Services for International Students and Scholars

Maintaining Your Status

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.

Video: How to stay in status?

Enrollment

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 the equivalent of one three or four-credit online course per academic term to count towards 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.

Please see the section on Full-time Enrollment Requirements in the Last Academic Term for regulations that apply to enrollment requirements in the last term of study.

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

You must update your local address, home country address, and local phone number in MyNEU within 10 days of any changes.

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.

Traveling

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.

Do you need a 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

During your program of study, it may become necessary to take a leave of absence.  U.S. federal government regulations recognize two types of leaves of absence for international students.  Leaves of absence are classified as either medical leaves of absence or non-medical leaves of absence.  There are different procedures and different government regulations that apply to each type of leave.  These types of leaves of absence and instructions for taking and returning from the leaves are described below.

Leaves of Absence (Medical and Non-Medical) and Your F-1 Student Status

During your program of study, it may become necessary to take a leave of absence.  U.S. federal government regulations recognize two types of leaves of absence for international students.  Leaves of absence are classified as either medical leaves of absence or non-medical leaves of absence.  There are different procedures and different government regulations that apply to each type of leave.  These types of leaves of absence and instructions for taking and returning from the leaves are described below.

Medical Leave of Absence and Your F-1 Student Status

Students may apply for a medical leave of absence through the University Health and Counseling Service (UHCS).  Information on applying for a medical leave of absence can be found here.  If UHCS approves an official medical leave from the university, the Office of Global Services (OGS) will be notified by UHCS through email.  Please note that information regarding a student’s medical condition is not shared by UHCS with any other office.  This information is considered to be confidential.  The email notification simply states that a medical leave of absence has been approved by UHCS.

The OGS will authorize the student for a medical leave in SEVIS for government purposes after receiving notification of approval of a medical leave from UHCS and will email the student to notify them that the medical leave has been approved in SEVIS.  Following are important points for F-1 students be aware of regarding how a medical leave affects their F-1 status:

  • Students in F-1 status may remain in the U.S. or may leave the U.S. during a medical leave of absence. However, students who live on campus are not permitted to remain in the residence halls while on a leave of absence.
  • Students may not remain in the U.S. on a medical leave for more than one year. If a medical leave is needed for more than one year, the student will need to notify the OGS and make plans to leave the U.S.  A new initial I-20 will be needed to return to the U.S.  Please see instructions for obtaining a new initial I-20.
  • Students who leave the U.S. during their medical leave, but who are out of the U.S. for fewer than five months at a time may return to the U.S. on their current I-20.
  • Students who are out of the U.S. continuously for five months or more during their medical leave will need to notify the OGS and must request a new initial I-20 to return to the U.S. at least a few months prior to their planned return to resume classes.  Please see instructions for obtaining a new initial I-20.  Returning to the U.S. on a new initial I-20 may impact eligibility for Curricular Practical Training (Co-op) and Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Non-Medical Leave of Absence and Your F-1 Student Status

Students who need a non-medical leave  of absence, which includes any reason that is not medical, will need to apply to the OGS as well as to their College/Graduate School for a leave of absence.  Please note that the medical condition of a relative does not constitute a medical leave of absence; a medical leave can be granted only if the student has a medical condition.  Additionally, if a student applies for an Emergency Leave from the We Care Office at Northeastern University (www.northeastern.edu/wecare) they must also apply for a non-medical leave of absence from the OGS since federal government regulations recognize only medical and non-medical leaves.

Instructions for Requesting a Non-Medical Leave of Absence

  1. Make an appointment with an OGS advisor to request the leave prior to dropping classes or prior to the start of the academic term during which the leave of absence will occur. If you are already abroad for a period of vacation when you discover that you need a leave, please email the OGS prior to the start the term in which you plan to take the leave.
  2. Complete the OGS Non-Medical Leave of Absence Request Form. This form will need to be signed by the student’s academic advisor (undergraduate day students) or by the SEVIS Contact (graduate students and CPS students) and then submitted to the OGS.  The form is available in OGS Forms and Guides
  3. The OGS is required by federal government regulations to terminate the student’s SEVIS record for a leave of absence. The record will be terminated for authorized reasons if the procedures above are followed and if the student is maintaining their status at the time of requesting the leave.
  4. Students who take a non-medical leave of absence are required by U.S. federal government regulations to depart the U.S. within 15 days after termination of the SEVIS record for the purpose of a leave of absence.
  5. In addition to these procedures, the student must complete any university leave of absence forms required. A leave of absence may be requested through a student’s myNEU.

