Lawful Status

Below are the fice requirements for maintaining lawful status. Please contact the International Student Services office with any questions.

  1. Enroll and complete a minimum of 12 credit hours each fall and spring semester. Summer is optional unless you enter the U.S. on an I-20 that begins with the summer term.
  2. Do not participate in any unauthorized employment.
  3. Maintain a current passport and I-20. The I-20 is valid until the program end date. If you have not completed your program, you can request an extension of your I-20. You must submit a new bank statement. You should request an extension I-20 at least 30 days before the expiration date.
  4. You must inform MCC within 10 days of moving. You can do this by updating your myMCCKC account.
  5. You can only take one course via internet in any term to count toward a full course of study.

Reduction in course load

The SEVIS system (Student Exchange Visitor System) is real-time. This means that if you withdraw from a class, you will immediately be reported to USCIS. Please make sure you maintain your full-time enrollment (12 credit hours) every fall and spring semester. (Summer is optional). Please remember that if you do not attend your classes, your instructors can withdraw you. Check the student handbook and course syllabi for guidelines for your class.

There are certain situations when a student can take fewer than 12 credit hours and still maintain their legal F-1 status. Generally, these reasons include: last semester to graduate or a specific medical condition. Please make an appointment with the International Student Services Office to discuss your situation.


Reinstatement is the process in which you apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to have mistakes cleared away and to be restored to your student status. Reinstatement is not something to be taken lightly, as not all students who apply for reinstatement are successful in obtaining it.

Visa status

VISA frequently asked questions

Travel during optional practical training

F-1 visa holders may travel outside the U.S. during their period of OPT. The following documents are needed to re-enter the U.S.:

  • The unexpired Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  • I-20 endorsed by international student services within the last six months
  • Valid passport with a valid visa
  • We recommend you carry an additional letter from your employer acknowledging that you will return after a temporary absence.

If you have applied for Optional Practical Training (OPT) but have not yet received the Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) from immigration, you should be aware that leaving the U.S. before your OPT application has been processed by immigration may be considered abandoning your application. Also, if you try to reenter the U.S. and do not have your I-20 signed for travel within the last six months and do not have your EAD card to show as proof that authorization has been granted, you may be denied entry into the U.S. These are some factors to keep in mind when making travel plans.

Immigration attorney

Deciding whether to hire an immigration attorney is an important decision. The first issue is whether you need an immigration attorney. Some immigration matters can be relatively straightforward. Many times, however, it is useful to hire an immigration attorney, for three reasons. First, immigration law is one of the most complicated areas of U.S. law, perhaps second only to tax law in its complexity. Second, U.S. immigration law is changing all the time, and it is hard to keep up, even for many immigration lawyers. Third, immigration lawyers can help make sure that your application goes through the immigration bureaucracy smoothly and quickly.

At some point it may be necessary for you to seek the assistance of an immigration attorney. As with all professions, there are many qualified, competent immigration attorneys, and there are some that are not very good. Unfortunately, there is no reliable directory to assist you in determining which ones are great and which are not. This handout is intended only to provide you with some general tips in deciding which attorney is right for you and to give guidance in working with the attorney and his or her staff.

Attorney fees

Another important factor in choosing an attorney is his or her pricing structure. The temptation is often to seek the least expensive attorney possible. While your bank account may appreciate this strategy, it could prove to be shortsighted if this is the main factor in choosing your attorney. Some really, really bad attorneys are very inexpensive, some are expensive. You cannot rely on cost in determining who you will hire.

There are two primary methods of pricing: an hourly rate or a flat fee. Occasionally, a mixed pricing structure may be proposed by the attorney. It is important that you understand how you will be charged for work on your case.

Working with the attorney and staff

Remember that you are responsible for your immigration status. Keep track of your expiration dates and deadlines. A good lawyer will also track these things, but they are human and can sometimes overlook an important date.

The attorney and his or her staff work for you. They should provide you with updates on the status of your case in a timely manner. If you do not hear from them for an extended period of time, follow up with them.

They should provide you with copies of everything that is filed on your behalf with the government. You should receive copies of receipt notices, approval notices, etc. If you do not receive them, you should insist on it.

You should never let an attorney retain your original passport. This belongs to you and your government.

How to find an immigration attorney

American Immigration Lawyer's Association (AILA) Immigration Lawyer Referral Service provides a search engine that allows you to find a lawyer by zip code or language.

AILA is a national bar association of over 7,500 attorneys who practice immigration law. To access the AILA referral Service, use the web-based search, call 1.800.954.0254, or E-mail Give your name, location, and the reason you need an immigration lawyer. You will be given the contact information of a local lawyer who specializes in your area of need. When you contact the lawyer, mention that you used the AILA Immigration Lawyer Referral Service and ask about their "initial consultation fee."