Maintaining Status

As an international student in the United States, you are subject to certain regulations that must be followed during your stay. Observe and abide by these regulations to avoid problems that may hinder or interrupt your studies at Cal Poly.

NOTE: The information obtained from the Cal Poly International Center Office should not be used as the sole source of information for making decisions that may affect one's legal status in the U.S. or one's right to study, teach, conduct research, or work. Each student is individually responsible for maintaining his or her visa status.

How to Maintain Status



Your passport is issued through your government, generally for a specified period of time. Upon expiration, it must be renewed in order for you to remain legally in the United States. To renew your passport, contact your nearest consulate or embassy to complete required documents. Letters of enrollment, if needed, will be issued by the Cal Poly Office of Academic Records.


Before you entered the United States, you had to apply for a visa that was issued by the American Embassy or Consulate in your home country. The visa is stamped on a page of your passport. As long as you remain in the U.S., your visa does not need to be renewed. Note: Also see Travel Outside the US for more visa information.

International students at Cal Poly may be defined in several categories. The following paragraph explains the F-1 International Student Visa and J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa. If you have another non immigrant visa, please contact the International Student Advisor for information. If you are a dependent (of most other non immigrant visas holders) and will be turning 21 years old, you will be required to change your visa status to F-1. International students at Cal Poly are subject to all federal, state, and local laws, as are American citizens. Of particular importance are regulations established by the State of California through its Education Code. In addition, the Board of Trustees and local University regulations directly affect student life on campus. Students are responsible for their behavior on and off campus and are expected to comply with all policies that relate to student disciplinary matters. As a non resident and international student on either an F-1 or J-1 visa, it is your personal responsibility to comply with the laws which regulate the conduct of American citizens, and also with the regulations of the U. S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS.)

Legal Status

  • You must carry a full load of courses during the academic year. Dropping from full-time enrollment without prior authorization from the International Student Advisor is a violation of status.
  • You must continue to make progress toward your degree objective.
  • You must have a valid passport.
  • You must have a current Form I-20 or Form DS-2019.
  • If you need to extend your time here, obtain an extension of your permission to stay in the U.S. prior to the expiration date on your current Form I-20 or Form DS-2019.
  • Report change of address within ten (10) days on the Cal Poly Portal, by contacting the Cal Poly International Center office, or by emailing Susan Tripp.

Minimum Required Study Load

Students attending Cal Poly with F-1 or J-1 visa standing must carry a minimum number of units per quarter. Undergraduate students are required to carry at least 12 units per quarter and graduate students a minimum of 8 graduate level units per quarter. Students who encounter difficulty in carrying the minimum load, whether for academic, health or personal reasons, should immediately contact the International Student Advisor before dropping from full-time enrollment. Undergraduate F-1 students in their final quarter of study can submit the Final Quarter Form to the Cal Poly International Center office for authorization for less than full-time enrollment for the final quarter. Summer quarter is considered a vacation quarter and enrollment is optional. A reduced course load during the summer quarter is permissible. Graduate students working on thesis may submit the Graduate Degree Progress Form. After completing all thesis courses required for the major, grad students continuing to work on thesis or studying for the culminating exam must enroll in the GS-S597 Graduate Continuous Enrollment Course through Extended Education.

Failure to Maintain Status

Some examples of failure to maintain status include dropping from full-time to part-time enrollment without prior approval from Judy Mitchell, attending a school other than the one a student is authorized to attend, failure to apply for a timely transfer or I-20 extension or change in level of study, unauthorized employment, and failure to report a change of address.

Consequences If a Student Fails to Maintain Status

The student's record will be updated with SEVIS every quarter. Students who fail to maintain status will lose the privileges of their student visa and become subject to deportation. Specific consequences may include denial of re-entry to the U.S., inability to move from undergraduate to graduate status, denial of requests for Practical Training, denial of requests to change visa status, and possible denial of all future visa applications.

Applying for Re-instatement of Status

For example, if a student drops below a full course of study without prior approval from Judy Mitchell, that "event" would be reported to USCIS, via SEVIS, and the student would be considered “out of status.” The student may apply to USCIS for reinstatement if the violation resulted from circumstances beyond his or her control. Reinstatement is intended to be a rare benefit for exceptional cases. The student may not apply for reinstatement under any circumstances if he or she is out of status longer than five months. If USCIS does not reinstate the student, he or she may not appeal that decision. The student must notify the International Student Advisor, Judy Mitchell, of intent to apply for re-instatement. She can give advice for the best course of action and can write a letter of recommendation and create a Re-instatement I-20 to submit with your application for re-instatement.

Passport and Documentation Verification

All international students need to participate in passport and documentation verification upon arrival at Cal Poly or upon change of status type. Students can arrange for a one on one meeting with the International Student Advisor during the first two weeks of the student's first quarter at Cal Poly. To complete passport verification, students must bring their immigration documents to be verified by the International Student Advisor. Copies will be made and kept in your file in case your forms are lost or stolen. If you do not have Cal Poly Health Insurance, you also need to bring proof of Health Insurance to International Education and Programs for approval. Copies will be made and kept in your file in case your forms are lost or stolen.

Opportunities for Visa Students

Study Abroad

F-1 visa international students may study abroad outside of the U.S., but they must inform the International Student Advisor and complete a form well in advance of participating in any study abroad activity to be sure they maintain status.


Undergraduate students will have an expected graduation term set by the Registrar approximately one year prior to expected graduation. The expected graduation term can be viewed in the Student Center and Poly Profile. Students will receive an email from, informing them that this expected grad term has been set for them, and that they are expected to graduate within four quarters. More information may be found on the Registrar's Graduation web page. Graduate students should be in communication with their graduate coordinator to be sure they stay on track to graduate. Undergraduates can get help from the advising center for their college.

Transferring Schools

In order to transfer out of Cal Poly to another school, you will need to first notify the Cal Poly International Center office of your intent to transfer out, and complete the “Transfer-Out Form” which can be obtained at the Cal Poly International Center office or on the Cal Poly International Center web site. The Cal Poly International CenterAdvisor will determine your current status and eligibility to transfer and will complete the transfer in SEVIS, allowing the new school to have access to your SEVIS record. You will not be allowed to remain in the U.S. unless you are able to begin attending classes at the new school within 5 months after transferring out or 5 months from the program completion date on your Cal Poly I-20. If you leave the United States prior to your transfer, use the new I-20 from the new school to enter the USA.

Extension of Stay

Upon your entry into the U.S., you were issued a Form I-94 (arrival departure record). Form I-94 along with other documents, allows you to remain in the U.S. as long as you continue to maintain legal status.

I-20 Extensions

In order to receive a new I-20, an international student is required to submit a letter of support for an extension from his/her academic advisor or the advisement center staff. The letter must include the reason for the delay in completing the academic program and indicate a projected date of graduation. The student must also provide proof of financial support and a current bank statement.

DS-2019 Regular Exchange Extensions

In order to receive an extension of a DS-2019, an exchange student must provide a letter from the Faculty Exchange Coordinator giving the new end date or exit term. If a student has consistently maintained full time enrollment status, a new document will be issued and faxed to the records office so you may be allowed to register for the additional terms.

NOTE: You must request an extension prior to the expiration date on your form, or you will not be granted an extension. Please bring your letter of recommendation for extension to the Cal Poly International Center office as soon as you can to allow the International Center adequate time to processing the documents and to allow the Office of Academic Records and Student Accounts enough time to process your request.