F1 and J1 students should be familiar with all the topics below, which are your responsiblity, to maintain status. Just ask ISAP if you have any questions!  

  • Your Documents
    Keep Document Copies
    • Your passport, Form I-20 or DS-2019, Form I-94, Drivers License(s), SS Card, other...
    • Keep copies in a safe but accessible location in case of lss.
    • Keep all versions and updates to your I-20 or DS-2019
    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.

  • Enrollment Requirements
    International students must be enrolled full-time in fall and spring semesters, unless it's your final term*

    *Final Term under-enrollment requires approval for Reduced Course Load (RCL) in advance.

    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 ISAP 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, 3 (three) hour course per semester as part of the minimum enrollment requirments above. 
    • 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.  

    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. 

  • Reporting Local U.S. Address
    Report Changes To Your 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.

    • Note: Never report your U.S. Address as a permanent address. By definition, F1 and J1 visas are a non-immigrant category; therefore, your permanent address is not in the U.S. 
    • 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)
      • Mailing Address
      • Phone Number
    • Report an Address Change
  • I-20 Extension Request
    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 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.

    RCL Request form is here: Reduced Course Load Request Form

  • Travel Outside the U.S. 
    Traveling  

    F-1/J-1 international students may choose to travel outside the U.S. during their course of study at UWG during school breaks. It is always the student's responsibility to ensure proper documentation, status and travel signatures are up to date before making travel plans or departing.

    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
    • Receipt for I-901 Fee payment (if renewing visa)

    Recommended:

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

    Travel With Expired Visa

    • A valid visa is required to enter or re-enter the U.S.
    • The documents above are required to renew your F-1/J-1 student visa. 
  • 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

    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
    • In case of Termination for Approved Early Withdrawal: 15 day to depart the U.S.
    • Any other Termination: no grace period
    Uses for 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

    You are advised that if you depart the U.S. during a grace period without prior action to maintain status, may constitute abadonment of status and you will not be permitted to 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. Contact ISAP about your travel plans before making them, if your grace period is an issue.

  • Terminated Status

    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, also knwon as 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

    While loss of status is a serious situation with the potential for long-term effects on your immigration record in the U.S. it doesn't not lead to automatic withdrawal or drop from academic enrollment. You are required to be in active status or eligible to apply for status at the time of acacemic admission, but if you lose your status while in the course of study, please consult with ISAP about your options. 

    Consequences of Terminated Status

    • Immediate accrual of unlawful presence in the U.S. begins.
    • Immediate loss of eligibility to work on campus or hold a GRA.
    • Immediate loss of certain types of 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 / Immediate departure, except in the case of "approved early withdrawal"
    • Inability to re-enter the U.S. in terminated status
    • All dependents lose their F-2 of J-2 status with yours. 
  • Fixing Terminated Status

    Overview

    An F1 or J1 student in terminated status has 3 options to restore Active status. 

    I. TRAVEL & RE-ENTRY

    1. Consult with ISAP immediately
    2. Depart the U.S. 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 and Apply for a new Visa
    5. Re-enter the U.S. 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" a formal procedure to request the U.S. government to restore your immigration status back to active status.  

    1. Consult with ISAP to help you determine if Reinstatement is a viable option. 
    2. Submit the ISAP Reinstatement Request Form
    3. Prepare and file USCIS form I-539, Application to Extend / Change Nonimmigrant Status 
    4. Wait. Procssing times can take 6-10 months. 
    Eligibility 
    • Applicant has not been out of status for more than 5 months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement
    • Applicant does not have a record of repeated or willful 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 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 can document (to the satisfaction of USCIS) that loss of status resulted from circumstances beyond your control, such as:  serious injury or illness, closure of the institution, a natural disaster, or error on the part of the DSO   
    Document  To Prepare  
    • Form I-539 + $370 Fee, payable to USCIS 
    • A cover letter including your personal statement to explain 
    • Attach and reference documentation of any claims you make in your letter. 
    • New SEVIS I-20 For Reinstatement, issued by UWG 
    • Photocopies of your 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 no more than 6 months old
    • Original I-94 card 
    • 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 is one of the reasons for termination of status, which best facilitate a 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 or I-20.
    • Protects eligibility for CPT and OPT without resetting the lawful presence clock.
    • Allows for an approved break in studies for a short duration
    • No cost

    - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Final Considerations
    • 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 -10 year bar from U.S. re-entry. You have the option to file an appeal with the USCIS, but you would need to hire 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 insitution 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 Forms Page and select 'Change of Degree Level'

  • 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 'International Visitor Visa Support Letter.'
    • 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

    Other Helpful Links:

  • International Visitor 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, 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 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
  • Accrual of Unlawful Presence

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

    Who is affected?  F, J, and M nonimmigrants, 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 contacing ISAP
    • Failure to obtain authorization to work off campus. 
    • Excessive work off campus with no authorization. 
    • Denail 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.