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F-1/J-1 Students


Individuals admitted to the U.S. on student visas (F-1 or J-1 visas) must obey a special set of immigration laws. In addition to these laws, you must also abide by local, state, and federal laws and the University's Code of Student Conduct.

Below are some of the basic guidelines you must follow in order to maintain your F-1 or J-1 status.

Academic Advisors are encouraged to review our Quick Guide for F-1 and J-1 Students for reference when advising international students in F-1 or J-1 status.

  • Check In with ISSS

All new F-1 and J-1 students must check-in with ISSS through the ISSS Portal. Students must upload copies of their immigration documents to the Personal & Program tab and submit an ISSS Check-in Request on the Control Center tab.

New students will receive an email inviting them to login to the ISSS Portal approximately 30 days before their program start date. Please watch for this email! It will be sent to your Illinois State email address.

Check-in is required by the immigration regulations. You must check-in so that ISSS can update your SEVIS record to show that you have arrived on campus to begin your program of study.

  • Register Full-Time

F-1/J-1 students must be registered for a full course of study:

Student Type Full-time Minimum
Academic English 20 clock hours
Undergraduate/Undergraduate Pathway 12 credits
Graduate/Graduate Pathway 9 credits or
at least 1 credit of an A90 course
Summer (First or Last Semester only ) - if summer is your first or last semester of study, then it is not considered a vacation period and you must be enrolled full-time 6 credits

Distance Education Limits

There are specific limits for online and distance education courses that are stipulated by the immigration regulations. At Illinois State, both online and online blended hybrid courses are considered distance education . For the exact definition of these course types, please see the Course-Type Definitions listed on the Office of the Registrar's website.

F-1 and J-1 students:

  • Only 3 credits of online or online blended hybrid coursework can count towards the 9/12 credits to meet the full-time requirement
  • For example, an F-1 graduate student could take 6 credits in-person and 3 credits online/online blended hybrid to equal the 9 credits to be full-time.
  • In your last semester, you cannot be enrolled in only online/online blended hybrid courses

Students in Academic English or Pathway Programs:

  • NO ONLINE OR ONLINE BLENDED HYBRID coursework can count towards meeting the full-time requirement. You may only be enrolled in online/online blended hybrid courses if you have already met the minimum number of credits to be considered full-time and are taking additional coursework above and beyond that minimum.
  • For example, an undergraduate Pathway student taking 12 credits of in-person coursework could enroll in an additional 3 credit online/online blended hybrid course.

Please see the Course Load Requirements section of our website for information on the limited circumstances in which an F-1/J-1 student may be registered for less than a full course load.

  • Make Normal Progress Towards Program Completion

The program end date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019 document determines the end date of your immigration status and how long you can stay in the U.S.

The visa page inside your passport does not determine how long you can stay in the country. Your F-1 or J-1 visa can expire, and you can still remain in the country as long as your I-20 or DS-2019 document is still valid and you are properly maintaining your status.

  • Make sure your academic advisor is aware of your I-20/DS-2019 end date when you are discussing your program plan.
  • If you require more time to complete your studies, you must have a compelling academic or medical reason to extend your I-20/DS-2019 document. You cannot "artificially" extend your program for administrative reasons. Please see the Extending Your Stay page for further details.
  • Don't Work Illegally

On campus

F-1 students can work on campus without prior permission from ISSS. If you are a new student, you can begin working up to 30 days prior to the start of classes.

J-1 students are required to receive prior permission from ISSS for on campus work.

Both F-1 and J-1 students have specific limits for how many hours they can work on campus:

  • While school is in session = up to 20 hours per week
  • During vacation/official university breaks = up to 28 hours per week

Please see the On-Campus Employment section of our website for further details.

Off campus

Off-campus work must be related to your field of study. You must have prior authorization for all off-campus work, even if the internship/work experience is unpaid.

  • F-1 students must be approved for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) work authorization prior to beginning any off-campus work.
  • J-1 students must be approved for Academic Training work authorization prior to beginning any off-campus work.
  • Academic English and Pathway students are not permitted to work off-campus.
  • Report Changes to ISSS

Personal Information

Immigration regulations state that F-1 and J-1 students must report any change in address, phone number, email address, or name within 10 days of the change.

You should report these changes by updating your account with your new contact information. Please see the Reporting Changes section of our website for full details.

Academic Program

Your I-20/DS-2019 is an important document that needs to be kept up-to-date.

  • Whenever you receive a new I-20/DS-2019, read through it carefully, make sure the information is accurate, and sign it
  • Periodically look at your I-20/DS-2019 to make sure all the information is still up-to-date
  • Notify ISSS before you declare/change majors, add a degree program, change your level of study, take a leave of absence, transfer to another school, or need to extend your program
  • Keep your Passport Valid

You should keep your passport valid while you are studying in the U.S. Make sure you know the expiration date and begin the renewal process at least 6 months before it expires.

Contact the embassy or consulate of your home country in the U.S. for information on passport renewal processes.

Make sure you upload a copy of your renewed passport to the Personal & Program tab in the ISSS Portal.

  • Check with ISSS Before Traveling Outside the U.S.

You will need a valid travel signature on your I-20/DS-2019 from an ISSS advisor in order to re-enter the U.S. When you request a travel signature, ISSS will also look over your immigration documents and check that your SEVIS record is in "Active" status.

Please see the Travel section of our website for further details.

  • Avoid Criminal Activity

While in the U.S., you are required to obey federal, state, and local laws.You are also bound by the ISU Code of Student Conduct

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, ISSS recommends you seek advice from an experienced immigration lawyer, as well as a criminal lawyer.

Immigration Lawyers:

  • Leave the United States on Time

F-1 students must depart the U.S. within 60 days after the end date on their I-20 document or after completion of studies (whichever is sooner).

J-1 students must depart the U.S. within 30 days after the end date on their DS-2019 document or after completion of studies (whichever is sooner).

Students working on Optional Practical Training (OPT) must depart within 60 days after the end date listed on their EAD card.