Maintaining Your F-1 Visa

A variety of situations and decisions can affect your F-1 status, such as:

  • receiving an Academic Warning or Suspension notice
  • taking a leave of absence from WSU
  • transferring to another university in the U.S.

If you fail to maintain your F-1 status, you will need to complete the F-1 reinstatement application.

There are also certain steps you must take to return to WSU after a leave of absence.

All F-1 international students must maintain full-time enrollment during every academic semester, except during official summer and winter breaks.

For undergraduate students at WSU, full time is at least 12 credits per term. For graduate students at WSU, full time is at least 6 credit hours.

If you cannot maintain full-time enrollment, you must get approval from an international student advisor to drop courses. Complete the Reduced Course Load Form (PDF) before you drop below 12 credits.

A reduced course load may be approved for the following reasons.


Final Semester of Study

You could have a reduced course load if you are completing your program at the end of the current term.

You must attach a copy of the letter from the Registrar’s Office showing that your graduation has been approved and that you are in your final semester of study.


Academic Difficulties

A Reduced Course Load can be approved for Academic Difficulty only once and only during the first semester of study.

  • Initial difficulty with English language or reading requirements.
  • Unfamiliarity with US teaching methods
  • Improper course level placement

Medical Condition - Temporary illness or medical condition

A reduced course load for a medical condition can be granted for up to 12 months total while the student is pursuing a particular degree.

You must provide medical documentation from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist, to the DSO to substantiate the illness or medical condition.

  • The letter must be typed, dated and signed by the physician on the physician’s letter head.
  • The letter must indicate that you have a medical condition which prevents you from registering full time during a specific semester.
  • The letter must indicate the number of hours which you can register and the date by which you will be expected to return to full-time studies.
  • The letter must be sent to the ISSS as soon as possible after the onset of your medical condition.

You must be in good academic, financial standing when requesting a Leave of Absence.

You must have prior approval from ISSS and academic department before withdrawing from courses.

Students who are pregnant or who had a baby recently should obtain a letter if you are not able to take classes or to reduce your course load due to pregnancy complications.

Here is more general information about taking medical leave as an F-1 student.

If you are not able to finish the courses required for your academic program by the end date noted on your I-20, you will need to request an extension of your I-20.


Deadline for Extensions

An extension of your I-20 must be completed before the end date on the I-20. If your I-20 expires while you are still a student, you may be considered in violation of your status.


Application Instructions

  • Complete the I-20 Extension Form (PDF)
  • Have your academic adviser sign the I-20 Extension form
  • Attach your DARS report, which can be printed from your WSU e-Services account
  • Attach a copy of your valid passport ID page
  •  Attach a bank statement/proof of funding
  • Turn in the I-20 Extension form and all the required documents to ISSS

If your extension is approved, you will receive an email message from ISSS to let you know when you can pick up your new I-20. It usually takes 5 business days to prepare a new I-20.


WSU Rochester Campus

Students at WSU Rochester Campus can get their I-20 extended by mail or by visiting in person. ISSS travels to WSU Rochester/RCTC once per month, and you can speak with a DSO when we visit.

Please contact is@winona.edu to find out when an international student adviser will be visiting WSU Rochester.


Visiting Exchange Students

Visiting exchange students must receive approval from their home institution before contacting WSU International Services Office to ask for an extension.

If you are suspended from your academic program, speak with ISSS right away about the effects on your immigration status.

Check your WSU email account regularly to receive communication about changes to your academic status.


What You Need to Know

Your current F-1 SEVIS record/I-20 will be terminated if you are not approved for an appeal of the suspension, and you will have to leave the U.S. within 15 days.

Your current I-20 form will no longer be valid and may not be used for future travel to the U.S. You should still keep the expired I-20 for your records.

You will also need to follow the steps to take a leave of absence (Accordion Pane: Taking a Leave of Absence from WSU) and put all your affairs in order.

To return after a suspension, you must apply for a new I-20 form 2-3 months before returning to resume your full-time studies.

Speak to ISSS first if you are considering a leave of absence or withdrawing from Winona State University earlier than you planned and will not be enrolled in any classes.

ISSS will help you understand how this decision will affect your immigration status and employment eligibility when you return.


Procedures for Taking a Leave of Absence

  1. Contact your department or academic adviser to get an approval. If you are suspended, immediately contact ISSS. Please forward notification of suspension to is@winona.edu.
  2. Withdraw from all your classes at WSU.
  3. Turn in your laptop in a timely fashion. Failure to do so may result in additional charges on your account.
  4. Inform the Housing office and your RA, if you are living on campus. You will need follow the Early Move-Out Procedures to check out of your room and hand in your keys.
  5. Check your student account to make sure you do not have a balance due.
  6.  It is also be a good idea to request an official transcript and print out your DARS report.
  7. You must leave the US within 15 days of your leave being approved.
  8. After you leave the United States, you must send a copy of your ticket to ISSS.

Complete the International Services Transfer-out form (PDF) to notify ISSS of your intent to transfer to another academic institution within the U.S. Please read this document in detail.

Before we can transfer your record, you will need to do the following:

  • Provide a copy of the admission letter from the university to which you wish to transfer.
  • Submit the completed and signed transfer-out form (above).
  • Either write the desired SEVIS release date on the transfer-out form for the new university or provide your desired release date in writing to ISSS.

Please keep in mind that you cannot study or work on campus after the SEVIS transfer date.

Before your I-20 record is transferred to the new institution, you must complete the following:

  • Student Account: Check your student account to be sure you do not have a balance. No transcripts or diploma will be released if your student account shows a balance is due.
  • Laptop: Return your laptop and tablet to the IT office.
  • Transcripts: Fill out the Registrar’s online transcript request form.
  • Housing: If you live on campus, notify your RA that you are leaving and complete the check out process. If you live off campus, fill out a vacate notice at least 30 days prior to your departure. Make sure you have your apartment checked out completely and that everything is clean so your deposit will be fully refunded. Be sure to cancel utilities if needed.
  • ISSS Office: Contact ISSS before you leave and provide your contact information.
  • Community: Leave forwarding address with the post office, credit card companies, banks, cell phone companies, etc.