Special note: The information below lists the standard rules regarding F-1 and J-1 students. Due to COVID-19, DHS has made some special accommodations allowing for temporary exceptions to some of the listed requirements. For more information regarding these COVID-19 adjustments, please see https://oiss.rice.edu/covid19.
Remember, maintaining your status is your responsibility. If you are on an F-1 visa, please keep in mind that by signing your immigration documents, you are indicating the following: “I have read and agreed to comply with the terms and conditions of my admission and those of any extension of stay. I certify that all information provided on this form refers specifically to me and is true and correct to the best of my knowledge. I certify that I seek to enter or remain in the United States temporarily, and solely for the purpose of pursuing a full program of study at the school named above.”
For information about maintaining status as a scholar, please see https://oiss.rice.edu/maintainingstatus.
Below are some of the main points to remember for F-1 and J-1 students
- Be a full-time student each semester
You must complete (not just register for) a full course of study during the fall and spring semesters. To maintain your status, undergraduate students must complete 12 hours and graduate students must complete 9 hours per semester. Note: Some degree programs may require more hours for academic reasons. Check with your academic department/advisor. You are not required by the Department of Homeland Security to enroll in classes during the summer session, unless summer is your first or last semester in the U.S.
- Take most of your courses in person
F-1 and J-1 students are allowed to take only one online course (or the equivalent of three credits) toward the full-time course requirement, the rest must be in person. That means that undergraduate students must take at least 9 credits in person (and at least 12 credits total) and graduate students must take at least 6 credits in person (and 9 credits total) to maintain their F-1 status.
- Part-time status requires PRE-approval from OISS
- Make normal progress towards completing your program of study. If you cannot complete by the date on the I-20/DS-2019, seek an extension before it expires.
Forms I-20 and DS-2019 must reflect the appropriate date when you will complete all degree requirements. You need to apply for an extension prior to your I-20/DS-2019 expiration date if you cannot complete your study on time. There is no extension allowed after the expiration date of the I-20/DS-2019 and failing to extend in a timely manner could lead to applying for reinstatement from the Department of Homeland Security. Subsequently, completing degree requirements prior to the current I-20/DS-2019 end date warrants a shortening of your immigration document to reflect the appropriate date. For additional information and guidance, please contact OISS.
- Keep Form I-20/DS-2019 current
Don’t let your immigration document expire and make sure all the information on your I-20/DS-2019 is accurate and valid. Obtain a new I-20/DS-2019 whenever you make a change in education levels or programs of study. This includes changing levels at the same school or a new one (for example, from bachelor’s to master’s degree) or beginning a new degree at the same level (for example, from master to a second master degree).
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has confirmed that electronically signed and issued I-20s are allowed. When you receive an I-20 by email, print it at your earliest convenience and sign at the bottom of the first page under Student Attestation by hand in blue ink (i.e. in wet ink), after which the form will be considered valid. Please note that an electronic I-20 displayed from a mobile device is not considered valid. You may carry a copy of the SEVP Policy Guidance with you if you are concerned about the validity of an electronically issued or signed I-20.
- Keep all I-20/DS-2019 Forms in your records
It is very important that you keep all immigration documents in a safe place. Do not throw away any immigration forms even after you receive an updated version. You may need these documents in the future if applying for an immigration benefit, a different immigration status, or permanent residency. If you have lost a copy of a previous I-20/DS-2019 issued by Rice University, OISS may be able to assist you. Please submit an online request for copies of lost I-20s/DS-2019s by clicking here.
- Attend only the school listed on your current I-20/DS-2019
To attend another school, you must transfer to that school or receive approval for concurrent enrollment from an OISS advisor. An I-20 or DS-2019 transfer must be completed to attend the new school, this process is different than transferring academic credit.
- Follow the Rice University Honor Code
Honor Code violations may affect your current or future immigration status in the U.S. International students could be subject to harsher consequences, such as being forced to return home, because of an Honor Code violation. The Honor Council does not lessen a punishment just because of the consequences it could have on a student's immigration status. Please ensure compliance with the Honor System and educate yourself on how to avoid an Honor Code violation.
- Keep your passport current
Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months into the future (unless you are exempt from passport requirements). Please submit a copy of your updated passport to OISS at http://bit.ly/oissdocs.
- Obtain a travel endorsement on your I-20 or DS-2019 from OISS before traveling
The endorsement for travel should be done during the current semester. It is not necessary if you are returning home permanently. An I-20 or DS-2019 is no longer valid for reentry once you complete the degree listed on your I-20/DS-2019, even if it has not expired.
Please see https://oiss.rice.edu/student-travel for information on how to request a travel signature.
- Do not exceed the allowed time outside the U.S.
F-1 students who are outside of the U.S. for longer than 5 months at a time (excluding those on approved "study abroad" status) will have their SEVIS record terminated, and must receive a new, initial I-20 with a new SEVIS ID in order to return to the U.S. J-1 students are not allowed to travel outside the U.S. for more than 30 days without being considered to have abandoned their program unless approved in advance by their Program Sponsor.
- Report a change of address within 10 days of the change
Report a change of address within 10 days of the change by updating your local address in the Mailing Address field in ESTHER, or your foreign address directly with OISS by sending an email with your name, student ID number, and new foreign address to firstname.lastname@example.org. NOTE: You may use the Permanent Address field in ESTHER to reflect any address you choose. Rice Payroll uses that field as the address where they will send you your tax forms. If you do not have a Mailing Address field to update, please email email@example.com for assistance in creating one. Incorrect addresses will result in a registration hold being placed on your account.
- Don't work without authorization
Never work off-campus unless you have received current work authorization from the Office of International Students & Scholars or the Department of Homeland Security. See the Student Employment webpage for more information.
- File your taxes every year
See https://oiss.rice.edu/tax for more information.
- Do not engage in criminal activity
See https://oiss.rice.edu/legal for more information.
- Report any life event that may affect your immigration status
Report any life event that may affect your immigration status, such as birth of a child, marriage, change of legal name, divorce or death to OISS within 10 days.
- Maintain health insurance
Please see our Student Health Insurance page for more information.
- Report your program completion
Report your program completion so that OISS may close your SEVIS record. Be sure to submit an online Departure Form.
For additional resources regarding your immigration status, or information for the regulations about studying on a visa other than F-1 or J-1, please contact OISS.