Guidelines on Maintaining Status

The goal of the Office of Global Services (OGS) is to support you in achieving your personal, academic, and professional goals during your time in the U.S. As an international student on with F-1 or J-1 student status, in addition to the challenges of attending a degree program in a foreign country and navigating intercultural differences, you have the added responsibility of maintaining your F-1 or J-1 status to remain in the U.S. and successfully complete your degree. 

While it is your responsibility to maintain your status, the OGS is here to help guide you to understand the U.S. government’s regulations and procedures. One of the first ways to learn more about these rules and regulations is through our International Student Orientation. Due to the complexity of U.S. immigration regulations, we recommend that you contact our office directly for advising on your F-1/J-1 status, rather than relying on indirect information from other sources, such as friends or the Internet. 

U.S. federal government regulations require all F-1 and J-1 international students to maintain valid nonimmigrant status. We recommend that you reference the information on this webpage often during your time in the U.S. to ensure you are meeting all requirements to maintain your status.  

Please be sure to click each section and item below and carefully read the information. Contact OGS if you have questions about these requirements.  

F-1 Students: Please also review the information provided by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on the Study in the States website regarding maintaining F-1 status. 

Maintaining Lawful F-1/J-1 Status

As an F-1 or J-1 student, you must meet certain obligations in order to maintain lawful immigration status. Maintaining status is necessary in order to receive the benefits of F-1 or J-1 status, such as employment authorization and program extension, and can be crucial to a successful application for a change or adjustment of non-immigrant status in the future. Failure to maintain your non-immigrant status can result in serious problems with immigration and could lead to deportation from the U.S. 

General Requirements

(Click each topic below for more information)

  • Our office will send any important information related to your F-1/J-1 status to your Northeastern email address 
  • Please add the OGS email address to your approved senders list in your Northeastern email account and frequently check your junk/spam folders for any missed emails from OGS. 
  • Failure to read an important email from OGS will not be an acceptable excuse to the Department of Homeland Security for failing to maintain your F-1/J-1 status. 
  • F-1 and J-1 regulations require that you report any change to your U.S. phone number or U.S. local address within 10 days of the change. 
  • OGS is then required to report this change on your behalf in your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record. These changes are not reflected on your I-20/DS-2019 and do not require issuance of a new document. 
  • Currently enrolled students should update this information in their Student Hub account.
  • Graduated students on post-completion OPT, STEM OPT, or AT should report their address update either in the SEVP portal or in myOGS. 
  • OGS does not retain signed copies of your immigration documents, as it is your responsibility to maintain a record of these documents. 
  • Save each immigration document you are issued during your F-1/J-1 status. You may need them in the future: 
    • to document your employment history and your compliance with U.S. immigration regulations 
    • for applications for immigration benefits to U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) or future visa applications to Department of State 
  • For electronically issued I-20s, you must print and sign at the bottom of Page 1. We recommend you take a photo or scan a PDF of the signed document. 
  • Students on the STEM OPT Extension: please keep copies of all fully executed Forms I-983 that you complete with your STEM employers (including all 12-month and final evaluations on Page 5). 
  • J-1 students: please note that the original Forms DS-2019 should be saved, as OGS is not permitted at this time to issue DS-2019s electronically. We also recommend you take a photo or scan a PDF of the signed document. 
  • Report any changes in your non-immigrant status from F-1/J-1 to any other status to OGS. 
  • All international students with F-1 or J-1 status must complete the mandatory Immigration Clearance at the start of each new program of study. This is a U.S. government regulation for students to maintain their non-immigrant status. OGS facilitates this process, which is called “online immigration clearance.” Students who do not complete the mandatory immigration clearance within the deadline are not maintaining status and are at risk of SEVIS record termination. 
  • Students will receive emails regarding Immigration Clearance before the start of their academic program and can find more information regarding this process on the OGS website. 
  • Keep your passport valid at all times. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months into the future on the day you return to the U.S. from a trip abroad. 
  • Your F-1/J-1 visa may expire while you are inside the U.S. You only need to renew your F-1/J-1 visa if you are going to travel outside of the U.S. and need to return. 
  • Keep your I-20 or DS-2019 valid and accurate at all times and understand your end date. Remember that your I-20/DS-2019 is essentially a printout of your SEVIS record, and if things change, you must notify OGS so that the document can be updated 
    • Extend your I-20 prior to its expiration date if you are unable to complete your academic program by the original end date. 
    • In the event of change of academic program or level, update your I-20 in a timely fashion in accordance with immigration regulations (see the “Change of Degree Level” section below) 
    • Notify OGS if you decide to finish your degree online from overseas, stop your program earlier than anticipated, or end an authorized period of CPT/OPT/STEM OPT earlier than anticipated and depart the U.S. 
  • F-1 students who successfully complete their program are granted a 60-day grace period starting the day after their I-20 program end date.  
  • J-1 students who successfully complete their program are granted a 30-day grace period starting the day after their DS-2019 program end date. 
  • During the grace period, students can remain in the U.S. to travel or prepare to depart the U.S. Any on-campus employment must stop as of the I-20/DS-2019 program end date. 
  • F-1 students are eligible to transfer out during the grace period if accepted to another U.S. SEVP-certified institution. J-1 students are not eligible to transfer out during the grace period. 
  • F-1 and J-1 students are no longer eligible for program extension, change of degree level, or to apply for post-completion OPT or post-completion AT during the grace period. 
  • If you have not requested OPT/AT or received approval to transfer out, and you depart the U.S. during the grace period, your SEVIS record will be completed and you are no longer eligible to re-enter on your current I-20 or DS-2019. 

