Maintaining F-1 Status | LSU International Services

Maintaining F-1 Status

It is very important for international students to stay in lawful immigration status at all times. International Services provides information and advice on immigration-related issues, but it is your responsibility as an F-1 or J-1 student to stay informed about immigration regulations and to maintain your status.

If you fall out of lawful immigration status, you may have serious problems with U.S. Immigration. As a result you may have problems obtaining any U.S. visas or entering the U. S. in the future. While you are in the U.S., falling out of status means that you will no longer be eligible for any F-1 or J-1 benefits, including employment authorization. Remaining in the U.S. without a valid legal status can have serious implications.

Please read the information below. It is very important for our students to be well informed and knowledgeable about immigration rules. Immigration rules change frequently, and it is your responsibility to read all emails from International Services and to stay in close contact with our office throughout your studies at LSU.


How SEVIS Works

Once Louisiana State University (LSU) admits an international student who indicates that they need the F-1 (student) status, the student’s information is entered into SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System), and Form I-20 is issued to the student. The student visits the U.S. consulate abroad, and the consulate confirms through SEVIS that the I-20 the student is carrying is a valid document. If everything is in order, the consulate issues the visa. An immigration officer at the airport reports to SEVIS the student's entry into the U.S. When the student arrives on campus, they report to International Services at International Student Orientation, and International Services confirms through SEVIS the student’s semester enrollment. International Services continues to provide regular electronic reports to SEVIS throughout the student's academic career. Finally, the student's departure from the United States is recorded in SEVIS.

Data SEVIS Collects

International Services must register new students in the SEVIS database after they have entered the U.S. within 30 days of their program begin date (as per students’ I-20 Forms). For both new and continuing students, International Services is required to report whether or not the student has completed full-time registration within 30 days of the last day to register for that semester (as per LSU academic calendar).

International Services must report within 21 days of their occurrence the following events:

  • Change in the student or dependent's legal name.
  • Change in the student’s street address.
  • Completion of studies: Any student who graduates prior to the end date listed on the I-20.
  • Resignation from LSU.
  • Academic or disciplinary actions taken due to criminal conviction.
  • Whether the student drops below a full course of study with or without prior authorization from the DSO
    • (Immigration regulations refer to international student advisors as "Designated School Officials"- DSO).
  • Academic suspension.
  • Program extensions.
  • School transfers.
  • Changes in level of study and/or major.
  • Change in funding.
  • Employment authorizations (OPT, CPT, Economic Hardship Employment).
  • Reinstatement recommendation.

Maintaining Full-Time Enrollment

F-1 students are required to be enrolled full-time every fall and spring semester. Summer semester enrollment is optional, unless it is a student’s first semester at LSU. "Full-time" means 12 credit hours per semester for undergraduates and 9 credit hours per semester for graduate students. Immigration rules do not specify that all the classes an F-1 student is enrolled in must be related to the student’s major. However, no more than the equivalent of one class or 3 credit hours per semester may be counted towards full-time enrollment if taken online or through distance education. A distance education course is defined as a course that does not require the student’s physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion of the class. Students must enroll in physical presence (non-distance education) courses during their semester before graduating.

An exception to the full-time enrollment requirement is the case of a student in their final semester of enrollment at LSU who needs less than a full course load to complete their degree requirements. In such a case, the student must officially file for graduation prior to enrolling part-time. International Services cannot authorize part-time enrollment unless the student’s graduation date is posted in the LSU system.

Requesting a Reduced Course Load

If you are considering part-time enrollment for any other reason, please contact International Services before dropping below full-time. You will need to request and be approved for a Reduced Courseload (RCL) to have a less than full-time course load and maintain legal F-1 or J-1 status. Please meet with an advisor before initiating the process to drop below full-time. 

Resigning From LSU

Withdrawing or resigning from the university will have a direct and immediate impact on your F-1 or J-1 SEVIS record. International Services cannot keep your SEVIS record active once you are no longer an LSU student or once you are no longer enrolled in a full-time courseload. It is important that you meet with an advisor prior to starting the process to withdraw or resign from the university to get information on how this will impact your legal status and what options you have for closing out your SEVIS record.

Maintaining a Valid I-20 Form

Your I-20 must be valid and accurate at all times. You must request a new, updated I-20 in the following cases:

Your I-20/DS-2019 has an expiration date (see program end date on Page 1). If your I-20/DS-2019 is going to expire before you complete your program of studies, you must apply for an extension at least two weeks prior to the expiration date. Applications for program extensions can be submitted to International Services online via the Program Extension Request form. If you are requesting an extension based on academic reasons, you will need your department/college to complete and sign the Program Extension Academic Verification Form. If you will have department funding during the extension period, you will also need a completed and signed Department Funding Verification Form.

