Advising International Students
Effective Date Feb 6, 2014
English Proficiency Testing
See academic policy "English Language Proficiency" or "English and Languages" in the university catalog.
Full Time vs. Part Time
Immigration regulations set forth by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) governing the enrollment of international student’s state they must be registered full time. A full-time course of study is defined for the fall and spring semesters as follows:
- Undergraduate study – a minimum of 12 semester credit hours
- Graduate study – a minimum of nine semester credit hours
If the summer semester is an international students’ first semester, they are required to be registered full time. Returning international students are not required to be registered in the summer.
No more than one online/distance learning course or three credits per semester may count toward the full-time course load requirement.
International students should maintain full-time student status to avoid problems with the USCIS and/or their own sponsor’s requirements. International students considering a reduction of their course load below that of full-time status should first consult the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS). If international students are dropping courses that affect their credit-hour total, the signature of the director of ISSS is required. However, if a student is dropping and adding courses for the same amount of credits, no signature is required.
There are certain conditions where an international student may be enrolled less than full time, providing they follow the appropriate authorization procedures. An up-to-date Less Than Full Time Course Load form is available from ISSS. The form must be filled out in its entirety and signed. The exceptions to less than a full load are as follows:
- English language difficulties (acceptable only in the first semester of enrollment)
- Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods and requirements (acceptable only in the first semester of enrollment)
- Improper course-level placement
- Completion of course requirements (available only in last semester and Petition to Graduate has been filed)
- Medical (official documentation must be submitted)
Graduate students may register for less than full load if they are registered in a course that the university considers to be full time, for at least three semester credit hours if they have been awarded a full-time GSA, or six semester credit hours if they have been awarded a half GSA.
Note: Financial reasons are never an acceptable reason for a less than full-time course of study.
See academic policy "English Language Proficiency" for information about registration procedures.
Change of Major
Many international students have been permitted to enter the country to study a specific curriculum. When an international student who is being sponsored by an agency or government decides to change his/her major, special permission must be obtained from the student’s sponsor before a change of major can take effect. In addition, changes must be reported to the federal government and documentation updated and processed accordingly. Therefore, ISSS must sign all Change of Major forms for international students.
International students are prevented by USCIS regulations from officially carrying a dual major only if the dual major will adversely affect the forward progress of a student’s course of study and require extensions of his/her program of study. International students can carry a dual major with careful planning and academic guidance.
Time Limits on Academic Programs
There are time limits for completion of degrees by international students. Per USCIS regulations, international students must make “normal progress” in the pursuit of a degree. Extensions of course study may be granted if the student’s advisor makes a recommendation BEFORE their current program end date. The extension process involves the student receiving a letter from their academic advisor clearly stating the reason(s) why an extension is required and the new expected completion date. The student must present this letter to ISSS, along with a new financial statement showing that the student has the resources to continue their studies until the new completion date is reached. Again, AN EXTENSION MUST BE ISSUED BEFORE THE CURRENT PROGRAM END DATE IS REACHED. Failure to do so will result in the student considered to be out-of-status and will be reported as such to immigration.
Academic advisors of international students should also be aware that some sponsors place time restrictions on international students. Advisers are encouraged to contact the ISSS (ext. 8053) whenever they have questions about procedures governing international students.
Recommendation for Less Than Full-Time Load
This form is available from the ISSS office and is provided to facilitate the communication of certain information required by regulations of the USCIS. Its completion is needed for a student in F-1 and J-1 status to be granted permission to carry less than a full-time academic load and still maintain visa status during the academic semester specified on the form.
- Permission to take less than a full-time load must be received before dropping any courses. Failure to obtain prior approval will result in the student being considered out-of-status and must be reported to the USCIS.
- Documentation is required if dropping a course for medical reasons.
- Taking less than a full-time course load can only be used ONCE, unless the student is in their last semester of study. Students should be absolutely certain that they will graduate in the current semester before choosing to register for less than a full-time course load. Failure to graduate after dropping below full time will result in the student being out-of-status and the loss of F-1 benefits.
- Permission to take less than a full load is limited only to the choices listed on the form. Dropping a course due to concerns of possible failure in that course is not a legal reason with USCIS.
Students who fall out of status may be eligible for reinstatement with the USCIS, providing they meet eligibility requirements as described in U.S. federal regulations.
Please be aware that applying for reinstatement is not a guarantee that you will be reinstated. for a complete list of full-load courses, contact the Office of Graduate Programs at ext. 8137.