Study Requirements

(Click each topic below for more information)

  • Review the academic requirements, academic policies, and minimum GPA requirements of your academic program and adhere to all requirements. 
  • Failure to maintain normal academic progress and academic standing may result in academic probation, dismissal, suspension or other negative consequences which may impact your ability to maintain full-time enrollment and your F-1/J-1 status. 
  • If you are academically dismissed, please review the OGS website and contact OGS as soon as possible to discuss your options. 
  • Please be sure to reach out for academic support early and often if you are experiencing challenges with coursework. 
  • You must maintain full-time enrollment each academic term (except during designated vacation periods) and make continuous academic progress towards the completion of your program of study. 
  • Full-time enrollment is as follows: 
    • Undergraduate: minimum of 12 credit hours per term 
    • Graduate: minimum of 8 credit hours per term (9 credit hours per term in a 3-credit enrollment system) 
    • Graduate students who hold an assistantship: minimum of 6 credit hours per term 
    • International students enrolled in NU Immerse/Global Pathways must follow the requirements of their programs 
  • Information for Students in the College of Professional Studies (CPS) 
    • The same rules regarding maintaining full-time enrollment, as explained above, apply to F-1 students in the College of Professional Studies (CPS), but there are important differences in program delivery.  Courses in CPS span the entire academic term or may be offered in two sessions (A and B) but still count as one full academic term. CPS students must ensure that they are enrolled in on-ground courses throughout the entire term. For instance, F-1 students cannot enroll in courses that only occur in session A of the term and have no course enrollment in session B of the term. 
    • F-1 students in CPS also cannot enroll in an online course without first speaking to an academic advisor to confirm their eligibility! 
  • Please note, if F-1 students need to withdraw/drop from a course, they must withdraw/drop from the additional online course and not any of the on-ground core courses in order to maintain full-time enrollment. 
  • Students must maintain on-ground presence throughout the academic term. At Northeastern, there are four different defined instructional methods: Traditional, Hybrid, Live Cast, and Online. The traditional format for courses is fully on-ground and meets the F-1 on-ground presence requirements. Hybrid courses and Live-Cast courses meet the F-1 on-ground presence requirements. However, the combination of all hybrid courses plus one online course toward the full-time enrollment requirement is not acceptable for maintaining the F-1 on-ground presence requirements.   
  • J-1 students are only permitted to take online courses if they have already met the minimum full-time on-ground requirements. 
  • You can learn more about the Defined Instructional Methods at Northeastern on the Registrar’s website. 
    • The U.S. federal government does not look favorably on F-1 students participating in online courses and imposes limitations on online course enrollment.   
    • In general, within minimum full-time credit requirements, F-1 students may be eligible to take a maximum of: 
      • one 3-credit online course, or  
      • one 4-credit online course in a 4-credit enrollment system  
      • up to three credits total for 1-credit courses, i.e., three 1-credit courses, or one 2-credit course and one 1-credit course  
      • Note: Students in NU Immerse/Global Pathways are only permitted to take online courses if they have already met the minimum full-time on-ground requirements 
  • It is important that students contact their academic advisor before enrolling in online courses or withdrawing from any courses, so that they can make an informed decision about their enrollment. 
  • With minor exceptions for non-required summer terms and your final term, you must maintain full-time enrollment and should not drop below a full-time courseload unless you have received authorization from OGS in advance. 
  • Students should not take a reduced course load or a non-medical leave of absence without discussing these options and obtaining authorization from OGS before the start of the term or before dropping any course(s) that would drop below full-time enrollment.  
  • Please see sections on reduced course load and leaves of absence for more information on these topics. 
  • If you need to take a Medical Leave of Absence or a Personal Leave of Absence, you must submit requests to both the University and OGS in advance 
  • Do not drop or withdraw from your classes without final approval from OGS. There is no retroactive leave of absence authorization for students who drop classes without being approved for a leave. 
  • Study Abroad: If you are approved for a university-approved study abroad experience through the Global Experience Office, you must submit a Study Abroad I-20 request to OGS. 
    • You are required to maintain full-time enrollment in order to maintain your F-1 immigration status while studying abroad. Any changes in enrollment during your study abroad program could affect your ability to return to the U.S. Please refer to the OGS website for more information. 