An F-1 student who is unable to meet the program completion date on the I-20 may be granted an extension only if the student has continually maintained status and the delays were caused by compelling academic or medical reasons, such as changes of major or change of research topics, unexpected research problems, or documented illnesses. Delays caused by academic probation or suspension are not acceptable for program extensions.

If a student does not apply for an extension of their I-20 until after the program end date noted on the I-20, the student is out of status and must apply for reinstatement (application to attempt to regain lawful status). An F-1 student who is unable to complete the educational program within the time listed on the I-20 and who is ineligible for program extension is also considered out of status. If eligible, the student may apply for reinstatement.

If you have a new major or have changed your primary LSU major, you must request a new I-20 from International Services. Applications for new I-20s due to a change of major can be submitted online to International Services via a “Green Sheet” request form. Your department/college must update your major in the LSU Student Record Database before we can process your new I-20.

If you need an extension of your I-20 program completion date due to the change of major, you should complete the online Program Extension Request form and upload your completed Green Sheet into the request. For more information about I-20 expiration dates, see the previous section.

You must request a new I-20 if you change your degree level (for example, from Master’s to PhD, from PhD to Master’s, etc.). Please submit a “Green Sheet” request form together with a Change of Program Level Request form filled out by your department.

If your funding has changed (you received an assistantship or scholarship, you no longer have an assistantship or scholarship, etc.), you must request a new I-20 with the updated information. Please submit a “Green Sheet” request form accompanied by a copy of your award letter (if you received an assistantship/scholarship/fellowship, etc.) or an Affidavit of Support for Continuing Students (if you no longer have university funding) to the International Services front desk. If you do not have or did not receive an award letter stating the terms and duration of your financial award, you may instead submit a Department Funding Verification form as a substitute for an award letter.

Please note that International Services is no longer accepting paper forms. You will need to submit your completed forms online.

If any information on your I-20 is out of date, you must request an updated I-20. For example, if your name has been changed in your passport, your I-20 must have your new name to match your passport. International Services will need a copy of your new passport (together with a “Green Sheet” request form) to update your I-20.

Another example of a change is dependent information. If your F-2 dependent is no longer in the U.S. (and is not planning to return in F-2 status) or changed their status (for example, to F-1, H1B, J-1, etc.), the dependent’s information must be removed from your I-20.

Of course, if you find any mistakes on your I-20, please make sure to request a corrected I-20.

Working Only with Authorization

All F-1 students must have authorization to work either from International Services and/or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) before they start their employment. Please see the Student Employment section of our website for more detailed information about working in F-1 status.

Reporting Change of Address

Immigration rules require that all non-immigrants (including F-1 and J-1 students) report their address in the U.S. to USCIS. While most other visa holders are required to use USCIS Form AR-11 to report their address, F-1 and J-1 students must inform their university’s International Services office of their address. At LSU you report your address to our office by using your myLSU portal to update your Local Street Address field. You can use this guide for instructions on how to update your local address in your myLSU account. Your address information is then electronically transferred into the SEVIS database and thus reported to U.S. Immigration.

You must update your address in myLSU within 10 days of any move, even if you move temporarily (e.g., for a summer vacation, internship, etc.).

Graduation & Final Semester

Degree Only Registration

If you are considering registering as Degree Only for your final semester, please meet with an advisor in our office first; this action will affect your program end date on your I-20, and your 60-day grace period will begin on the Degree Only deadline date. Please contact or call the front desk if you are having difficulty reserving an appointment time.

In your graduating semester, you may work up to the graduation ceremony date listed in the LSU Course Catalog, as long as you have a valid work authorization. However, students registering as Degree Only will have an I-20 end date/program completion date of the Degree Only registration date; in other words, you may only work on-campus until the Degree Only deadline date (with valid work authorization). Degree Only students may not continue to work or remain in the U.S. until the end of the semester unless they choose an option that extends their status (i.e., OPT, new I-20 for new academic program).

Resigning From LSU

The LSU University Registrar will alert International Services about any F-1 or J-1 student who resigns for the fall or spring semester (or summer semester, if summer is the student's first semester at LSU). International Services is required to report the student's official resignation in SEVIS.

Resigning from the university ends your enrollment, and International Services will be required to close out your SEVIS record. It is important that you meet with an advisor in our office before starting the resignation process. If your SEVIS record is terminated based on a resignation, your student status and your current I-20/DS-2019 Form will no longer be valid. A student has 15 calendar days after the termination of the SEVIS record to leave the U.S. If they do not depart within those 15 days, they will be out of lawful status.

A student who wishes to study at LSU after a resignation should contact International Services at to request a new I-20/DS-2019 form, to determine their eligibility, and to determine if any action for re-admission is necessary.

