Maintaining Your Status

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. The following information will provide you with guidance for maintaining lawful F-1 status. Although the Buckman Center endeavors to provide the most up-to-date information, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) considers it the responsibility of the F-1 student to be sure they do not do anything that violates the terms of their status.
SEVIS, The Student & Exchange Visitor Information System, is an electronic database of information about F/J students studying in the United States.  The following are some important activities that are common to students that must be reported in SEVIS and are essential to maintaining a valid F/J status:

  • Change in address, name, major, degree objective, or degree level 
  • Adjustment in academic course load 
  • Not registering for classes full-time (without prior authorization) 
  • Transfer to another school 
  • Need for new I-20/DS-2019 
  • Change of status/visa classification 
  • I-20/DS-2019 Extensions (I-20/DS-2019 should not expire before graduation) 
  • Travel endorsements 
  • Academic dismissal 
  • Off campus work permission

Change of Address or Name

All changes in address or name must be reported to the college and DHS must be informed of your change of address within 10 days of your move. 

Change of Major, Degree Objective, or Degree Level

Your I-20/DS-2019 must accurately reflect the major and level of study you are pursuing.  If you change your major or level of studies, you will need to contact the Buckman Center to update your degree level in the student records system.  Request a new I-20 and new financial documents if you will also need to extend the end date listed on your I-20. Please see information about Applying for a Program Extension if you feel you will be unable to complete your program of study by the date of completion listed in item no.5 on your Form I-20.

Course Work at or Transfer to a Different School

If you wish to take one or more courses at another university or college temporarily, you should first consult with a Buckman Center advisor to determine if any special procedures must be followed to authorize this study. If you wish to cease your study at Rhodes College and transfer to a different school, you must inform your advisor at the Buckman Center and follow proper transfer procedures before you attend the new school.

Change of Status to F-1 Student

Non-immigrants in the United States who have maintained lawful status may change to another visa status if their primary purpose for being in the United States changes.  Individuals who are currently in J status (J-1 or J-2) may be ineligible to change status, depending on whether the exchange visitors are subject to the two-year home country requirement (commonly referred to as "the two-year rule").  Students who are interested in changing their status should read the information below, review the change of status checklist and then make an appointment to meet with a study abroad advisor.

Completion of Studies (F-1 Students)

The date you officially complete your program is very important because immigration regulations state that your lawful F-1 status automatically ends 60 days after you complete your program unless you take some action to remain lawfully in the U.S. Different programs have different dates of completion. It is very important you read about your responsibilities after Completion of Studies.

Applying for Reinstatement

If an F-1 student falls out of status with USCIS by not reporting any of the information outlined by the Buckman Center, you may have the option of Applying for Reinstatement.

Change of Status Through Travel

Once a student is admitted to Rhodes College by the admissions office, an I-20 can be issued to allow a student to travel home and request an F-1 visa.  Once a student is issued an F-1 visa and re-enters the U.S. with their I-20, they have effectively changed their non-immigrant status.  The travel option, while the cost can vary depending on the student′s home country, allows the student to control when the change of status will be processed and will help a student to ensure that they will have the legal ability to begin classes in the semester they are admitted.  A student who already intends to travel at some point before they begin their studies should talk to the Office of Admissions about being issued an I-20 to change their status using this process. Please see our Travel Information Page for more information as well as information about Visiting Canada, Mexico, and Adjacent Islands.

Change of Status Through a Paper Application to USCIS

To change nonimmigrant status to F-1 from another nonimmigrant status, a student should complete the Change of Status Application.  Required materials are as follows:

  • Form I-539, completed by printing clearly all information and signed by the intending student
  • Form I-20 indicating “change of status requested” obtained from the Buckman Center
  • Receipt for proof of payment for I-901 SEVIS fee 
  • Original bank documents or graduate assistantship offer letter to document financial support for tuition and living expenses for the first year of studies.  Additional amounts will be required if you have any dependents.
  • Cover letter addressed to USCIS requesting the change and explaining why the change is needed
  • Original I-94 Arrival Departure Record
  • Proof of current lawful status. (If on a dependent visa, provide photocopies of primary visa-holders legal status, such as: the I-94; and the I-797, DS-2019 or I-20 ID)
  • Photocopies of I-94s for any dependents who will be changing status with you
  • Check or money order for $200, payable to "USCIS"

Read the supplementary information to prepare your supporting materials for requesting a change to student status.

