F1 Visa

Difference Between F1 Visa and Maintaining Legal Status (After Visa Stamp is Expired)

study in statesQuestion: First of all, Thank you so much for this helpful blog. If possible, can please post an article explaining the difference between the F1 Visa stamp on the passport and F1 Status?

Most students don’t know the difference between F1 Visa and Legal Status.

People don’t know they can also be in the U.S. by maintaining F1 status with an expired F1 visa.

The only problem they are having is if they step out of the US, they must go for F1 visa stamping to re-enter the US.

Even if an F1 visa expires, then apply for OPT right before your graduation and be on OPT and apply for STEM OPT extension (if you are eligible). That student is maintaining legal, valid F1 status through this process.

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty details.

F1 Visa Stamp

How to get an F1 visa to enter the United States?

You must have a student visa to study in the United States. Your course of study and the type of school you plan to attend determine whether you need an F-1 visa or an M-1 visa.

After F-1 Visa is approved, the U.S. Consular post will stamp your passport with the Visa Stamp. It would indicate the Type and Duration of validity.

This visa stamp on your passport allows you to enter till the Port of Entry.

Maintaining F1 Visa Status

As an F or M student, you often hear the phrase “maintaining status” because it is very important! Maintaining status means you are doing everything you should to keep your records up-to-date in our SEVIS database.

While studying in the United States, it is important to maintain your F or M student status. Your visa says that you are coming to the United States to study. It would be best if you did not consider any action that detracts from that purpose.

Upon Arrival

  • Enter the United States no more than 30 days before your program of study begins.
  • CBP Officer would enter D/S on your passport. That’s when you get your F1 Visa status to remain in the U.S.A.
  • Once you get that D/S entry on your passport, there’s the real use of the F1 Visa stamp in your passport.
  • Immediately contact your designated school official (DSO) when you enter the United States. When you arrive at school, you need to contact your DSO again no later than the program start date listed on your Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status”


  • If you believe that you cannot complete your program by the end date listed on your Form I-20, talk with your DSO about requesting a possible program extension.
  • You must take a full course of study each term; if you cannot study full-time, contact your DSO immediately.
  • Do not drop a class without speaking first with your DSO.


  • Curricular practical training (CPT) at either the undergraduate or the graduate level is only available if this employment is an integral part of an established curriculum and if the position directly relates to your major area of study. Your DSO can give you the school’s policy on this option.


  • Do not work without authorization. An F or M student may work only when authorized.
  • If you want to work in the United States, talk with your DSO about your options. Your DSO may authorize certain work; other employment may require your DSO’s recommendation and authorization from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You are going out of status when you work without authorization. That’s going out of status.
  • If you choose to work without authorization, you could be forced to leave the United States immediately.

Upon Program Completion

  • Take action to maintain legal status after completing your program of study.
  • Once you complete your program of study and any authorized period of practical training, you may wish to learn about doing one of the following:
    • Transfer to another school
    • Change your education level (e.g., Bachelor’s to master’s)
    • Apply to change status to another visa status (e.g., H-1B-temporary worker; O-extraordinary ability in science, art or business; P-athlete)

You have 60 days after completing your program (the program end date on your Form I-20) to leave the United States, apply for OPT, or change your visa status.

Talk with your DSO:

Your DSO should be the first person you talk with if you have any questions regarding the legal requirements of your stay in the United States. Your DSO can assist in answering your questions or help you find someone who can help. Talk with your DSO if you are planning to do any of the following:

  • Change your major, program, or degree level
  • Change your education level
  • Transfer to a new school or take a leave of absence
  • Take a break from school
  • Travel outside the United States
  • Move to a new address
  • Request a program extension

Visa Stamp is About to Expire in Passport

Here’s a question from a parent about his daughters’ visa expiring.

