Immigration information for current students

To legally stay in the U.S., you must meet certain obligations.

Maintaining legal F-1 status

As an international student it is your responsibility to ensure you maintain your legal F-1 status. Maintaining status is necessary in order to receive the benefits of F-1 status such as employment and program extension, and can be crucial to a successful application for a change or adjustment of visa status in the future. Failure to maintain your non-immigrant status can result in serious problems with immigration and could lead to deportation from the U.S.

To maintain lawful F-1 student status you must:

  • Attend mandatory check-in at Columbia College International Center.
  • Maintain a current passport. Your passport should always be at least 6 months valid into the future.
  • Maintain a current I-20 (program extensions must be requested from the International Center staff well before the expiration date listed on the I-20 form).
  • Maintain full-time enrollment during the academic year:
    • EAP Program: 12 credit hours
    • Undergraduate (associate’s or bachelor's degree program) Studies: 12 credit hours
    • Graduate (master's degree program) Studies: 6 credit hours; 3 credit hour minimum for each 8 week session during the fall and spring semesters
    • Only three online credits may be counted toward your full-time enrollment
    • Suspension, dismissal, expulsion, or any other similar action which prevents enrollment may have effect on legal immigration status. See an advisor at the International Center.
    • Do not accept unauthorized employment, either on or off campus.
  • Be in good academic standing and make progress toward an academic program.
  • Complete all required procedures if transferring to another institution.
  • Notify International Center staff of any changes to your academic program.
  • Notify the International Center staff of any changes in your local U.S. address within 10 days of moving.
  • Maintain health insurance coverage.


As an international student, you may travel within the U.S. at any time. You may leave the U.S. at any time, but must have all necessary documents with you to re-enter. Please check with the relevant embassy to determine entry requirements for any country you are planning to visit during your travels.

Necessary documents for international travel and re-entry to the U.S. include:

  • A passport, valid for at least six months beyond date of re-entry.
  • A valid U.S. F-1 visa.
  • Current I-20 signed for travel. This includes a travel signature from an International Center staff member on the third page of your I-20. This travel signature should be no more than 6 months old when you travel.

Visa renewal

The visa in your passport may expire while you are in the U.S., but it must be valid when you re-enter the United States. To renew your visa, you will need to submit the appropriate documents at a U.S. embassy/consulate. For additional information about your specific visa type, see the Department of State website .