Maintaining F-1 Visa Status

The following details provide an overview of how to keep your student visa status valid. Remember: at least twice per semester, review and update your profile in the ISS Portal.

  1. Study Full Time

    Full-Time Enrollment Requirements

    As an F-1 student, you must be enrolled and actively participating in at least 12 credits each fall and spring semester. Keep the following in mind to ensure full-time enrollment:

    • Only degree credit courses count toward full-time enrollment.
    • At least 9 of the 12 credits must be “in person” courses with the instructor. There is a limit of only 3 online credits per semester, unless you enroll in more than 12 credits total.
    • Enrollment alone is not sufficient to maintain valid visa status. You must also actively participate in class for the duration of the course and make satisfactory academic progress.

    Dropping a Class or Enrolling Less than Full Time

    Taking fewer than 12 credits without obtaining prior authorization from the Center for International Education (CIE) will result in a visa violation and loss of legal visa status. CIE places a hold on student records one week after the start of each fall and spring semester. The hold prevents dropping classes without permission. This hold will show in your MyMadisonCollege Student Account as “Must Remain Full Time.”

    For permission to drop a class (even if you will remain enrolled full-time) or for permission to take less than 12 credits, submit your request via the ISS Portal.

    Warning: Visa Violation Likely for Poor Class Attendance

    Active participation for the duration of the course is required. If you do not attend regularly, stop attending, or never attend a class you may be given a grade of “WNA” (Withdrawn due to Non-Attendance). This could result in loss of legal visa status if the withdrawal causes fewer than 12 credits of enrollment. Solution: attend class regularly and for the entire duration of the class!

    Need Help?

    Madison College offers a variety of services to help students succeed, including:

  2. Work Only As Authorized

    On-campus employment:

    Working on campus is allowed without special authorization:

    • Limited to 20 hours per week during fall and spring semesters. Madison College also limits student work to 20 hours a week.
    • Unlimited hours during vacation periods, including spring break, winter break and during the summer semester. Madison College limits student work to 30 hours per week.
    • Must stop upon graduation or otherwise completing your studies at Madison College.
    • Must stop if not in valid visa status.

    Off-campus employment:

    All off-campus work is illegal unless special authorization is granted prior to starting work. Authorization may be granted only by CIE or the USCIS and only after maintaining valid F-1 visa status for at least one academic year.

    There are three different off-campus work authorizations:

    1. Curricular Practical Training (CPT)—To fulfill an internship that is either a program requirement or elective option.
    2. Optional Practical Training (OPT)—To accept employment related to your program of study. OPT may be used either before or after graduating.
    3. Severe Economic Hardship (SEH)—To provide financial assistance following a documented and unexpected loss of financial support.

    WARNING: Working without authorization is illegal and results in a visa violation with severe and long-term consequences. Please consult with CIE’s International Student Services for questions regarding whether an employment opportunity can be authorized.

    Social Security Number

    A Social Security Number (SSN) may be issued only if you have an eligible job offer. Without a job offer, international students are not eligible to apply for an SSN.

  3. Report Address Changes

    Within 10 days of moving, changes to either your local address or permanent address abroad must be reported to CIE. A physical street address must be provided; Post Office (P.O.) Box addresses are not allowed.

    U.S. mailing address, foreign address abroad, emergency contact

    Update your address information in your MyMadisonCollege student center. Your mailing address must be the address where you live in the U.S.

    Find instructions to update your address and emergency contact in the MyMadisonCollege update instructions

    F-2 Dependents

    Assist your F-2 dependents with submitting an AR-11 form to the USCIS within 10 days of the move. 

  4. Keep I-20 Current

    Keeping I-20 Accurate

    Please review your I-20 regularly to confirm the information listed remains accurate. Report to CIE any information that need to be updated, such as:

    • Program of study (such as if you add another program or change to a different program)
    • Source of financial support (such as if you get a scholarship or if your financial sponsor changes)
    • Changes to your name (such as if you get married)
    • Changes to F-2 dependent status (such as if an F-2 spouse no longer lives in the U.S. with you or if an F-2 child changes to another visa status).

    Keeping I-20 Valid

    Your I-20’s expiration date appears in the Program of Study section on the first page where the program end date is listed.

    An I-20 must be extended BEFORE it expires! Start the process to apply for an extension at the beginning of the semester in which it will expire, if you need additional time to complete your studies.  

  5. Keep Passport Valid


    Your passport should not expire while you are in the U.S. Start the renewal process at least 6 months before your passport expires. Work with your home country embassy or consulate located in the U.S. to renew your passport while remaining in the U.S. You will need to show a valid passport not only when entering the U.S., but also when leaving the U.S.

    Visa Stamp

    It is perfectly fine for your student visa stamp in your passport expires while you are in the U.S. as long as you are maintaining valid visa statusThe visa stamp must only be valid when entering the U.S. unless you utilize the Automatic Visa Revalidation

    Since the student visa stamp can expire without consequence while you are in the U.S., it is NOT possible to renew it while remaining in the U.S. Visas may only be obtained at a U.S. embassy located outside of the U.S. If you will travel abroad after your current visa stamp has expired, it is recommended you schedule your visa interview appointment before you depart and allow sufficient time during your visit to receive the new visa stamp before you return. 

  6. Know Your Grace Period

    A “grace period” is the amount of time you are allowed to legally remain in the U.S. if you are no longer active on the F-1 student visa.

    The length of the grace period permitted depends on the following situations:

    • 60 days: After earning your degree, F-1 visa holders have a 60-day grace period to legally remain in the U.S. during which you can prepare for departure or request an extension of stay by either applying for OPT, starting another academic program at Madison College, transferring to another college/university, or changing visa status.

    • 15 days: If you consult with CIE before withdrawing from (stop studying at) Madison College, a 15-day grace period may be granted.

    • 0 days: If you do not consult with CIE prior to withdrawing, no grace period can be authorized.

  7. Follow U.S. Laws

    According to F-1 visa regulations, “Any disciplinary action taken by the school against the student as a result of the student being convicted of a crime” must be reported in SEVIS. Even if Madison College does not take a disciplinary action, please understand that criminal convictions and arrests can have a negative impact on visa status. CIE strongly advises students to understand and follow all U.S. laws.

    All students are also encouraged to review Madison College’s policies and guidelines

I-94 Arrival Record

The I-94 record shows the dates a visitor to the U.S. entered and departed the country. Formerly it was a paper card* stapled into the passport upon entry to the U.S. Now the passport is simply stamped upon entry. The stamp indicates which port of entry was used, on which date, and using which visa type. The I-94 arrival stamp looks like this:

Visa Arrival Stamp

Printing Your I-94 Record

  1. Visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website
  2. Click “Get Most Recent I-94”
  3. Acknowledge you have read the information by clicking “Consent & Continue”
  4. Enter the requested information, as it appears on your passport.
  5. Click “Next” then “Print”

Correcting Your I-94 Record

Contact CIE’s International Student Services, for assistance with correcting the following issues:

  1. If your I-94 record cannot be retrieved with the above directions,
  2. If it does not list the correct visa type under “Class of Admission”
  3. If it does not list “D/S” under “Admit Until Date”

*Paper I-94 Card

You may still have a paper I-94 card if you haven’t left the U.S. for many years. If you changed visa status while remaining in the U.S., you will have a paper I-94 card at the bottom of your change of status Approval Notice.