Skip to the content
international program

Obtaining and Maintaining an F-1 Student Visa

Since most ELP students attend on an F-1 Student Visa, the following is intended as general information important to obtaining and maintaining full-time student status; following these points will help you obtain an
F-1 Student Visa.

  1. What Are the Keys to a Successful Visa Interview?
    1. Tell the consular officer you will return to your home country.  The officer wants to make sure you are not moving to the United States permanently.
    2. Be ready to speak to the officer in English and tell how learning English will help you in your home country.  Practice with a friend before the interview.
    3. Speak for yourself - do not bring family and friends with you into the interview room.  The officer wants to talk to you – not your family and friends.  If your family comes to the embassy with you, your family should wait in the waiting room.
    4. Tell the officer why you want to learn English at California State University, Los Angeles.  Explain how English can help you in your future career when you go back to your home country!
    5. Keep your answers clear and short.  The officer will decide about your visa in the first minute of talking to you.  You must make a good first impression!
    6. Have your documents ready for the officer at the beginning of the interview so that you don't waste time looking for them.
    7. In some countries, it's harder to get the visa.  The officer may be very strict with you, so you must convince the officer that you will return to your home country after you finish your education.
    8. You are not supposed to work in the United States, so you must show your bank statement to the officer to prove you have enough money to live and study.
    9. Keep a positive attitude and do not argue with the officer!  If you cannot get the visa, ask the officer to write down the reason.  Also, ask the officer what you can bring to your next interview to help you get your visa.  Then, later on, go back to the embassy for another interview.  Show more information about your job and family.  Give the officer more proof that you will return to your home country.
  1. When Can I Arrive in the United States?
  2. International students can arrive in the United States up to 30 days before their Registration Day.  This date is shown on your
    Form I-20, which states the Registration Day as the date in
    Section 5: “The student is expected to report to the school no later than _______.”  That date is your Registration Day, and you cannot enter the U.S. sooner than 30 days before this date.

    • For example, if your Form I-20 says “no later than 01/07/2013,” then you can only enter the U.S. only as early as 30 days in advance, in this case, 12/08/2012, which is 30 days before the Registration Day.  This is important because if you come too early, you may not be able to be admitted at the airport, and will be turned back to your country until the appropriate time. 
  1. How Long Can I Remain in the United States?
  2. When you arrive in the U.S. you will be given a small white card called Form I-94 at the Port-of-Entry.  It is important to keep this card with your Passport.  It is stamped with the date you entered the U.S. and also contains the date you are required to depart the country.  For most F-1 students, the departure date is abbreviated as “D/S.”  This means that you may remain in the United States during your “Duration of Status” as a full-time student.  In other words, “You can stay in the U.S. as long as you maintain full-time student status.”

  1. How Can I Maintain My Full-Time Student Status?
    1. You must enroll in a Full Course of Study (at least 18 hours per week for the duration of your school’s program with only minimal absences).
    2. You must make “normal progress” toward completing your studies.
    3. You must not work or engage in other prohibited activities.
    4. You must keep your Form I-20 valid:
      • Renew your Form I-20 before it expires (new Bank Statement and Sponsorship Form are required).
      • Have your Form I-20 signed by a Designated School Official in the ELP Office before any travel outside the U.S.
      • If you are taking an approved vacation after 3 consecutive quarters, complete an ELP Vacation Request Form and turn in to the ELP Office.  
      • If you move to another home, you must inform the ELP Office of your new address within 10 days;
      • If you are sick and cannot come to class, obtain a note from your doctor or from the Student Health Center to excuse your absence.
      • If you wish to transfer to another school, you must also transfer your Form I-20: complete an ELP Transfer-Out Form and bring a Letter of Acceptance from the new school to the ELP office before the end of the current quarter.
      • If you are leaving the U.S. to return home forever, you should submit an ELP Completion Form at the ELP Office.


The English Language Program
College of Extended Studies and International Programs
California State University, Los Angeles
5151 State University Drive, GE 220
Los Angeles, California  90032-8619   USA

Office Hours: Monday - Friday, 08:00 to 17:00
Pacific Time,
GMT-7 (November 8 – March 13, GMT-8)

Telephone: +1 323 343 4840
Fax: +1 323 343 4843


Regular Office Hours:

Monday - Friday
8am - 5pm

+ 1 323 343 4840


Apply in English Apply in Arabic Apply in Brazilian Portuguese Apply in Spanish Apply in Turkish Apply in Chinese (Simplified) Apply in Japanese Apply in Korean Apply in Vietnamese