A student can re-enter the U.S. to continue their academic program only 30 days prior to the semester they will re-enroll, as delineated by U.S. federal regulations, which are determined by the program begin date on the student's new I-20 form.

Grace Periods for Departing the U.S.

F-1 Students:

F-1 students have a 60-day grace period: An F-1 student who has completed a course of study (graduated from LSU) or Optional Practical Training (OPT) following completion of studies has a 60-day grace period to remain in the U.S. You cannot travel outside of the U.S. and return as F-1 during the grace period. No employment is allowed during the grace period. You have the following options before the 60-day grace period ends:

  • Apply for OPT (after completion of studies)
  • Receive a new LSU I-20 for a new program of studies, if you are admitted into a new degree program at LSU
  • Transfer your F-1 SEVIS record and receive a new I-20 from another school, if you are admitted into a new program at another U.S. school
  • Prepare for departure and leave the U.S.

F-1 students who terminate their course of study without obtaining prior approval from International Services are not eligible for any grace period and must depart the U.S. immediately.

F-1 students who have been authorized by IS and officially withdraw/resign from the University and classes during a semester have 15 days to depart from the U.S. from the date of the SEVIS record termination.

Transferring To and From U.S. Schools

F-1 students are permitted by immigration regulations to transfer between SEVIS-approved institutions in the U.S. The student first must be fully admitted into a new school. Then the student must notify their current school of their intent to transfer. The current school updates the student’s SEVIS record as a “transfer out,” indicates the school to which the student intends to transfer, and adds a “release date," the date of the expected transfer. The current school retains control of the student’s SEVIS record until the release date is reached.

The student may cancel the transfer request at any time prior to the release date. After the release date, the current school will no longer have access to the SEVIS record and thus will be unable to cancel the request. The student is required to contact the school to which they are transferring within 15 days of the program start date.

When transferring between SEVIS-approved institutions, students must resume classes within 5 months of transferring out of their current school or within 5 months of the program completion date as indicated on the SEVIS Form I-20 issued by the current school, whichever date is earlier. For transfer students authorized to engage in OPT, the student must be able to resume classes within 5 months of transferring out of the school that recommended OPT or the date the OPT authorization ends, whichever is earlier.

Please note that the 5-month period mentioned above is meant to cover possible gaps between the end of one program and the beginning of the next available semester at another program. The student is expected to begin on the next available start date/semester or term following completion of the previous program. Students ineligible for a transfer may depart the country and return as an initial entry in F-1 status. A student is not otherwise permitted to remain in the U.S. when transferring between schools.

What does this mean for you? If you are completing your studies at LSU and wish to continue studying at another U.S. institution, or if you are simply transferring schools, you can apply to as many schools as you wish. However, you must choose only one school to transfer to, as the SEVIS system will allow LSU to release your file to only one school. Once you have made a decision, you must complete the Transfer Out form (found at the International Services front desk or online) with any applicable Transfer In form from your new school and turn the form(s) and a copy of your new school official admission letter into International Services for processing.

Please note: Beginning study for a new degree or transferring to another school means that any current OPT period is automatically cancelled.

Regulations for F-2 Dependents

Spouses and minor children of F-1 students may be eligible for F-2 visas and F-2 status in the U.S. The F-1 student must apply for F-2 I-20 Forms for their dependent(s) with International Services by submitting a “Green Sheet” request form and proof of financial ability to support their dependent(s) in the U.S. After the F-2 I-20 is issued, the F-2 dependent must use the original I-20 to apply for an F-2 visa. If they are granted a visa, the dependent may seek admission into the U.S.

F-2 spouses are not allowed by immigration rules to pursue a full-time college course load or academic degree program. An F-2 dependent “may not engage in full-time study … The F-2 spouse and child may engage in study that is vocational or recreational in nature” (8 U.S. Code of Federal Regulations). If an F-2 dependent wishes to study at LSU on a full-time basis in an academic degree program, they must apply for a change of status to F-1 and be approved prior to enrollment.

F-2 dependents are not allowed to work in the U.S. under any circumstances.

There are specific requirements for enrolling part-time during your last semester, and if you do not complete your program for any reason, there could be severe immigration consequences. Please contact if you are considering part-time enrollment your final semester, or set an appointment to meet with an advisor. If you are having trouble finding an appointment time that works for you, you can call the front desk for help scheduling an appointment.

Please contact if you are considering travel during your last semester, or meet with an advisor. Depending on when you will complete your coursework and program requirements, you may or may not be able to travel. You could lose the opportunity to re-enter the U.S. as an F-1 student or to apply for OPT, so please make sure you contact our office if you are considering travel during your graduating semester.

We will be sending a graduation survey to students regarding their experience at LSU and future plans. We appreciate your responses; this information helps us to close your record in the correct manner and with appropriate remarks, such as “Student has already departed the U.S.,” etc.