Tuition Settlement

To ensure that you will be able to register each semester, please settle your tuition bill in a timely manner. Not being able to register for classes because your account is not settled will impact your ability to maintain lawful status. If you have problems meeting your financial obligations please contact the Buckman Center.


If you are in a visa status in which you are not authorized to work or study (i.e., F-2), you may not be employed as an F-1 student in any capacity or study until you receive notification from USCIS that your status has been officially changed.  This process can be lengthy, so it is essential to apply for the change of status as soon as possible if you have been offered an assistantship.

If you would like to change from a B-1 or B-2 visitor’s visa to a F-1 or J-1 student visa, it is important to know that this is not possible in the United States., unless the visitor’s visa or I-94 has "prospective student" written on it.  A denial of the Change of Status will result in a notice from USCIS requesting the student to voluntarily depart the United States.

A person who has changed status while in the United States, and intends to travel outside the United States, must obtain a new entry visa from a United States consulate or embassy before returning to the United States.
If an F student falls out of status with USCIS by not reporting any of the information outlined above, they have the option of applying for reinstatement.  A J-1 student will need to meet with an advisor in the Buckman Center to discuss their options.  Please see the Applying for Reinstatement section of our website for more information.

Full Course of Study (F-1 Students)

You are required by law to register for and complete a "full course of study" each Fall and Spring semester at Rhodes College. Dropping below 12 credits without prior authorization by the Buckman Center can be considered a violation of your F-1 status.

Completion of Studies (F-1 Students)

U.S. Immigration regulations state that your lawful F-1 status automatically ends sixty days after you complete your program unless you take some action to remain lawfully in the U.S. Therefore, it is very important you are aware of the official date of completion for your program noted on your I-20.

Changes to Information on Your I-20

Whenever information on your I-20 changes, the Buckman Center must issue to you an updated I-20 form to reflect the new information and notify the USCIS.

Leave of Absence, Suspension or Withdrawal from Rhodes College

While in the United States in F-1 status, you must remain continuously enrolled for a full-course of study at Rhodes College until you have completed your academic program. If you interrupt your studies, your I-20 will become invalid and you will not be eligible to remain in the United States in F-1 status.

IMPORTANT: If you are currently working on- or off-campus, you must cease employment immediately.

Please contact the Buckman Center before you interrupt your studies for any of the follow reasons:

  • You are planning to request an official leave of absence (LOA) from the College during the Fall or Spring semester.
  • You are being suspended (or are under review for suspension). OR
  • You are planning to withdraw from all of your classes at any point during the Fall or Spring semester.

Program Extension for F-1 Students

As an F-1 student, you have been admitted into the United States for "duration of status," which is noted on your I-94 Departure Record (the little white card in your passport) as "F-1, D/S." This means that as long as you maintain a full course of study and in every other way maintain your lawful status (see Rights and Responsibilities of F-1 Students), or are authorized by the USCIS for Optional Practical Training following the successful completion of your program, you may continue to remain lawfully in the U.S. in F-1 status.

However, you have been granted a limited period of time to complete your program of study as required by federal immigration regulations of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The expected program completion date can be found in item #5 of your Form I-20, just after the phrase "and complete studies no later than."

If you know that you will be unable to complete your program within the time period provided, you should contact the Buckman Center at least one month prior to your current I-20 completion date to request a program extension. If approved, you will receive a new Form I-20 indicating the new, expected completion date.

Work Authorization

Do not engage in any kind of employment until you are certain that you have the proper authorization. Working without authorization is a violation of F-1 status. Please refer to the employment section of the International Student InRhodes webpages.