As an international student, you have certain responsibilities, benefits and restrictions that must be kept in mind to safeguard your status. When you lose your status because you fail to abide by immigration rules, you lose your F-1 student benefits including on-campus employment and work authorizations. Even more important, you could possibly become subject to arrest and deportation, and future visa applications might be compromised. Depending on the type of violation, you could even be barred from coming back to the U.S. for a number of years.
In order to enjoy your stay in the United States and have a great experience as an international student, take the time to learn about your immigration status and closely follow immigration regulations.
My responsibilities as an international student at Georgia State are to
- Register full time every semester
- Maintain a current passport (valid for at least 6 months into the future at all times)
- Be aware of grace periods
- Request authorization from ISSS before dropping below a full course load
- Report all changes in the address via PAWS within 10 days
- Report all changes in name, dependents and status through ISSS
- Request my transfer to another school in a timely manner
- Report a change in my program of study (such as moving from one-degree level to another or a change in major) to ISSS and request a new I-20
- Request travel signatures before traveling
- Request an I-20 Extension at least two weeks before my document expires
- Provide ISSS with any updates regarding passport extensions and visa renewals
- Become familiar with immigration rules
- Check my Georgia State email account and the ISSS newsletter regularly for communication from ISSS & the university
My restrictions as an international student
- I cannot work off-campus without previous authorization from ISSS or U.S. immigration, whichever is applicable.
- I cannot be under-enrolled or not enrolled at all unless previously authorized (Please see enrollment requirements.)
- I cannot work more than 20 hours/week while school is in session unless required by my program of study and authorized by ISSS.
- I cannot maintain status with an expired I-20.
My benefits as an international student
- I can work on campus without authorization.
- I am eligible to apply for 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT) per degree level.
- I am eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
- I can maintain my F-1 status as long I follow immigration regulations because my status has no fixed expiration date.
All F-1 students are required to be enrolled full-time during the Fall and Spring semesters, except with approval for Reduced Course Load (RCL). Please see #3 below for details. The Summer semester is considered a break/vacation period, so you are generally* not required to take classes even if you stay in the U.S. You may enroll part-time also if you wish.
- *Certain programs require full-time enrollment in the summer, regardless of the break period.
Click the topics below for more details about F1 Enrollment Requirements.
Full-Time Enrollment Requirements
- Undergraduate (Associates & Bachelor’s Degrees) = 12 credit hours
- Graduate students (Masters & PhD Degrees) = 9 credit hours
- IEP (Intensive English Program) students = 18 credit hours
- Continuing students: no enrollment required, and part-time is permitted.
- New students: 6 credit hours required if summer is your 1st semester.
- Change of Status: 6 credit hours required if your change of status was approved after spring semester registration closed.
- IEP (Intensive English Program) students: 18 hours required if summer is your 1st semester. No enrollment is required if you were full-time the Spring semester prior to summer.
Final Term / Graduating
- If your final term degree requirements don't add up to full-time enrollment, you must request authorization for "Reduced Course Load" (RCL). Please see #3 below for more details.
A concurrently-enrolled student is a student who is currently on the visa sponsorship of Georgia State and who is also taking classes at another SEVIS-approved institution.
Full-time Enrollment Requirement:
Concurrently-enrolled students must maintain full-time enrollment (at least twelve (12) hours for undergraduate students and at least nine (9) hours for graduate students). If summer is your first semester, you must be enrolled full-time (at least six (6) credit hours for both undergraduate and graduate students) for the summer semester. Continuing students are not required to enroll at Georgia State in the summer semester. Credits to count towards full-time enrollment may come from either school, as long as the total combined credits amount to a full course load. At least one course must be taken at Georgia State.
A concurrently-enrolled student must provide the SEVIS school code of the other institution to the Georgia State International Student and Scholar Services office (ISSS). Concurrently-enrolled students must provide proof of full-time enrollment (for example, registration record or unofficial transcript, listing credit hours, from the other school where the student is taking classes).
Final Degree Requirement Completed at Georgia State:
University policy states that Georgia State students may NOT complete their final degree requirement at another school; the final degree requirement must be completed at Georgia State. If you have questions about this policy please speak with your academic department.
Additional requirements for Graduate Students:
Graduate students seeking concurrent enrollment must provide written approval from the academic advisor or professor in their major department. The approval must state that classes taken as concurrent enrollment will transfer back to Georgia State and count towards your intended degree.
Online & Audited Courses
- Only one online course (3 credit hours) may count towards full-time enrollment each semester.
- This does not prevent you from taking additional courses in any given semester. This is sometimes referred to as “overload.” Those courses can be online or in-person but may be subject to academic limits or requirements. Always check with your academic advisor before registering in additional / overload courses.
- Audited courses do not count towards enrollment requirements. You may only audit a course over and beyond the minimum requirements above for credit-bearing courses.
Reduced Course Load (RCL)
- Do Not withdraw from courses without ISSS advisement, even if you are failing.
Reasons for RCL and authorization duration:
- Final Term (semester authorization): you are in your final term, and less than a full course load is required to complete your program, and the class(es) left are required for degree/program completion.
