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International Programs

East Tennessee State University

Maintaining Your F-1/J-1 Status

Maintaining Your F-1/J-1 Student Status

Once you are admitted to the United States under the F-1 or J-1 status, you must follow certain regulations and procedures in order to remain in lawful F-1/J-1 status.

  • Passport: Your passport must be valid at all times.

  • Full-time study:  In order to comply with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations, ALL F1 & J1 students must be enrolled Full-Time (i.e., at least 12 credit hours for undergraduate students, and at least 9 credit hours for graduate students) during regular academic semesters (i.e., Fall and Spring semesters).
  • Important: Only one 3-credit online course may be counted toward Full-Time enrollment. Please note that we cannot consider as an "on ground" course any course that is identified as "online." Courses that are online, but require a physical presence, are so noted in the registration database and do not show up on our enrollment report as "online." If you receive an email from us telling you that you are registered for too many online credits, then you must switch the online course for an on ground course, or add an additional on ground course.
  • A Reduced Course Load (RCL) Form, which can be found on the IPS website, must be submitted with Academic Department authorization in order to register below Full-Time credit hours. Students who have NOT complied with this regulation within 14 calendar days of the first day of the academic semester will be considered 'Out of Status' and will have their SEVIS record 'Terminated', thus making it necessary to apply to USCIS for the 'Reinstatement' of their SEVIS record. International Programs & Services must monitor student enrollment throughout the semester. If at any point subsequent to the 14th day of the academic semester students are not registered Full-Time, their SEVIS record will be 'Terminated' as dictated by USCIS regulations. Note: Students who are 'Out of Status' do not have employment benefits (including employment performed under GAs & TSs) until an application for 'Reinstatement' is made to and approved by USCIS. For more information please visit Study in the States Website:


  • Reduced Course Load:  There are some legitimate reasons to be enrolled in fewer credit hours, which are:
      • 1. Initial Adjustment Issues (Difficulty with English, or American teaching methods)
        • Only in your initial semester (transfer students do not qualify)
        • Must be within 21 days from the start of classes
        • Requires Academic Advisor's Approval
      • 2. Improper Course Level Placement (due to student's academic experience, cultural differences, etc.)
        • Only in initial semester (transfer students do not qualify)
        • Must be within 21 days from the start of classes
        • Requires Academic Advisor's Approval
      • 3. Medical/Mental Health reasons (Doctor or Licensed Psychologist/Therapist's approval required)
      • 4. Student is in the Final semester of an academic program; or
      • 5. Student is completing Graduate/Doctoral Level Thesis or Dissertation.
      • Departmental or Doctor approval is required for all*reduced course load requests. Please complete this Request Form. Approval is only valid for one (1) semester. Please see the International Student Advisor for more information.
  • Employment: International students are eligible for on-campus employment of no more than 20 hours per week during the academic year (spring and fall terms). Students may work on campus full time during the summer. Off-campus employment is available under restricted circumstances. J-1 students must obtain specific written authorization to work on-campus and Academic Training (AT) for any off-campus employment (including internships).

  • Address Changes: You must keep the Office of International Programs informed of your current telephone number and address. You MUST use Goldlink to notify us of such changes and notify our office in person or in writing.

  • Extending Your Stay: An F-1 or J-1 student who is currently maintaining status and making normal progress toward completing his or her educational objective, but who is unable to complete his or her course of study by the program end date on the Form I-20/DS-2019, must apply prior to the program end date for a program extension. An F-1/J-1 student who is unable to meet the program completion date on the Form I-20/DS-2019 may be granted an extension by the Designated School Official/Alternate Responsible Officer (DSO/ARO) if the DSO/ARO certifies that the student has continually maintained status and that the delays are caused by compelling academic or medical reasons, such as changes of major or research topics, unexpected research problems, or documented illnesses. Delays caused by academic probation or suspension are not acceptable reasons for program extensions. A DSO/ARO may not grant an extension if the student did not apply for an extension until after the program end date noted on the Form I-20/DS-2019. An F-1/J-1 student who is unable to complete the educational program within the time listed on Form I-20/DS-2019 and who is ineligible for program extension is considered out of status and may apply for reinstatement. To apply for a program extension, please see the F-1 extension form link.

  • Transferring to Another Institution: If you have attended ETSU for a semester or more and plan to transfer to another school in the U.S, you will have to request that we release your SEVIS records to the new institution. To request SEVIS release, please complete the SEVIS release form, sign it and bring it to our office at your earliest convenience. Please note that you must be in lawful F-1/J-1 status to transfer.

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