Required Activities for Maintaining Status

F-1 students must carry a full course of study and must make reasonable progress toward a degree, certificate, or other similar educational objective. The federal regulations permit only 3 exceptions:

  1. During the first term, a student may carry a reduced course load due to an inability to handle the academic rigors of the program. This reduced course load requires appropriate recommendation from a faculty adviser to the DVS and approval by the DVS before the student drops any courses.
  2. Illness for a term or semester that makes the student unable to continue studies. This reduced course load requires appropriate recommendation from a licensed physician, or similar health care professional, to the DVS, and approval by the DVS before the student drops any courses.
  3. During the last term or semester needed to complete the degree, the student may register only for those courses needed to complete the degree. Failure to complete the degree during this final term can place the student out of status, so we strongly recommend that you talk with the DVS and your academic adviser before reducing course load during the final term. At Duke this exception primarily affects undergraduate students. Those in graduate programs do not have a “course load” in the traditional undergraduate sense; they must engage in full-time pursuit of the degree as determined by the graduate program.

F-2 dependent spouse or child is in status only while the F-1 is in status. An F-2 dependent who works has violated status, even though the F-1 still may be in status. An F-2 dependent is not permitted to engage in full-time study in a degree program.

Extending Stay

F-1 students are admitted either until the ending date on the I-20 or until the program ends, whichever comes first. They are permitted to remain in the U.S. for an additional 60-day “grace period” to allow time to pack and to travel inside the U.S. No work or enrollment in school is permitted during this 60-day grace period. For example, if the I-20 ends on 15 May, then the authorized stay will end 60 days later on 14 (not 15) July. The grace period permits additional time inside the U.S. If you leave the U.S. during the grace period, then you cannot return in F-1 status.

F-1 students are admitted for “duration of status”, noted as “D/S” on the I-94 Arrival/Departure card. This means that a student’s stay in the U.S. is authorized for as long as the student is enrolled in school and is carrying a full course of study, provided that appropriate extensions and transfers are filed and the student does not engage in unauthorized employment. Students are expected to complete their studies in a reasonable amount of time. If the length of stay at one degree level is longer than usually required for that degree, the student must timely file for an extension of stay to maintain status. You should contact the DVS at least 2 months before your current stay expires if you wish to apply for an extension. For more detailed information, please see our F-1 and J-1 Student Extension of Stay webpage.

F-2 dependent extensions are filed at the same time as the F-1’s.

Employment Authorization

F-1 students may receive income in the U.S. in the form of scholarships and fellowships. In addition, F-1 students have various on-campus and off-campus employment options such as assistantships, practical training, etc. Before accepting any employment or payments from U.S. sources, contact the DVS to determine whether you are permitted to engage in that employment and to obtain appropriate authorization. Remember that unauthorized work is a violation of status.

F-1 students may engage in on-campus employment without specific authorization if the work does not exceed 20 hours per week during regular terms/semesters and may work full-time during official school holidays and vacations. Students must complete Duke Payroll Office paperwork before beginning employment on campus. Off-campus employment authorization requires either a letter issued by the DVS or an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by DHS. Although the F-1 student is admitted for “duration of status,” F-1 work authorization has specific time limits. The student’s off-campus employment authorization ends on the expiration date of the school’s authorization letter or the end date of the EAD. If the student loses F-1 status, then all work authorization ends immediately.

F-1 students with employment authorization may extend this authorization by applying to the DVS or the DHS, depending on the kind of work authorization the F-1 has. It is very important to file an extension request in a timely manner prior to the ending date of the current authorization. Filing requirements differ depending upon the kind of employment authorization being sought.

F-2 dependents are not permitted to work. An F-2, however, may qualify for a separate, independent immigration class that does permit work. Examples include the F-1, H-1B, J-1, O-1, or TN. An F-2 dependent who works has violated status even though the F-1 still may be in status.