F-1/J-1 Student Maintenance Checklist 

  • Notify the International Student Admissions and Programs office (ISAP) of the local address upon arrival and within 10 days of any address change.
  • Enroll in a full course of study during the academic year.
  • Make normal progress towards completion of a program.
  • Extend the Form I-20/DS-2019 before its expiration, if necessary.
  • Obtain approval from ISAP prior to reducing enrollment, withdrawing completely, or taking a leave of absence.
  • Inform ISAP and update the form I-20/DS-2019 due to a change in major, degree level, or financial support.
  • Keep the passport valid for at least six months from current date.
  • Follow proper procedures for transfer of schools.
  • Abide by the F-1/J-1 grade period rules
  • Limit on campus employment to a maximum of 20 hours per week, while classes are in session.
  • Not engage in off-campus work unless specifically authorized by the ISAP office.
  • Retain All Documents
    Retain All Documents

    F-1/J-1 students need to make a copy of all of important travel and immigration documents and keep them in a safe and easily accessible location. In addition, F-1/J-1 students must keep all of their original Form I-20/DS-2019s. A student may receive several Form I-20/DS-2019s throughout their stay in the U.S., and it is common for a U.S. government agency to request copies of all Form I-20/DS-2019s issued to a student when he or she is applying for a benefit or a change in immigration status. Students should therefore not discard any immigration documents issued to them.

  • Passport Validity 
    Passport Validity 

    The passport must be valid for at least six months into the future at the time the student enters the U.S. Students should contact their home country’s consulate or embassy for instructions on extending the passport within the U.S.

  • Full-Time Enrollment Requirements
    Full-Time Enrollment Requirements

    ISAP is required to report on each student’s enrollment to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by updating the student’s individual SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) record every term. In order to maintain lawful F-1/J-1 non-immigrant student status, international students must be enrolled for a full course of study during the academic year. Full-time enrollment is required during all fall and spring semesters. All students will automatically be issued a vacation term for each summer semester, unless it is the student’s graduating term or first term of enrollment.

    Minimum Number of Credit Hours
    • Undergraduate Students                              12 credit hours
    • Graduate Students                                         9 credit hours

    U.S. immigration regulations require F-1 and J-1 international students to register for and complete a full course load each semester. At the beginning of each term,the ISAP Office is required to confirm that all international students are registered and maintaining full-time enrollment. Student enrollment continues to be monitored throughout the semester.

    Students who drop below full-time without approval (see below) from the ISAP Office must be reported to the Department of Homeland Security via SEVIS As a result, the SEVIS record will be terminated and the student will lose lawful F-1 or J-1 status including employment eligibility and benefits.

    Full-time Enrollment & On-line Coursework

    Immigration regulations limit the number of online courses a student can count towards the full time requirement. International students may count only one course or three units of on-line coursework towards the full time requirement. Other online classes will not count toward the full-time enrollment, but students can still take more than one online class per semester. That student must just also enroll in 9 credits of face to face classes. 

  • Local U.S. Address Reporting 
    Local U.S. Address Reporting

    F-1/J-1 students must inform ISAP of the local U.S. address where they reside in order to comply with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requirements. Students must update the address within 10 days of moving to a new location.

  • Extension of Form I-20/DS-2019
    Extension of Form I-20/DS-2019

    Students must obtain an extension of the Form I-20/DS-2019 and F-1/J-1 status at least one term prior to program end date noted on the current Form I-20/DS-2019, if necessary. Students must submit a program extension form and proof of funding to an ISAP to facilitate the extension process. If the student is not approved for the extension and does not obtain a new Form I-20/DS-2019 prior to the current program end date, the student is in violation of F-1/J-1 status. It is not possible to extend the Form I-20/DS-2019 after it has expired.

  • Change of Major 
    Change of Major

    ISAP must be notified of a change of major during the semester in which the change takes effect. A significant change of major must be reported to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement within 21 days of the change going into effect, and it is the student’s responsibility to ensure that his or her immigration record is updated accordingly.

  • Reduced Course Load
    Reduced Course Load

    The Federal Regulations list very few situations in which an exception to the full course of study or typical full course enrollment requirement may be deemed appropriate. The F-1/J-1 student must meet with an ISAP Staff Member and seek approval PRIOR to dropping or withdrawing from courses when the drop would put the student below the required minimum. If the student does not follow proper procedures, the student will lose lawful F-1/J-1 student status. 

    An F-1/J-1 may be authorized to reduce his or her course load to six credit hours (and no less) one time, due to academic difficulties. Forms to document these reasons can be found on the ISAP website.