My child is graduating with a STEM major in May 2023.
The original F1 visa was for 5 years and is valid till May 2024.
Application for OPT was done and got her Employment Authorization Card. The card is valid for one year and expires on 13th July 2024. She has found a job and will start working end July 2023.
So what does she need to do as her F1 visa expires in May 2024 and her Employment Authorization expires in July 2024?
Any guidance on the matter will be appreciated.
  • If your I-20 is valid, then your visa stamp can expire.
  • A valid Visa stamp allows you to fly till the Port of Entry.
  • Once you enter the USA, your status is determined by the date listed on the I-20 (your passport will show D/S – Duration of Stay)
  • If your date on the I-20 expires (OPT or STEM OPT), you are out of status. Even if the F1 stamp is valid on your passport.
  • You can continue to stay in the USA with an expired visa stamp and a valid I-20.
  • To get an F1 Visa stamp, you would have to leave the country and get stamping at the U.S. Consulate (the US is planning a pilot program to renew visas in the USA without traveling from the Summer of 2023).
  • If your I-20 is valid, there is no need to leave the country just for visa stamping.
  • After graduation, your DSO would issue a new I-20 for OPT and STEM OPT with new expiry dates.
  • If you can’t complete your degree on time, DSO can extend your I-20.

Answer to the Question – The daughter can continue to work with a Valid EAD Card and Valid I-20. You do not need a Valid Visa stamp to stay in the USA. A valid Visa stamp is only required to travel and return to the USA. So, if your daughter travels to India after May 2024, she will need a new visa stamp on her passport to travel back.

The same logic applies to H1B Visa and H4 Visa. One can continue to work in the USA with an expired H1B visa stamp on the passport but with a valid I-797 approval notice and I-94.


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  1. My son got the F1 visa stamping on his passport , but for some reason if he cant be able to reach USA for the fall semester due to pandemic situation, can he be able to go for spring semester? does he have to do the consulate interview again?

  2. My daughter’s F1 is expiring in December, she still has 2 courses to complete her credits. She has applied for OPT, while taking one of the courses online. What will happen if her authorization letter does not come out by December?

  3. Hi,
    I am graduate student and at present I am left with one course and a project. I am planing to take a break during summer and get my visa renewed which is expiring in Nov 13 and as well as my I-20. I will be getting a I-20 extension soon.
    So my questions is, Is it risky to get a Visa extension at this stage? Because as far as I am told I can continue with a I-20 extension so i am confused right now weather to go to India for an extension or not.
    And other question is how does the visa extension process take place, would they cancel my present one to process the new one with the new I-20?

  4. Hi,
    Could you tell me how soon can I travel to US after being issued an F1 visa? The I20 form states the starting date of school as September 3rd. Does that mean I can enter US after Sept 3rd?

    1. Usually F1 student can enter US exactly before 1 month of school start date. You are good to travel after August 3rd.

  5. I am Indian currently studying in US on F1 status. If I visit India (for summer vacation), I will have to get an F1 visa before I return to resume my study program in US. In such a case, is it risky for me to visit India, as in, I may be rejected an F1 visa to complete my program? Or is it more likely that I would be granted an F1 visa to complete my studies?

    1. Is your F1 visa expiring before summer or after summer? If you visa is not expiring before your return journey, then you don’t need to go for Visa stamping. Going for F1 visa stamping is also a good idea(only if you have good grades and strong GPA, because they will ask for your transcripts) because your F1 visa expiring soon. Hope it helps!

      1. Hello Harsha!
        Thank you for replying to my query. I currently don’t have an F1 visa. I am on F1 status because I had an H1 status before this, and when I decided to pursue higher education, I had to get a change of status from H1 to F1. That is why I need to get an F1 visa if I travel out of US and then return. I have maintained a good GPA so far. What other criteria do you think will make my F1 visa stamping more probable?

        1. Hello Ninu,

          As far as I know… as i mentioned if you are planning to go for visa interview.
          1. Most important thing is take updated I20 (with expected graduation date)
          2. Make sure to carry Univeristy official transcripts.
          3.Take a letter from your academic advisor stating that you are in good standing and also ask him to mention that you have course work due to graduation.
          4. Take one more letter from your International student officer stating you in good academic standing at your university.

          Ask your ISO for more details. I just mentioned what i know.
          PS: Visa stamping means always there is a side of risk, that we cannot predict. I am not scaring you just saying 🙂

          Good Luck!

  6. I am an Indian currently studying in the US on F1 status. If I come to India for summer, I will have to get an F1 visa before I return to resume my study program. Is it risky to visit India in such a case, I mean I may be rejected an F1 visa and not be able to complete my studies in US, or is it safe for me, as in I would most likely be granted the F1 visa to complete my studies?

  7. Hi, I was told as per current US laws that the 60 day period to leave has been relaxed to 6 months.Pleas confirm the same at the earliest.


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