Skip to main content

F-1 Students

The F-1 student visa category is a non-immigrant status. Students in F-1 status must be pursuing a full course of study towards a specific educational or professional objective at an academic institution in the U.S., that is approved by the Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Below is some general information related to F-1 status. If you have any questions about your status, please contact your ISSS advisor.

Important Documents

Passport:  The passport must be valid at all times during your stay in the U.S. It must be valid at least 6 months into the future to reenter the U.S. or to apply for a visa. In most cases, you can renew or replace a passport at your country’s embassy or consulate in the U.S.

I-20:  This 3-page document is issued to students in F-1 status by an educational institution. The I-20 must be presented to the U.S. consulate abroad to obtain a visa and to immigration officials upon each subsequent reentry to the U.S. The second page must be signed by an ISSS advisor prior to returning to the U.S. from international travel.

I-94:  This is the electronic record of your admission to the US that is generated when you are admitted by a U.S. immigration official at the U.S. port of entry. You can retrieve your electronic I-94 from . This document authorizes your presence in the U.S. as a student for a specified period of time. You should retrieve your I-94 after each arrival and contact your ISSS advisor if you notice any mistakes.

F-1 Visa:  The student visa, which is a stamp or sticker placed in the passport at the U.S. embassy or consulate, permits you to enter the U.S.  The expiration date on the visa is the last day you can use it to enter the U.S. Once you enter the U.S., the date does not matter. The visa is allowed to expire while you are in the U.S. as long as your I-20 is valid and you are maintaining F-1 status.  If the original visa expires, a new entry visa is required for subsequent reentries to the U.S. following travel abroad.

Maintaining Status


  • Maintain a valid passport (for you and your dependents)
  • Attend the school whose name appears on your I-20
  • Register full-time – Do not drop below full-time without advanced authorization by your ISSS advisor.
  • Maintain a valid I-20 – Apply for extensions at least one month before your I-20 expiration date. Extension requests must be submitted on the ISSS Portal.
  • Consult your ISSS Advisor if you are thinking about or planning to transfer to another U.S. academic institution.
  • Obtain a travel signature on your I-20 prior to leaving the U.S. for international travel.
  • Notify ISSS within 10 calendar days of a change of address or telephone number.
    • Enrolled Students: Your will update this information in YES.
    • Students on post-completion or STEM OPT: You will update this information in the ISSS Portal.
  • During your 60-day grace period after your program completion, you must do one of the following:
    • Apply for optional practical training (OPT)
    • Depart the U.S.
    • Transfer to a new academic institution or a new degree program at Vanderbilt
    • Change to another immigration status


  • Work off-campus without authorization from your ISSS advisor.
  • Work on-campus more than 20 hours per week while school is in session.
  • Take a leave of absence without first consulting with your ISSS advisor.
  • Drop below full-time without authorization from your ISSS advisor.
  • Accept an I-20 signature or F-1-status-related advice from anyone other than an ISSS advisor.

Grace Periods

You have a 60-day grace period after the successful completion of your academic program. During the 60-day grace period, you may:

  • Apply for Post-Completion OPT
  • Remain in the U.S. to prepare for departure
  • Transfer to another school or degree program
  • Apply for a change of status
  • During your grace period, you may not re-enter in F-1 status once you have left. Employment is not permitted during your grace period.

You are allowed 15-day grace period after withdrawals that have been authorized and approved by your ISSS advisor (such as a withdrawal due to a leave of absence).

You receive no grace period after unapproved withdrawals or terminations. In this case, you are considered out-of-status have limited options.