Maintaining Status For Students

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

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

If you need to drop a course, make an appointment to see an international student advisor BEFORE you drop the course. See procedures for dropping below hours for graduates or undergraduates.

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's to a second master's degree).

OISS is permitted to sign and issue I-20s and DS-2019s electronically. When you receive an I-20 or DS-2019 by email, print it at your earliest convenience and sign at the bottom of the first page 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 or DS-2019 displayed from a mobile device is not considered valid.

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 United States. 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

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 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 United States. 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

Your physical address (i.e., the address where you live), should be updated in ESTHER using the Local Address field. Please follow the formatting guidelines to ensure proper reporting in SEVIS.

Your permanent foreign address should be updated directly with OISS. Please send an email with your name, student ID number, and the new foreign address to 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 Local Address field to update, please email 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 for more information.

Do not engage in criminal activity

See 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.

Leaving Rice

Program completion/Graduation

When you complete your program, your I-20 or DS-2019 will be shortened if you still had a future end date. Here are some reminders regarding your immigration options when graduating:

On-campus employment: Your on-campus employment eligibility will end on the end date of your degree program.

OPT or Academic Training: F-1 students can apply for OPT when completing a degree, and J-1 students can pursue Academic Training. Please note that while F-1 students may still apply for OPT during their grace period, J-1 students must have Academic Training authorized before their current DS-2019 end date, and the position must start within 30 days.
• To learn more about OPT, visit
• To learn more about Academic Training, visit

Continuing studies: If you plan to remain in the United States to continue your studies at another institution, please see the section below regarding SEVIS transfers.

Departure from the United States: If you do not plan to extend your F-1 or J-1 status through OPT/Academic Training or further studies, you must leave the U.S. by the end of your grace period.
• Grace period for F-1 students: 60 days from degree completion.
• Grace period for J-1 students: 30 days from degree completion.

Don't forget to report your program completion so that OISS may close your SEVIS record! Be sure to submit an online Departure Form.

Thesis/Dissertation Submission and I-20 End Date

Doctoral and Thesis-Masters students have several options for their I-20 program end date for the purpose of applying for OPT. In addition, even if you choose not to pursue OPT, please note that your I-20 end date will be shortened if you submit your final thesis/dissertation mid-term, i.e., before the last week of classes for the semester in which you plan to graduate.

Please note that on-campus employment work authorization, including eligibility to receive a stipend, ends on the I-20 end date, so you want to plan your defense and submission timeline very carefully.

To learn more about the I-20 end date options, please see

Leave of absence/Withdrawal

If you need to take time off or withdraw from your program, please make sure to meet with an OISS advisor in advance. We will need to terminate your F-1 SEVIS record, but by planning ahead you can ensure that your record is terminated for a neutral reason of authorized early withdrawal. With authorized early withdrawal, you will have 15 days to leave the United States.

J-1 students should reach out to an OISS advisor to discuss how a leave of absence or withdrawal will affect their SEVIS record.

Don't forget to report your departure from the U.S. by submitting an online Departure Form.

Returning to Rice: When you are ready to return from leave, please see for more information.


If you are suspended or dismissed from your program, we will need to terminate your SEVIS record. Unfortunately with this type of termination there is no grace period, and you will need to leave the U.S. immediately. If you know that a suspension or dismissal decision might be coming, please meet with an OISS advisor immediately to discuss your immigration options. After a final suspension or dismissal decision is made those options become very limited.

Don't forget to report your departure from the U.S. by submitting an online Departure Form.

SEVIS transfer

If you wish to continue your studies at another institution in the United States, you can submit a SEVIS transfer request to OISS. Please see for the Transfer Out Form.

F-1 students who have completed their degree are eligible to pursue a SEVIS transfer during their grace period, but students who are withdrawn, suspended or dismissed are no longer eligible for a SEVIS transfer after the effective date of the withdrawal, suspension or dismissal.

J-1 students must request their transfer while still in active student status, and are no longer eligible for a SEVIS transfer during their grace period even after completing a degree program.

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.