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Maintaining F-1 Student Status

F-1 students are nonimmigrants pursuing specific educational or professional objectives at academic institutions in the United States.  When you enter as an F-1 student, you accept responsibility to abide by the conditions of the nonimmigrant status.  The information provided here should serve as your guide to keeping legal F-1 student status throughout your stay in the United States.

Full-Course of Study

Caltech degree-seeking students are required to enroll in a minimum of 36 credit hours per academic term.  If you experience difficulties completing 36 credit hours, consult your international student advisor.  In limited cases, immigration regulations allow students to drop below a full course of study.  Do not drop below a full course of study without first consulting your international student advisor.

I-20 Validity Period

Make sure that your I-20 does not expire. The I-20 expiration date is listed in Section 5 of the I-20.  If your I-20 is about to expire and you need additional time to complete your degree program, contact your international student advisor.

I-94 and Status

Your I-94 needs to indicate "F-1" and "D/S".  If your I-94 indicates an expiration date, contact your international student advisor.

Work Authorization

Immigration regulations allow students to work on campus for up to 20 hours per week during each academic term.  If you have an opportunity that requires work off campus, you must consult your international student advisor prior to beginning employment.

U.S. Home Address

Immigration requires that you update your local home address in access.caltech within 10 days of any move.  You must report your actual, physical location, NOT a Caltech Mail Code or P.O. Box.  If you live on campus, you should include your house name and room number.


If you wish to attend another institution in the United States before or after your Caltech program completion, consult with your international student advisor to arrange the transfer your SEVIS record (the I-20) between schools. The SEVIS transfer must be initiated within 60 days after completing your program of study or within 15 days of interrupting your current program.

Document Retention

It is important that you retain all documentation pertaining to your immigration status in the United States.  This may include current and expired passports, all I-20s, I-797 approval notices, and EADs.  These records are important in establishing your compliance with U.S. immigration laws.

Valid Passport

Ensure that your passport remains valid throughout your stay.  You can renew your passport through your home country's consulate or embassy while you are inside the United States.