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Maintaining F-1 Status

It’s very important to make sure you maintain your F-1 status while you’re here studying at Wabash. To ensure you can have the benefits of F-1 status (such as on-campus employment, CPT, and OPT), you must protect and maintain your F-1 status. Please refer to the guide below to learn more:

To keep your F-1 status secure, you need to be sure your I-20 is always valid while you’re studying at Wabash. Please look at page 1 of your I-20. Check the date that appears in the box reading, “Program end date.” The date listed should be your expected graduation date. If the date listed is anything other than your expected graduation date, please contact Amy Weir right away.

Please be sure to enroll in a full course load EACH semester. At Wabash, that means you must be officially registered for at least 3 credits. None of these 3 credits can be an internship (INT) credit—they must all be classroom or laboratory credits.

If you cannot enroll in 3 credits for any of the following reasons, please contact Amy Weir immediately, as there may be an exception available for you:

  • Financial reasons
  • Academic reasons
  • Medical reasons

The U.S. government is very strict regarding how much and where F-1 students can work. After all, your primary reason for being in the U.S. is to study!

To learn more about your employment options as an F-1 student, please click HERE.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) requires Amy Weir to report any changes you have to your home address (either here in the U.S. or abroad) within 10 calendar days. Please be sure to let Amy know if you change living unit and/or room, move off campus, or move into a fraternity as soon as possible.

Please do not give Amy your Wabash mail box number—she needs the actual address of where you are living.

Please look at the expiration date listed in your current passport. If your passport will expire while you’re studying at Wabash, then you will need to apply to renew it before it expires.

To renew your passport, you will need to contact the embassy of your home country here in the U.S. (most likely in Washington, D.C.). Your embassy can give you the process to follow for the renewal, and Amy Weir can help you with the process.

International travel always carries an element of risk. If you are planning to take a trip outside of the U.S. either for personal or academic reasons, you need to be sure to prepare well advance.

Here is a checklist to help you plan for a smooth trip through U.S. Customs and Border Protection:

  1. Make sure you have a valid travel signature on page 2 of your I-20BEFORE you depart the US, ensure you have a valid signature on your most recent I-20 from one of Wabash College’s DSOs (Amy Weir, Dean Jon Jump, or Chris Dixon).

Travel signatures are valid for one year, so a valid signature is one that is less than a year old. If you are on OPT, then travel signatures are only valid for 6 months. Please notify a DSO a couple of weeks before your planned travel of the need for a signature.

  1. Review page 1 of your I-20 and make sure all the information is accurate—If anything needs updated, like your major field of study or your program end date, please let Amy Weir know a couple of weeks in advance of your travel. She can make the necessary updates to your SEVIS record and make you a new I-20 with all the correct information and a fresh travel signature.
  2. Check the expiration date on your F-1 visa stamp to ensure it’s still valid—If the F-1 visa in your passport is expired, you will not be able to reenter the U.S. until you apply for and obtain a new F-1 visa stamp.

The best place to apply for a new F-1 visa is from a US embassy or consulate in your home country, but you may also apply from another country. You CANNOT apply for a new F-1 visa stamp from within the U.S.

To learn more about applying for a new F-1 visa, click HERE.

  1. Are you traveling to Canada, Mexico, or islands near the U.S.?—You may be eligible to return to the US after a brief trip to bordering countries and islands even if your F-1 visa is expired. This benefit is called “Automatic Visa Revalidation,” and most F-1 students are eligible.

Please read HERE to learn more about Automatic Visa Revalidation to understand the details (like which countries and islands this applies to) and to check your eligibility. We also suggest you print out this guide to carry with you in case the officer at the border doesn’t understand that you’re requesting the benefit of Automatic Visa Revalidation.

  1. Check to see if you need a visa to visit the country you’re traveling to—If you are traveling to any country other than your own, you may need either a tourist or a transit visa to enter that country.

To determine whether citizens of your country need a visa to visit/travel through the country you’re planning to visit, use this search tool to locate and review that country’s nearest consular section. Many countries have a consulate that serves people living in Indiana either in Chicago, Illinois or Detroit, Michigan.

If you will be traveling to the European Union, and your home country is not a part of the European Union, you may have to apply for a Schengen Visa, which permits travel within EU countries.

Also, most F-1 students who’d like to visit Canada will need a tourist visa to enter Canada. Here’s a tool to see whether you need a visa. Learn more about applying to enter a Canada as a tourist HERE.

Finally, for the most recent travel advisories, check the U.S. Department of State’s website, where you can read current travel alerts and warnings and learn more specifically about your travel destination country.

  1. Have you ever been arrested?—If you’ve had any experience with US law enforcement, you need to understand that an arrest (particularly for a Driving Under the Influence or Driving While Intoxicated) can impact your current F-1 status and future visa applications. In fact, you could be denied a visa if you travel outside the US on an expired F-1 visa. The visa denial could result in your not being able to complete your degree at Wabash College.

Therefore, if you’ve had any experience with U.S. law enforcement, please come to discuss your travel options with Amy Weir well in advance of your travel. She can help advise you on next steps and locate criminal and immigration lawyers, if necessary.

For reference, please review the American Civil Liberties Union’s brochure on “Knowing Your Rights When Encountering Law Enforcement.”

All F-1 students receive a 60-day grace period at the conclusion of their studies in the U.S.

  • If you will graduate in May, your 60-day grace period begins the day after graduation.
  • If you finish up in December, then your 60-day grace period begins after the last day of your senior comps in January.

During your 60-day grace period, you can travel freely around the U.S., pack/sell your possessions, prepare to go home, or apply to change your status. However, you cannot work on campus after graduation.

Additionally, if you are participating in OPT, you will also receive a 60-day grace period that begins the day after your last day of OPT employment authorization.

If you have completed your degree at Wabash and plan to do graduate study elsewhere, or if you’re transferring to another undergraduate institution, then you will need to request a transfer of your SEVIS record.

In order for Amy Weir to assist in your SEVIS record transfer, you will need to provide her with a copy of your admission letter to the new school. The admission letter needs to clearly state which program you’ve been admitted to attend and the date/term when you are permitted to begin attendance.

You can only transfer your SEVIS record if you will be attending classes at the new school in the next available semester. There cannot be a gap of more than 5 months from when you last attended Wabash and when you begin taking classes at the new school.

Be sure to let Amy know on what day you’d like her to transfer your SEVIS record to your new school. Remember, that "SEVIS record release date" cannot be before you finish your classes at Wabash, and it cannot be more than 60 days after your graduation date. In addition, if you're working pursuant to OPT and are admitted for a new program of study, you are no longer authorized for OPT employment as of your requested SEVIS record release date, even if your OPT card has validity dates beyond the release date. By transferring your record to a new school, the OPT becomes invalid so you may begin studying full-time in your new program.

Finally, you must "complete your transfer" with the new school by reporting to your new international student advisor or international student advising office in within 15 days of the start of your new academic program.