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Maintaining Your F-1/J-1 Student Status

Responsibilities for International Students 

  • Attend the school, campus and degree program indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019 form.
  • Carry a full course of study, which entails:
    • At least 9 credit hours in your major/degree program (this may include pre-requisites and courses recommended or approved by your advisor) for graduate students, or 12 hours if you are on assistantship. Only one on-line/distance education course (3 credit hours) per semester may count toward full-time enrollment.
    • Exceptions to full-time enrollment must be pre-approved by an Immigration Advisor at the Graduate School by request for reduced enrollment:
    • In final semester if you need less than 9 hours to complete your Plan of Study, and you are NOT on assistantship; cannot be in  virtual course(s).
    • For medical reasons supported/approved by Schiffert Health Center or Cook Counseling Center.
  • Keep your I-20 or DS-2019 form valid at all times.
    • Request a new form if there is any change in your campus, degree level, major field of study, or program end date.
  • Follow the required procedures (with the help of an International Student Advisor) when:
    • Applying for extension of stay (see extension procedures for F-1 or J-1 students)
    • Transferring to or from another school 
    • Applying for off-campus work authorization (practical training, Co-op)
    • Taking a Leave of Absence
    • Using In-Absentia status 
  • Limit on-campus employment to a maximum of 20 hours per week while school is in session (during fall and spring semesters). Avoid unintentional work violations that may happen as a result of:
    • Your trying to finish a task before clocking out
    • Using multiple time-keeping methods (timesheets, punch cards, badge swipes) that do not compile all your hours until the end of a pay period
    • Clocking in early or clocking out late adds minutes to each shift, which can accumulate to exceed the total 20 hrs/wk limit
    • Confusion about how VT calculates the work week (starting 00:01am on Saturday to 11:59pm Friday)
    • Confusion about start and end date of academic term or breaks 
    • Training sessions being considered paid work    
  • Refrain from off-campus employment without USCIS or school authorization. 
  • Report all address changes within 10 days to the Graduate School through HokieSPA. See Change of address section for formatting details.
  • Carry a qualifying health insurance plan if in J-1/J-2 status; F-1 students and their F-2 dependents must also have health insurance by university policy. 

Immigration advisors are available to support you if you have any questions or concerns about any of the above-listed responsibilities. In addition, there are other university services and resources that you may use without it impacting your immigration status. For examples, you can consult with the Graduate Ombudsperson; visit Cook Counseling or the Schiffert Health Center; seek assistance from the Dean of Students office; or take advantage of the programs and services of the Women's Center. Parking tickets, Student Conduct sanctions, or Graduate Honor System decisions also do not influence your status, unless a penalty includes suspension or dismissal from the university. If you have any questions or concerns about how participation in a state- or federally-sponsored program may impact your status, please consult with one of our immigration advisors.

Responsibilities Upon Completion of Study

After completion of a course of study, international students have a grace period during which time they may prepare to leave the U.S., begin their authorized OPT or Academic Training, apply for a change of visa status, or transfer to another academic program. 

  • Standard academic semester/term end dates are used to document completion of study, based on the last term of enrollment in course work or for defense and ETD submission.
  • The grace period for F-1 students is 60 days.
  • The grace period for J-1 students is 30 days.
  • Students may not work on campus  during the grace period; they must have an approved OPT or academic training authorization for any employment after the completion of program.

Students who withdraw from the university, with approval of an international student advisor, may remain in the U.S. for up to 15 days following the withdrawal in order to prepare for departure.

Dismissal from the Graduate School

Immigration status is tied to your academic progress. If you are dismissed from the Graduate School rolls because of academic difficulties or failure to make satisfactory academic progress toward a degree, this action impacts your immigration status:

  • If you receive an official dismissal letter from the Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education, then you have 15 days from the date specified on the letter to leave the U.S.
  • There is no 60 day grace period for F1 students and no 30 day grace period for J1 students after a dismissal.
  • We can transfer your SEVIS record to another college or university IF you have been offered admission and their next available enrollment start date will occur within 5 months from the SEVIS release date.
  • You have to fill out the SEVIS Transfer Out form and provide a copy of an offer letter from the other school. The transfer would have to be set up to occur before the end of the 15 day period after your dismissal.

Additional Information

For more information about SEVIS regulations and requirements, browse the following sites:

Remember, it is your responsibility to maintain a legal status in the United States!