Maintaining Status:  It's your responsibility.

Requirements | Tips | Advice

Immigration Documents

Maintain your own copies in a safe secure place even after you graduate. 

  • Keep all versions of your passport, Form I-20 or DS-2019, Form I-94, Drivers License(s), SS Card, or other immigration documentation. 
  • ISAP is not responsible for providing copies, and ISAP doesn't maintain all these documents. We are happy to assist when able. 
  • Passport Validity: must be valid for at least six months into the future. Contact your home country’s consulate or embassy for passport replacement or extension instructions. 

Fall 2021 International Student Enrollment Modifications

  1. Are pandemic enrollment requirements changing for Fall 2021?
    • Per SEVP Guidance (Student Exhcange and Visitor Program) dated April 26, 2021, "SEVP will extend the guidance originally issue in March 2020 for the 2021-2022 academic year."  Therefore, a continuation of enrollment adaptations and flexibility that began in Spring 2020 and continued in Fall 2020 remain in effect Fall 2021.
  2. What are the current international student enrollment requirements to maintain "active" SEVIS status under the pandemic adaptations? (Final term students see #3 below).
    • In the USA? Enroll full-time in at least 1 (one) on-campus course as part of your minimum enrollment requirement.  A 100% online schedule is not acceptable to maintain status. NOTE: all courses are coded as "online" or "on-campus", regardless of remote delivery method.
    • Outside the USA? Enroll full-time in any combination of courses. 
  3. Final Semester? Request a Reduced Course Load prior to start of the term for proper authorization to under-enroll. However, if you will only have 1 course your final term, it must be a 100% on-campus coded course.
  4. Graduate Student in Thesis Hours Only? Please contact ISAP for advisement.

 

Standard Int'l Enrollment Requirements

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 from ISAP (see below) are subject to termination of status and immediate loss of benefits (employment, GA, waiver, CPT...)  

Online Enrollment

  • Immigration regulations limit international students to 1 (one) online course up to 3 (three) hours per semester as part of the minimum enrollment requirements above under normal circumstances.

  • Online courses taught at least 51% in person are considered on campus courses. Those taught less than 50% in person are considered online, regardless of partial on-campus requirements for instruction or testing.
  • Final Term? F1 / J1 students in their final term with an approved RCL of 1 course may not enroll in an online-only course.
  • Final term RCL requires in-person courses only. 
  • Additional online or hybrid enrollment is possible each semester beyond the minimum enrollment requirements.

Transient Enrollment

  • Also known as "Concurrent Enrollment", F1 students may enroll in courses at another SEVP approved institution while their I-20 is maintained by the primary institution (UWG). Full-time enrollment is required through a combination of hours at the primary and transient institution. At least 3 hours must be at the primary institution, and no more than 1 online course, total, is allowed. Final term enrollment may not be completed at another institution.  
  • West Georgia Technical College is currently not approved by SEVP / DHS to host international students in the F1 or J1 visa category. 

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

Reporting Your Local U.S. Address

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

  • Note: Never report your U.S. address as a permanent address since F1 and J1 visas are non-immigrant categories. Therefore your permanent address is not in the U.S.A.
  • Before using the form below here are the things you can change in your SEVP portal
    • Physical Address (where you live in the U.S.A.)
    • Mailing Address
    • Phone Number
  • Report an Address Change

When do I 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 may request an I-20 extension prior to I-20 expiration. The extension requires academic advisor support as well as updated financial documentation.

Duration of Extension

The extension period is based on the recommendation of the student's academic advisor.

  • SEVIS allows I-20 date extensions of only 1 year (12 months) at time.
  • After the 2nd extension, more scrutiny will be required for a 3rd and final extension in the form of a specific academic plan and a more detailed explanation of the reasons for delay in completion of the program. 3rd extensions are normally authorized for 1 semester at time. 
  • 4th extensions will not be permitted without strong, compelling reasons of an unforeseen nature.

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 date after expiration. After expiration, you will be out of status, and a $410 re-instatement application to the government 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 and complete this I-20 Extension Request Form (PDF, 209K)

Report Changes of Majors

ISAP must be notified of a change of major, and of additional majors or minors during the semester in which the changes take 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.

