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Immigration Resources

Maintaining F-1 Status

You are responsible for maintaining your immigration status. There are some important things you must do to maintain your status:

  • Keep your passport valid.
  • Enroll for classes every semester.
  • Take a full course load every semester.
  • Obtain extensions of stay as needed.

Notify the International Student Advisor and Get Permission for:

  • You plan to a reduced course load
  • You plan to work off campus
  • You plan to transfer to or from NSU
  • You want to change your academic level (e.g., BA to MA).
  • You want to enroll in an online course or enrolling part-time at another institution.
  • Have a  name or address change - do this within 10 days of the change.

Frequently Asked Questions

What must I do when I change my major?

When you change your major, you must notify the International Student Advisor and obtain an updated I-20 form.

What must I do when I advance in degree level or apply for a second degree?

 When you advance from one degree level to another (e.g. bachelors to masters)or begin a second degree/certificate program at NSU, you must notify the international student advisor. You must be maintaining F-1 status and provide documentation of financial solvency in order to begin the new program.

Take a copy of your admission letter to the ISA along with new financial documentation. The ISA will issue you an updated I-20 form for the new degree program.

What must I do when I move from one address to another?

F-1 students must report a change of address to the international student advisor (DSO) within 10 days of the change. The ISA will update your address in SEVIS within 21 days of receipt.

You should also file a change of address with the Office of the Registrar.

Do I have to apply for a program extension?

 Section 5 of the I-20 specifies its expiration date, which is the latest date by which you must complete your degree. If you anticipate completing your studies later than the date in section 5 of your I-20, you will need a program extension; however the reason must be a compelling academic reason or documented illness. Compelling academic reasons include: *a change in major *a change in research topic *an unexpected research problem *a loss of credits due to school transfer or *inadequate time on the original I-20 form for the average student in the academic program to complete the requirements.

In order to apply for a program extension, you and your academic advisor will need to complete a Program Extension Form to verify the reason(s) you need an extension. Take the completed form to the international student advisor. S/he will generate a new I-20 form reflecting the new end date.

Please note: programs cannot be extended after the I-20 has expired; therefore, it is very important to obtain timely extensions in order to maintain your F-1 status.

Can I take a reduced course load?

 There are circumstances where a reduced course load can be authorized by the international student advisor. A reduction in course load can be made for academic reasons including: *Initial difficulties with the English Language *Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods *Initial difficulties with reading requirements or *Improper course level placement A reduced course load for academic reasons can be used only once while you are pursuing a course of study at a particular program level.

A reduction in course load can also be made for a medical condition. The ISA may grant approval for temporary illness or medical condition, but only upon recommendation of a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist. The medical condition exemption may not exceed 12 months in aggregate.

Finally, a DSO may authorize a reduced course load during a final term or semester if fewer courses are required to complete the degree; however, a student may not take zero number of credit hours during any term. If a thesis or dissertation is left to complete, students must enroll under continuing registration.

Complete a Request for Reduced Course Load form and return it to the ISA.

How many online courses may I take?

 There are restrictions for f-1 students who wish to take on-line courses. Under federal regulations, only 3 credit hours of on-line or distance learning courses may count toward the number of credit hours required for full-time enrollment. Violation of this policy will constitute under-enrollment, which is a violation of F-1 visa status.

May I enroll at another institution while attending NSU?

 An F-1 student may enroll in two schools at the same time as long as the enrollment in both schools amounts to a full time course of study. To request concurrent enrollment, complete the Multiple Enrollment Request Form and return it to the OISSS.

Please note that you do not need to complete the form if you are enrolled full time at NSU and choose to take an additional class at another school.

What happens if I fall out of status?

If you have not remained a full-time student, failed to obtain a timely program extension, or have otherwise violated your F-1 status, you will be instructed to prepare a reinstatement application.

You will not be allowed to register for the next semester until reinstatement has been filed, nor will you be able to transfer to another institution until your F-1 status has been reinstated.

F-2 Dependent

F-1 Spouses and Dependents

To qualify for F-2 status, a spouse or unmarried minor (under age 21) child must establish to the satisfaction of the consular officer and the immigration officer at the port of entry that:

S/he is the spouse or child of the F-1 visa holder by presenting a marriage certificate or birth certificate.

