time progress toward your degree or certificate. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations require that you register during the University's published registration period. Failure to do this will result in violation of your F-1 status. You are expected to maintain full-time registration and make normal progress toward your degree. Note that the definition of "full-time" may differ from school to school. As a result, you should consult with the OIS as well as your academic advisor to determine whether or not you are a "full-time" student.
5. Obtain PRIOR authorization from the OIS (if eligible) BEFORE dropping below a full course of study, withdrawing from classes, or taking a leave of absence. There are very limited exceptions to the full-time requirement, so you must consult the OIS in advance of any drop below full-time, or you will be in violation of your status.
6. Notify Rutgers and the OIS of any address change within 10 Days of moving.
7. Do Not Engage in Illegal Employment
Always seek and receive proper authorization from the OIS or the USCIS, as appropriate, for any on or off campus employment prior to starting to work. On campus employment may not exceeed 20 hours per week while school is in session.
8. Income Taxes
File a federal income tax return for each year you have earned income in the U.S. or a Form 8843 for each year you are in the U.S. but have not earned income. F-1 students with earned income in New Jersey must also file a state income tax return.
9. If you leave the US without completing your program of study, complete your program early or change to another non-immigrant status, notify the OIS so that your record in the DHS data base accurately reflects your current situation.
10. Obtain a Travel Signature on your I-20 Form
Get a travel signature on your I-20 prior to leaving the U.S. To obtain a travel signature from the OIS, bring your I-20 and a printout from the Registrar's website of your complete transcript (with your name printed on it).
11. Once you have completed your studies and any practical training that is authorized, you must leave the U.S. or change to another immigration status within the appropriate time allowed. F-1 visa holders are allowed a 60-day grace period following the completion of their program or period of authorized Optional Practical Training. During the 60-day period F-1s are legally eligible to remain in the U.S., transfer to another U.S. institution or initiate an application to change to another non-immigrant status in the U.S., but cannot legally work or study during that period.