Report Major Change

USCIS allows only specific circumstances in which a reduced course load (RCL) can be authorized to allow 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 (Designated School Official) in ISAP will update your SEVIS record with the RCL approval if approved.
  5. ONLY then, may you withdraw from a course or be enrolled less than full-time; 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) In this case, enrollment may not be online-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.

The RCL Request form is here: Reduced Course Load Request Form (PDF, 205K)

UWG international students in active F-1 / J-1 status are eligible for temporary employment in the U.S.A. in accordance with the regulations of your visa category. To learn more about:

  • On-campus employment, including GRA's,
  • Off-campus OTP and CPT, or 
  • Emergency Hardship Work Authorization,

Please see our International Student Employment Page

Enrollment over the summer is not required. Summer is viewed as an "optional" semester for international students who did not begin the school year in the summer.

All F1 and J1 students who are in active status are automatically granted a certain number of days (Grace Periods) after the program end date on their I-20 or DS-2019. During a grace period, international students can remain in the U.S.A. without further action. 

Grace Periods

  • F1 Students: 60 days after completion of program
  • J1 Students: 30 days after completion of program
  • Termination for "Approved Early Withdrawal": 15 days to depart the U.S.
  • Termination for any other reason: (loss of status) no grace period

Options During Active Status Grace Periods

  • 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
  • Prepare to Depart the U.S.

International Travel During Grace Period

If you leave the U.S.A. during a grace period without prior action to maintain status, your status is considered abandoned, and you cannot re-enter the U.S. This includes short trips to Canada, Mexico, cruises etc.. Do not make such travel plans without consulting with ISAP first.

I-20s and DS-2019s can be terminated for a number of reasons, but only by "Designated School Officials" (DSO's) or "Alternate Responsible Officers" (RO's) in the ISAP office. This action causes loss of status / being "out of status." 

Before any I-20 or DS-2019 is terminated, ISAP will do its best to contact and advise international students on risks and options.

UWG Enrollment In Terminated Status

  • Loss of status is a serious situation with the potential for long-term effects on your immigration record in the U.S. However, it does not cause you to be dropped from enrollment.
  • Active status is required or eligibility for it is required for academic admission.
  • If you lose your status while in the course of study, please consult with ISAP about your options. 

Consequences of Terminated Status

  • Accrual of U.S. unlawful presence. 
  • Loss of employment eligibility, including GRA.
  • Loss of UWG scholarships or tuition waivers.
  • Inability to renew or obtain a Georgia Driver License
  • Inability to participate in CPT, OPT or AT
  • Inability to remain in the US unless "approved early withdrawal" was granted.
  • Inability to re-enter the U.S. in terminated status
  • Loss of status for all dependents (all F2, J2's)

How can I fix Terminated Status?

I. Travel & Re-Entry

  1. Consult with ISAP immediately
  2. Depart the U.S.A. and return to your home country.
  3. Obtain a new immigration form (I-20 or DS-2019) from UWG
  4. Pay a new SEVIS I-901 fee
  5. Apply for a new visa if it expired during the terminated status. There is no need for a new visa if it is unexpired and the termination reason was "approved early withdrawal."
  6. Re-enter the U.S.A. in a new Active Status up to 30 days before the new program start date.

Risks:

  • No guarantee of new visa issuance; thus possibility you may not be able to return.
  • New status re-sets your eligibility requirements for CPT or OPT (2 semesters) 

II. Reinstatement

"Reinstatement" is a formal procedure to request the U.S. government to restore your immigration status back to active status within 5 months of losing status.  

  1. Consult with ISAP to help you determine if Reinstatement is available.
  2. Submit the ISAP Reinstatement Request Form (PDF, 681K)
  3. Prepare and file USCIS form I-539, Application to Extend / Change Nonimmigrant Status
  4. Wait. Processing times can take 6-10 months. 

