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English Programs for Internationals

Staying in Status

If you are an F-1 student studying in the United States, your designated school official (DSO) should be the first person you talk with if you have any questions regarding the legal requirements of your stay in the United States. Your DSO can assist in answering your questions or help you find someone who can help.

When to Speak to Your DSO

F-1 students should speak with their DSO if you are planning to do any of the following:

  • Change your major, program, or degree level.
  • Change your education level.
  • Transfer to a new school or take a leave of absence.
  • Take a break from school.
  • Travel outside the United States.
  • Move to a new address.
  • Request a program extension.

F students may contact SEVP by email at if your DSO is unable to assist you or if you would prefer to ask someone else.

In your email, please describe your situation and include any questions you have. SEVP provides responses on a first-come, first-served basis. Answer times may vary depending on the current number of inquiries.

Full Course of Study

F-1 students in English language learning (commonly known as ESL) programs must meet 18 clock hours per week if the majority is classroom instruction.

What if you want to transfer to another school/institution?
An F-1 student is eligible to transfer to another school or program of study. To start the transfer process, you must bring the following to your DSO:

  • Written confirmation of acceptance to another Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)- certified program.
  • Contact information for the new program's DSO
  • The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) school code for the new school.

Your DSO will then work with you, and the DSO at your new school, to choose a transfer released date. This date is when the DSO at your transfer-in school takes responsibility for your SEVIS record. Several factors go into selecting this date:

  • Academic needs
  • Travel and employment plans
  • Projected start date of your new program

Once your transfer release date arrives, the DSO at your previous school will not have access to your SEVIS record, and your new DSO can create a new Form I-20, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status" for you. It is important to get a new Form I-20 (signed by your new DSO and you) as soon as possible. To maintain your status: register for classes and contact your new DSO within 15 days of the program start date listed on your new Form I-20.

  • If you have arrived in the United States, but want to transfer to a new school before you begin classes at the school listed on your Form I-20, talk to the DSO at the school listed on that form. You need to inform the DSO that you have arrived in the United States and want to transfer immediately to another SEVP-certified school. You must show proof of acceptance to your new program. You must report to your new school and enroll in a full course of study within 30 days of arriving in the United States.

Work for F Students

An F student may only work when authorized by a DSO in some cases, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in others. If you choose to work without authorization, you will be forced to leave the United States immediately, and you may not be able to re-enter the United States at a later date. 

For more information about employment and training options available for F-students, visit the Department of Homeland Security's Working in the United States page and talk with your DSO.

Upon Program Completion

F students must take action to maintain legal status or depart the United States after completing your program of study.

Once you complete your program of study and any authorized period of practical training, F students have 60 days after completion of your program (the program end date on your Form I-20) to leave the United States. If you wish to extend your stay in the United States, talk with your DSO to learn more about doing one of the following:

  • Transfer to another school or degree seeking program
  • Change your education level (e.g. bachelor’s to master’s).
  • Apply to change status to another visa status (e.g. H-1B-temporary worker; O-extraordinary ability in science, art or business; P-athlete).

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