  • Research Abroad: To be approved by OGS for research abroad, you must maintain your full-time registration status at Northeastern University. Additionally, your overseas research project must be required to complete your degree. Please refer to the OGS website for more information. 
  • If you are a current, continuing student at Northeastern and you will be starting a new program at Northeastern, you must submit a Change of Degree Level eForm request to myOGS prior to starting the new program. 
  • Below you will find a list of scenarios that would require submitting a Change of Degree Level request to OGS: 
    • Change from pathway program to Bachelor’s degree level 
    • Change from Bachelor’s degree level to Master’s degree level 
    • Change from Bachelor’s degree level to Graduate Certificate program
    • Change from one Master’s degree program to another Master’s degree program (either after completing the first, or without completing) 
    • Change from Graduate Certificate program to Master’s degree program 
    • Change from Master’s degree program to Graduate Certificate program 
    • Change from Master’s degree program to PhD degree program (either after completing the Master’s, or without completing) 
    • Change from PhD degree program to Master’s degree program (i.e. if you are not able to complete the PhD, or choose to graduate with a Master’s instead of completing the PhD) 
    • All PlusOne programs (before starting the graduate portion of the program)
  • Once your change of degree level request is processed by OGS, you will receive a new I-20 with the same SEVIS ID number reflecting the new degree information. Please note that you will be required to submit an Immigration Clearance again for this new degree. 
  • You can remain in the U.S. and continue any on-campus employment during the time between degree levels only if you have received the Change of Degree level I-20. 
  • Important Note Regarding OPT/STEM OPT: 
    • Once your change of degree level is processed, you will no longer be eligible to apply for Post-Completion OPT based on the previous degree until you complete the new degree and fulfill all eligibility requirements. 
    • If you are currently on an approved period of OPT/STEM OPT and you receive a new change of degree level I-20, you must stop your OPT/STEM employment as of the new I-20 start date.
  • If you are a current, continuing undergraduate student at Northeastern and you will be 1) changing your major or 2) declaring your major, you must submit a I-20 of DS-2019 Request for Continuing Students e-form request to myOGS prior to starting the new program. This applies to students in the Explore Program and the General Studies Program.  
  • Once your request is reviewed and processed by OGS, you will receive a new I-20 with the same SEVIS ID number reflecting the new program information. You will not be required to submit an Immigration Clearance again for this new degree. 
  • If you are currently in a Master’s program and you are changing from one Master’s degree program to another Master’s degree program (either after completing the first, or without completing), please see Change of Degree Level information above. 
  • If you are an F-1 student who would like to transfer your SEVIS record from Northeastern University to another SEVP-certified institution, you should review the Transferring Out page of the OGS website and must submit a transfer out request to OGS so that we can release your SEVIS record. 
  • To have your SEVIS record transferred to your new institution, you must continue to maintain your F-1 student status per federal regulations. You may request that our office transfer your SEVIS record prior to the end of your program at Northeastern, but the date that your new university receives your record should occur after you have completed your program or after your last date of attendance. 
    • Please Note: If you have already completed your program, you must be sure to request your transfer out within your 60-day grace period. 
  • F-1 students in their final term (even if it is earlier than their current I-20 end date) should review the Final Term page of the OGS website and submit the Intent to Complete eForm linked on that page. 
    • PLEASE NOTE: Even if your current I-20 has remaining time, if you will be finishing your degree/program early, you must notify OGS in advance so this can be updated. Remaining in the U.S. without full-time enrollment or taking other action to maintain/extend status yourI-20 is still valid is not considered maintaining status. 
  • If you are in your final term and are planning on applying for post-completion OPT or AT, your program end date will be adjusted accordingly if needed when OGS processes your request. 
  • If you need additional time to complete your degree requirements, beyond your current I-20 or DS-2019 end date, you must apply for a Program Extension.  
  • To maintain your status, you must apply for this extension before your current I-20 or DS-2019 program end date 
  • You can find more information about the Program Extension process on the OGS website. 
  • Please note: Intentionally failing classes to extend your I-20/DS-2019 is not a legitimate reason for a program extension and may be a violation of academic integrity policies which may impact your F-1/J-1 status. 

