Maintaining F-1 Status

U.S. federal government regulations require all international students to maintain F-1 student status. It is your responsibility to be aware of the factors that impact your legal status and make sure you remain compliant. Non-compliance is a very serious matter with severe consequences. While the responsibility for maintaining compliance is yours, IPGE is here to help you navigate the complexities of U.S. government regulations and procedures. This section will assist you in providing key information for maintaining your student status.



You must maintain full-time enrollment each academic term (except during designated vacation periods) and make normal progress toward the completion of your program of study. Full-time enrollment is as follows:

  • Undergraduate students: 12 units during the spring and fall semesters 
  • Graduate students: 9 units during the spring and fall semesters

You must update IPGE and your MySacState within 10 days of any change. To update IPGE, complete an address update form at the IPGE front desk.

You are limited to 3 units of online courses that count towards your full-time requirement. In other words, undergraduates must have at least 9 units in-person and graduates must have at least 6 units in-person. "Hybrid" courses that have meetings both in-person and online are considered in-person courses.

Examples of students in status:

  • Undergrad with 3 units online and 9 units in-person
  • Undergrad with 6 units online and 9 units in-person
  • Graduate with 3 units online and 6 units in-person

Examples of students out of status:

  • Undergrad with 6 units online and 6 units in-person
  • Graduate with 6 units online and 3 units in-person

You must normally enroll in and maintain a full-time course load as explained in the "Full Time Enrollment" section above. However, there are certain limited circumstances where you may reduce your course load temporarily. These circumstances fall under several categories, Medical Condition, Academic Difficulty, Final Term, or a graduate student working on thesis, project, or comprehensive exam. In each case, you must seek approval from a DSO (International Student Advisor) prior to the reduction in course load. Each type of authorization has specific eligibility criteria, required documentation, and time restrictions. For more on eligibility and how to request a drop below full course of study, please see the Authorization for Drop Below Full Course of Study Form.

Concurrent Enrollment allows you to enroll in a limited number of classes at another SEVP approved institution while attending Sacramento State. The process is as follows:

  1. Receive a Concurrent Enrollment letter from IPGE. This letter informs the other institution that you are in-status and eligible to take courses. This letter can be requested at the front desk.
  2. Maintain full time enrollment throughout the semester. No fewer than 6 units may be taken at Sacramento State. Total enrollment between Sacramento State and additional school must meet full time enrollment minimums (12 for undergraduates, 9 for graduates).
  3. Ensure you meet the online course restrictions.
  4. By the end of week 2 of the semester, submit proof of enrollment to IPGE and an Authorization to Drop Below Full Course of Study form. Proof must contain your name, school, class, and number of units.
  5. After course completion, submit an unofficial or official transcript to IPGE showing course grades.

Note: If you are registered in full-time units at Sac State and you wish to take additional units at another school, you do NOT need to submit an Authorization to Drop Below Full Course of Study form.

The completion date on your I-20 is an estimate. If you are unable to complete your program by that date, you must request an extension of your program through IPGE at least 30 days before the end date on your I-20. However, we recommend you apply for an extension up to three months before expiration. Once your I-20 expires, it is not possible to complete an extension and you are considered out of status. To complete the extension, please submit the Program Extension form to IPGE. As part of the form, you will be required to receive a recommendation from your academic advisor.

International Students who have been approved for on or off campus employment will be required to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) before they may begin work. SSNs are generally assigned to F-1 students who are authorized to work in the United States and are used to report their wages to the IRS. Please be aware that a SSN is not a work authorization.

SSN Procedures:

  1. Receive a Job Offer
  2. Obtain a SSN support letter from your employer’s Payroll office.
  3. Complete an IPGE letter request form for an IPGE SSN Support Letter. You must first be authorized to work (on-campus, CPT, or OPT). Your letter will be available the next business day.
  4. Apply in person at the Social Security Administration Office. The closest office to Sac State is: Bring the following documents to the SSA:
  • Valid Passport
  • Original I-20
  • I-94
  • SSN Support letter from Employer
  • SSN Support letter from IPGE

 5. Once you have your Social Security number, visit your payroll office to complete the hiring process.

Note: If you are a new student, please wait 10 days after the semester starts before you apply for an SSN.

International students must adhere to specific rules and regulations regarding employment in order to ensure it is allowed by the F-1 regulations. "Employment" is considered work performed in exchange compensation. Before accepting any kind of employment, please read the Employment site carefully and contact your International Student Advisor with additional questions.

All F-1 students are advised to carefully follow the guidelines and advice regarding traveling outside of the United States.

Required Documents for travel outside of the US:

  • Passport valid at least 6 months into the future
  • Most recent I-20 with a travel signature less than one year old
  • Unexpired F-1 visa

To receive a travel signature, bring your most recent I-20 to IPGE and submit at the front desk along with a Letter Request Form. Please request travel signatures at least 7-10 days in advance of your travel. Signatures may not be available on a last minute basis.

If you have an expired F visa and are traveling for a short period of time to Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island, you may fall under the Automatic Revalidation provisions.

Submit a copy of your acceptance letter and transfer-in form (if any) from your transfer-in institution to your International Student Advisor at IPGE. You will also need to specify your requested SEVIS release date. If you have just finished your program at Sac State, your SEVIS record will need to be transferred before the end of your 60 day grace period.

Once you complete your program, you have a "60-day grace period." During this grade period you may:

1) Transfer to another institution in F-1 status (see above). Please complete this process early in your grace period, as processing at IPGE can take up to 5 days.

2) Depart the United States, thereby ending your current F-1 status. You are free to travel within the U.S. during your 60-day grace period. However once you leave the United States, your F-1 status will end. If you plan on re-entering the U.S. after departure, it would need to be on a new status.

3) If eligible, you may apply for 12 months of Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT).

You are required by law to keep your immigration documents up to date. It is solely your responsibility to keep and maintain your documents, so you are advised to keep physical copies and/or scans of all of your documents. It is common practice for agencies to ask for copies of past documents when you apply for benefits or a new immigration status (H-1B or Permanent Residency). Although ISSS retains copies of some of your documents, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to provide you with a copy of a previously issued document upon request.

Reminder: Be sure to check your SacLink email regularly for updates from IPGE!