Instructions for Returning to the U.S. after a Non-Medical Leave of Absence of Less than 5 Months*

To return to the U.S. after a non-medical leave of absence of less than five months, if the student requested the leave from the OGS prior to dropping classes or prior to the start of the term in which the leave occurred and if the student was in status prior to the leave of absence, the student should do the following:

  1. Complete the OGS form to Request Return from a Leave of Absence of Less than 5 Months available in OGS Forms and Guides.
  2. Email this form to the OGS 70 days prior to the start date of the academic term in which the student will resume classes.
  3. Approximately 60 days prior to the start date of the academic term in which the student will resume classes, the OGS will request that SEVIS reactivate the student’s SEVIS record. The OGS will email the student when SEVIS reactivates the record.  Please note that reactivation is not guaranteed.  Also, please note that SEVIS is part of a government agency, so the OGS does not reactivate the SEVIS record.  We can only request that SEVIS reactivate it.  Then it is the decision of SEVIS to either reactivate or deny the reactivation.  Also, it is important to note that SEVIS will need time to do this, which is the reason that we ask that you submit your request for reactivation 70 days prior to the start of the term.
  4. After successful reactivation, the student may return to the U.S. as early as 30 days prior to the term in which they will resume classes and will be able to use their current I-20 and current visa if still valid (if the current F-1 visa has expired, the student should apply for a new visa once the current SEVIS record has been reactivated).

*Please note that if your leave of absence will start at the beginning of the Fall term and if you request the leave of absence during the summer vacation period and if the time that you will have been abroad upon the start date of the Spring Semester (or Winter Quarter for CPS graduate students) will be less than 8 months, you may qualify for this procedure.  Please consult with the OGS.

Instructions for Obtaining a New Initial I-20 to Resume Classes after a Non-Medical Leave  of Absence of 5 Months or More or to Return to Classes after a Medical Leave of Absence If You Have Been Out of the U.S. Continuously for 5 Months or More

  1. Completing the OGS Application Form to Request a New Initial I-20

Fill out the electronic Request for SEVIS I-20/DS-2019 available at OGS Forms and Guides. Instructions on supporting documents needed and options for having your new I-20 mailed to you are included within the form.  Please note that you must have your academic advisor (for undergraduate day students) or your SEVIS contact (for graduate and all CPS students) sign the portion of the form that is included for the purpose of confirming your academic eligibility to return to your program in the academic term that you have selected and your expected program completion date.

  1. Paying the SEVIS Fee

When you receive the new I-20, you will need to pay the SEVIS fee online and then apply for a new F-1 visa so that you can return to the U.S. to resume your program.  Instructions will be included with your I-20.  Please note that you still need to pay the SEVIS fee even if you do not need to obtain a new F-1 visa stamp.

  1. Obtaining a New Visa If Needed

Once you have received your I-20 and paid the SEVIS fee, you may need to apply for an F-1   if your current F-1 student visa has expired or if it will expire before you return to the U.S. you will need to apply for a new visa.  If your current visa bears the name of another educational institution in the U.S. rather than Northeastern University, you will need to obtain a new visa whether or not your visa has expired.   If your visa will still be valid at the time that you plan to return to the U.S. and if “Northeastern University” is noted on the visa, you most likely will not have to obtain a new visa, but you may wish to check on this with the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest to you to confirm this.  Contact or view the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will apply for a visa for information on procedures for obtaining an F-1 student visa.

  1. Completing OGS Online Check In After Arrival in the U.S.

Since you will be entering the U.S. on an initial I-20, even though you are not a new student, please note that you will need to complete Online Check In with the OGS.  You will be able to do this by completing the online OGS Check In form.  You will receive an email before classes begin directing you to the link you will need to complete this online form.   This is necessary to confirm your arrival in the U.S. for government purposes and so that our office can register your arrival in the SEVIS system.

  1. Entering the U.S. on a New Initial I-20 and Impact Upon Eligibility for Co-op (Curricular Practical Training – CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Additionally, it is important that you realize that returning to the U.S. with an initial I-20 may have an impact upon your eligibility to do Co-op (curricular practical training) in the U.S.  or Optional Practical Training.  Students must have been enrolled for at least one academic year (two semesters or three quarters) in order to be eligible to do Co-op after entering the U.S. on an initial I-20.  All students must have been enrolled for at least an academic year in order to be eligible for Optional Practical Training authorization after entering the U.S. on an initial I-20.

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 see the following section on Full-time Enrollment in the Last Academic Term for details. 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

Full-time Enrollment Requirements in the Last Academic Term

Students who are enrolled in their last academic term who have a full-time course load remaining in order to complete their degree program must follow the instructions for maintaining full-time status that appear in the Enrollment section above.  This includes the limitation of no more than the equivalent of one three- or 4-credit online course to count towards full-time status.

However, some students may find that they do not have a full-time course load left to take in their last academic term if they have already taken most of the courses for their program.  In this case, there is no limitation on the number of credits that may be taken online, but students may not take only online courses.  Additionally, students must be enrolled in on ground courses throughout the academic term.  Students may not be enrolled in only online courses for any portion of the academic term.

Please contact the OGS if you have any questions regarding maintenance of full-time status.

Employment

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.

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.

Dependents

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.

Reinstatement

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.