Traveling Into The Country

A passport is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies the identity and nationality of the bearer. The passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the time of your authorized stay in the United States. If your passport expires while you are in the United States, it is usually possible to renew it by sending materials or visiting your home country's embassy/consulate here in the US. Contact your country's embassy or consulate for instructions and guidelines. You can find the nearest embassy or consulate at the U.S. Department of State's website. If you need to mail your passport and other documents required by your embassy, it is advisable to use certified return-receipt mail.


Below are guidelines that international students should follow to make sure their F-1 status remains valid.  Although other situations not mentioned here may lead to the loss of status, following these guidelines will help you to avoid many unnecessary problems.

Basic Guidelines for Maintaining F-1 Visa Status:

  1. Enrollment.  Must be full-time each semester.  Full-time enrollment is to enroll and complete 12 units each semester for undergraduate and 8 hours for graduate students.  For immigration purposes, students may not drop below 12 units per semester (W’s do not count towards the 12 units).  No more than the equivalent of one online course per semester may be taken.  An online course is defined as 100% technology based.  BGSU courses that are considered online courses for the purposed of this regulation are defined in the Instruction Mode of the course catalog as 100% online are listed as "Distance Learning".  
  2. If you do need to enroll for less than full-time, there are some limited situations in which you may.  Please fill out the Petition for Authorization to Drop Below a Full Course Load at this link
  3. I-20 Document expiration and validity.  Request an “Extension of Stay” of your I-20 if your completion date will expire, 60 days prior to expiration.  The completion date can be found in item #5 of your I-20 form.  
  4. Keep your address up-to-date at all time 
  5. On campus employment.  Limit employment to 20 hours per week during the academic year while maintaining I-20 full-time status.
  6. Off campus employment.  Do not work off campus without permission.  Work permission for F-1 is difficult to obtain unless authorized by USCIS.
  7. Attend the school noted on I-20.  You must have a current, valid I-20 from the school you are attending.  If you transfer to or from another school, see below.
  8. Transferring schools.  If you transfer to another school, you must obtain an I-20 from that school.
  9. Passport.  Keep it valid at all times.  If your passport will expire within the next six months, call your home country’s embassy in the U.S. to find out how to extend the validity.
  10. Keep an updated address at BGSU Admissions and the CIP.
  11. Keep updated health insurance.

The immigration officer at the U.S. port of entry makes a decision on your admission, the length and conditions of your stay, and will record the terms of your admission on the form “Arrival/Departure Record” (I-94 Form) as well as in your passport.

The I-94 Form was formally a small white card that the immigration officer usually staples this form into your passport. Although this can still be done at certain land crossings, the majority of I-94 forms are issued electronically. In certain visa categories such as students and exchange visitors, the alien may be admitted into the U.S. for as long as the person is still doing the activity for which the visa was issued, rather than being admitted until a specific departure date. This is called admission for "duration of status".

Students arriving on F-1/J-1 visas are generally admitted for “Duration of Status.” It is indicated on the Form I-94 as “D/S” (Duration of Status). It means they are authorized to stay in the U.S. while maintaining their visa status (enrolled in a full course of study, engaged in practical training or in their post-completion grace period).

The I-94 form also has a number that the immigration officer will use to keep track of your entry/exits. This is an important number. Upon your re-entry, you will receive a new one. As an exception, you can keep your current I-94 form when you travel to Canada, Mexico, or certain adjacent islands for 30 days or less. However, it is always advisable to verify this at the border.

I-20/DS-2019 Forms and SEVIS (the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) is the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) web-based system that maintains accurate and current information on international students (F-1), exchange visitors (J-1) and their dependents (F-2/J-2).

SEVIS enables schools and program sponsors to transmit mandatory information and event notifications via the Internet to the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State (DOS). Schools must report the student's and visitor scholar's status throughout their stay in the United States.

All students in an F-1 visa status must have a SEVIS-generated Form I-20 “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status” issued by an educational institution where they study. All exchange visitors in a J-1 visa must have a SEVIS-generated Form DS-2019 “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status” provided to the applicant by the program sponsor. The main requirements of the visa status are printed on page 2 of the form. The form I-20/DS-2019 must be valid during your stay here and reflect your current academic status. You must attend the school specified on this form.

All prospective students planning to come to the US on F-1/J-1 visas must obtain a SEVIS generated Form I-20/DS-2019 before applying to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate. The I-20/DS-2019 must be submitted with the visa application. The consular officer will verify the I-20/DS-2019 record electronically through the SEVIS system. All students/exchange visitors entering the USA initially or applicants for changing status to F-1/J-1 must pay a SEVIS I-901 Fee to the Department of Homeland Security before their visa application is processed. See SEVIS-901 Fee for further information on the SEVIS Fee requirements and procedures.

For initial admission, students/exchange visitors must attend the school specified on the form I-20/DS-2019 and the visa stamp in the passport.

An extension form can be found EXTENSION FORM.

Updated: 03/24/2023 01:12PM