J-1 Student Requirements

Please note that the requirements below are specific to students with J-1 status, who were issued a Form DS-2019. (Click each topic below for more information)

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program is administered by the U.S. Department of State and was created in 1961 to “…promote mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange […]”. Cultural and educational exchange are the primary purpose of this visa program. 

To learn more about the J Exchange Visitor Program, please read the U.S. Department of State’s Welcome Brochure or Bridge USA J-1 Student Page which summarizes many of your rights. You can find contact information for the U.S. Department of State below. 

Telephone: (866) 283-9090 

Email: [email protected] 

  • Maintain Full-Time Enrollment & On-Ground Presence 
    • If you are in the J-1 student degree category (bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate) and enrolled in a full-time degree program, the same requirements above in the “Study Requirements” section regarding full-time enrollment and maintaining on-ground presence apply to you. 

All J-1 exchange visitors, and their J-2 dependents, are required to have health insurance coverage that meets the specific Department of State requirements below for the duration of their DS-2019 program length: 

  • Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness 
  • In case of death, repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000 
  • Expenses in the amount of $50,000 associated with the medical evacuation of the J Exchange Visitor to his or her home country 
  • A deductible amount not to exceed $500 per accident or illness 
  • Continuous coverage for the duration of the program 

If you purchased health insurance in your home country, please ensure that it covers all of the requirements listed above. OGS is not able to review individual plans to ensure they comply with these requirements. Please contact your health insurance provider to confirm your plan meets all requirements. 

The Northeastern Student Health Insurance Plan (NUSHP) meets the Department of State requirements. 

If your health insurance plan does not cover repatriation & medical evacuation, there are supplemental plans you can purchase to meet this requirement, including this plan offered by Gallagher Student Health & Special Risk. 

Willful non-compliance with this requirement would be a violation of your J-1 status and may result in termination of your SEVIS record. 

J-1 degree-seeking students may be eligible to continue their program at a higher degree level through a process called “Matriculation.” This is only permissible to move to ah higher degree level, for example Bachelor‘s to Master’s or Master’s to Doctorate/PhD. If you are in the J-1 non-degree student category, you are not eligible for Matriculation as that would require a change of your J-1 category. 

Some J-1 are subject to the two-year home country physical presence requirement. It requires you to return home for at least two years after your exchange visitor program ends. You can check your visa stamp and consular-processed DS-2019 to see whether you are subject. 

Please read the OGS website for more information to understand this requirement and contact OGS if you have questions. 

The 12- and 24-month bars are different from the two-year home country residence requirement. The 12- and 24-month rule affects J-1 exchange visitors who have been in the U.S. inJ-1 status previously, and wish to return, using the J-1 Research Scholar. 

If you are in the J-1 degree student category and have a program length longer than 6 months, please note that you will automatically become subject to the 12-month bar. This will only impact your ability to return to the U.S. in the J-1 Research Scholar/Professor categories for 12 months (commonly used for Visiting Scholars/Researchers/Professors and Postdoctoral Fellows). 

