This page is intended for Washington University faculty and staff who work with international students.

International students must maintain their immigration status by following U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and/or U.S. Department of State (DOS) regulations. The Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS) is here to help students, advisers, faculty and departments understand these regulations. On this page you will find helpful terms and immigration regulations. Contact OISS for additional guidance.

OISS is responsible for ensuring compliance with DHS reporting requirements for all F-1 and J-1 students sponsored by the university. OISS provides immigration guidance and maintains the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record of each student throughout their academic program and work authorization period under WashU’s sponsorship. Immigration law is complex and violations can lead to serious consequences. Therefore, we ask departments to refer F-1 and J-1 international students to OISS for immigration-related concerns or inquiries. Your partnership with us is invaluable in ensuring that our international students have a successful and compliant experience at WashU.



New students must check in with OISS and provide copies of their immigration documents (and any dependents) upon arriving at WashU. This must be done within 15 days of the program start date to comply with regulations.

Immigration documents required at check-in include, but are not limited to:

  • Passport
  • U.S. entry visa
  • I-94 admission record
  • I-20 or DS-2019
  • Entry stamp in passport (if available)
  • Same documents for dependents
Full-time enrollment

F-1 and J-1 students are required to be enrolled in a full-time course load each semester to maintain nonimmigrant status. Students who are not enrolled full time by the end of each add/drop period or who drop below full-time without pre-approval from OISS violate their student immigration status.

Full-time students at WashU are defined as:

  • Undergraduate – 12 or more credit hours
  • Graduate – 9 or more credit hours
  • Law – 12 or more credit hours
  • Professional MBA – 10 or more credit hours
  • Summer – undergraduate 12 credit hours, graduate 6 credit hours
  • Full-time enrollment is required in the summer term only if it is the student’s first or last term of enrollment. Undergraduate – 12 credit hours, Graduate – 6 credit hours.
Online coursework

For both graduate and undergraduate F-1 and J-1 students, only one course or 3 credits of online/remote course may count toward the full-time enrollment requirement.

If F-1 or J-1 students enroll in more than their minimum credit requirement, they MAY enroll in more than one online/remote course.

Hybrid courses with required on-campus components do not count towards this limitation.

Reduced course loads

Students may be eligible to drop below full-time for specific academic or medical reasons. They must be authorized by OISS for a reduced course load (RCL) BEFORE dropping below full-time.

Academic Reduced Course Load

An RCL for specific academic reasons requires recommendation of student’s academic or major adviser. There are two types of academic RCLs available to international students:  

  • A final-term student completing their course of study who does not require a full course load to complete. 
  • Academic difficulties due to initial difficulty with the English language or reading requirements, unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods,  or improper course level placement. This is only applicable during the first semester; students must resume a full course load during the next semester.
  • Students cannot be enrolled in only online coursework , even if approved for an RCL by OISS.
Medical Reduced Course Load

Students may apply for an RCL due to a medical condition diagnosed and documented by a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, licensed psychologist, or licensed psychiatrist. Please note:  

  • An RCL for medical reasons may be recommended for more than one semester but cannot exceed 12 months. Students must reapply for a medical RCL each term. 
  • Students can be approved for part-time enrollment or no enrollment at all if recommend by the medical professional. Even students who are not enrolled will remain active in the SEVIS government system if they are approved for a medical RCL.
Study or research abroad

F-1 and J-1 students must report study or research abroad to OISS before the semester begins.

Study Abroad – Participating in a WashU-approved study abroad program for a full semester outside of the U.S.

Research Abroad – Conducting WashU-approved research for a full semester outside of the U.S.

All study or research abroad requests, including those for doctoral students, must be approved by an academic adviser or PI before it can be noted in SEVIS.

On-campus employment

F-1 and J-1 students can work on-campus up to 20 hours per week at an on-campus job while school is in session.

F-1 and J-1 students can work on-campus full time during break and vacation periods.

J-1 students must have authorization prior to any on-campus work.

Off-campus employment

F-1 and J-1 students must have authorization prior to any off-campus work, including internships.

All off-campus work must be directly related to the student’s field of study.

Generally, F-1 students are not eligible for off-campus work until they have completed two full-time semesters.

See CPT, OPT, OPT STEM Extension, and Academic Training (Terminology tab) for more details.

Program Extensions

If a student doesn’t complete their program of study by the end date listed on their immigration document (I-20 or DS-2019), they must have an academic or medical reason for failing to complete. Examples include: change of major, addition of major or addition of minor; change in research topic; unexpected research problems; documented medical illness.

Delays to a program of study caused by academic probation or an internship are not compelling reasons.



Student and Exchange Visitor Information System: A web-based Department of Homeland Security (DHS) database system used to maintain F and J records. To gain access to the system, the University must go through a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certification. DSOs (Designated School Officials) and AROs (Alternate Responsible Officers) must go through training before being granted access to SEVIS and must meet specific reporting requirements in accordance with immigration regulations.


Titled the “Certificate of Eligibility” because it allows an individual to apply for an F-1 student visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.

An official immigration document issued by a U.S. government-approved educational institution certifying that a student has been admitted to a full-time study program and has demonstrated sufficient financial resources to stay in the U.S. 

The I-20 end date (NOT the visa expiration date) determines how long a student is permitted to stay in the U.S.


Titled the “Certificate of Eligibility” because it allows an individual to apply for an J-1 exchange visitor visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.

An official immigration document issued by a U.S. government-approved educational institution certifying that a student has been admitted to a full-time study program and has demonstrated sufficient financial resources to stay in the U.S.

The DS-2019 end date (NOT the visa expiration date) determines how long an exchange visitor is permitted to stay in the U.S.

J-1 immigration status is often used for students who are in a specific educational exchange programs such as Fulbright or WashU-affiliated
exchange partnerships.

Regular degree-seeking students may also be eligible for J-1 immigration status.


Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a type of off-campus work authorization for F-1 students. CPT provides students with the opportunity for practical application of the knowledge gained in their program of study and is considered part of the student’s curriculum. Usually, CPT is used for internships or other job opportunities prior to graduation for which the student will earn course credit. In most instances, an F-1 student is not eligible for CPT until they have completed one full academic year (2 semesters).

OISS must authorize all periods of CPT before they begin.


Optional Practical Training is a type of work authorization for F-1 students who have been full-time students for at least one academic
year (2 semesters) and plan to seek employment in the U.S. in their field of study.

After receiving an updated Form I-20 with an “OPT Recommendation,” the student must apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for authorization.

A student authorized for OPT is allowed to work within their field of study in the U.S. for up to 12 months.

Our While on Post-Completion OPT page provides specific rules  and reporting requirements while on OPT.

STEM Extension

STEM OPT Extension is a type of work authorization for F-1 students who have earned a degree in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering or math) that appears on the DHS STEM Designated Degree List. The specific CIP code that appears on the student’s I-20 form must appear on this list, and the student must meet specific STEM Extension eligibility to apply for this two-year extension of their OPT work authorization.

Academic Training

Academic Training (AT) is a type of work authorization for J-1 students to gain practical experience that is directly related to their
academic program of study.

AT may include, but is not limited to, internships, practicum, cooperative education, and other types of practical experience
gained through off-campus employment.

AT may be authorized before or after the completion of an academic program.

Students are eligible for up to 18 months of AT or the length of their academic program (whichever is shorter).

Doctoral students and STEM students may be eligible for an additional 18 months of AT after completion of their academic program.