Maintaining F-1 Status
Rules & Regulations of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Failure to follow these rules could result in dismissal and loss of student status.
Designated School Officials (DSOs) in the Office of International Student Services are required to enforce these regulations.
Responsibilities of the Student
Records of International Students at Liberty University are maintained on the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and reported to the USCIS.
To abide by USCIS regulations and Liberty University policies while an international student, you must do the following:
It is important to keep your passport valid at all times while inside the U.S.
In most cases, your passport must be valid for at least six months when you attempt reentry into the U.S. However, certain countries have agreements with the U.S. that will allow you enter up until the actual expiration date. For a list of the countries and for more information, please visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Website.
You must have a valid, non-expired Form I-20 at all times to maintain your student status with the USCIS. Students are usually admitted for “Duration of Status.” (“D\S” is stamped on your I-94 card in your passport.) This status is valid for as long as you are a full-time student until the “Complete Studies” date on Item 5 of your I-20.
The length of your I-20 is an estimate of how long it will take you to complete your degree. For Undergraduate students, your scholarships are only good for eight semesters. If it takes you longer than eight semesters to graduate, you will not receive your scholarships.
Your visa can expire while you are in the United States. It is only when you leave the United States that you need to apply for another visa. The visa is only a key to enter the United States. Your I-20 and your I-94 card are what keep you here legally, not your visa.
If you renew your passport but your visa is still valid, you can still use your visa. Be sure to travel with both your old and new passport. For more Information, please go to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website.
You must be enrolled full-time each fall and spring semester. You must have permission in advance from the Office of International Student Services to drop below full-time enrollment for any reason. Failure to do so will cause you to fall out of status. You may not drop below full-time even after the Add/Drop Period.
You are not required to be enrolled during the summer term. You may enroll for less than full-time during your final semester in a degree program only after completing a request form and receiving approval from the DSO prior to the beginning of your final semester.
Full-time enrollment is:
- 12 hours per semester for undergraduates
- 9 hours per semester for graduate or divinity students
- 6 hours per “term” for D.Min. or Ph.D. program students.
Only one online class may be counted towards your full-time load during the fall and spring semesters. However, once your full-time load requirement is met for a given semester, you may take as many distance learning courses as you wish.
If you move or live off campus, you must notify the Office of International Student Services anytime your address changes. Liberty must maintain a correct address on SEVIS.
Travel Outside the U.S.
When you leave the United States for a temporary absence, you should take with you your passport, I-94 card, and I-20 form signed on the 3rd page by a Designated School Official. This signature is valid for one year while you are a student, but only for six months if you are on Optional Practical Training (OPT). It is recommended that you also take along a copy of your transcript, enrollment verification letter, financial documents, and your student ID card. You always need a valid Student (F-1) Visa to re-enter the United States. If your visa has expired, you should include a visit to the U.S. Consulate in your travel plans.
Work authorization granted only by USCIS is required to work off campus. You may not apply for off-campus work authorization during your first year at Liberty on F-1 status.
You may not work more than a total of 18 hours per week any time school is in session (fall & spring semesters). You may work as many hours as your department allows during the summer months and whenever school is not in session (e.g. Christmas break, fall break).
Social Security Number (SSN)
You must apply for a Social Security Number to work on or off campus. To apply for a Social Security Number, you must first have a job offer. The Human Resources Office will help you apply for a Social Security number once you have a job offer.
All international students must file with the Internal Revenue Service by April 15 each year. If you work in the United States you must complete all required income tax forms for both federal and state reporting of your income after the end of each year. If you don’t work, you still must file Form 8843 with the IRS.
Your dependents (spouse, children) in F-2 Status may not enroll full-time, however, they can enroll part-time. They must apply for a status change to F-1 to be a full-time student at Liberty. Spouses and children in F-2 status may not be employed unless the spouse has work authorization from USCIS.
Extension of Stay
If you find that you must extend your stay at Liberty beyond the date specified by Item 5 on your Form I-20, you must submit an Application for Program Extension to your International Student Advisor (ISA) 30 days before the expected completion date. (Extension of stay will only be approved by the ISA for academic or medical reasons that were unforeseen and not under the control of the student.) Failure to do this will put you out of status with USCIS.
Transfer to Another School
If you desire to transfer to another school, including attending another school following graduation from Liberty University, you must meet with your Retention Specialist to begin the transfer process.
Responsibilities of the University
Liberty University is required by law to notify USCIS when a student has failed to maintain status, violated immigration laws in any way, changed status, or is no longer attending school. Liberty may refuse admission to students who have not met USCIS requirements for F-1 status.