Destination USA: Maintaining status on F and M Visa category

While studying in the United States, it is crucial to maintain your F or M student status.

Published Date – 22 June 2024, 03:40 PM

Hyderabad: Your status is directly related to the purpose for which you came to the United States, and it is determined by the U.S. Department of State when they issue your visa.

If you have been issued an F or M student visa, it means that you are coming to the United States to study, and you should not take any actions that detract from that purpose. Maintaining your status involves fulfilling the purpose for which the Department of State issued your visa and following the regulations associated with that purpose.

F-1 and M-1 students share the same primary purpose for coming to the United States; however, F-1 students enrol in more traditional academic programs, while M-1 students enrol in vocational programs. As the nature of these programs differs, the types of benefits an international student may be eligible for and the duration they may remain in the country depend on whether they are an F-1 or M-1 student.

Here are the actions you need to take to properly maintain your status:


• Enter the United States no more than 30 days before your program of study begins.

• Immediately contact your designated school official (DSO) upon entering the United States.

• When you arrive at school, you need to contact your DSO again, no later than the program start date listed on your Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status.”


• Attend all your classes and maintain normal academic progress. If school is too difficult, speak with your DSO immediately.

• Maintain a full course of study each term. If you cannot study full time, contact your DSO immediately. You may be eligible for a reduced course load in limited circumstances.

• Speak to your DSO before dropping a class.

• Discuss with your DSO about requesting a possible program extension if you do not think you will complete your program of study by the end date listed on your Form I-20. An extension must be requested before your program end date.

Annual Vacation for F-1 Students:

• F-1 students must complete at least one full academic year at an SEVP-certified school to be eligible for annual vacation. Additionally, students must intend to register for classes in the academic term following their annual vacation.

• SEVP-certified schools should have clear and consistent policies regarding annual vacation and comply with the requirements laid out in SEVP Policy Guidance for Adjudicators 1408-01: Academic Year (

Note that during an annual vacation, students can take as many, as few or no courses as they want. SEVP considers all study during an annual vacation incident to status.

Work and Practical Training for F-1 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 later.

• F students are eligible for curricular practical training (CPT) at either the undergraduate or the graduate level during the program of study. CPT employment must be an integral part of an established curriculum and the position must directly relate to your major area of study. Your DSO can give you the school’s policy on this option.

• F students are also eligible for optional practical training during or following the program of study. OPT is a form of temporary employment that directly relates to your program of study.

For more information about employment and training options available for F-students, visit the Working in the United States page ( and talk with your DSO.

Practical Training for M-1 Students:

• M-1 students are not eligible for employment during their program of study but may obtain authorization for practical training employment after the completion of their vocational program.

Upon Program Completion:

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.

• 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).

• M students have 30 days after completion of their program (the program end date on your Form I-20) to leave the United States. The latest date you may remain in the United States is the “admit until” date on your Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record,” unless you filed for an extension with USCIS.

U.S. Consulate General Hyderabad

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