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F-1 Visa Holders

Please be aware that this is only a summary of requirements to maintain F-1 student status. We urge you to always check with the ISSS office to ensure you understand your obligations as a student and have all the information needed to make decisions regarding your visa status.

Under U.S. immigration law, it is your responsibility to maintain F-1 lawful student status. We encourage students to read and understand the “Instructions to Students” on page 3 of your Form I-20; then carefully follow those instructions and the information below:

  1. Maintain a valid passport at all times.
  2. Check in with and attend the school listed on your current Form I-20; that should be BYU. You will be terminated in SEVIS during any semester or term of required enrollment WHEN ANY of the following occur:
    • you fail to enroll within 30 days of the first day of classes,
    • you enroll in less than a full course of study without the proper authorization from International Student Services or
    • you fail to pay tuition prior to the add/drop deadline thus making you ineligible to attend BYU.
  3. Pursue a "full course of study" at the school listed on the currently valid Form I-20 during every academic session or semester except during official school breaks (annual vacation periods), or unless approved under a specific exception, in advance, by the ISSS Office.
  4. Make normal progress towards completing the course of study, by completing studies before the expiration of the program completion date on your Form I-20.
  5. Keep your Form I-20 valid and accurate by following the proper procedures for the following situations:
    • Extending I-20 (must be done prior to your I-20 expiration date) (Extension of stay should only be granted when additional time is needed "caused by compelling academic or medical reasons, such as changes of major or research topics, unexpected research problems, or documented illnesses.")
    • Change in education levels (e.g., bachelor's to master's) or programs of study (e.g., ESL to regular school)
    • Transfer of schools
  6. Abide by the F-1 grace period rules:
    • When an F-1 student is admitted up to 30 days before the program start date listed on your Form I-20
    • When an F-1 students remains in the U.S. for up to 60 days beyond:
      • the completion of the program of study
      • the completion date of any authorized post-completion optional practical training
    • When an F-1 student, who has been granted an authorized early withdrawal by a DSO, remains in the United States for up to 15 days following the withdrawal noted in SEVIS, to prepare to depart the United States.
  7. Report a change of address within 10 days of the change.
    • Use Route Y to update your home address, local address, and/or phone number in Route Y. Doing so will automatically send an update notification to USCIS.
  8. Abide by rules requiring disclosure of information and prohibition on criminal activity. Disclosure of Criminal Activity
    • F-1 students, like all other non-immigrants, are required to disclose fully and truthfully all information requested by DHS.
    • Students are also required to obey federal, state and local laws.
    • BYU has an obligation to update SEVIS regarding any disciplinary action taken by the school as a result of being convicted of a crime.
  9. Not work, either on or off-campus, until specifically authorized by the ISSS Office (See the F-1 Employment page on this website for more information).
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Exceptions for reduced course load can be considered for the following reasons:

  1. Initial difficulty with the English language
  2. Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
  3. Improper course level placement
  4. Illness or medical condition
  5. Completion of studies in current term
  6. Last semester

Each exception requires specific conditions are met and documented. It is imperative to consult with the ISSS Office before considering enrolling in less than a full course of study!

It is extremely important for each F-1 student at BYU to maintain his or her status while in the United States. Failure to maintain the terms and conditions of nonimmigrant status is ground for removal from the US (deportation).

More Details

  • Your F-1 lawful status is the official U.S. government designation and authorization of your stay in the U.S. as a non-immigrant student.

    • Your status is designated by the Customs and Border Patrol officer who reviews your visa and other documents at your port of entry, and upon your admittance, writes your lawful immigration status and the length of time you may remain in the U.S. on your Form I-94 (shown below). more details
    • You will probably have “D/S” as the length of stay; it means “duration of status” or until the completion date noted on your Form I-20 #5—providing you continue to maintain the requirements of your status.
    • In most instances, your lawful status and visa category will be the same, F-1, unless you change your status after entering the U.S.
      • Ex: Once inside the U.S., you may change your lawful status to an F-2 dependent. Your lawful status would then be F-2, but your visa category would remain F-1.
      • It is of no consequence that your lawful status would be different than your visa UNLESS you travel outside the U.S. as an F-2; in that instance, you would need a new F-2 visa that would match your lawful status in order to re-enter the U.S.

