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F-1 Student Status Defined

To maintain F-1 status, a student must follow all the facts listed in his/her SEVIS l-20, such as:

  • Attending the educational institution listed on the SEVIS Form I-20
  • Study the course identified on the I-20
  • Register as a full-time student for every required term

F-1 students are authorized to stay in the United States for the entire length of their academic program, as long as they successfully pursue a full-time enrollment

Program Extension

Program End-Date

As an international student, all of the information listed on your Form I-20 must be accurate at all times. In some instances, the period of time stipulated on your Form I-20 may not suffice your needs. If you anticipate program completion to go beyond the program end date listed on the first page of your I-20, you MUST contact the International Students Office to request a program extension. 


Eligibility for Program Extension

You are eligible for an Extension, only if:

  1. You have applied for such extension in a timely manner prior to the expiration noted on the l-20 Form (a minimum of 30 days prior to expiration date is advised);
  2. You are in lawful status; and,
  3. You can demonstrate the need for such extension based on immigration laws* (Compelling academic reasons or medical reasons)
  4. Must provide financial documentation for additional time added to program

Note: An Extension will not be granted if the need for such extension is based on poor academic performance. A maximum period of one year may be granted. 


Examples of Compelling Reasons for Program Extension

  • Documented illness,
  • English language difficulties,
  • Change of major,
  • Change of research topic,
  • Research problems


IMPORTANT: You must contact the International Students Office as soon as possible in order to submit the proper documentation for a program extension).


When you entered the U.S., you were given permission to stay in the U.S. to for a particular reason or purpose for a specific period of time. As an F-1 student, your primary reason or purpose for being in the U.S. is to study as a full-time student. Your status, F-1 d/s, means that you can remain in the U.S. as long as you are pursuing the activity of studying full-time and obeying all the rules of your stay.


Your visa is simply a travel document, which allows you to reenter the U.S. You can remain in the U.S. with an expired visa, as long as you are maintaining your status. If you plan on travelling while you are studying as an F-1 student, then you will need to keep a valid F-1 visa to reenter the U.S. Learn more about how to renew your F-1 visa here.

As an F-1 international student in the US you are obligated to file a US tax return during your stay. This requirement applies whether or not you have earned income. Understanding the US tax system and filing a tax return is an overwhelming and confusing experience for any student.

That’s why, to make things easier for you, Mercy College has teamed up with Sprintax - an online tool specifically designed for international students, which helps you prepare your federal and State return in less than 20 minutes! 

Learn more about filing your taxes

Your Reporting Responsibilities

Mercy College is responsible to report any changes regarding your student status and other pertinent information. It is your responsibility to report any changes on your SEVIS I-20 Form to the International Students Office within 10 days of the change. A failure to do so may result in a violation of your status. You will need to report changes in the following:

  • Addresses
  • Program of Study (Major)
  • Academic Level (Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's)
  • Financial Sponsorship
  • First or last name
  • Program end date
  • Plans to transfer to another institution

Please note that some of these changes will require a new Form I-20 .

Managing Full-Time Status

Enrollment Responsibilities

As an F-1 international student, you must maintain full-time status for each required term. The definition of a full-time student depends on your program. Please see the table below for the definition of a full-time student based on semester, trimester, and quarter based programs:

Education Level
Term Schedule Required Terms Credits Needed to be Full-time
Undergraduate Semester Fall & Spring 12 cr/semester
Graduate Semester Fall & Spring 9 cr/semester
Graduate (MSOL) Quarter Fall, Winter, Spring 6 cr/quarter


(PA Program)

Trimester Summer, Fall Spring 6 cr/trimester


(PT/OT Program)

Trimester Fall, Spring, Summer 6 cr/trimester



*During your first term at Mercy, you MUST be full-time, even if you choose to begin in a term that is not required. 

Reduced Courseload
As an F-1 international student, you are required to maintain full-time status as defined by your academic program. In the event that a compelling academic reason or medical reason occurs, you may be eligible to receive permission for a reduced course load (RCL).

A reduced course load MUST be pre-approved by the International Students Office

VERY IMPORTANT: A student who drops below a full course of study without prior approval of the DSO will be considered OUT OF STATUS.

Online Courses

Out of the credits required to be a full-time student, NO MORE than 3 credits can be taken online each term (semester, trimester, or quarter). Taking too many online credits is a violation of your status.