U.S. federal government regulations require all international students to maintain F-1 or J-1 student status. It is your responsibility to be aware of the factors that impact your legal status and make sure you remain compliant. Non-compliance is a very serious matter with severe consequences. While the responsibility for maintaining compliance is yours, the Office of Global Services (OGS) is here to help you navigate the complexities of U.S. government regulations and procedures. Read the general information on F-1 student visas and J-1 student visas as a refresher. The following are key to maintaining your student status.
Maintaining Your Status
You must maintain full-time enrollment each academic term (except during designated vacation periods) and make normal progress toward the completion of your program of study. Full-time enrollment is as follows:
- Undergraduate: minimum of 12 credit hours per term
- Graduate: minimum of 8 credit hours per term.
- Graduate students who hold an assistantship: 6 credit hours per term.
- International students enrolled in American Classroom/Global Pathways must follow the requirements of their programs.
All international students are limited to one three or four-credit online course per academic term as part of their full-time enrollment while maintaining on-ground presence for the entire term. You should not take a reduced course load or a non-medical leave of absence without discussing the decision and obtaining authorization from the OGS before the start of the term.
The College of Professional Studies
The same rules regarding maintaining full-time enrollment status, as explained above, apply to students in the College of Professional Studies (CPS). Courses in the CPS either span the entire academic term, or are offered in Session A or Session B of the academic term. CPS students must ensure that they are enrolled in courses throughout the entire term. For instance, a student cannot enroll in courses that only occur in Session A and have no course enrollment in Session B. Additionally, students cannot be enrolled in only online-courses for any portion of the academic term.
Before enrolling in classes, please remember to check whether your course is designated as an on-ground, on-line, or blended to ensure you are maintaining your status. Currently, the university considers hybrid and blended courses to be on-ground courses.
Address/Phone Number Change
Academic Status Changes
Any change in your academic status (e.g., early program completion, change of major, or change in financial sponsorship) must be reported to the Office of Global Services so that they can update your SEVIS record. You can submit the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form or the Program Completion Certification Form for early program completion so that the OGS can issue an updated I-20 form. Please remember to save all previous I-20 forms.
Before leaving the United States for any reason during your program of study at Northeastern, please make sure that you have the following documents with you:
- Passport, valid for six months into the future and your unexpired F-1 or J-1 visa
- I-20 or DS-2019 form with a valid travel signature.
Extension of Stay
If you are unable to complete your program of study before the program end date on your I-20 or DS-2019, you must apply for an extension of stay from the Office of Global Services (OGS) at least 30 days before the program end date on your I-20 or DS-2019. Complete the program extension form and submit it to the Office of Global Services.
Leave of Absence
If you need to take a non-medical leave of absence, you should make an appointment with the Office of Global Services (OGS), then submit the Non-Medical Leave of Absence form and review the Return from Non-Medical Leave of Absence form for future reference. Please be aware that international students may not remain in the United States during a non-medical leave of absence. If you need to take a medical leave of absence, follow University Health and Counseling Services (UHCS) procedures. When your medical leave is approved, the Office of Global Services (OGS) will email you with information on your immigration status. When on a medical leave of absence, federal government regulations allow for you to remain in the United States or to travel abroad. Please be aware that if you are out of the United States for five months or more during this time, you would need to contact the OGS in order to obtain a new initial I-20 or DS-2019 and then obtain a new visa to return to the United States. In this case, you should contact the OGS a few months before your planned return. Additionally, federal regulations state that students may not be on medical leave for more than 12 months per degree program.
Reduced Course Load
International students must normally enroll in and maintain a full-time course load as explained in the “Enrollment” section above; however, U.S. federal government regulations allow international students to reduce their course load in certain limited circumstances. Students who are in their last academic term of their program of study may not need a full-time course load to complete the requirements for their degree. No authorization from the Office of Global Services is needed in this situation. Please note that students in their last term must still maintain on ground presence (at least one credit of on ground course work) throughout their last term. Taking only online courses does not constitute full-time status. Students who are experiencing certain types of academic difficulties, as allowed by U.S. federal government regulations, may apply for a reduced course load. The reasons allowed appear on OGS Form 147 – Recommendation for Reduced Course Load (RCL). Students must apply to the Office of Global Services for a reduced course load before dropping below full-time status or at the beginning of the academic term if they plan to register for a reduced number of courses. Even with authorization for a reduced course load, students must still be enrolled in at least 50% of a full-time course load. Additionally, a reduced course load for academic difficulties may be taken only once per academic degree level. To request authorization for a reduced course load, please complete OGS Form 147 – Recommendation for Reduced Course Load, have your academic advisor (SEVIS contact for Graduate School and College of Professional Studies students), and submit the form to the Office of Global Services. Instructions for uploading the form can be found here
You may not accept employment either on campus or off without written permission from the Office of Global Services (OGS) and authorization from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as appropriate for the type of employment authorization you seek. International students are prohibited from working more than 20 hours per week during the academic term. See employment for further details.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Transferring to Another Educational Institution
Submit the Transfer Out form, a copy of your acceptance letter, and the transfer-in form from the institution to the front desk of the Office of Global Services (OGS). If you have just finished an academic program at Northeastern, you will have to request a transfer to another institution prior to the end of the 60-day grace period allowed upon completion of your program of study. The OGS takes ten days to process the transfer of your SEVIS record.
Completing your Studies
Once you complete your program, you have a 60-day grace period to return to your home country. If you leave the United States, the grace period ends and you will need to return on a new initial I-20 for your new academic program or new institution. If you plan to start another academic program at a different institution, complete the Transfer Out form and submit it to the Office of Global Services (OGS) front desk. Include a copy of the acceptance letter, and the transfer-in form from your new institution. Processing takes ten days. You should complete this task early in the 60-day grace period following completion of your program, so the OGS can transfer your SEVIS record before the grace period expires. If you will start another degree program at Northeastern University, please work with your new department or school to begin the process of changing your degree level for a new I-20 form. You should begin this process as soon as you have been accepted to a new program. If you plan to apply for Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT), please read the instructions in the OPT section.
If your spouse and children decide to join you in the United States, they are eligible to apply for F-2 or J-2 visas, depending on your immigration status. Continuing students may apply for an I-20/DS-2019 for F-2/J-2 dependents by submitting the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form to OGS with evidence of financial support as described in the form.
If an F-1 student does not maintain F-1 status by abiding by U.S. federal government regulations concerning maintaining full-time enrollment, obtaining appropriate authorization for employment, etc., they will “fall out of status” and will have to apply for reinstatement to attempt to regain F-1 status. Students may apply for reinstatement within the United States by applying to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) or may regain status by being readmitted to the United States with a new initial I-20. The particular situation and the length of time that the student has been out of status will determine the best option for regaining F-1 status. Please note that students who have violated their status by working without appropriate employment authorization do not have the option of applying for reinstatement within the United States. Students applying for reinstatement must make an appointment with an advisor at the Office of Global Services. For full details on applying for reinstatement, please see Reinstatement Guide and Checklist.