Maintaining Your Legal Student Status

Now that you have entered the U.S. as a nonimmigrant in F-1 or J-1 student status, it is critically important that you are aware of and abide by the regulations that govern your stay. International Student and Scholar Advising can assist you in maintaining your legal student status and dealing with various U.S. government agencies. However, you are responsible for finding out, knowing, and following pertinent regulations. Under the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), an internet-based system that facilitates the transmission of data to and from the federal government, your record, including name, date and place of birth, country of citizenship, current address, academic status, and employment information, can be checked regularly by several government agencies. The consequence of you falling out of your status may be severe. If you are the least bit uncertain about your status—whether your permission to stay is valid or whether you may be paid for an internship—check immediately.

To maintain your legal student status, you must:

1. Keep your passport valid at all times.

  • Your passport must be renewed six months before it expires. Without a valid passport, you do not have legal immigration status and are ineligible for employment of any type, including on-campus jobs, practical training, etc. Visit you country’s consulate website to learn how to renew your passport.
  •  You should keep a copy of your passport and your I-94 Admissions/Departure Record separate from the actual documents. Your home country’s embassy’s or consulate’s contact information should also be easily accessible.

2. Maintain full-time enrollment and normal progress toward your degree, as defined below:

  • You must register and complete a full course of study each fall and spring semester. Undergraduate: at least three courses per semester. Graduate: Check with your school.
  • The measure of normal progress is the rate at which the average full-time student in your program advances toward his or her degree. Working to complete courses or projects designated as incomplete from previous semesters is not maintaining normal progress. If you find yourself in this situation, or if you have an academic reason to carry a less than full-time load, you must consult with International Student and Scholar Advising immediately, in addition to your advising dean.

3. Notify your Principal/Designated School Official (P/DSO) immediately (within 10 days) if you: 

  • Change your home or local address. You must always maintain a local address with the college.
  • Declare or change your major(s)
  • Change your financial support; or
  • Change your U.S. immigration status.

4. Limit your on-campus employment to a maximum of 17.5 hours per week* while school is in session. You can work on-campus full-time during vacation periods. 

5. Never work off-campus without prior authorization from your P/DSO and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

  • Employment includes: work experience, paid or unpaid internships, practicum and volunteer work etc.
  • Beginning to work off-campus without proper authorization from the USCIS is considered one of the most serious violation of your status; it renders you illegally present in the U.S.
  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization is available for students who meet CPT eligibility requirements.
  • As off-campus employment authorization may take up approximately 90 days to obtain, it is very important that you consult with your P/DSO before you plan to work. Please also keep in mind that if you are applying for post-completion optional practical training (OPT), the USCIS must receive your application with 60 days of your program end date.
  • It is illegal to begin to work in anticipation of being granted permission to do so; you must have permission first.

6. Keep your I-20 Form (F-1 student) or DS-2019 Form (J-1 student) valid.

  • You must receive proper signature from the Principal or Designated School Official (P/DSO) for re-entry into the U.S. A P/DSO signature is valid for one year.
  • If you must continue to study beyond the date in item #5 of your I-20 or in item #3 of your DS-2019, you must apply for a “program extension” 30 days before the expiration date.
  • To continue at Bryn Mawr in a different academic level (e.g., bachelor’s to master’s), you must also apply for an extension. You must verify your admission to the new program and your ability to finance the program. International Student and Scholar Advising will issue a new I-20 or DS2019 indicating your correct academic program.
  • If you are considering transferring to another school, consult with the International Student and Scholar Advising, in addition to your Dean, before making the decision.

7. Once you have completed your studies and any practical training that is authorized, you must leave the U.S. or change to another immigration status within the appropriate time.

  •  If you are in F-1 student status, you are permitted to stay in the U.S. for 60 days beyond the completion date.
  • If you are in J-1 student status, you are permitted to stay in the U.S. for 30 days beyond the completion date. Always seek advice from your international student adviser regarding questions about your visa status.

*Although US immigration regulations permit on-campus employment up to 20 hours per week while school is in session, Bryn Mawr College procedures limit on-campus employment to 17.5 hours per week.