    The following reasons are acceptable academic reasons for a student to reduce his or her course load:

    In the case of a reduced course load request based on a medical necessity, the student must provide medical documentation from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist to ISAP to substantiate the illness or medical condition. The regulations state that students experiencing a “temporary illness or medical condition” may reduce their course load “for a period of time not to exceed an aggregate of 12 months while the student is pursuing a course of study at a particular program level.” If the student’s medical condition does not permit him/her to pursue a full course of study beyond these 12 months, the student may be required to return to the home country.

  • Traveling 
    Traveling  

    F-1/J-1 international students may choose to travel outside the U.S. during the course of study at UWG during the annual vacation term, or during school breaks. Students may leave the U.S. at any time, and it is the student responsibility to ensure that he or she has all the required documentation to return to the U.S. in valid F-1/J-1 status:

    Required:

    • Passport valid at least six months into the future.
    • Valid F-1/J-1 visa (except for Canadian citizens)
    • Valid Form I-20/DS-2019 endorsed by a designated school official (DSO) at ISAP

    Recommended:

    • Copy of financial support documentation
    • Enrollment verification (Copy of online advising report from MyUWG)

    All above mentioned documents are required to renew your F-1/J-1 student visa. Students renewing the visa should also obtain an official transcript and/or letter from the academic adviser as enrollment verification. Students must also take the receipt from paying the SEVIS I-901 fee. To obtain a travel signature a student must bring the Form I-20/DS-2019 to ISAP. A travel signature is necessary as it indicates that the F-1/J-1 student is in good standing at UWG and is eligible to return to the university. Travel signatures are valid for one year.

  • Employment 
    Employment 

    A student holding lawful F-1/J-1 status is in the U.S. for the primary purpose of engaging in a full course of study. To qualify for employment, an F-1/J-1 student must be eligible based on one of the following options:

    § On-campus employment

    As a benefit of F-1/J-1 status, an F-1/J-1 student may work on the premises of UWG for a maximum of 20 hours per week while school is in session provided he or she has a valid Form I-20/DS-2019 issued by UWG. F-1/J-1 students may work more than 20 hours per week on campus during official term breaks and the annual summer vacation term. An F-1/J-1 student may not begin on-campus employment more than 30 days prior the actual start date of classes.

    Any other type of employment requires authorization by ISAP and/or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The F-1/J-1 student must consult with ISAP if they are not certain if the employment qualifies as on-campus employment. Unauthorized employment is a violation of F-1/J-1 non-immigrant status.

    For an F-1/J-1 international graduate student with a 50% full-time equivalency (i.e. 20 hours per week) assistantship, the work component of the assistantship counts as on-campus employment, and no additional employment may be taken.

    § Off-campus employment

    An F-1/J-1 student may be eligible to engage in temporary off-campus work based on either economic need or practical training. For more information regarding employment based on economic hardship, Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT), please visit THIS PAGE. Strict eligibility requirements apply to all of the above, and students must receive approval from ISAP and USCIS prior to commencing any type of off-campus employment.

  • Grace Periods
    Grace Periods

    Grace periods are periods of time that are given to you in order to take care of certain events, such as transferring between schools, changing your status, starting a new program after work authorization (Academic Training or OPT) or departing the U.S. Not being mindful of these grace periods could cause you to fall out of status. 

    Students cannot travel internationally (including cruises) and re-enter in F-1 or J-1 status during their grace period. If you have questions about travel during your grace period see an ISAP advisor.

     

    Table Caption
    Situation  F-1 Students J-1 Students
    After completing your program of study If you are an F-1 student and have completed your program of study, you have 60 days to leave the United States, apply for change of status, or transfer to another school. Note that this does NOT apply if you do not complete your program; if you leave without graduating, you do not receive a grace period. If you are a J-1 student and have completed your program objective, you have 30 days to leave the United States or change to another visa status. Note that this does NOT apply if you do not complete your program objective; if you leave without completing your program objective, you do not receive a grace period.
    After withdrawing from classes

    If you are an F-1 student and have withdrawn from classes after receiving authorization from ISAP, you have 15 days to leave the U.S.

    If you have withdrawn from classes without previous authorization from ISAP, you have no grace period and must leave the U.S. immediately.

    Please talk to a J-1 student advisor in ISAP if you have questions about withdrawing from classes.

    If you withdraw from classes without previous authorization from ISAP, you have no grace period and must depart the U.S. immediately.

