F-1 Student Information

F-1 status is a non-immigrant classification which allows you to remain in the U.S. as long as you are a properly registered, full-time student and maintain your F-1 status.

All international students admitted to NIH programs will be issued I-20 Certificates of Eligibility for F-1 student status, unless the specific funding source requires a J-1 student visa.

Foreign Nationals (FN) in the Unites States, engaging in a full-course of academic study in an accredited educational program that has been designated by USCIS or DHS, must maintain full-time enrollment as defined by academic institution. Part-time study is only permitted with the approval of a Designated School Official (DSO) in accordance with regulations.  You may participate in employment directly related to field of study by obtaining practical training authorization from the University sponsoring the F1.  
 There are two types of practical training:

  • Curricular Practical Training.  employment that is an integral part of an established curriculum.  This requires approval of a DSO in SEVIS and on Form I-20.  An Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is not required.  Employment authorization is employer specific.
  • Optional Practical Training.  employment during or after completion of studies.  The total period of employment may not exceed 12 months.  This requires recommendation of a DSO and approval by USCIS.  An Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is required.

Maintaining F-1 Status

It is the responsibility of each student to be familiar with the immigration requirements related to their status. Following the guidelines below will help you to maintain your lawful F-1 Status while in the U.S. Valid status is the foundation upon which all eligibility of benefits rests. Below is a summary of basic guidelines, for more detailed information or for specific questions related to your status please contact an immigration specialist.

Basic Guidelines for Maintaining F-1 Status

Keep your passport valid 

Contact your country's embassy in the U.S. for information about renewing or extending your passport while in the U.S.

Keep your local address updated

Within 10 days of any move you must update your address.

All F-1 students are required to report and maintain a local U.S. address with the Department of Homeland Security through SEVIS within 10 days of arrival for new students and within 10 days of any address changes for existing students. This must be your local residential address; campus departmental addresses, P.O. Boxes, and foreign address are not acceptable addresses for immigration purposes.

Maintain full-time enrollment

You must be a full-time registered, student each term you are at your present college or university.

Health Insurance

The United States does not have a national health insurance program. Although in many countries, the government may provide free or very affordable health care for its citizens, individuals and families in the United States are responsible for these costs themselves. Health services in the United States can be extremely costly without adequate insurance coverage. Therefore, international students and scholars must obtain health insurance to be protected against any potentially expensive healthcare costs. The health services offered through ORISE for participants at NIH are through Blue Cross Blue Shield and are available for either single or family.

Keep your I-20 valid at all times

You must maintain a valid I-20 as it, along with your I-94 card, serves as evidence of your continued legal status. Your I-20 should accurately reflect your program of study, program start and end dates, and the source of your financial support. Any changes to personal, academic, or funding information should be updated.

Submit an application for an extension if the completion date on your I-20 will expire within the next 30 days and you need more time to complete your program of study. The completion date can be found in Box #5 on the I-20 form. You must also request a new I-20 if you change your major or your degree level, e.g. Ph.D. to Master's.

Attend the school noted on your I-20

You must have a current, valid I-20 from the school you are attending. If you transfer from another school, the transfer process must be completed before your academic program begins.

Verify information on your I-94

Make sure your I-94 always says "F-1 D/S." If your I-94 has any other information than this, please see your OIS advisor during walk-in advising hours. You can retrieve your electronic I-94 here.

Get a travel endorsement

Before your departure from the U.S., request a signature for re-entry from an OIS Advisor. The Advisor will sign page 3 of the I-20 for this purpose. If you are a current student, the signature is valid for one year. For students on OPT, the signature is valid for six months.

Get proper non-employment permission

Off-campus, non-employment/internships work permission for F-1 students must be approved through the OIS, and in some circumstances, the USCIS. 

Extending your I-20

For students in F-1 status have been granted permission to stay in the U.S. for “D/S,” which stands for “Duration of Status.” This means that you have permission to stay in the U.S. until the expiration date on your Form I-20 or the completion of your program of study, whichever comes first, plus a 60 day grace period following the completion of your degree program (plus any authorized period of optional practical training after completion of your program). You must be pursuing a full course of study and making normal progress towards completing the course of study indicated on your Form I-20. If you are not going to be able to finish your program by the end date on your Form I-20, you must apply for an extension of your I-20 in order to remain in lawful status in the U.S. Please remember that you are not allowed to work after the expiration date on your I-20 (including on-campus employment) without additional work authorization (OPT).

To Apply For an Extension
  1. Complete the Extension Request Form
  2. Email ORISE

Requests for extensions may be submitted at any time and should be submitted at least 30 days prior to the end date on your current I-20.  Late requests will jeopardize your lawful F-1 status in the U.S.

Changes in Degree Level

If you are changing between degree levels (i.e. Master's to PhD), please ensure that this is noted on your request form.

Internship with F-1

Compensation can include a stipend or travel benefits. Before accepting any kind of internship, be sure it is allowed by the F-1 regulations. Note that the off-campus internship opportunities generally require you to have completed one full academic year to be eligible to apply for authorization. Consult an advisor with any questions related to F-1 status and employment.