Maintaining Your Status as an International Student
Maintaining Your Status
Making the decision to come to University of Houston-Victoria to pursue your academic goals is a huge step, and we understand that reaching these goals is top priority while you are here. In addition to your courses, registration, books, health insurance, and lab work, there is one more important subject you need to "study" in order to ensure success during your stay at UHV: how to maintain your F-1 or J-1 status. All international students who are under F-1 and J-1 visa status must follow a set of immigration regulations as outlined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in order to maintain the international student status.
Each item below has instructions for any event affecting your immigration status as well as consequences for failure to comply. If you have any questions or concerns about how to maintain your immigration status and/or employment eligibility, please contact the International Program Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full-Time Course Enrollment
International students must register for a full course of study during the Fall and Spring semesters as defined below:
- Undergraduate Students - 12 credits
- Graduate Students - 9 credits
- Post graduates seeking a second Bachelor degree - 12 credits
- Please note:
- Full-time course registration is not required for the Summer semester
- Online courses are limited to only 3 credits or 1 online course per semester and are not counted toward to the full-time enrollment total
- Audit course units are not counted toward the full-time enrollment total
Given some conditions, international students may appeal to Reduce Course Load.
F-1 students are eligible for simultaneous enrollment with a combination of courses both at UHV and another college or university, only if approved by the International Programs Office.
Students must be registered for at least 1 credit at UHV during all terms including the final term. In order to receive International Programs scholarships, students must register full time at UHV. Students who wish to be admitted, enrolled, and attend classes full time at an institution other than UHV need to request a transfer to the new institution.
An F-1 student at UHV may apply to enroll concurrently at UHV and another SEVIS-approved school provided that all of the following conditions are met:
- The combined credits for which the student is enrolled are the equivalent of a full course of study (i.e., undergraduates = 12 credits, graduates = 9 credits).
- The student must be enrolled and taking classes at UHV. UHV must issue and maintain the SEVIS I-20, handle all SEVIS reporting requirements, and ensure that the student is pursuing a full course of study.
- The student has permission from a UHV International Programs advisor to concurrently enroll with UHV and another institution.
- Course work at the other school must not be vocational and must be accepted as transferable credits to UHV. This must be confirmed by a letter/email from an academic advisor at UHV.
- The UHV International Programs Office will issue a new I-20 documenting the concurrent enrollment, based on evidence that the student's enrollment in both institutions is the equivalent of a full course of study (i.e., undergraduates = 12 credits, graduates = 9 credits).
- The name of the concurrent school where the student is enrolled must be clearly recorded in the remarks section (page 1, item 9) of the I-20.
How to Apply for Concurrent Enrollment:
- First, work with a UHV academic advisor on class selection and the reason for concurrent enrollment
- Second, your academic advisor must send an email to the International Programs Office at email@example.com.
- Third, complete the application process with other campus (not UHV) where you wish to take the class
- Fourth, complete the concurrent enrollment form and submit to the International Programs Office no later than UHV's first class start date
Please note that when you enroll concurrently, International Programs is NOT able to inform you of when you are running the risk of being dropped from courses at the other campus. You are responsible for meeting the payment deadlines and maintaining your course enrollment at the other campus in order to maintain your immigration status at UHV. Failing to maintain 12 credits for undergraduate students and 9 credits for graduate students every semester will result in the cancellation of your immigration record.
All F-1/J-1 international students are eligible to work on-campus for up to 20 hours per week when school is in session and 40 hours per week when school is not in session. Please make sure that you do not go above the allocated hours. If you fail to maintain the number of hours as listed in these guidelines, the International Programs Office is required to terminate your F-1/J-1 student status.
In order to work off-campus, students must receive prior authorization from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. For more information pertaining to employment, please visit our international student employment website.
If you work off-campus without authorization, the International Programs Office is required to terminate your immigration status.
F-1 and J-1 students are allotted a specific period of time to complete their academic program requirements. For F-1 students, this period of time is shown on Item #5 of your I-20 or Item #3 of your DS-2019. Please note the expiration date on the I-20/DS-2019. Students who are unable to meet their academic program requirements by that date must request a program extension from the International Programs Office prior to the expiration date. If the expiration date on the I-20/DS-2019 has passed, students must meet with International Programs immediately as the student is considered to be out of status.
- Eligibility Criteria
- The expiration of your I-20/DS-2019 must not have passed
- The student must have continuously maintained your F-1 or J-1 student status
- The delay in completion or program must be due to one of the following reasons:
- Compelling academic reasons (change of major, change in research topics, unexpected research problems, unexpected grades, repeat courses)
- Compelling medical reasons (documentation is required from U.S. licensed medical physician)
- The student must have sufficient funds to cover the additional time needed to complete the program requirements. Check with International Programs for the actual dollar amount.