    Immigration matters are the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

  • You are responsible to become aware of and dutifully observe the requirements to maintain your lawful status.

    • If you fail to do so, your lawful status will be terminated as is required by law. If you are out of status for more than five months, you may be removed from the U.S. by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and/or subject to a bar from re-entering the U.S. in the future.
    • If you think you are out of status, contact International Services immediately to review your situation. If you are out of status, you will not be eligible for a travel signature, change of status, employment or other F-1 benefits.

    Below are details of the only two options for reinstatement:

    1. Option 1: Apply to USCIS
      • Criteria--You may apply for reinstatement if you:
        • Have not been out of status over five months
        • Do not have a record of willful or repeated violations
        • Are currently pursuing or intend to pursue a full course of study
        • Have not been engaged in unauthorized employment--It is illegal to work anywhere when out of status.
        • Are not removable on any other grounds
        • Can substantiate that
          • the status violation resulted from circumstances beyond your control or
          • the status violation is related to a reduced course load that would have been within International Services power to authorize and
          • failure to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship.
      • How to Apply
        1. Complete a Form I-539--may be downloaded here and filled in by using your keyboard before printing or obtained from International Services after verifying with International Services that you are out of status and discussing your situation with your advisor.
        2. Make copies of your passport pages including your visa, passport number and expiration date, and your picture.
        3. Include your original Departure Record--Form I-94. This small white card is usually stapled to your passport next to your visa.
        4. Request a reinstatement Form I-20 from International Services.
        5. Draft a written request for reinstatement addressed "To Whom It May Concern." Consider including the following suggested items:
          • Reason for falling out of status
          • Provide support/documentation that the violation was beyond your control.
          • Make the request that you be reinstated to your F-1 student status giving all of the reasons to do so--one ought to be so that you might be able to complete the requirements of your program--list them and when you plan to graduate.
          • You might explain the negative impact that a failure to obtain reinstatement would have on you.
          • Indicate that you are currently pursuing a full course of study or that you are making arrangements to do so during the next enrollment period.
          • Personal declaration that you will follow all of the F-1 regulations if reinstated
        6. Provide proof of finances
        7. Obtain an official university transcript from each university attended
        8. Obtain a money order or personal check for $300 made to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
        9. Make an appointment with your International Services advisor and bring the above documents with you for review.
        10. Submit the application and related materials to:

          U.S. Department of Homeland Security
          U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
          California Service Center
          P.O. Box 10539
          Laguna Niguel, CA 92607-1053

      • If Application is Approved
        • E-mail notice will be sent to International Services within about 45 days
        • You will be eligible for any F-1 benefits for which you qualify
      • If Application is Denied
        • E-mail notice will be sent to International Services within about 45 days
        • Your current visa will be automatically canceled.
        • You will be permanently limited to applying for visas in your home country.
        • You will not be allowed to continue your studies at BYU.
        • You will be required to depart the United States within a designated time given in the notice of denial.
        • An official record of your status violation will be recorded with the DOS.
    2. Option 2: Travel from and Reenter the US
      • Procedure
        • Request an initial attendance Form I-20 from International Student and Scholar Services which will generate a new SEVIS ID number.
        • Obtain a Form I-901 Receipt ( SEVIS fee)
        • Leave the U.S. on a valid passport and visa and reenter at the port of entry.
        • Upon admittance to the U.S. the officer will stamp your new I-94 with "F-1 D/S" status which will regain your F-1 status.
      • Considerations
        • Although you will be considered in valid F-1 status after reentry, this option is not the same as reinstatement, and it does not forgive your past violation(s).
        • Upon your return to campus, you will be eligible for on-campus employment, but you will not be eligible for off-campus or Economic Hardship employment until after you have completed a full course of study for one full academic year after regaining F-1 status.