Maintaining Visa Status After Arrival

Keep your student visa status legal throughout your time at school.

Classes have started and you’re deep into a new routine. Now all you have to do is maintain your student visa status so you can focus on studying your school’s weird traditions.

There are, of course, certain processes that both F-1 and M-1 students must follow to keep their visa status legal and valid. First, you can only enter the USA within 30 days of the first day of your program, so make sure you book your flight accordingly. Once you arrive in the USA, you must contact your Designated School Official (DSO) to let them know you’re in the country, and then contact them again after you’ve arrived at your actual program.

As soon as classes kick in, you have to be a good student – no pressure, but your course schedule must be full, and you need to attend and pass all those classes. Don’t even think about dropping a class without first speaking to your DSO. In fact, you’ll need to talk to your DSO about pretty much every step you take related to being in the USA and at your program, so put their contact information in your speed dial as part of your prep before leaving your home country.

When your program ends, to maintain legal visa status you essentially have two choices: change your visa type or education level, or leave the USA. F-1 students must leave within 60 days of completing their program and M-1 students must leave within 30 days, and in both cases the countdown starts from the end date listed on your Form I-20.

Of course, one of the most important ways to maintain a legal visa status is to do everything legally. In other words, don’t break any laws, both on campus and off, and if your school has a code of conduct then follow that too.