- Dissertation / Thesis (length determined by academic advisor): you have completed all courses and you're currently working on a dissertation or thesis only.
- Research Abroad (semester authorization): you will be conducting research abroad that is directly related to your thesis or dissertation. Note: You must still be registered in at least 1 credit hour at Georgia State during your time abroad.
- Difficulty with English Language (semester authorization): you are experiencing difficulties with the English language during your 1st semester only.
- Improper Course Placement (1st-semester authorization only): you have been placed in an improper course level in error by the university. This requires a written statement from a university official. Students cannot request this type of RCL based on their own opinions.
- Medical Condition (semester authorization): you have a medical condition with written documentation from a Medical Doctor (M.D.), Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O) or a Clinical Psychologist that recommends temporary part-time enrollment or no enrollment for a specific academic term. Pregnancy - see below. For all medical RCL's, a representative from The Access and Accommodations Center (AACE) (see below) will also review your request. *
Duration: Students must return to full-time enrollment the semester following an approved RCL. A medical RCL can be extended into the following term if necessary; however, the student must request the authorization and submit updated medical documentation in iStart.
Pregnancy: a normal pregnancy or delivery is not considered a medical condition eligible for an RCL, unless there are medical complications outside of a normal pregnancy/delivery. In that case, ISSS may authorize medical RCL on a case-by-case basis. Contact ISSS if you have any questions.
How to Request RCL
- Academic RCL requests are due by 5:15 p.m. on the last day of the 1st week of class.
- Requests for RCL are submitted via iStart
The Access and Accommodations Center (AACE)
View more information about the Access and Accommodations Center (AACE).
The Americans with Disabilities Act
At Georgia State, international students and domestic students receive access to the same services and resources to support access and accommodations. The Access and Accommodations Center serves students with:
disabilities that substantially alter a major life activity. Examples of major life activities include, but are not limited to:
- thinking and learning
It is important to note that many students have non-visible disabilities such as diabetes, arthritis, HIV/AIDS, depression and other conditions.
For more information about ADA, please contact the Access and Accommodations Center.
Grace periods are periods of time that are given to you in order to take care of certain events, such as transferring between schools, changing your status, starting a new program after work authorization (OPT) or departing the U.S.
Students cannot travel internationally (including cruises) and re-enter in F-1 status during their grace period. If you have questions about travel during your grace period see an ISSS advisor.
After completing your program of study
After withdrawing from classes
If you have withdrawn from classes without previous authorization from ISSS, you have no grace period and must leave the U.S. immediately.
After work authorization
If you request your transfer in the middle of the semester, you have no grace period and you need to start studying at your new school immediately.
When an F-1 student’s I-20 is terminated, the student loses status/becomes “out of status”. There are two options to regain active status.
1. Travel Option
Current Students: To obtain a new I-20 from Georgia State, provide ISSS with updated financial information and be enrolled full-time for the current semester. You are encouraged to contact your ISSS Advisor to discuss risks associated with this option.
2. Reinstatement Option
Common Events Causing Termination of Status
- Failure to enroll or maintain full-time enrollment
- Failure to request an I-20 extension before your current I-20 expires
- Failure to pay all tuition and fees by the payment deadline, resulting in an automatic drop of all enrollment
- Failure to transfer between schools in a timely manner
- Employment without authorization
- Unable to Register new initial SEVIS record due to lack of valid local (U.S.) address
Eligibility for Reinstatement
- You have not been out of status for more than 5 months
- You are enrolled full time or plan to enroll full time as soon as possible
- You have not been employed without authorization
- You are not in deportation proceedings
- You lost status for reasons beyond your control
- You do not have a record of repeated or willful violations or other unlawful activity
Students who have lost status have a period of 5 months to apply for reinstatement. If you apply beyond the 5-month-period, your application is less likely to be approved because you will have to demonstrate exceptional circumstances which prevented you from applying within 5 months.
Reactivation of Status
How to request Reactivation
- Contact ISSS at least 2 months before returning to Georgia State so we can request reactivation.
- Do not purchase airfare until the outcome of your request is determined.
- ISSS will contact you when your SEVIS record is reactivated, thus restoring it to “active” status. Processing times vary from 2 - 4 weeks or more. During this time, it is very important to check email regularly from ISSS if we need additional information for USCIS within a short deadline.
- Confirm if the travel signature on page 2 of your I-20 is less than 6 months old. If not, request an updated travel signature from ISSS.
If approved for “Reactivation” by USCIS, re-enter the U.S. with unexpired F-1 visa, valid passport and your original I-20.
Frequently Asked Questions
I might be out of status. What should I do?
How long does reinstatement take?
What if I don't apply for reinstatement and stay in the U.S.?
Can I study if I am out of status?
Can I apply for CPT or OPT while my reinstatement application is pending?
Can I work if I don't apply for reinstatement?
ISSS is committed to maintaining support and services to you during this time and will continue to operate under normal operating procedures for the remainder of the semester, just from a remote and online platform. This means you can call us directly or email us to request information and/or telephone/web appointments for advisement during our regular advisement hours.