F-1 Immigration Status

Office of International Students and Visiting Scholars

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Maintaining F-1 Student Status

Updated Fall 2022

In order to remain in the U.S. in legal immigration status, international students must follow the federal laws which govern their stay. Below are some of the most common questions that outline your responsibilities.

All new international F-1 students must check in with the Office of International Students and Visiting Scholars no later than the first week of classes. Undergraduates may check-in during the New Student Orientation, or come to our office, located in room 124 of the Hardin Administration Building. You will need to bring the following items with you:

  • Valid I-20 from ACU
  • Valid I-94 card with a legal entry stamp into the U.S.
  • Valid Passport and F-1 visa
  • Your Abilene address, phone number and ACU email address, and emergency contacts.

Students who do not check in will not be registered and will lose their immigration status.

Attending our orientation for new international students (INTL 101) required. You can learn more on our page for New International Students.

New International Students

Federal laws require you to report to the OISVS within 10 days any of the following information:

  • Any change in your residential address in Abilene
  • Any change to your name or other biographical information
  • A change in your major
  • When you have completed your degree
  • Note: other reporting requirements will be shared for specific circumstances


F-1 international students must be enrolled full-time every Fall and Spring semester. This means:

  • You must complete at least 12 credit hours each Fall and Spring Semester (for undergraduate students)
  • At least 9 of those credits must be in face-to-face classes
  • 6 credit hours per semester are required for graduate students (excluding ESL classes, and can only include 3 credit hours of online class) *
  • Failure to enroll full time will result in the loss of your immigration status in the U.S.

No hours are required during summer break if you intend to register for the next fall term, unless notified by the Designated School Official (DSO). You must register full-time for the summer session if it is your first or your final semester.

If your first or last semester occurs over a summer, then you are required to enroll. Speak with someone in OISVS about the specific enrollment requirements for your circumstance. 


Yes, there are some circumstances in which students may receive permission to enroll in less than a full course of study for one semester, such as English language difficulties (in your first year) and medical reasons. Authorization must be obtained from the OISVS before you drop below full time. Contact OISVS for more information.


Your I-20 end date must be in the future until you graduate, and your passport should have at least 6-months validity at all times. Your I-94 must correctly specify your status as F-1 and your length of stay as “D/S.”

Yes, you can remain in the U.S. with an expired visa as long as your I-20 end date is in the future. You will need to renew your F-1 visa the next time you exit the U.S. in order to reenter. Check out our travel page for more information on renewing your F-1 visa.

You must request an extension at least one week prior to your I-20 end date. Talk to Lucy at least 1 semester before your I-20 will end.

Yes! As long as you are in valid F-1 status, you can work up to 20 hours per week (Sunday through Saturday) in on-campus employment. This is defined as employment that is located on ACU’s campus, and paid through either ACU, Chartwell’s (the Bean) or the Campus Bookstore. See the on-campus web page for more information.

You can find more about working while you are at ACU on our Employment page

International Student Employment

F-1 international students must have specific work authorization for any off-campus employment. These are granted by the U.S. government in very specific circumstances. 

You can find more about working while you are at ACU on our Employment page

International Student Employment

International students who work without authorization may face dire consequences. If material evidence is presented to the OISVS, your SEVIS record will be terminated, and you are not eligible for a reinstatement if you have worked illegally. 

You may also be subject to deportation. The federal government also has an enforcement arm, the Immigration Customs and Enforcement division (ICE) who investigates and detain and deport non-citizens who break the law.

Working illegally is viewed very seriously by the U.S. government and can prevent you from being able to adjust to any other status in the United States, or get another visa. 

We recommend you carefully guard your personal record to ensure that your future will not be adversely affected!


International students must make normal academic progress toward the completion of your degree and complete your degree by the end date of your I-20 (line 5, page 1). 

  • If an extension is needed for completion, contact the OISVS. The request for an extension must be made at least one week before the completion date on your document.
  • Failure to do so will result in the loss of your legal student status in the US.

Yes! To facilitate your reentry into the U.S., you’ll need to request a travel signature on your I-20. Read more on our travel page 

Remember: Re-entry to the U.S. could be denied if your I-20 is not signed. If you are given a form I-515 upon entry to the U.S., come to the OISVS immediately to file the appropriate documents within the 30-day deadline, or your record will be terminated by DHS.

