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How to Stay Compliant with Student Visas

The Sekou Clarke Law Group

Congratulations on your acceptance to an American academic institution! Now that you’ve received your visa and traveled to the United States to pursue your education, it’s important that you remain compliant with student visa guidelines to be able to continue and finish your degree or program as you planned.

You went through the lengthy process of obtaining your F, J, or M visa to attend your language program, college, or vocational school. Now what? While it’s easy to assume that that’s all said and done, there are certain things you must do to remain eligible to stay and study in the United States.

Education and Your Visa

Residing in a new country offers temptations to travel and explore, but it’s important to remember that your visa welcomes you into the United States to allow you to study. As such, there are certain academic requirements you must follow, such as:

  • Attending all your classes
  • Passing all your classes
  • Taking a full course load
  • Completing the program according to the date listed on your Form I-20
  • Not dropping any classes

If you anticipate any instances where one of the above requirements may be an issue, contact your designated school official, or DSO, immediately. If you’re experiencing anything not listed above that is still relevant to your studies or stay in the United States, such as changing majors or moving, these should also be discussed with your DSO. When in doubt, contact your DSO to help figure it out.


Those coming to the United States under F or M visas must adhere to travel guidelines as soon as they enter the country. To remain compliant, students must:

  • Enter the country no more than 30 days before your program starts
  • Contact your DSO immediately upon arrival in the United states and again once you arrive at your school
  • Students with the F-1 visa must complete one academic year and register for classes in the following term to be eligible for annual vacation

These rules are not to be taken lightly, as failure to comply can jeopardize your chance to complete your studies in the United States.


As any student or recent graduate can attest to, college life can be expensive. F students are eligible to apply for curricular practical training if it is integral to their studies. M-1 students may not work during their program but may partake in practical training employment upon completion of their courses. Both must receive prior approval to work from the DSO (usually handles F visa work requests) or the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (some F visas and all M visas with the recommendation of the DSO). In either case, failure to receive prior approval will result in an order to leave the country. Contact your DSO to discover opportunities available to you if you wish to work while completing your academic program.


Unless you file for an extension or talk about plans to lengthen your stay with your DSO, F students must leave the country within 60 days of program completion and M students within 30.

The coronavirus is still a concern in the United States, and many international students are left wondering what this means for them and their studies. Despite July talks of sending foreign students home, ICE officially rescinded the proposed plan that would require international students to make the choice between staying safe and staying enrolled in their program. Students are allowed to remain in the United States and participate in online classes. There is no mandate stating that foreign students must be in the classroom while the pandemic is still at large. In short, you can continue your studies in whatever way your institution is providing them. As long as you are participating in courses, whether at home or in class, you are welcome to stay for your program.

For students who are not yet in the country but looking to start a program, visa application processes may take longer than expected. A DSO can help you determine how to best approach the situation and start your studies.

If you haven’t had enough of all the United States has to offer yet, your DSO can help you explore options to stay, such as pursuing another degree, transferring institutions, or applying for a different visa. The United States is yours to explore, so long as you adhere to the rules your visa carries.

Contact the Sekou Clarke Law Group for help regarding your student visa status.

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