S/he has sufficient funds to cover his/her expenses, or that other arrangements have been made to provide for such expenses once in the U.S.

S/he intends to leave the U.S. upon the termination of status of the principal F-1 student.

If the dependents are following to join the student, the F-1 student is, or will be within 30 days, enrolled in a full course of study or engaged in approved practical training following completion of studies.

F-2 visa holders receive their own Form I-20 with their own SEVIS ID number. F-2s may travel separately from the F-1, but will need to carry their own Form I-20 with a current DSO travel signature, current passport, and current visa for entry/reentry.

How do I request an I-20 for my spouse/ dependents?

Complete the Request for Dependent Visa Document form and return it to the Office of International Student & Scholar Services.

Obtain financial documentation that shows financial support in the amount of $3,800 per year for the first dependent and $2,500 for each additional dependent can be provided. The support must be guaranteed for your entire length of study at NSU.

Be prepared to provide health insurance for your spouse/dependents.

May I study as an F-2?

F-2 children may engage in full-time study at the elementary and secondary school level only (K-12th grade). F-2 spouses and children may study part-time, but only if the study is "vocational or recreational" in nature. If you wish to study full-time in degree-seeking status, you must apply for and receive a change of status to F, J, or M. F-2s cannot begin coursework until their change of status is approved.

How long may I stay in the U.S. in F-2 status?

An F-2 may remain as long as the F-1 maintains status.

What happens if my F-1 spouse or parent falls out of status?

If the F-1 student falls out of status, then the F-2 falls out of status as well, because his/her visa status is a derivative of the F-1. Keep in mind that like F-1 students, F-2 dependents are required to keep their passports valid at least 6 months into the future.

May I work as an F-2?

No. F-2 visa holders may not accept employment or engage in business under any circumstances.

Visa Renewal

IF my visa stamp on my passport is about to expire. Do I need a new one ?

If you are not planning to travel outside the U.S., you do not need a new visa. The visa that is stamped in your passport is for entry purposes only. Once you are in the U.S., your I-20 or DS-2019 and I-94 card become the active documents that permit you to remain in the U.S. You are allowed to stay for “Duration of Status” (the period of time you remain a student in good standing.) The date noted on your I-20 or DS-2019 as the expected completion date of your studies is the expiration date of your F-1 or J-1 status. This date can be extended through the Office of International Student Services if necessary.

Where do I apply for a new visa?

You can apply for a visa at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country when you go home for a visit. It is important to realize that some consulates require an appointment. Additionally, significant delays of three to four months are not uncommon. Background checks can cause more delays and be triggered by an arrest, coursework that appears in your transcript, or simply by your country of citizenship. If your visa will be expired at the time you wish to re-enter the U.S., check with the consulate or embassy to determine how long it is currently taking to process new visas by visiting the Department of State website.

What do I need to take to the Consulate in order to apply for a new visa?

  • Passport valid for at least six months after the proposed date of (re)entry into the U.S.
  • Current SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019, with PDSO signature and signed for travel.
  • A letter of good standing from the DSO.
  • A copy of your transcript, available from the Registrar’s Office.
  • Proof of financial support.

You should be able to verify your ability to cover the amount indicated on your I-20 form. You will be asked to provide an affidavit of support, bank statements, a research/teaching assistantship verification letter, and/or a scholarship/grant verification letter. Proof of ties to your home country. This is a nonspecific item, but since you are applying for a non-immigrant visa, you may need to show that you intend to remain a permanent resident of your home country.

You can bring a letter offering you a job in your home country, letters from family or friends, evidence of ownership of property in home country, or copies of bank statements from a bank in your home country to the Consulate as proof that you have stronger ties to your home country than the United States.

Two completed Non-immigrant Visa Application Forms (Form DS-156 and Form DS-158) At least one standard passport photograph, and The Application and Issuance Fee.

There is a standard $100 visa application fee for all applicants plus an issuance fee, in some countries. Check with the Department of State to determine if you will be charged an issuance fee, also called a Visa Reciprocity Fee.

May I apply for a new visa within the United States?

