Every F-1 and J-1 student must maintain status in order to remain legally in the United States. You need a valid F-1 or J-1 visa to enter the U.S. for “duration of status”, but while here, maintaining status is the key.
You maintain status by
- Being continuously enrolled for and completing with a passing grade a full-time course of study
- Working on campus no more than 20 hours per week
- Working off campus only with the proper U.S. CIS authorization (EAD)
- Informing the DSO within 10 days of a change of address
- Making sure that your passport is always valid
- Attending all classes and staying in good academic standing
- Enrolling for no more than one online course to be counted towards status
- Being sure to extend your I-20 for a valid reason before the end date.
There are a very limited number of reasons for reduced course load and it must always be authorized in advance of withdrawal by the DSO.
If you fail to maintain status, your SEVIS record will be terminated and you will be required to either leave the U.S. immediately (no grace period) or apply for reinstatement. Reinstatement is very difficult to get approved and can take up to one year for adjudication. This is a very serious matter and you must contact the DSO immediately if your SEVIS record has been terminated.
After completion of your program or completion of OPT, you are permitted to remain in the U.S. for a period of 60 days (called a “grace period”) and 30 days for J-1 students. You may not leave during this grace period and re-enter. The sole purpose of this period is to “prepare to depart.”
If you wish to withdraw from all classes during the semester, you must have prior approval of the DSO AND you must show proof that you will depart within 15 days (the authorized grace period for “authorized withdrawal.”
WW grade: This is a withdrawal through a grade of WW because a student has stopped attending class. If you receive this grade and it drops you below the minimum for maintaining status, it will be considered as an “unauthorized withdrawal” and your SEVIS record will be terminated.