Maintain Your Status
Why is it important to maintain your status?
Falling out of status opens the door to potential complications and serious problems with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). It can affect your ability to obtain a US visa or enter the country in the future. Additionally, your ability to receive employment authorization depends upon you maintaining status.
It is very important for international students to stay in legal immigration status at all times. The International Relations Office is here to assist and advise you, but it is the responsibility of the student to maintain your status.
How do I maintain my status?
- 1. Maintain a valid I-20
Always make sure your I-20 is valid and accurate. Your I-20 has an expiration date, which can be found in item 5 on page 1. If your I-20 is going to expire before you finish your program, you will need to request an extension via the International Relations Office at least 30 days before the expiration date. In addition, you must request a new I-20 from if you will change source of funding or number of F-2 dependents. All requests should be made to the International Relations Office.
Be sure you have a valid signature from Miss Rochelle Wallace in the International Relations Office or Mr. Jeff Paolucci in Student Services on your I-20 prior to traveling outside the U.S. Travel signatures are valid for one year (exception: travel signatures are valid for only six months while you are on OPT). Please request your travel signatures at least three weeks before you intend to depart La Junta.
If you decide to transfer to another school in the U.S., you will need to request a transfer of your SEVIS record before beginning studies at your new school. Click here for more information about transferring to another institution.
Note: It is your responsibility to keep all of your I-20s from each of the schools you attend in the U.S. You should not throw any of your I-20s away. OJC will not keep copies of your I-20s from other schools. If you have misplaced I-20s from other schools, you may consider contacting their international offices in order to obtain copies of your I-20s. If you lose or severely damage your current I-20 from OJC, you may request a new I-20 through the International Relations Office.
- 2. Maintain full-time enrollment
In order to maintain status, F-1 students must be enrolled full-time for each fall and spring semester. Enrollment in summer sessions is not required, unless a student begins study at OJC in the summer. For all undergraduates this means enrolling in at least 12 credit hours each fall and spring.
EXCEPTIONS: There are some exceptions to full-time enrollment that are designed to assist students, but all exceptions need to be authorized by the International Relations Office before you drop below full-time.
Examples of exceptions:
- a student in his final semester of coursework who does not need a full load in order to complete degree requirements;
- a first-semester student who is advised by an academic advisor to take less than a full load of courses due to language difficulties or unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods;
- a student who must drop a class because they were placed in an incorrect level;
- a student who is advised by a doctor to under-enroll due to a severe medical condition.
Dropping below full-time without authorization from the International Relations Office is a violation of your F-1 status! If you are thinking about dropping below full-time, call the International Relations Office at 384-6805 and set up an appointment to talk about your options before you drop.
- 3. Attend to “grace periods”
Be aware of the grace periods associated with your status. For F-1 Students:
- You have a 60-day grace period following the completion of your degree program and following the completion of your Optional Practical Training (if applicable).
- If you are dismissed from Otero Junior College, you have a 21-day grace period beginning the day you are dismissed. (This date is found on the letter that you receive from the College regarding your dismissal.) During this time you must either apply for a change of immigration status, transfer to a different school, or depart the U.S.
- If you receive authorization from the International Relations Office to withdraw from all classes, you have a 15-day grace period during which you must depart the U.S.
- If you withdraw from all classes without first receiving authorization from the International Relations Office, you have no grace period and must depart the U.S. immediately.
- 4. Work ONLY with authorization
All international students must have permission either from the International Relations Office or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services before they begin working. Click here for more detailed information about your employment options.
- F-1 students are automatically authorized to work on campus for up to 20 hours per week total while school is in session by the USCIS. During vacation periods (spring, summer, and winter breaks), they may work full-time on campus. Please read the OJC International Student Hourly Employment Policy for details about working on-campus at OJC if funding exists.
- To work off-campus, you must apply for and receive authorization before beginning to work.
- Keep in mind that tutoring, internships, accompanying for a recital, and working for your professor a few hours a week are all considered employment and require authorization in most cases!
- F-2 dependents may not work.
- 5. Keep your address updated
Providing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with an update of your new address in the U.S. every time you move is required by law (see citation below). Each time you move, within ten (10) days of moving (even within La Junta!), you are required to update the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with your new address. As an international student, your change of address must be submitted to the International Relations Office, who must update your address in SEVIS. You should also update your address via MyOJC.
As an F-1 student, this is a fairly easy process. Submit your change of information to the International Programs Office online and we will then submit your address change to USCIS through SEVIS or you can complete the AR-11 and submit it to the International Relations Office.
While you are on OPT (Optional Practical Training), you are still required to update your address within ten (10) days of moving, each time you move.
- 6. Maintain a valid passport
Keep your passport valid at all times! If your passport will expire soon, you need to contact your Embassy to inquire about the procedure for extension.