Office of International Programs
Student Visa Regulations Overview
SEVIS is nationwide database that allows schools and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to exchange data on the visa status of international students. Information is transmitted online by SOU to USCIS throughout the student’s academic career. US Consulates and other US government agencies have access to this info.
- International Programs must report the following information to SEVIS:
- Information on any student who fails to maintain status or complete a program
- Information on any student who drops below a full course of study without prior authorization
- Changes in name or address of student and dependents
- Changes in graduation date of student
- Academic or disciplinary actions taken due to criminal conviction
- Termination date and reason
- Any other request made by SEVIS regarding student status
- Start and end dates of academic terms
Entering and Leaving The Country
New students may enter the U. up to 30 days before the start date listed on their valid I-20 or DS-2019. Some students go through a process called Special Registration when they enter the US. To learn about current Special Registration requirements, please contact the International Student Advisor or visit the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov.
F-1 students who withdraw from school with approval from International Programs have a 15-day grace period to leave the US. If International Programs did not authorize the withdrawal, the student has no grace period and must leave the US immediately.
F-1 students have a 60-day grace period from the program end date listed on their I-20 to leave the country. J-1 students have a 30-day grace period from the program end date listed on their DS-2019 to leave the country. Students in valid grace-period status may leave the US, enter a new academic program, transfer to a different school, or apply to USCIS for a change of status.
Name and Address Reporting
Students must notify International Programs and the USCIS of any new name or address within 10 days of that change. Students must provide their physical home address. If it is impossible to receive mail at a physical address, students may also provide a mailing address.
Students registered for Special Registration must also submit an address change form to the USCIS as mandated by that program. For information visit the USCIS website www.uscis.gov.
Students must attend SOU full-time for Fall, Winter, and Spring terms. Students must also achieve a satisfactory grade for each class to be considered enrolled as a full-time student, or they risk falling into visa violation. Full-time at SOU is defined as a minimum of 12 undergraduate credits or 9 graduate credits.
Students may take only one online class per term (up to four credits). Students are also limited to taking only one Pass/No-Pass course per term, and only outside of their degree program.
Students may enroll in classes at other institutions at the same time they are enrolled in classes at SOU as long as their combined course load is full-time. However, students must take the majority of their credits for the term at SOU, and must succeed in all courses, or they risk falling into visa violation.
There are three reasons for which a reduced course load may be authorized:
- Final term of study: students may request a reduced course load during the final term of study only if fewer than full-time credits are required to complete the program.
- Academic reasons: students may request a reduced course load for one term only there exists a legitimate academic reason for not succeeding in a course, such as inappropriate class placement.
- Medical reasons: students may request a reduced course load for medical reasons, as documented by a licensed Medical Doctor, a Doctor of Osteopathy, or a Licensed Clinical Psychologist.
All students requested reduced course load status must first receive authorization from the International Student Advisor. Please speak with the International Student Advisor for more information.
Students must apply for an extension of Form I-20 or DS-2019 prior to current I-20 or DS-2019 program end date. No extension may be granted if student does not request one prior to that end date. Extensions may be granted at any time prior to the I-20/DS-2019 end date.
Transferring To Another Institution
Students wishing to transfer should notify International Programs of the date they wish to transfer and the name of the new school.
Transfer students must start a new degree program within 5 months of the completion of their previous program. The 5-month period begins on the completion date of the first degree program. Typically, students must begin their new program during the next term available.
A non-immigrant may only engage in authorized employment. Unauthorized employment by a non-immigrant constitutes a failure to maintain status. All off-campus work requires prior work authorization. If a student has been employed without prior authorization, no reinstatement of the student visa is possible.
A student needs to be in F-1 status for at least one academic year to be eligible for off-campus work authorization. J-1 is eligible for off-campus academic training immediately. For more information, please contact the International Programs office.
Visa Violation and Reinstatement
Falling out of visa status is a very serious affair. If you violate the terms of your visa, you may be subject to any of the following:
- Denial of re-entry to the US
- Inability to change program levels
- Denial of request for work authorization
- Denial of request to change visa status
- Possible denial of all future visa applications
- Denial of renewed travel signature
If a student falls out of status, s/he may choose to file a reinstatement application, letter of explanation and fee to USCIS. Once a student has applied for reinstatement, there is a permanent record.
An application for reinstatement must be filed within five months of the status violation. Make an appointment with the International Student Advisor for more information.
F-2 and J-2 Dependents
F-2 spouses may not engage in full-time study, only study that is avocational or recreational, which means study undertaken for a hobby or that is “occasional, casual or recreational in nature.” F-2 children may only engage in full-time study in grades K-12. An F-2 spouse who wishes to take full-time academic study must first apply to USCIS for a Change of Status to F-1. This COS application must be approved by USCIS before registering for or taking any classes.
J-2 dependents may study without restriction. J-2 dependents can travel outside of country on their own. However, J-2 dependents may not stay in country while J-1 leaves the country for “a significant period of time”. Employment must be authorized by USCIS. Unlike J-1 students, J-2 dependents are subject to federal and state taxes.