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Maintaining Legal Status


Maintaining Legal Status in the United States for F-1 Visa Degree Seeking Students

It is very important that you ensure that you remain in good status throughout your tenure at Longwood University.  If you do not maintain legal status, then your visa may be terminated and you will be forced to leave Longwood University or suffer other consequences which include, but are not limited to:

  • ineligibility for on-campus employment
  • ineligibility to apply for or pursue Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT)
  • ineligibility to transfer your SEVIS record to a new school
  • ineligibility to apply to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for a change of visa status

The key to ensuring you remain in good status is to be knowledgeable about your visa regulations. We will diligently strive to educate you and answer any question that you may have. However, you are responsible for learning these policies.  Our website will provide the basic knowledge that you need to remain in compliance with your visa regulations. Remember that you should always contact us if you have any questions.

We have complied an easy to use checklist and timeline that describes concisely the basic responsibilities of an international student.  

Change of Address

If your address in the United States changes, you must notify the DSO within 7 days.


 You may not work in the United States without proper authorization. You are allowed work on-campus with authorization from your Designated School Official (DSO) and a valid social security number (SSN). More information about how to receive on-campus employment authorization can be found on the international student employment and internship opportunities webpage.  Off-campus work is allowed only in special circumstances.  To work off-campus you must either be authorized for Curricular Practical Training (CPT), Optional Practical Training (OPT), or apply for Economic Hardship. Any unauthorized employment will result in the loss of legal status. More information can be found on the internship and work opportunities website.

Travel Documents

You are responsible for ensuring that you keep your travel documents up to date.  Remember that you must keep a valid travel authorization signature on page 3 of your I-20.  Typically, the travel authorization signature is valid for one year, however, if you are participating in OPT, it must be signed every six months.  You must also keep passport that is valid at least six months into the future during your tenure at Longwood.  An expired passport will prevent you from entering or reentering the United States.  More information can be found on the travel information website.


Full Course of Study and "Normal Progress" Requirements

F-1 visa international students are required to register for and complete a full course of study every term (fall and spring). Undergraduate students must register for at least 12 credit hours each term and graduate students must register for at least 9 credit hours each term.  If you plan to register for less than a full course load, then you must have approval from your DSO first.  Failure to register for a full course load without a reason accepted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can result in the loss of on-campus employment and violation of status.

Acceptable Reasons for a Reduced Course Load:

Academic Difficulties

Academic difficulties due to improper course placement (the course is too advanced for you), initial difficulty with the English language and/or with reading requirements, or unfamiliarity with teaching methods in the United States.

Your academic advisor or Dean must provide documentation to the DSO of the academic difficulties, and the DSO will approve or deny the request for a reduced course load.  An F-1 international student must still be enrolled for 6 credits during the term that they are having academic difficulties.  Additionally, this reason for a reduced course load may only be used once during the course a degree program.

Medical Reason

This refers to any accident or illness that will prevent you from completing a full course of study. Illness of a family member is not a recognized reason by DHS.

The DSO must receive a letter from a medical doctor, clinical psychologist or doctor of osteopathy that states that the student is medically unable to maintain a full-time course load.

Final Semester

If you need less than a full course load to complete your program during the final semester, then you are allowed to drop below a full course load.

The DSO will need a letter from your academic advisor stating that you need less than a full course load to complete your program of study during your final semester.

Reasons Not Accepted for a Reduced Course Load

  • Financial difficulties
  • Illness of a family member
  • Academic suspension
  • Study for the GRE, GMAT, PRAXIS or any other exam.