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Maintaining Your F-1 Status

It is each student's responsibility to understand and comply with the terms of their immigration status. A violation of the immigration regulations could jeopardize your F-1 status and legal presence in the United States. Review the following information carefully and contact if you have questions.

Your F-1 Status

To be in F-1 "status" means that you are legally in the U.S. and have benefits and limitations specified in the immigration regulations for the F-1 visa category.

Your admission to the U.S. is for "duration of status" (D/S). D/S means that you are legally permitted to be in the U.S. as long as you are complying with the F-1 regulations and registered as a full-time student making normal progress toward your degree. As an F-1 student, you are permitted an optional period of practical training following the completion of your studies (OPT), plus a 60-day "grace period" to prepare to depart the U.S. or change to another status. Your length of authorized stay is not related to your F-1 visa expiration date. The F-1 visa is solely relevant to your entry into the U.S.

Immigration Documents

Below is an overview of the documents related to your F-1 status. Whitworth does not require that you carry these documents on you day-to-day. It is recommended that you keep them in a safe location in your housing. However, if you are traveling outside the Spokane area, you should carry the original documents with you. Keep photocopies of all your documents in a secure location in the event your original documents are lost or stolen.


Your passport should be valid (unexpired) at all times. Keep your passport and other important documents in a safe, secure place. To renew or replace your passport, contact your country's consulate in the U.S.


Your visa is the stamp/sticker that the U.S. consular officer placed on a page in your passport. Your visa does not need to remain valid during your entire stay in the U.S. If your visa expires while you are in the U.S., the next time you travel abroad you must obtain a new F-1 visa before returning to the U.S. Visas can only be obtained outside of the U.S.

I-20 Form

The I-20 form is issued by Whitworth University and allows a student to apply for a F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad. The I-20 indicates the institution in which you are permitted to study, your program of study and the dates of eligibility. You will receive updated I-20s each academic term, as well as when important parts of your academic status change (e.g. major, program end date). You must keep all I-20s that you receive. Do not throw away "old" I-20s.

The I-20 is a printout from your SEVIS record (Student Exchange Visitor Information System). SEVIS is an online database operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that allows schools and federal immigration agencies to exchange data on the status of international students. Each student has a unique SEVIS ID number, which is printed on your I-20 in the top-right corner.

Full-time Registration Requirement

In general, F-1 students must be registered full time. This is defined as at least 12.0 credits each semester for undergraduate students. Registration requirements vary by graduate program. Please consult with your faculty advisor and the international education office for more guidance.

Only one online class may count towards the minimum credit requirement each semester. Do not register for fewer than the required number of credits or withdraw from a course without first receiving permission from the Whitworth Office of International Education. Part-time studies could jeopardize your stay in the U.S. and make you ineligible for F-1 benefits.

Exceptions to the Full-time Registration Requirement

  • Reduced Course Load (RCL) for Academic Reasons

    The Whitworth Office of International Education staff can authorize you to drop a course and have part-time enrollment for specific academic reasons, including:

    • Initial difficulty with the English language
    • Initial difficulty with reading requirements
    • Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
    • Improper course level placement
  • Reduced Course Load (RCL) for Medical Reasons

    You can request permission to register part-time or take the semester off for a documented medical reason. Your application for this exception requires an official, signed letter from either a licensed medical doctor or licensed clinical psychologist.

  • Final Semester Registration

    During your final academic term, you may take as few credits as required to complete your degree as long as you register for at least one credit hour at Whitworth. An online class cannot be the only class during your final semester. Once you are approved for this special exception, you will not be allowed to extend your I-20 Program End Date unless there are unique extenuating circumstances.

  • Concurrent Enrollment

    You can "concurrently enroll," which means that you take classes at Whitworth and at another school in the same semester. The credits you earn at both schools can be combined to count as full-time. The eligibility requirements include:

    • You must take the majority of your required credits at Whitworth.
    • The credits should count towards your Whitworth degree. Consult your faculty advisor to ensure the credits will transfer back to Whitworth.
    • Contact Whitworth International Student Services ( prior to your intended concurrent enrollment period for review and approval.

Normal Academic Progress

To maintain status, an F-1 student is also required to "make normal progress." Making normal progress includes, but is not limited to, enrolling in the proper courses required for degree completion, maintaining satisfactory academic progress and continually meeting all institutional enrollment requirements.

Change of Address 

Any change of address must be reported to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) within 10 days. To comply with this, you must email with information about your address change. Please note that your local U.S. address must be your physical address, not a P.O. box.