As a J-1 international student, you have responsibilities, benefits, and restrictions you must follow in order to maintain your J-1 visa status. If you lose your visa status because you fail to follow immigration rules, you also lose J-1 student benefits including on-campus employment and work authorizations. Most important - you could become subject to arrest and/or deportation, and future visa applications may be compromised. Depending on the type of violation, you could be barred from coming back to the U.S. for a number of years.
In order to enjoy your studies 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 J-1 visa regulations.
Highlighted J-1 Visa Status Responsibilities
- Register full-time every semester
- Maintain a current passport (valid for at least 6 months into the future at all times)
- Know your Completion of Program date and Grace Period
- Request a DS-2019 Extension at least two weeks before my document expires
- Report all changes in your U.S. physical address via PAWS within 10 days
- Report all changes in name, dependents and status to ISSS
- Request any 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 obtain an updated DS-2019
- Request a DS-2019 travel signature before traveling abroad via iStart
- Provide ISSS with any updates regarding passport extensions and visa renewals
- Check your Georgia State University email account regularly for important communications from ISSS & other GSU offices
Highlighted J-1 Visa Status Restrictions
- You cannot work off-campus or on-campus without previous authorization from ISSS
- You cannot under-enroll or withdraw from courses unless previously authorized by ISSS.
- You cannot work more than 20 hours/week while school is in session - unless required by your program of study and authorized by ISSS.
Highlighted J-1 Visa Status Benefits
- You may work on-campus with ISSS authorization.
- You may be eligible to request Academic Training - an off-campus employment authorization
J-1 students are required to be enrolled full-time during the fall and spring semesters, except with approval for Reduced Course Load (RCL).
For J-1 degree seeking students, the summer semester is considered a break/vacation period. You are not required to take classes during the summer if you will enroll in the following fall semester. There are two exceptions to this rule:
- Some academic programs require full-time enrollment in summer. Consult with your academic advisor.
- If you begin your academic program in the summer semester, then you are required to enroll full-time (6 credit hours, 3 online credits permitted).
- J-1 Non-Degree Seeking Students are not eligible for Reduced Course Load their final term.
Click the topics below for more details about J-1 enrollment requirements.
Full-Time Enrollment Requirements
- Undergraduate Programs = 12 credit hours
- Graduate Programs = 9 credit hours
- IEP (Intensive English Program) = 18 credit hours
- Continuing degree seeking students: no enrollment is required if enrolling in the following fall term
- New students: 6 credit hours required if summer is your 1st semester.
- 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.
J-1 Degree Seeking Student in Final Term
- If your final term degree requirements do not equal full-time enrollment, you must request authorization of a Reduced Course Load Authorization (RCL).
Online & Audited Courses
Audited courses do not count towards enrollment requirements.
Withdrawing from Your Program
J-1 degree-seeking students who wish to have concurrent enrollment must first meet with an ISSS advisor. Requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
The Access and Accommodations Center (AACE)
At Georgia State University, 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 physical, learning, sensory, psychological 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. The Access and Accommodations Center (AACE) is committed to providing access to campus resources and opportunities to allow students with disabilities to obtain a quality educational experience at Georgia State.
For more information about ADA, please contact the Access and Accommodations Center.
Approval of a Reduced Course Load Authorization (RCL) is possible in certain situations. RCL approval is the only way to receive an exception to J-1 full-time enrollment requirements.
J-1 Non-Degree Seeking Students are not eligible for a Reduced Course Load Authorization in the final term of their program.
Do not withdraw from courses without ISSS advisement, even if you are failing. The Reduced Course Load Authorization requires pre-authorization by ISSS.
Reasons for Requesting a Reduced Course Load Authorization
- Final Term (semester authorization): you are in your final term and less than a full-time enrollment is required to complete your program. The remaining course(s) must be 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 are placed in an improper course level due to administrative error. This requires a written statement from a Georgia State 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 who recommends temporary, part-time enrollment or no enrollment for the academic term.
Please Note: pregnancy or delivery is not considered a medical condition eligible for the 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.
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 an updated medical document in iStart.
How to Request a Reduced Course Load Authorization
- Academic RCL requests are due by the SEVIS Reporting deadline for the academic term.
- Medical RCL requests can be submitted when needed.
- All Reduced Course Load Authorization requests are submitted via iStart
What is a Grace Period?
J-1 students who complete their program objective have a 30 day Grace Period. BEFORE the end of the 30 day Grace Period, J-1 students must depart the U.S.
Students cannot travel internationally (including cruises) and re-enter in J-1 status during their grace period. If you have questions about travel during your grace period contact an ISSS advisor.
Please Note: There is not a Grace Period for students who lose their visa status due to an immigration violation.