    After work authorization After your F-1 OPT expires, you have 60 days to leave the United States, apply for a change of status, or transfer to another school. After your J-1 Academic Training expires, you have 30 days to leave the United States or apply for a change of status.
    Transferring If you are transferring from UWG to another school after OPT, or after you complete your program of study, you need to request that your SEVIS record be transferred to your new school. This transfer must happen within 60 days after the program completion date (end of your last semester) or after your OPT expires. Please note that you are not required to start your new program within that 60-day-grace period, but you must start it within 5 months from the end of the semester or the date your record was transferred, whichever is earlier. J-1 students who wish to transfer from UWG to another program sponsor must consult with the International Student office at both schools. The deadline for J-1 students to transfer is the program completion date or the end of Academic Training, whichever is earlier. J-1 students cannot transfer during the 30-day grace period.

    Table Caption

    • Situation : After completing your program of study
      F-1 Students: If you are an F-1 student and have completed your program of study, you have 60 days to leave the United States, apply for change of status, or transfer to another school. Note that this does NOT apply if you do not complete your program; if you leave without graduating, you do not receive a grace period.
      J-1 Students: If you are a J-1 student and have completed your program objective, you have 30 days to leave the United States or change to another visa status. Note that this does NOT apply if you do not complete your program objective; if you leave without completing your program objective, you do not receive a grace period.

    • Situation : After withdrawing from classes
      F-1 Students:

      If you are an F-1 student and have withdrawn from classes after receiving authorization from ISAP, you have 15 days to leave the U.S.

      If you have withdrawn from classes without previous authorization from ISAP, you have no grace period and must leave the U.S. immediately.


      J-1 Students:

      Please talk to a J-1 student advisor in ISAP if you have questions about withdrawing from classes.

      If you withdraw from classes without previous authorization from ISAP, you have no grace period and must depart the U.S. immediately.


    • Situation : After work authorization
      F-1 Students: After your F-1 OPT expires, you have 60 days to leave the United States, apply for a change of status, or transfer to another school.
      J-1 Students: After your J-1 Academic Training expires, you have 30 days to leave the United States or apply for a change of status.

    • Situation : Transferring
      F-1 Students: If you are transferring from UWG to another school after OPT, or after you complete your program of study, you need to request that your SEVIS record be transferred to your new school. This transfer must happen within 60 days after the program completion date (end of your last semester) or after your OPT expires. Please note that you are not required to start your new program within that 60-day-grace period, but you must start it within 5 months from the end of the semester or the date your record was transferred, whichever is earlier.
      J-1 Students: J-1 students who wish to transfer from UWG to another program sponsor must consult with the International Student office at both schools. The deadline for J-1 students to transfer is the program completion date or the end of Academic Training, whichever is earlier. J-1 students cannot transfer during the 30-day grace period.

     

  • Out of Status Options
    Out of Status Options
     
    Overview

    A student who has failed to maintain F-1 student status and wishes to continue studying at the Univeristy of West Georgia has two options to regain valid status: Travel and Re-entry or Reinstatement. These options should be discussed with an International Student Advisor in detail.

    If you have failed to maintain your F-1 status and your SEVIS record is terminated, you are no longer eligible for on-campus employment, practical training, travel signature for re-entry to the US, or any other benefits of F-1 status.

     
    Options for F-1 Students to Regain Status
    Option 1: Travel and Re-Entry

    This option includes: obtaining a new I-20, departing the U.S, applying for a new F-1 visa and reentering the US with a new SEVIS record.  Prior to departure, you will provide ISAP with new financial documentation in order to obtain a new I-20.  After the I-20 is issued, you will be required to pay the SEVIS fee and apply for a new F-1 visa outside the U.S. Upon being issued a new visa, you will be eligible to return to the U.S. at a Port of Entry within 30 days from the start of the semester.
    Please Note: If you choose to travel to regain status, there is no guarantee that you will be issued a new visa or permitted to re-enter the U.S. The U.S. Department of State will review your visa application and decide if you are eligible for a student visa.  The decision to admit you to the U.S. is made by the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry. ISAP will prepare you as best as we can for both encounters.

    If you are admitted to the U.S. with your F-1 visa, you will gain F-1 status. However, you will have a new SEVIS record, which means that you must be in status for 2 semesters with the new record to be eligible to apply for OPT or CPT.


    Option 2: Apply for F-1 Visa Status Reinstatement through USCIS

    The F-1 visa status reinstatement process is subjective. USCIS reviews the applicant’s I-539 application and supporting paper materials and makes the decision on whether or not to approve the F-1 visa status reinstatement. ISAP will review your case and materials carefully and will determine whether we believe you are a good candidate for reinstatement. If we believe you are not eligible for reinstatement, we may suggest that you travel and re-enter the U.S to obtain lawful status. 

