The United States is home to some of the world’s most revered institutions of higher education, and students come here from all over the world. The vast majority of them are here on F-1 student visas.
What happens, however, when the F-1 visa is set to expire? It’s incredibly important to make sure that you understand what your F-1 visa actually permits, and what options you may have when it’s over if you want to remain in the U.S.
How long does F-1 status last?
F-1 visas are given for the “duration of your status,” so how long you can legally remain in the U.S. depends on whether or not you’re following the rules – not the expiration date on the F-1 visa.
For students, that means you must be:
- You are a full-time registered student and continue to progress toward your degree
- You are participating in a period of Optional Practical Training (OPT) after you finished your degree.
- You are within a 60-day grace period as you either prepare
It is important to note that even though the law allows you to remain in the U.S. on an expired F-1 visa as long as you meet the requirements, you could encounter trouble with renewal and reentry if you return to your home country or go beyond U.S. borders for any reason.
What could cause you to lose F-1 status?
Aside from leaving the United States on an expired visa, you can lose your F-1 protections through a mistake. Some of the common problems students encounter include:
- Failing to progress toward their degree because they’ve failed classes or are on academic probation
- Working at an off-campus job without the appropriate authorization
- Failing to extend Form I-20 if you need to extend the time it will take to get your degree
- Being convicted of a crime, such as drunk driving or drug use
If you’re approaching the end of your studies and you know that an F-1 visa will no longer apply to you very soon, there may be options that will allow you to stay in the U.S. – but it’s only prudent to get experienced legal guidance for your immigration journey.