Maintaining Status

F-1 students are responsible for learning, understanding, and complying with all laws and regulations set forth by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Violation of these laws can seriously affect your immigration status as well as your academic career. To make you more aware of these issues, it is extremely important that you read and fully understand all of the information listed here and on the Employment page of the ISS website.

Full-Time Study

Maintain a full course of study each Fall and Spring semester for the duration of your program.

  • Undergraduates: Minimum of 12 credits per semester
  • Graduates: Minimum of 9 credits per semester (12 credits for Social Work and some School of Law programs)

Only 1 online course can count towards the full course of study requirement each semester.

If you cannot register full-time for a given semester, you must see an adviser in ISS before classes begin or prior to dropping below a full-time course load during the semester. There are extremely limited exceptions to the full course of rule and you must obtain permission from ISS before dropping below full-time or fully withdrawing from classes. Failure to comply is a violation of your F-1 status.

For information on Reduced Course Load or Leave of Absence/Withdraw, look for the appropriate form in Campus Cruiser under "My Committees", "International Student Services" and "Shared Files".

Record Keeping

Report address and name changes within 10 days to ISS

ISS is required to provide a valid address and other student data electronically in SEVIS (Student & Exchange Visitor Information System). No other university office is authorized by the federal government to process this data. You can submit your address change by completing a "Change of Address Form", which is available in ISS and online in the "International Student Services Committee" on Campus Cruiser under "Shared Files". Once you submit this form to ISS, we will process it and send it to Lipka Hall so that your address can be updated in the University system as well.

Report changes in program to ISS

Students must notify ISS whenever there is a change in their academic program, program dates, or level of study. All such changes would require our office to issue a new I-20 to you.

If you are a student in the International Study Center (ISC), you will also receive a new I-20 once you fully complete the ISC program. Section 6 of your I-20 would now indicate that you have obtained the appropriate level of English proficiency to fully matriculate into Widener.

Keep All I-20s

You may receive many I-20s throughout your studies in the U.S. (for CPT, OPT, change of major, transfer, etc.). Never throw old I-20s away! You will need them for such situations as OPT applications, visa renewals, and changes of immigration status.

Check Your Campus Cruiser

Check your email daily! You will receive notices from ISS through your Campus Cruiser account. We will not send emails to any other personal accounts, such as Gmail, Yahoo, etc. These messages are extremely important, often announcing important changes in immigration regulations that could affect you directly. Never assume that an email does not apply to you!

Program Completion/End of I-20

Note item #5, the completion date, listed on your I-20. The program completion date on your I-20 is an estimated end date. Your actual program completion may extend beyond or end before the I-20 end date. Once you complete your program, you will need to take one of the steps listed below, even if you have additional time on your I-20. In addition, if you cannot complete your studies by the date listed on your I-20, you must file for an extension of your SEVIS record before this date. For more information on extending your I-20, review the F-1 program extension handout on the "International Student Services Committee" in Campus Cruiser under "Shared Files".

Upon completion of your academic program, you must do one of the following:

  • Depart the U.S. within the 60-day "grace period" (i.e., the 60 days immediately following your date of graduation.
  • Apply (or have already applied) for OPT. (You will have an additional 60-day "grace period" following the last date of your OPT).
  • Transfer your SEVIS record to a new school.
  • Enter a new academic program at Widener.
  • Apply (or have already applied) for a change of status with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).


Students must receive a travel signature on page 3 of the most recent I-20 prior to traveling outside of the United States. Travel signatures are valid for 1 year (6 months for students on OPT).

It is permissible to have an expired F-1 visa in your passport if you remain in the U.S. and do not travel abroad. A valid F-1 visa is only required for reentry into the U.S. Visas can only be renewed outside of the U.S. (preferably in your home country). For more information on renewing your F-1 visa, look for the appropriate form in Campus Cruiser under "My Committees", "International Student Services" and "Shared Files".

You cannot be in the U.S. on an expired passport. If your passport is within 6 months of expiring, renew your passport with your local Embassy in the United States.

You should have the following documents to reenter the U.S. after traveling:

  • Most recent I-20 with a valid signature on page 3 by ISS
  • Valid passport – valid for at least 6 months from your date of return to the U.S.
  • Unexpired F-1 visa in your passport
  • Proof of financial support (sometimes requested at the port-of-entry)
  • Proof of registration for current or upcoming semester, printed from CampusCruiser (sometimes requested at the port-of-entry)