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Maintaining F-1 Immigration Status

Important: Failure to follow these rules could result in serious consequences, including the loss of your visa status. Please review the information on this page carefully. We recommend you come back and review this page regularly to ensure that you maintain your status while you are with us.

What Is F-1 Status & How Do I Maintain It?

Roles & Responsibilities

  • You, the international student, are 100% responsible for maintaining your immigration status and following the rules of your status.
  • SUNY Plattsburgh is 100% responsible for reporting in SEVIS whether or not you are maintaining your status.

SEVIS: Student & Exchange Visitor Information System

After 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security built a database to monitor and report on the activities of F, M, and J students/scholars and their schools.

DSO: Designated School Official

A DSO helps you understand the rules of your status and reports whether or not you are maintaining your status in SEVIS. This person is specifically trained in U.S. immigration regulations regarding F-1 students. At SUNY Plattsburgh, your primary DSO is the International Student Advisor in GEO.


Status means permission to be in the United States for a defined period of time, to participate in a specific activity. You were given your status by the Customs and Border Protection inspector on your Form I-94 (the white card in your passport). Your Form I-94 should read “F-1 D/S.” You have status in the United States to pursue a full course of study for a specific time as long as you obey the rules.

Form I-20

Form I-20 certifies that you are pursuing a full course of study, and that you can afford the costs of your program. By signing your Form I-20 on Page 1, you agree to obey the rules of F-1 status.

Rules of F-1 Status

You maintain your F-1 status by complying with these rules:

  1. You must enroll in and complete a full-time credit load (12 or more credits) in both fall and spring terms.
  2. You need your DSO’s permission BEFORE you stop attending, withdraw, or drop below 12 credits.
  3. You may work on campus only up to 20 hours per week per term.
  4. You need your DSO’s authorization BEFORE you work on- or off-campus. This authorization includes any paid or unpaid internships, field work, and practicums required for your major. Working without authorization is grounds for immediate termination of your SEVIS record.
  5. Keep your passport valid. Do not let this document expire without renewing it.
  6. You are required to carry the appropriate health insurance for the entire length of your program.
  7. You must report any change to your local address within 10 days.
  8. Inform your DSO of changes to the information on your Form I-20.
  9. Before you travel, be sure to obtain a travel endorsement (signature) every six months and discuss your travel plans with your DSO.
  10. File a federal income tax form every year you are in the United States, even if you did not work.
  11. Complete your studies no later than the program end date on your Form I-20.
  12. After your completion of study, you can maintain your status for a 60-day grace period. During this period, you must either a) depart the U.S., b) apply for post-completion OPT, c) transfer to another school for further studies, or d) pursue further studies here at SUNY Plattsburgh.
  13. You need to obtain a SEVIS transfer BEFORE transferring to another school in the United States.
  14. You need to obtain a Change of Level Form I-20 for a master’s level program at SUNY Plattsburgh BEFORE you complete your undergraduate program.

If you obey the above rules, you are “maintaining your status.”

Please Consult With Your DSO Should You Have Any Questions Regarding Your F-1 Student Status.
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