Leave of Absence
F-1 or J-1 international students who need to take a semester off during the academic year (Fall or Spring Semester) instead of enrolling in courses must receive authorization for a leave of absence the from International Programs Office.
- Students must meet the following criteria for a leave of absence to be considered:
- Student must be in good academic standing
- Students must be outside the U.S. while on leave of absence
- Students must receive written approval from their academic department advisor for leave of absence. It is the student's responsibility to meet with their academic advisors and complete the leave of absence process for the relevant department. Students must confirm with their department that they are eligible to return to their program after the leave of absence. Please contact the International Programs Office for additional details.
Graduation is the most exciting point of your educational pathway in the United States. If you are a student in junior standing, we recommend that you go ahead and begin planning your graduation efforts. This means you need to look into the following items:
- Work with your academic advisor regarding your degree plan to get an idea of what your final semester will be like
- Attend the mandatory sessions for Optional Practical Training (OPT) and "Graduation and Life After Graduation" conducted by the International Programs Office
- Compile your immigration paperwork
- Visit the Career Services Office and work on your resume/CV and cover letter
- If you plan to apply for OPT, do so 4 months before the end of your program. If you do not plan to apply for OPT, you have 60-days depart the United States upon graduation.
- If your plans are to enroll at another U.S institution, please give us a copy of your acceptance letter from the institution. If you are continuing your education at UHV, we need a copy of your acceptance letter from the program. Either letter should indicate the new program start date. This letter should be given to us the week before finals week of your last semester at UHV.
- Visit the International Programs Office to discuss your future plans with one of our advisors. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
International students have a set of grace period regulations that are applied to their visa status.
- F-1 students who complete an academic program or OPT have a 60-day grace period to depart the U.S., change to a different program and/or degree level, change institutions, or change visa status (H1-B, PR). The F-2 immigration status is dependent on F-1 student. F-2s cannot remain in the U.S. under the F-2 status without the presence of the F-1 student.
- J-1 students who complete an academic program or academic training have a 30-day grace period to depart the U.S., change to a new program, change to a different institution, or change visa status (H1-B, PR, F-1). The J-2 immigration status is dependent upon the J-1 student. J-2s cannot remain in the U.S. under the J-2 status without the presence of the J-1 student.
- F-1 or J-1 students who have received prior authorization to withdraw from classes have 15 days to depart the U.S. after the withdrawal date. Students who withdraw from classes without prior authorization are not eligible for a grace period and must depart the U.S. immediately.
Reinstatement may be an option for F-1 students who out of status and wish to regain it without leaving the U.S. F-1 students must be in status in order to be eligible for benefits such as work authorization, program extension, school transfer, and/or adjustment of status. Depending on each student's case, reinstatement may or may not be the best option. In some cases, we encourage you to consult an immigration attorney. Please consult the International Programs Office for more information.
A student may be considered out of status when he or she:
- Fails to apply for a program extension before the I-20 expiration date (Item #5 on your I-20)
- Fails to maintain a full course of study each Fall or Spring semester
- Fails to otherwise maintain international student F-1 status (see above)
- Is found to have worked off-campus without authorization
To apply for reinstatement a student:
- Should not be out of status for more than 5 months at the time of filing for reinstatement
- Must not have a record of repeated or willful violations of USCIS regulations
- Should be currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study in the immediate future
- Must not have engaged in unauthorized employment
- Has read the Reinstatement Handout to obtain information on how to apply
Maintaining Immigration Documents
- Passport: Students must have a valid passport at all times. You must begin the renewal process once the expiration date is within 6 months. Students must make the necessary arrangements to renew the passport. In most cases, passports can be renewed from your home country's U.S.-based embassy or consulate.
- Please note: Give ample time to renew your passport. Certain countries may have to send your passport to your home country for renewal.
- I-20/DS-2010: International students must be aware of the expiration date on their I-20/DS-2019. If it is not possible to complete your academic program by the I-20/DS-2019 expiration date, students must request a program extension at least 2-3 weeks before the I-20/DS-2019 expiration date. Students who fail to complete a Program Extension Form with International Programs Office are considered out-of-status once the expiration date passes.
Change of local address
International students who change their local address, whether you move to a different apartment or simply change dorm rooms, must report this change to the International Programs Office within 10 days of the move. Log in to your UHV account, update your address, and send IPO an email confirming your change of address.