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Maintaining F-1 Status

In order to maintain F-1 status, you must abide by all Department of Homeland Security rules and regulations related to your status. To maintain your status, you must:

Maintain your immigration documents

Always keep all of your immigration documents (Passport, I-94, I-20, etc.) up-to-date and valid.

  • Passport: We recommend you renew your passport 9 months before the expiration date.  Check with your embassy in Washington D.C. to inquire about the process for renewing your passport.  
  • I-20 or DS-2019: Students are given a specific amount of time on their I-20 or DS-2019.  Watch the program end date and make sure it does not expire.  An extension may be required if you need more time.

Report changes to IPO

Keep the International Programs Office up-to-date on any changes related to your immigration status including changes including but not limited to:

  • Address
  • Degree program
  • Financial support

If a change is needed, please submit a document request form detailing the change needed.

Maintain Full-Time Enrollment

You must maintain full-time enrollment except under certain circumstances specifically allowed under immigration regulations. All exceptions to full-time enrollment must be first approved by an IPO advisor. See below for details.

Enrollment Guidelines

Full-time status at ISU is defined as:

  • 12 credit hours per semester for undergraduate students

  • 9 credit hours per semester for graduate students

Online and Distance Education Course Limitations

Only one online or distance education course (3-4 credits) may count toward your full-time enrollment per term.  In other words, undergraduate students must enroll in at least 9 credits of face-to-face courses every semester and graduate students must enroll in at least 6 credits of face-to-face courses every semester.  You may register for any number of online courses only above and beyond those minimum face-to-face credit requirements. 

Some hybrid courses at ISU may be excluded from this limitation as long as the course requires some level of physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion of the class.  Before registering for any hybrid courses, please consult with your IPO immigration advisor.

Note: Students sponsored by the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission (SACM) are limited to 12 online credits for the duration of their degree program.


You must speak with your IPO advisor before withdrawing from any course if it will result in a drop below full-time enrollment!

Failure to maintain full-time enrollment each semester may jeopardize your immigration status! If you have any questions about the enrollment requirements above, please see your IPO advisor.


International students may be simultaneously enrolled at two USCIS approved institutions. Co-enrolled students must carry at least half of their credits at ISU.

You must provide proof of enrollment from the other institution during the first week of the semester and an unofficial grade report at the end of each semester. It is advisable that you speak with you IPO advisor prior to co-enrolling.

Change of Education Level

If you have completed a degree and are accepted into another degree program at ISU, you must obtain a new I-20 form from IPO within 60 days of completing your first degree.

When requesting a new I-20 you must submit new financial documentation demonstrating your ability to pay all living expenses and tuition for one year.

Failure to obtain your new I-20 in a timely manner may jeopardize your immigration status!

Reduced Course Load (RCL)

F-1 international students are legally required to maintain full-time enrollment status during normal enrollment periods (12 credits for undergraduates; 9 credits for graduates).

If you are having difficulty maintaining a full-time class schedule, please speak with your IPO advisor immediately!

To request a reduced course load, you must visit with your IPO advisor to determine eligibility.  Your advisor will then give you the Reduced Course Load (RCL) Form to take to your academic department for completion. This form must be submitted before registering for less than a full course load AND before dropping a course, or courses, that will result in less than a full course load. Failure to comply with this requirement could jeopardize your legal status in the U.S.

A reduced course load may be authorized in the following exceptional circumstances:

Academic Reasons

Only one semester of under-enrollment may be authorized for Academic Difficulty. The only reasons authorized by immigration regulations for an Academic Difficulty RCL are the following:

  • Initial difficulties with English language or reading requirements
  • Unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods
  • Improper course level placement

Medical Reason

Your IPO advisor may authorize an RCL of up to 12 months for medical reasons documented by a medical doctor, osteopath, or licensed clinical psychologist.

If you are experiencing serious medical or psychological issues, please speak with your IPO advisor.

Final Semester

You may obtain reduced course load authorization during your final semester of study. The Reduced Course Load Form must be submitted prior to the beginning of your final semester.

Graduate Thesis/Dissertation

After completing all necessary course work for your graduate degree program, graduate students may enroll for just 1 credit per semester while completing thesis or dissertation.

You must submit to IPO the Reduced Course Load Form signed by your academic advisor prior to the beginning of each semester.

Extension of Stay

If you will not complete your degree program within the time period indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019, you are required to apply for a program extension before the program end date on the form.

To receive a program extension you must demonstrate that you are maintaining your immigration status and have legitimate academic or medical reasons for the delay.

Acceptable reasons may include:

  • change in major
  • unexpected research problems
  • documented illness
  • transfer to a different school.

You may request an extension through the online document request form.  Through this online request, you will be provided the link to the Program Extension Form which you will need to take to your academic advisor to complete his/her section of the form and submit the form to the IPO.

If approved, your IPO advisor will issue a new I-20 or DS-2019.

If you are unable to demonstrate valid academic or medical reasons for the delay, you will be considered in violation of your immigration status and must apply for reinstatement to F-1 status. Your IPO advisor can assist you with this process.