Students who are unable to enroll due to suspension or otherwise fail to maintain their status will be subject to SEVIS record termination and should leave the U.S. immediately. 

Check consult our transfer out information here. Keep in mind that enrollment at ACU is required up to the transfer release date.

Check your personal ACU email account often. The OISVS will send important information or messages through ACU email only. Failure to check your email daily could result in serious consequences. Read the OISVS Weekly email each week.

ACU student policies can be found in the student handbook at the button below. Students who drive must obey all traffic rules; all other US laws also apply. Talk to the OISVS or the ACU police department if you have questions in these areas.

Student Handbook

All employment conducted while you are physically present in the U.S. is subject to U.S. taxes. Depending on your tax status, you may also be responsible for taxes to worldwide income. 

Your scholarships may also be subject to federal taxes.

All international students are required by law to complete tax documents every year, even if they do not earn wages. Please consult our tax web page for detailed information.

Learn more about Non-immigration Taxes at the link below.

Non-immigration Taxes

If you violate the terms of your immigration status, your SEVIS record will be terminated. Under some circumstances, you may apply for a reinstatement to be put back into lawful status. It is a serious violation to be out of status and there is no guarantee that DHS will approve reinstating you to active status. If you are denied reinstatement, you will be required to leave the U.S. immediately. In other circumstances (such as illegal work), you cannot apply for a reinstatement and you will be required to leave the U.S. immediately. 

Reinstatement to Lawful Status

An F-1 international student who fails to maintain status is required to apply to USCIS for reinstatement back to lawful status. Students who have lost their non-immigrant status may be subject to deportation under the law (I.N.A. 237 (a) (1) (c) (i)).   J-1 Exchange visitors must apply to the Department of State.

A reinstatement from within the U.S. may be considered if the student can prove the following:

  • The student has not been out of status more than 5 months prior to filing for reinstatement. Exchange visitors can not be out of status more than 270 days to apply.
  • The student does not have a record of repeated violations.
  • The student has been pursuing a full course of study and will continue if reinstated.
  • The student has not worked without employment authorization by the Department of Homeland Security.
  • The student is not deportable for any reason other than the status violation noted in the reinstatement request.
  • The status violation was a result of circumstances beyond the student’s control.

Falling out of status is a serious situation. Students are not eligible for immigration benefits of any kind and may be subject to deportation. The application process to be reinstated is expensive and it can take several months to hear a decision. There is also no guarantee that the application will be approved. If the reinstatement application is denied, you will be required to leave the U.S. with no grace period. 

*****Remember:  It is illegal to work anywhere when out of legal status*****

If you need more information on applying for reinstatement, please call the (Center for International Education to set up an appointment at 325-674-2710.) meet with the immigration advisor in the Office of International Students and Visiting Scholars.

F-1 students are allowed up to 60 days of a “Grace period” in which they are legally allowed to remain in the U.S. after the completion of a program of study. They are not allowed to work on or off-campus during the grace periods.

F-1 students who leave with the P/DSO permission in the middle of the semester or take a leave of absence are allowed a 15-day grace period to arrange travel.

Students who do not have the P/DSO advance authorization to stop attending or otherwise violate their immigration status have no grace period and must leave the U.S. immediately.

You must leave the U.S. when:

  • You complete your program successfully (even if earlier than document end date);
  • You have ended your enrollment as a student, or been suspended by the university;
  • You are denied a reinstatement or have failed to otherwise maintain your student status.

The Primary Designated School Officials (PDSO) is part of the Office of International Students and Visiting Scholars (OISVS) and is available to answer your questions. The OISVS assists students in the preparation and receipt of their acceptance documents to study at ACU and offers services to F-1 students during their studies at ACU. 

The PDSO is currently Lucy Dawson, Associate Director of the Office of International Students and Visiting Scholars. The DSO is GaBrielle Mallet, Executive Director of the University Access Programs.

No to both questions. Although the OISVS makes every attempt to provide accurate immigration advice for F-1 students, the information in our documents is general and should not be taken as legal advice. Please contact an immigration attorney if legal advice is needed. It is your responsibility to understand and follow the rules given by DHS and the University. The PDSO and DSO work for ACU.

See the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website for students: http://studyinthestates.dhs.gov