Maintaining your F1 Status
Like all other countries, the United States has laws and regulations governing people who are temporarily within its borders. Enforcing U.S. immigration laws is the job of the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS). The staff of International Student Admissions and Advising are not immigration agents, but we do have a responsibility to report certain kinds of information about F-1 students to immigration. Therefore, it is important for you to understand the immigration regulations related to your non-immigrant status. Ignorance of the law is not a legitimate reason for failing to obey these rules. The staff of International Student Admissions and Advising will provide information about immigration rules and regulations, and we are available to help you understand how to fulfill your legal obligations during your stay in the U.S. However, it is your responsibility to be aware of the rules regarding your F-1 status and to pay careful attention to immigration related requirements.
The following is a list of things you must do to remain in legal student status:
- Maintain full-time student status. Students in F-1 student status must register for and complete a minimum of 12 credit hours each Semester. Your enrollment is automatically monitored on an immigration computer system, so it is very important that you register and stay enrolled full-time throughout the semester. There are no excused absences from classes, but you should contact your teacher if you will be absent and explain why.
- Do not take an unauthorized vacation from school. To maintain status, F-1 visa students must enroll full-time (12 credit hours) fall and spring semesters. Summer term is optional for continuing students, and they may choose to either take fewer than 12 credits or not to enroll in classes at all during the summer. Students who enroll at Georgia Perimeter College for the first time during summer are usually required to register full-time.
- Do not work without authorization. An F-1 student may accept employment on campus. Employment is limited to twenty (20) hours per week while school is in session. For any other type of employment, you must get special authorization from immigration. Working off-campus without authorization from immigration is a serious violation of your student visa status and could put you at risk for deportation.
- Keep your passport valid. The U.S. government requires that you keep your passport valid at all times. Your passport must be extended or renewed by your government. If your passport is going to expire in less than 6 months, contact your home country embassy or consulate to find out how to renew your passport. For a list of addresses and phone numbers of foreign consular offices in the United States, go to embassy.org. If your F-1 visa is still valid when you are being issued an extension or renewal of your passport you should request the return of your old passport. The old passport with a valid visa together with the new passport can be used for re-entry to the U.S. Otherwise, you will need to apply for a new F-1 visa in your home country.
- Keep your I-20 valid at all times. Check the “completion of studies date” on your I-20 (#5). If your I-20 will expire soon, speak to an international student advisor at International Student Admissions and Advising. If you plan to continue your studies, we may issue another I-20 with a later completion date. Failure to extend your I-20 before it expires will put you out of status with immigration.
- Do not worry if your F-1 visa expires. The F-1 visa in your passport is a permit to enter the United States; it does not tell you how long you are permitted to stay. Do not worry if it expires while you are in the U.S. However, the next time you travel outside the U.S. (except for short trips to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean) you will need to go to the U.S. embassy or consulate to get a new F-1 visa. This should be requested in your home country. Be prepared to show a valid I-20, updated financial documents, and a current GPC academic transcript to the consular office when requesting a new F-1 visa. International Student Admissions and Advising can also provide you with a letter for the embassy.
Please note that visas can ONLY be obtained at U.S. consulates/embassies outside the United States.
- Plan ahead for overseas travel and make proper preparations. If you plan to travel outside the U.S., we request that you come to International Student Admissions and Advising at least two weeks prior to your departure date to get your I-20 and other travel documents checked. You will need a valid passport, a valid I-20, a valid F-1 visa for traveling. Other items may be required.
- Maintain adequate health insurance. Georgia Perimeter College requires that all F-1 students maintain adequate health insurance. This is to protect you from the unexpected costs of an accident or illness. The fee for your health insurance is paid when you pay for tuition each semester.
If you have other health insurance and would like to be considered for an exemption from the Georgia Perimeter College insurance plan, you can obtain a compliance form from International Student Admissions and Advising. You must submit this compliance form to your health insurance company to complete. We must receive this form back in our office at least 2 weeks before you register for classes. We will review this compliance form and, based on the information provided, we will either approve or deny your insurance policy.
- Report address changes to International Student Admissions and Advising. You are required to report any change of your address or telephone number to Entry Services for International Students immediately. Immigration rules require that you report an address change within 10 days of moving.
- Get good advice if you have questions. If you have questions about your visa status, come talk to an international student advisor in our office. Immigration rules and regulations are complex and are under constant revision. Friends, family, and faculty advisors may have good intentions and will sometimes try to advise you about your status, but they are not always dependable sources of information about immigration rules. Following wrong advice could have very negative consequences for your immigration status. So, play it safe. Keep in touch and ask for advice from International Student Admissions and Advising when you need it.