Please review the OGS website for more information about the bars. 

Employment Requirements

Employment is a benefit of F-1/J-1 status that has specific requirements and restrictions. You should be aware of these requirements and work only with permission and within the limits of your authorization. Working in the U.S. without appropriate authorization is a serious violation of your status. (Click each topic below for more information)

  • Although F-1 student on-campus employment does not require a specific authorization from OGS unless you need a social security number letter, you must be aware of the restrictions on number of hours you can work during academic and vacation terms.  
  • J-1 student employment does require authorization in advance from OGS. 
  • Please read the on-campus employment pages for more information. 
  • Do not engage in any off-campus work without appropriate authorization from OGS or USCIS (depending on the authorization type). 
  • Please review the off-campus employment and working after graduation sections of the OGS website for eligibility and requirements for these types of off-campus work authorizations. 
  • Submitting a request to OGS without receiving an approval does NOT grant you work authorization. 
  • The regulations surrounding what is considered a true “volunteering” opportunity are complex. Before accepting such opportunities, review the OGS website to determine if the opportunity meets the criteria established by the Department of Labor for true “volunteering,” and contact OGS with questions. 

Travel Requirements

(Click each topic below for more information)

  • New students with Initial status I-20/DS-2019 documents should enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days prior to the program start date listed on Page 1 of their document. 
  • Transfer-In and Change of Degree Level students can enter more than 30 days before the start of their new degree program as long as they have the new I-20 for that degree program. 
  • For travel within the U.S., please see the Domestic Travel page of the OGS website. Although you would not be going through Customs & Border Protection for domestic travel, we recommend you travel with your valid passport, valid I-20/DS-2019, and a printout of your I-94 record. 
  • For international travel outside the U.S., please carefully review the International Travel page of the OGS website for required and recommended documents. 

Passports can be renewed by your consulate in New York, Boston, or DC. Find information about the nearest consulate here. Your passport should be valid for a minimum of six months into the future.  

  • Obtain a travel signature prior to traveling internationally. If you already have a travel signature, ensure it will be valid on the date your re-enter the U.S. Travel signatures are valid for up to 1 year, but are only valid for 6 months while on AT/OPT/STEM OPT after graduation. 
  • Do not attempt to enter the U.S. with a terminated SEVIS record. Please first contact OGS to discuss your situation and options. 
  • Please review the OGS website for more information about international travel. 
  • You are only eligible to enter the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status with a SEVIS record in the following statuses: 
    • Initial – prior to or at the start of your program 
    • Active – during your program while still enrolled or on active AT/OPT/STEM OPT after graduation 
  • The following SEVIS statuses would not permit you to enter the U.S., as they indicate your program has ended or you are not eligible to enter: 
    • Terminated – you are on an approved Leave of Absence outside the U.S. or violated your status resulting in termination. You will be informed by OGS if your SEVIS record is terminated. 
    • Completed – you either: 
      • A) completed your degree program and did not apply to transfer or for post-graduation employment (AT/OPT/STEM OPT). 
      • B) finished your period of OPT/STEM OPT including the 60-day grace period and did not request to transfer or change degree level. 
    • Inactive/Deactivated/Invalidated – your J-1 program ended or your F-1/J-1 record was transferred to another institution that now holds your SEVIS record. 
    • Cancelled – if you tell OGS you will not start your program or you defer your admission without requesting an I-20 deferral. 
  • In general, if you are currently enrolled in your program and maintaining status and have met all requirements, your record will be in Active status throughout your program. 
  • If you are unsure of your SEVIS status or concerned it may not be Active, you may contact OGS. 

Other Requirements

(Click each topic below for more information)

  • Please refer to the Northeastern University Code of Student Conduct.
  • Suspension, academic dismissal, enrollment withheld, expulsion, or other similar disciplinary action which prevents enrollment may have an adverse effect on your F-1 or J-1 status. Please see an OGS advisor for guidance in these situations. 
  • Massachusetts law requires that every full-time and part-time student enrolled in a certificate, diploma or degree-granting program of higher education must participate in their school’s Student Health Program or in a health benefit plan with comparable coverage.  
  • J-1 Students and their J-2 Dependents are required to maintain health insurance that meets the Department of State minimum requirements. Please see the J-1 section above for more information.