Eligibility

  • Applicant has not been out of status for more than 5 months after filing for reinstatement.
  • Applicant does not have repeated violations.
  • 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 worked illegally in the U.S.
  • Applicant can document (to the satisfaction of USCIS) that loss of status resulted from circumstances beyond his/her control, such as:  serious injury or illness, closure of the institution, a natural disaster, or error on the part of the DSO

Documents To Prepare  

  • Form I-539
  • Fee: $370 Gov't Fee (payable to USCIS) + $85 biometrics fee. 
  • A personal statement fully explaining the context and circumstances that lead to termination.
  • Detailed documentation of all claims made in letter.
  • New SEVIS I-20 For Reinstatement, issued by UWG
  • Photocopies of previous I-20's
  • Photocopy of your passport and bio page with at least 9 months future validity
  • Photocopy of your most recent visa stamp
  • Financial support documents less than 6 months old
  • Form I-94
  • Original transcript and course registration at UWG

III. Reactivation

F1 students who contact ISAP before course withdrawal may be eligible to receive "approved early withdrawal." This termination reason allows for return to active status and future visa approval, if needed.

  • Granted solely by USCIS. ISAP makes the request for you in SEVIS.
  • Student must re-enter the U.S. within 5 months of the date of departure.
  • Student must request reactivation at least 2 months prior to re-entry and be properly enrolled for the next academic term prior to request.
  • Only a DSO (Designated School Official) with access to SEVIS may recommend reactivation.

Benefits of Reactivation

  • Resets status to Active without need for a new SEVIS fee, visa (unless expired) or new I-20.
  • Protects eligibility for CPT and OPT without resetting the lawful presence clock.
  • Allows for approved, short break in studies
  • No cost

Final Considerations

  • F-1 benefits (like CPT, OPT, GA or SA employment, UWG scholarships, Driver's License renewal) are not available during a period of inactive / terminated status.
  • Travel outside the U.S. while a reinstatement application is pending may be considered an abandonment of the application. Contact ISAP for more details.
  • If reinstatement is approved, USCIS will endorse the I-20 form and return it to the mailing address listed on form I-539. Please maintain an open channel of communication with ISAP about updates from USCIS; we will do likewise. 
  • F-2 Dependent status is automatically reinstated with associated F-1 status.
  • If reinstatement denial occurs, unlawful presence in the U.S. begins to accrue immediately, starting from the date of termination. If more than 80 days of unlawful presence accrue, a 3 -10 year bar from U.S. re-entry could apply. Appeals to USCIS would require the services of a qualified immigration attorney.

Students who wish to remain in the U.S. for a consecutive or higher level degree program at UWG or another institution may do by requesting a Change of Level. The process must be initiated with the appropriate grace period and allows the student to maintain status with the same SEVIS# and visa. 

Please see our Enrollment Forms Page and select "Change of Degree Level."

May friends or family visit to watch me graduate?

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, the UWG Registrar offers a support letter 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.

How Visitors Can 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 application:

  • 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

Update in the Calculation of Unlawful Presence Accrual

Effective August 9, 2018: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) changed the calculation for unlawful presence. 

Who is affected?: F, J, and M non-immigrants, including dependent family members, who fail to maintain status in the U.S.

Details: See the USCIS policy memorandum

Examples that begin accrual of Unlawful Presence:

  • Failure to request I-20 extension before expiration.
  • Failure to enroll full-time without RCL authorization.
  • Failure to withdrawal from UWG without contacting ISAP
  • Failure to obtain authorization to work off campus.
  • Excessive work off campus with no authorization.
  • Denial of OPT application after 60-day grace period.
  • Staying in the U.S. after the 60-day grace period - F1 visas.
  • Staying in the U.S. after the 30-day grace period - J1 visas.

Update - May 3, 2019

Source: NAFSA, Association of International Educators

A U.S. District Court filed a preliminary injunction (restraint of action) regarding the policy. While the final ruling is unknown, USCIS will observe the rule in place prior to the 2018 change, for unlawful presence. Individuals admitted for "D/S" or Duration of Status, do not begin accruing unlawful presence until an immigration judge or officer finds a status violation in the course of an immigration proceeding.