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How long can I stay in the U.S. on an F1 visa?

An immigration officer will issue you an I-94 card at the port of entry when you arrive in the U.S. The I-94 card shows your F-1 status (which refers to the non-immigrant status given to you by the USCIS to enable you pursue your program of studies) and your authorized stay. This means that you can stay in the U.S. legally to complete your education. On the completion of your program of studies, you are entitled to a year of OPT/CPT and a 60 day grace period before returning to your country of origin or country of permanent residence.

In a situation where you are not able to complete your program of studies within the period of time stipulated in your Form I-20, your status is no longer valid unless you are allowed some additional time by the foreign student advisor of your school to complete your program of studies. However, you are required to apply for additional time at least 30 days before the expiration of the duration previously stipulated in your Form I-20. If your application is accepted, you will be given an additional one year to finish your educational program.

If you are out of status as an alien student, it is possible for it to be reinstated if you request for reinstatement from USCIS and if you meet the requirements. For your request to be considered, you have to provide the following documents:

  • Form I-20
  • Filing Fee
  • Form I-94 (for yourself and each member of your family)
  • Form I-539 (with a red inked notation at the top right hand side to show that you are filing it for reinstatement purposes)
  • Supporting statement which must indicate that you are pursuing or will pursue a full-time program of study; that you have not done unauthorized work; that the violation of F-1 status was a result of situations beyond your control; that you will be subjected to extreme hardship if your status is not reinstated; and that you are not in deportation or removal hearings

Note that as an alien student with F-1 status, you do not need to apply for an extension of stay. You are permitted to remain in the U.S. even with an expired F-1 visa in so far as you are pursuing a full-time program of studies and you are maintaining your status. You cannot renew your visa while in the U.S. Visa renewal can only be done outside of the U.S.

However, if as a result of medical reasons or compelling academic reasons, you have a need to extend your stay, you and your DSO should complete the Form I-538 of USCIS. The form should be sent to the student data centre of USCIS at least 30 days before the end of the program of study as stipulated in your form I-20.

For detailed information on the options available to you and for expert help on your immigration process, you should contact our office and speak with our experienced and professional attorney.

Updated on January 15, 2020

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