Maintaining Status

To maintain your legal right to stay in the U.S. as an F-1 student, you must meet the following general requirements:

1. Keep your passport and I-94 card valid at all times

If your I-94 record has an expiration date of “D/S” then this is a valid record for an F program participant. Get your most recent I-94 every time you enter the U.S. and keep a copy.  Your passport will have a specific expiration date but should have a validity period of at least 6 months into the future.

2. Register full time as required by your academic program

Not all programs at U.B. have a summer vacation period. Please check with your academic advisor to see what your requirements are for full time study. Undergraduate students are required to maintain 12 credits at a minimum per semester for full time study.  Full time at the graduate level varies and students must consult their academic department. ESL students must follow ELI full course load requirement. Exceptions to full time study must be authorized by an International Advisor before the semester starts or before dropping courses. 

  • One class or three credits per semester may be counted toward the full course of study requirement if the class is taken on-line or through distance education and does not require the student's physical attendance for classes. Immigration does NOT allow international students to take the final single course in final semester through distance education, even if it is in summer.
  • Hybrid classes are considered online classes
  • Students who are on a foreign government scholarship need to contact your scholarship program for permission to take on-line courses
  • Alternative work/study registration such as practicum, off-campus clinical rotation, internship and co-op etc. must be approved by IC first.
  • If you have less than a full course load remaining in your final semester, submit an Academic Part Time Authorization Form. MS engineering and Ph.D. engineering students must follow your Normal Program Definition (MyUB – Engineering – Normal Program Definition) and do NOT need to submit a part-time form.

Please note: Summer semester is optional for most programs unless you begin or graduate in a summer semester.

  • If you begin your program or graduate in a summer semester, you must be enrolled, and the above-mentioned full course load and distance learning rules apply. Email with your full name and UB ID included if you graduate in a summer semester. We need to report your enrollment in SEVIS.

3. Keep your I-20 form valid at all times

Be aware that there is an expiration date on your I-20 form. If your I-20 form is going to expire and you need extra time to study, you must extend your I-20 form by applying at the International Center for Students and Scholars prior to the current expiration date. Your I-20 form must also be correct for your academic program.

4. Do not accept any employment without specific authorization from the International Office

If you have any questions regarding how to obtain employment authorization, refer to our Employment page. For further questions, contact an International Student Advisor.

5. Must attend classes

Physical presence is required for you to maintain F-1 status. You must attend all scheduled classes. On-campus classes must be attended in-person.

6. Travel signature is required for you to reenter the U.S.

If traveling abroad, you must apply for a travel signature. Refer to our website for travel signature eligibility and application procedure. 

7. Address must be current 

Check Webadvisor (Academic Profile-Personal Profile) to see if your local address and phone number are correct. If not,  complete the Address Change Form for International Students. International students are required by law to report address change within 10 days very time such change occurs.


What is the difference between visa and immigration status?

Your visa foil in your passport and your immigration status are not the same thing.

It is important to understand the important difference to know how to maintain your legal right to stay in the U.S. It is very common for people to use the words “visa” and “immigration status” to mean the same thing, but this is incorrect. The following paragraphs explain the difference.

Visa Sample

The visa foil in your passport was obtained at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad and is used to enter the U.S. The visa shows the latest date you may apply to enter the U.S. It does not show how long you may remain in this country.

  • A valid visa is not necessary to remain in the U.S.; Your visa can expires after you arrive.
  • A valid visa is required to return to the U.S. after a trip abroad.
  • If your visa stamp is expired when you leave the U.S., you must reapply for a new visa to return.

There are a few exceptions to this general rule, specifically for Canadian citizens and brief trips to bordering countries. If you are concerned about your visa expiration, please contact the International Center for Students and Scholars for an appointment with an advisor.

Electronic I-94

After you are admitted to the U.S. at the port of entry, an immigration status is granted to you and will be shown on your I-94 card. Generally, your immigration status will be the same as the valid visa you used when you entered the U.S.

However, if you are already in the U.S. and apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to change from your current status to another status, then your visa and immigration status will not be the same thing. Once you are inside the U.S., it is vital that you maintain your immigration status by pursuing your authorized activity.