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Staying in Status

Immigration Documents

  • Passport must not expire.  If your passport is expiring, you will need to travel home or check with your U.S. consulate for renewing options at least 6 months in advance.
  • I-20 or DS-2019 must not expire.
  • I-20 or DS-2019 must be accurate.  Ensure that any updates to your major, program end dates, or other academic information are accurate and have been approved by your International Student Adviser.
  • Visa may expire.  If you plan to depart the U.S. you will need to obtain a new visa.Your visa must be valid for re-entry to the U.S.
    • Exception: visiting Canada, Mexico, or adjacent Caribbean Island (except Cuba) for less than 30 days will allow you to re-enter the U.S. (unless it is your home country).  See the travel and visa section for more information.
  • I-94 must be printed each time you enter the U.S.  This is a record of your entry.  Ensure you have been admitted as an F-1 or J-1 student for the Duration of Status (D/S).  You may print it here.
    • If you notice an error on your I-94, contact your international adviser immediately.

Enrollment Requirements

  • Undergraduate full-time = 12 credit hours
  • Graduate full-time = 9 credit hours
  • Only ONE on-line course (3 credits) may count toward full-time enrollment each semester
  • Any credits beyond the minimum full-time requirement may be on-line or in person (in-person is strongly encouraged)
  • Students must actively attend all scheduled classes
  • Withdrawing from a course may cause a student to drop below the minimum full-time enrollment requirements.  Always speak to an adviser before making the decision to withdrawal.

Reduced Course Load Requests

  • There are four valid reasons for a reduced course load.
    1. If a student is in their final semester and less than a full course load is needed to complete student’s program of study
    2. Academic Difficulty due to: Initial difficulty with English language or reading requirements, and/or Unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods
    3. Improper Course Level Placement (first year students only)
    4. Medical Reason

If you have questions about Reduced Course Load requests, please contact our office. Remember- if a student fears the possibility of doing poorly in a course but their situation is not reflected by the the reasons listed, they are not eligible for a RCL based on academic difficulty.  Also remember -Instructor/Academic Advisor/Department Head or medical documentation is REQUIRED in order to authorize reduced course load requests.

Grace Periods

Depending on your situation, you may have a certain number of days to leave the U.S.

  • Completion of F-1 Program/OPT = 60 days to depart U.S., apply for change of status, apply for OPT, or transfer to another school
  • Completion of J-1 Program/AT = 30 days to depart the U.S.
  • Withdrawing from classes with prior approval = 15 days after notifying our office
  • Violation of Status = immediately

Travel Signature Requirement

Get your travel signature from the OIPS prior to international travel!  The travel signature is required for returning to the U.S.  Do not wait until the day before or day of your planned departure!

  • Each signature is valid for one year. (F-1 students on OPT: travel signature is valid for six months.)
  • The travel signature is issued by a DSO/ARO in the Office of International Programs & Services to confirm you are maintaining your F-1 or J-1 student status.
  • The travel signature is located on page 2 of your  I-20 or the front page of your DS-2019.
  • If your current travel signature will expire before you return to the U.S., you must request an updated travel signature.

Visa Re-validation

An exception to the rule requiring a valid, unexpired visa to re-enter the United States.  This is known as “automatic visa re-validation.”  Students in valid F-1 or J-1 status may travel for fewer than 30 days to Canada, Mexico, and islands of the Caribbean except Cuba.  Upon return to the U.S., your visa will be considered “extended” to that date of re-entry.  Students should make sure to obtain a valid travel signature on their I-20 or DS-2019.Note: If you apply for a new visa while in Canada, Mexico, or islands of the Caribbean, you will not be eligible to return to the U.S. under automatic visa re-validation.  Citizens of Iran, Sudan, and Syria are not eligible for automatic visa re-validation.

Expired or Invalid Visas

The F-1 or J-1 visa in your passport is permission to apply to the enter the U.S. in that visa category.  As long as your passport and I-20 or DS-2019 remain valid, you are authorized to stay in the U.S. with an expired student visa.  If your visa expires while in the U.S. and/or its number of entries has been used, or you have changed your non-immigrant status while in the U.S., the next time you travel abroad you must apply for a new F-1 of J-1 visa to return to the United States.  Visas may only be obtained outside of the U.S.  If you have been outside of the U.S. for more than five months and were not registered full time while abroad, your F-1 visa will be considered invalid, even if it has not yet expired. If you are returning to resume study, you must obtain a visa and pay the SEVIS fee ($200 for F-1 students, $180 for J-1 students).

Last updated: 10/15/2018