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Office of International Services
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Office of International Services

F-1 Student Status > Maintaining F-1 Status

Maintaining F-1 Status

Introduction: Why Maintain F-1 Student Status?

F-1 students are required to understand, acknowledge, and comply with certain rules and regulations. If you fail to comply with these rules and regulations you may lose certain important immigration benefits, including your eligibility to

  • accept on-campus or off-campus employment, including practical training
  • remain in or return to the United States following a trip abroad
  • transfer to another school
  • change to another non-immigrant status or pursue other immigration benefits

Teachers College is required to notify the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in certain cases when a student fails to maintain lawful F-1 student status. For this reason, it is essential that every F-1 student complies with the following rules. Failure to comply for even unintentional or inadvertent reasons is not considered acceptable.

Rules for Maintaining F-1 Student Status

1.  MAINTAIN VALID AND UNEXPIRED IMMIGRATION DOCUMENTS. As an F-1 student, you are required to maintain valid, unexpired immigration documents while in the United States. These include:

  • an unexpired passport valid at least six months into the future (Canadian citizens excepted)
  • a valid, unexpired Form I-20 (see below)
  • an I-94 card marked "F-1 D/S"

Your Form I-20  is issued by Teachers College and reflects your biographical information, your degree objective, your academic major / field of study, and your financial information. Your I-20 should reflect at all times correct, up-to-date information.  If any significant information on your Form I-20 changes (change of name, school, degree objective, major, or financial sources), you must notify the Office of International Services and obtain an updated or revised I-20 no later than fifteen days after the change becomes effective.

Your I-94 card is the small white card issued and processed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at an airport of port-of-entry. Your I-94 card should always be marked "F-1 D/S" to reflect your admission to the U.S. as an F-1 student for "duration of status," i.e., for that time you are a full-time student as indicated on your I-20. If your I-94 card does not have the annotation "F-1 D/S," contact the Office of International Services immediately.

2.  ENROLL IN A FULL COURSE OF STUDY (OR RECEIVE AUTHORIZATION FOR A REDUCED COURSELOAD FROM THE OIS).  You are required to pursue a full courseload during the autumn and spring semesters. A reduced courseload (part-time study) may be authorized only by the Office of International Services only in particular circumstances (see the section on 'Full-Time Study Requirement' in this section of our web site for more information).

3. MAKE NORMAL, FULL-TIME PROGRESS TOWARD DEGREE COMPLETION.  You are expected to make full-time progress toward degree completion. This means that you must meet your department's standards and requirements for satisfactory academic performance. Please note that under TC academic policy, 8 points of C- or lower constitutes grounds for dismissal from the College.

Delays due to unsatisfactory performance, failing grades, incompletes, and lack of consultation or advisement with faculty advisors are not considered acceptable for purposes of maintaining F-1 status or qualifying for extensions of F-1 status.  Only valid medical or academic reasons (such as changes in academic advisors, research topics, or problems with methodology or data collection) are considered acceptable grounds for any delays in meeting degree requirements.

4.  WORK ONLY WITH THE WRITTEN PERMISSION OF THE OIS AND/OR THE USCIS.  F-1 students have limited employment benefits, as explained in the F-1 Employment section of this web site. Please note that in all cases employment must receive the prior written authorization of the Office of International Services and, in certain cases, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Failure to obtain employment authorization before starting employment is considered a severe violation of F-1 immigration regulations.

5.  FILE REQUIRED PROCEDURES FOR EXTENDING OR UPDATING YOUR I-20 OR TRANSFERRING YOUR F-1 SPONSORSHIP AS NECESSARY.

  • Program Extension: you must file a request for a program extension if your I-20 is going to expire but you have valid academic or medical reasons for requiring additional time to complete your degree requirements. Your extension request must be made before your I-20 expires.
  • Change of Program/New Degree Level: you must file a request for a new I-20 if you are changing your academic major and/or will be pursuing a new degree program or moving to a new degree level. The new I-20 must be issued within 15 days of changing your major or starting your new program.
  • School Transfer: notify the OIS if you have completed or will terminate your enrollment at Teachers College in order to pursue a new program of study at another institution. This request must be made no later than 30 days after completing your studies at Teachers College. 

6.  NOTIFY THE OFFICE OF THE REGISTRAR OF ANY CHANGE OF NAME OR ADDRESS WITHIN 10 DAYS OF THE CHANGE.  You are required to notify Teachers College through the Office of the Registrar of any change of address or change of legal name.  This notification must be made within 10 days of the change.

  • We are required to maintain a "physical" (actual street residential) address in your immigration records. If you prefer that TC maintain a PO Box address, please report your "physical" address to the OIS directly.
  • Students on post-completion Optional Practical Training may report their address to the OIS directly.

7.  NOTIFY THE OIS IF YOU WILL NOT REGISTER, OR IF YOU WILL BE OUTSIDE OF THE US FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME EXCEEDING FIVE (5) MONTHS OR MORE. If you intend to depart the United States for an extended period of time, please notify the OIS. Your F-1 status may be terminated if:

  • You are not registered as a full-time student during any autumn or spring semester
  • You are outside of the United States for five months or more for non-academic reasons (personal / family leave, non-academic employment)

Students who will be outside of the United States for an extended period of time for data collection, fieldwork, and research-related reasons may retain F-1 student status but must maintain full-time registration during the autumn and spring semesters. Registration during the summer is not required.

8.  DEPART THE UNITED STATES WITHIN SIXTY (60) DAYS OF COMPLETING YOUR DEGREE REQUIREMENTS AND/OR ANY POST-COMPLETION OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING BENEFITS.  Your F-1 status comes to an end within 60 days of completing your degree requirements or any post-completion Optional Practical Training benefits for which you have been authorized.  You are required to depart from the United States by the end of the 60-day period.

Office of International Services
Teachers College, Columbia University
Box 7, 525 W 120th Street
New York, New York 10027-6696
Phone: (212) 678-3939 ♦ ~ Fax: (212) 678-3990 ♦ Email: