F-1 / J-1 Maintaining Immigration Status 

The following sub-topics are your responsibility to maintain active status in the U.S. Don't hesitate to contact ISAP with any questions you have. 

  • Your Documents
    Retain Copies of Documents
    • F-1 / J-1 students should keep copies all of immigration documents in a safe but accessible location.
    • A student may receive several updated versions of Form I-20 / DS-2019s throughout a stay in the U.S. Keep a copy of each version. This is your responsibility, not ISAP's.
    Passport Validity

    The passport must be valid for at least six months into the future. 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

    International students must be enrolled for a full course of study during each fall and spring semesters, unless it's your final term. 

    Minimum Credit Hours Required in Fall and Spring:
    • Undergraduate Students                              12 credit hours
    • Graduate Students                                         9 credit hours

    Students who drop below full-time without approval (see below) from the ISAP Office are subject to termination of status and immediate loss of benefits (empoloyment, GA, waiver, CPT...)  

    On-line Enrollment
    • Immigration regulations limit you to 1 (one) online course per semester of 3 (three) hours within the minimum enrollment requirments above. 
    • Additional online or hybrid enrollment is possible each semester beyond the minimum enrollment requirements.  

    If you are unable to fulfill this requirement due to degree requirements, contact the ISAP office before the beginning of the semester to review your options. 

  • Local U.S. Address Reporting 
    Report Changes - Local U.S. Address

    F-1 / J-1 students must report changes to local U.S. address within 10 days of moving to a new location.

  • I-20 EXTENSION
    When do you need an  I-20 Extension?

    F-1 International students who are not able to finish their degree program by the completion date on the I-20 can request an I-20 extension. The extension period is based on the recommendation of the student's  academic adviser but cannot be longer than one calendar year. 

    When to Apply

    You must apply and be approved for the extension BEFORE your current I-20 expires. Normally, students should request an extension as soon as they learn it will be needed, not the day before expiration. ISAP cannot extend your I-20 dates after expiration. After expiration, you will be out of status, and a $410 Re-instatement application to the goverment is required, which takes several months. Processing time is 3-5 business days once all materials for the extension are in order. 

    Eligibility

    You may apply for an extension of program if:
    1. You have not yet exceeded the time limitation placed upon your study by the expected completion of studies date on your I-20
    2. You have continuously maintained lawful F-1 status
    3. The delay in completing program requirements has been caused by compelling academic reasons (such as changes of major field or research topics, or unexpected research problems), or compelling and documented medical reasons

    Delays in completing program requirements caused by academic probation or suspension are not acceptable reasons for extension of a program.

    How to Apply

    Download this fillable I-20 Extension Request Form.

  • Change of Major 
    Report  Change of Major

    ISAP must be notified of a change of major, additional major or minor during the semester in which the change takes effect so we can update your SEVIS record within 21 days. It is your responsibility to inform ISAP of these changes and request an updated form I-20 or DS-2019.  

  • RCL - Reduced Course Load
    Reduced Course Load

    USCIS allows only specific circumstances in whcih  a reduced course load (RCL) can be authorized to allow for lower than full time enrollment in Fall or Spring semester. In all cases: 

    1. Meet with or contact ISAP first.
    2. Meet with or contact your academic advisor.  They will need to document their support and justification on a signed RCL form. 
    3. Bring the signed RCL form to ISAP for review and final approval. 
    4. A DSO (Desinated School Official) in ISAP will update your SEVIS record with the RCL approval if approved. 
    5. ONLY then, may you withdraw from a course; otherwise your status will be terminated according to USCIS regulations for F1 / J1 students. . 

    The following reasons are a basis for RCL approval: 

    • Inappropriate course level placement (must be documented)
    • Initial difficulty with the English language or reading  (For use once, 1st semester only)
    • Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods (For use once, 1st semester only)
    • Final semester (Last semester of academic program only)
    • Medical Reason* (As needed up to 12 months in duration)

    * Medical: written recommendation required by a licensed Medical Doctor (MD), Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O), or Licensed Clinical Psychologist. Be aware:

    1. Chiropractic: is not recognized for RCL purposes. 
    2. Time Limit:  if the medical RCL exceeds 12 months, the student is required to return home for extended treatment. 
    3. Pregnancy: is not a basis for RCL; however, medical complications from pregnancy may be.

    RCL Request form is here: Reduced Course Load Request Form

  • 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 

    A UWG student in active F-1 / J-1 status in the U.S. is eligible for temporary employment  in the U.S. under the following categories:

    On-campus employment
    • Up to 20 hours per week during Fall and Spring semester
    • Up to 40 hours per week during summer semester and official UWG breaks.
    • On-campus employment may not begin more than 30 days prior the actual start date of classes.
    • No special authorization is required; however, you will be required to obtain a US Social Security Number. 
    • Unauthorized employment is a violation of F-1/J-1 non-immigrant status, so check with ISAP if you are unsure bout on-campus employment. 
    • Graduate Assistantships are considered on-campus employment. 
    Off-campus employment
    • For more information regarding off-campus employment based on Curricular Practical Training (CPT), Optional Practical Training (OPT), or Severe Economic Hardship, please visit THIS PAGE. Strict eligibility requirements apply, and students must receive approval from ISAP and USCIS prior to commencing any type of off-campus employment.
    • Employment Options for International Students
  • 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.

    F-1 and J-1 Grace Periods
    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.

    F-1 and J-1 Grace Periods

    • 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.

     

    Graduation Checklist


    Final Semester
    • Meet with your academic advisor to verify degree requirements and completion date.
    • In your final semester only, if you don't need full-time enrollment, submit the RCL form.
    • Apply for graduation with the Registrar's Office through MyUWG.
    2-3 Months before graduation
    • If friends and family are visiting the US to attend your graduation ceremony, they will need to apply for a B2 Visitor from the US Embassy or Consulate closest to them. If needed, request an visa support letter. See below.
    • Apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), if you are planning to work in the US after graduation.
    1 month before graduation
    • If you will be moving, notify your landlor or housing office that you will be vacating the apartment. Most leases required 30-days written notice. Check your lease for details.
    • Pay any fines you may have and return all loaned or rented books.
    • Contact your health insurance, car insurance, and life insurance companies to discuss coverage options and whether you need to close the account

    International Visitor Visa Support Letter

    To support the B1 Visitor Visa application of family, relatives or friends who may want to travel to the U.S. to see you graduate, you may want to request a support letter to confirm your graduation on their behalf. The UWG Registrar offers such letters free of charge. 

    Email:  graduation@westga.edu Include your full name and 917 number. You can also request the letter in person at the Registrar's office. 

    What Should Your Visitors Prepare?

    It will be very important for your visitors to demonstrate permanent strong ties to their home country for visa approval. They should be prepared to document the following if asked at the time of the applciation: 

    • property ownership (home or business)
      bank loans in the home country
    • utility bills (power, water, phone, internet)
    • ownership of a personal vehicle (registration, insurance etc.. reflecting the home country address)
    • bank statements

    Grace Period After Program Completion

    All F1 and J1 students who are in active status are automatically granted a certain number of days (Grace Periods) after the completion of their academic programs during which they can remain in the U.S without further action.  Note that completion of program is not the same as graduation day. Refer to the date on your form I-20 or DS-2019. 

    Grace Periods

    F1 Students: 60 days after completion of program
    J1 Students: 30 days after completion of program

    Uses:
    • Transfer to a new school or program
    • Begin a new program of study at the same or different school, or at a higher degree level
    • Change of Status ex: F1 > PR; F1 > H1-B
    • Apply for OPT
    • Depart the U.S.

    International Travel During Grace Period

    You are advised that departure from the US during a grace period without prior action to maintain status may constitute abadonment of status. You cannot re-enter the US in that case. Contact ISAP about your travel plans before making them, if your grace period is an issue.

    Other Helpful Links:
  • Termination of I-20 or DS-2019
    Termination of Immigration Documents 

    I-20s and DS-2019s can be terminated by the ISAP office. They are terminated for failure to follow the immigration regulations as outlined above. Before any I-20 or DS-2019 is terminated, the ISAP will email the student's UWG Email account to inform them their immigration documents are about to be terminated. If the student fails to respond, or correct the issue, then we are required to terminate the documents. 

    Consequences of a Terminated I-20/DS-2019: 

    • Upon termination, you will need to decide which option to pursue (see out of status options below). Depending on your choice, you may need to leave the country within 15 days of your termination. 
    • You will not be able to reenter the USA with a terminated document. 
    • All working privileges are terminated. Any type of employment after the stated termination date is considered illegal. Employers may be subject to severe consequences for employing an illegal worker. 
    • All dependents lose their F-2 status. 

     

  • 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 Reinstatement form

    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.

  • Change of Degree Level

    Please see our Forms Page and select 'Change of Degree Level'