The last thing you want is to have your studies interrupted by an immigration issue. Don't worry. This won't happen as long as you're careful about maintaining your F-1 Student Visa status. Remember, the date on the I-94 card in your passport isn't a departure date; you just need to enter the U.S. by that date. You can remain here as long as you maintain your F-1 status, which is indicated on your I-94 card as D/S or Duration of Status. Here's how you maintain that status:
Be a full-time student.
You must complete a full course load every fall and spring semester - which is 12 credit hours each term. You are not required to register for summer sessions, unless you are coming here for the first time for summer school. If you need to drop a class and fall below full-time status, it's very important that you contact your international student advisor first.
Get authorization for employment or training.
You must get authorization to get a job. For off-campus jobs, your international student advisor must sign your I-20, or you can get an employment authorization card from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Be sure to renew your authorization before it expires – even one day of work past the expiration is a serious offense. For on-campus jobs, which are limited to 20 hours per week, you only need the signature from your international student advisor.
Keep your documents current and with you.
Your passport must have at least six months of validity from your date of enrollment. You must keep copies of your passport, I-94 card, and I-20 form with you everywhere you go in the Houston area. Keep the originals with you if you travel outside the Houston area. Be sure to apply for an extension on your I-20 at least 30 days before it expires. If you move, you must report your new address to your international student advisor and the Enrollment Services Office within 10 days. If you plan to travel temporarily outside the U.S., you must get a travel endorsement on your I-20.
Keep your school records current.
You should only attend the school listed on your I-20. If you would like to transfer to or from San Jac, you need to obtain approval on a new I-20 within 15 days of the start of classes at the new school. If you would like to concurrently enroll, you need to obtain a permission letter. Your international student advisor can help you with all of this. You also need to obtain a new I-20 if you change degree levels, such as going from an associate to bachelor's, or even if you're starting on a second associate.
Plan for the future.
Once you complete your degree or optional practical training, you have 60 days to decide what to do. You can transition to a new I-20 to begin a new degree program. You can change your Visa status. Or you can depart the U.S., which cancels your I-20 even if it hasn't expired.
Stay in touch with your advisor.
Your international student advisor's job is to help you keep your F-1 status valid with the U.S. government, so you can keep your educational goals on track. You must report any changes to your advisor to avoid unintended violations. If you fall out of status, you should apply for reinstatement within five months.
Please call 281-998-6150 if you have questions or need help.