    Applicants for F-1 visa status reinstatement will be evaluated based upon the following criteria:

    • Applicant has not been out of status for more than 5 months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement (or the failure to file within the 5 month period was the result of exceptional circumstances and that the applicant filed the request for reinstatement as promptly as possible under these exceptional circumstances).
    • Applicant does not have a record of repeated or willful violations of [USCIS] regulations.
    • Applicant is currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study in the immediate future at the school which issued the Form I-20.
    • Applicant has not engaged in unauthorized employment.
    • Applicant is not deportable on any ground other than section 237(a)(1)(B) or (C)(i) of the Act.
    • Applicant establishes to the satisfaction of the [USCIS], in detail showing, either that:The violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond your control. Such circumstances might include serious injury or illness, closure of the institution, a natural disaster, or inadvertence, oversight, or neglect on the part of the DSO, but do not include instances where a pattern of violations or where a willful failure on your part resulted in the need for reinstatment.
    • The violation relates to a reduction in your course load that would have been within a DSO's power to authorize, and that failure to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to the student.  
    Procedure to apply for F-1 Visa Status Reinstatement

    Step One - Meet with an International Student Advisor to assess your eligibility for F-1 visa status reinstatement. The advisor will determine if you are a viable candidate for F-1 visa status reinstatement.  If so, he/she will explain how to request the new I-20 required for the reinstatement application. 

    Step Two – Complete the Intent to Depart/End I-20 E-Form in by logging in to iStart.gatech.edu.

    Step Three – Prepare the following documents: 

    • USCIS form I-539, available on the USCIS web site: http://www.uscis.gov/forms. Complete the form as a draft and during final review the ISAP advisor will suggest any changes needed before a final version is submitted to USCIS. 
    • I-539 Application Fee (http://www.uscis.gov/forms), payable to the US Department of Homeland Security.
    • A cover letter from you requesting reinstatement to F-1 status and explaining your circumstances. You should explain that the violation of F-1 status resulted from circumstances beyond your control and/or that the failure to be reinstated would result in extreme hardship. Attach any additional supporting documents.
    • A new SEVIS I-20 issued by UWG for purposes of reinstatement (signed by you and an ISAP advisor).
    • A photocopy of your previous I-20 form(s).
    • Financial support documents to show evidence of continued funding—documents should be recent (no more than 6 months old).  The financial documents should meet the requirements listed on ISAP's financial documentation website.
    • A photocopy of your passport photo page—include any other pages that contain the expiration date, extensions, or any biographical information. Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months into the future.
    • A photocopy of your most recent visa (stamp), used to enter the US.
    • Your original I-94 card (if issued paper I-94) or CBP entry/admission stamp (if issued electronic I-94). 
      ***Be sure to copy front and back of paper I-94 clearly showing the USCIS stamp.  Keep this copy for your records.
    • A photocopy of your transcript and course registration from OSCAR​.

    ​Step Four - Meet with ISAP advisor with whom you have been communicating to review the final application for reinstatement.

    Final Considerations

    A decision to reinstate you to F-1 student status is at the discretion of the USCIS.
    Processing times at USCIS vary greatly.  Expect to wait 3-6 months before receiving a response.
    While the application is pending, you are NOT eligible for any F-1 student benefits, such as practical training employment authorization or on-campus employment.  If you are reinstated into F-1 status, you must obtain proper authorization before working. 
    Travel outside the U.S. while a reinstatement application is pending may be considered an abandonment of the application. If you need to leave the U.S. while your application is pending, you must meet with an ISAP advisor prior to travel.
    If the application is approved, USCIS will endorse the new I-20 form and return it to the mailing address listed on the I-539 form. ISAP will contact you if we receive any updates on your behalf.  Please also contact ISAP when you receive information from USCIS.  
    If you have dependents in F-2  status, their status is automatically reinstated with your reinstatement.
    If the application is denied, you will begin to accrue days of unlawful presence in the U.S. (accrual of more than 180 days of unlawful presence could subject a person to a 3-year or 10-year bar from reentering the U.S.). If your application is denied, you have the option to file an appeal with the USCIS, but we will strongly encourage you to hire a competent immigration attorney.

    Remaining Out of Status

    Choosing to remain in the U.S. out of status is a high risk decision that the ISAP does not recommend. If you remain in the U.S. after your I-20 has been terminated, your name will be made available to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and you risk being deported from the U.S. You are not eligible to receive any benefits of your previous status, such as work authorization (on-campus work, CPT or OPT). ISAP will contact the Office of Human Resources to inform them that you are out of status, and your UWG employment will be discontinued immediately.

    Remaining in the U.S. after you have SEVIS record is terminated is a very serious offense of immigration regulations and may prevent you from returning to the U.S. in the future. If you are certain you would like to remain out of status for the course of your degree, you will be required to provide a signature to ISAP stating that you understand the consequences.