Maintaining Visa Compliance

You must report to your school by the program start date listed on your Form I-20. Once school starts, you must follow specific rules to legally remain in the United States. 
Video Tutorial: Maintaining Visa Compliance at E&H


When arriving to the United States, F-1 students must:

  • Enter the United States no more than 30 days before your program of study begins.
  • When you arrive at school, you need to contact your DSO again, no later than the program start date listed on your Form I-20.


While studying in the United States, F-1 students must:

  • Attend and pass all your classes. If school is too difficult, speak with your DSO immediately.
  • If you believe that you will be unable to complete your program by the end date listed on your Form I-20, talk with your DSO about requesting a possible program extension.
  • You must take a full course of study each term (12 credit hours); if you cannot study full-time, contact your DSO immediately.
  • Do not drop a class without first speaking with your DSO.

Annual Vacation for F-1 Students

F-1 students must complete at least one full academic year at an SEVP-certified school to be eligible for annual vacation. Additionally, students must intend to register for classes in the academic term following their annual vacation. Please note that during an annual vacation, students can take as many, as few or no courses as they want.

Travel In and Outside of the U.S. for F-1 Students

Please see this document regarding travel and travel signatures.

Leave of Absence or Authorized Early Withdrawal for F-1 Students

F-1 International students who choose to take time off from their academic programs must submit a Leave of Absence or Authorized Early Withdrawal Form to E&H Office of International Education (OIE).  F-1 students must be enrolled as full-time; therefore, they cannot remain in the US while on a leave of absence of after having withdrawn from the College.

F-1 students who are granted an authorized early withdrawal, but do not depart the country within the 15-day grace period, are in violation of their student visa status. This could have negative implications on the ability to reenter the United States and apply for another visa. 

How to request a Leave of Absence or Authorized Early Withdrawal

Complete and sign the Leave of Absence/Early Withdrawal Form.  Submit this form to an OIE advisor. The advisor will explain what you need to do in order to return to the U.S. and E&H in F-1 status.  Your SEVIS record will be terminated and you must leave the U.S. within 15 days of the SEVIS termination date.

If you submit the AEW Request Form:

  • Your SEVIS record will be “terminated” for an “early authorized withdrawal” within 5 business days.
  • You MUST leave the U.S. within 15 days of the termination.
  • You MAY NOT be registered in classes in the U.S. nor live in the U.S. during your absence. If you do not leave the U.S. within the stated times, you will be out of status and in the country without authorization.
  • You MAY NOT use your student visa to enter the U.S. until your SEVIS record is reactivated. You will need to contact the Emory & Henry College Office of International Education one month before you plan to return or before your visa appointment to place a request to reactivate your SEVIS record to “active” status.
  • You MUST return to the U.S. within 5 months to keep your immigration status & begin classes at the next available session.
  • Any absence from the U.S. of more than 5 months will require you get a new I-20 and a new F-1 visa.

Returning to E&H

Students who are taking off one semester or are approved for early withdrawal are still considered continuing students. They will not need to re-apply for admission.

Students who are taking off two consecutive semesters off will need to re-apply for admission. If the student wishes to return to the United States to study, the student must receive an updated Form I-20. Depending on how long the student was outside of the United States or out of status, some F-1 students may need to repay the I-901 SEVIS fee and obtain a new SEVIS ID. 

However, if an F-1 student withdraws or leaves the academic program without first receiving approval for an authorized early withdrawal, they will not be granted the 15-day grace period and will lose their status immediately upon leaving the academic program. The student’s SEVIS record will indicate, “Terminated for Unauthorized Early Withdrawal.” This could impede the student’s ability to reenter the country.

How to request Program Extension

Program extensions are strictly regulated by DHS/ICE/SEVP and may only be granted to F-1 students at E&H who are unable to complete their course of study by the program end date on their I-20 due to compelling academic or medical reasons. F-1 students are expected to finish their programs on time. Making normal academic progress is a condition of maintaining F-1 status.


In order to be eligible for a program extension a student must:

  • Have continually maintained legal F-1 status
  • Seek an extension for a delay caused by a compelling academic or medical reason, such as: change of major or research topic, unexpected research problems, or documented illness
  • Apply for an eligible extension before the program end date listed on the I-20


The following reasons are not eligible for program extensions:

  • Losing credits due to failing course(s)
  • Failing a course in the final semester
  • Delays caused by academic probation and suspension
  • Applying for an extension after the program end date noted on the Form I-20

IMPORTANT: To avoid Termination of your SEVIS record on your Program End Date due to failure to complete your program, we strongly recommend you seek advising about course overloads to make up for lost credits caused by failed courses. Be aware of your needed yearly credit totals, semester by semester, and stay on track to graduate on time. Additionally please work closely with your professors to successfully complete your courses in your last semester. 

Important Notes

  • If you fail to apply for an eligible extension prior to the program end date on your Form I-20, you will be considered out of status
  • An eligible program extension will extend your program in SEVIS (and on your I-20), but will not extend your F-1 visa
  • You may remain in the U.S. with an expired visa as long as your I-20 is valid
  • If you travel out of the U.S. with an expired visa, you will need a new visa to re-enter the country
  • Contact to apply for program extension.

Work and Practical Training for F-1 Students

An F student may only work when authorized by a DSO in some cases, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in others. If you choose to work without authorization, you will be forced to leave the United States immediately, and you may not be able to re-enter the United States at a later date. 

F students are eligible for curricular practical training (CPT) at either the undergraduate or the graduate level during the program of study. CPT employment must be an integral part of an established curriculum and the position must directly relate to your major area of study. Your DSO can give you the school’s policy on this option. See Working on Campus for more information.

F students are also eligible for optional practical training (OPT) during or following the program of study. OPT is a form of temporary employment that directly relates to your program of study. See Life After Emory & Henry College for more information.

For more information about employment and training options available for F-students, visit the Working in the United States page and talk with your DSO.

If you are unsure or have questions, talk with your DSO first.

If you are an F student studying in the United States, your DSO should be the first person you talk with if you have any questions regarding the legal requirements of your stay in the United States. Your DSO can assist in answering your questions or help you find someone who can help.

F-1 students should speak with their DSO if you are planning to do any of the following:

  • Change your major, program, or degree level.
  • Change your education level.
  • Transfer to a new school or take a leave of absence.
  • Take a break from school.
  • Travel outside the United States.
  • Move to a new address.
  • Request a program extension.

F students may contact SEVP by email at if your DSO is unable to assist you or if you would prefer to ask someone else. In your email, please describe your situation and include any questions you have. SEVP provides responses on a first-come, first-served basis. Answer times may vary depending on the current number of inquiries.


  • You are responsible for understanding these visa rules.
  • You are responsible for attending all classes, completing all homework, and passing your classes.
  • If you fail to maintain your status, your I-20 will be terminated and you must return home. You may have a difficult time reentering the U.S. in the future.
  • Make sure you communicate all changes and concerns to your DSO! 
  • More information about maintaining F-1 visa compliance can be found here.