Under most circumstances and especially after September 11 terrorist attacks, U.S. consulates will not issue new visas for non-immigrants. You must travel outside the country for a renewal.

Travel Outside the U.S. in F-1 Status

Temporary Absence (5 months or less)

Students who leave the country and return within five (5) months may return to the U.S. on their current SEVIS I-20, as long as there is a valid DSO signature on page 3. Although the signature is technically valid for one year, immigration officials often require that the I-20 bear a DSO certification for reentry executed in the current term (if a student is entering during the academic year, or in the term preceding the excursion if the student is returning from a vacation.

In order to reenter the U.S. after a temporary absence, an F-1 student must have the following:

  • A valid passport
  • A valid F-1 visa
  • A properly endorsed Form I-20

Important! If you must withdraw from school to take a temporary leave of absence, please be sure to complete a Leave of Absence Form and notify the DSO of your departure. Failure to do so can result in dire consequences, including termination of your SEVIS record.

If your visa has expired or expires while abroad, you will need to obtain a new one. Click here for information about renewing your visa.

Absences Greater Than 5 Months

Students who remain out of the U.S. for five (5) months or more will need to submit new financial documentation in order to secure a new SEVIS I-20 marked "initial entry". They cannot return on their original I-20.

Important! If you must withdraw from school to take a temporary leave of absence, please be sure to complete a Leave of Absence Form and notify the DSO of your departure. Failure to do so can result in dire consequences, including termination of your SEVIS record. If your visa has expired or expires while abroad, you will need to obtain a new one.

Travel and Optional Practical Training

Can I reenter the U.S. after a short trip abroad if my request for OPT is pending?

Yes, you may reenter while OPT is pending in order to search for employment. Take your I-797 Notice of Receipt with you and show it to the immigration official on your return trip.

Can I reenter the U.S. if I left while on OPT?

If your OPT has been approved and you depart before you get a job, your OPT ends and you cannot reenter. If your OPT has been approved and you have a job, you may travel and reenter to resume work at the same job. Take your EAD card and a letter from your employer stating that you are to begin or resume work upon your return, and show it to the immigration official at the port of entry.

Directions to Pertinent City & Government Buildings

Directions to the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and Social Security Administration Building

Social Security Administration Building

5425 Robin Hood Road, Norfolk, Virginia 23513
Turn right onto Park Avenue from Gate 1
Turn right onto Princess Anne Road
Turn left onto Azalea Garden Road
Turn right onto Robin Hood Road

Total Estimated Time: 15 minutes
Total Distance: 3.82 miles

Local USCIS Office

5280 Henneman Drive, Norfolk, Virginia 23513
Turn right onto Park Avenue from Gate 1
Turn right on Princess Anne Road
Turn left on Azalea Garden Road
Turn right onto Robin Hood Road
Turn right onto Walmer Avenue
Walmer Avenue becomes Henneman Drive

Total Estimated Time: 15 minutes
Total Distance: 3.83 miles

Directions to the nearest DMV

850 Widgeon Road, Norfolk, Virginia 23504

Take left onto Park Avenue from Gate 1
Turn right on Brambleton Avenue
Turn right onto Tidewater Drive
Turn right onto Widgeon Road

Total Estimated Time: 10 minutes
Total Distance: 4.34 miles

Additional Links and Resources:


  • Banking for International Students - This guide covers the basics of banking, credit cards, and finance for international students.
  • Emergency Fund Calculator - Student life is unpredictable. This online tool can help international students prepare for unexpected financial events.
  • Online Budgeting Tools -  A good budgeting tool can help international students take charge of their finances. This list contains many free online budget tools and apps.
  • Study in the States-offers free government resources that explain the rules and regulations governing the nonimmigrant student process in the United States.
  • United States Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS)-U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the federal agency that oversees lawful immigration to the United States. They are a component of the Department of Homeland Security. Some of the services they provide include:  Citizenship, Working in the U.S., Adoptions, and Immigration of Family Members.
  • Education USA-Education USA is a U.S. Department of State network of over 430 international student advising centers in more than 175 countries and territories.
  • Customs & Border Patrol-Official Site for Travelers Visiting the United States:  Apply for or Retrieve Form I-94, Request Travel History and Check Travel Compliance.