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International Programs

East Tennessee State University

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Maintaining Your F-1/J-1 Student Status

Once you are admitted to the United States under the F-1 or J-1 status, you must follow certain regulations and procedures in order to remain in lawful F-1/J-1 status.

Passport: Your passport must be valid at all times.

Full-time study: All F1 & J1 students must be enrolled full-time (i.e., at least 12 credit hours for undergraduate students, and at least 9 credit hours for graduate students) during the fall and spring terms. Summer full time enrollment is required for students whose summer is the initial semester of enrollment. 

Important: Only one 3-credit online course may be counted toward full-time enrollment. Please note that we cannot consider as an "on ground" course any course that is identified as "online." Courses that are online, but require a physical presence, are so noted in the registration database and do not show up on our enrollment report as "online." If you receive an email from us telling you that you are registered for too many online credits, then you must switch the online course for an on ground course, or add an additional on ground course.

• A Reduced Course Load (RCL) Form, which can be found on the IPS website, must be completed and submitted to IPS with the appropriate approval signatures.  Only after IPS review and approve RCL request, students may enroll part time. Students who have NOT complied with this regulation within 14 calendar days from the first day of the academic semester will be considered 'Out of Status' and will have their SEVIS record 'Terminated'. Students whose SEVIS records are terminated may apply for reinstatement and should consult with the International Students Advisor on the process.

The full time enrollment applies to the entire semester and IPS monitors enrollment accordingly.  If at any point subsequent to the 14th day of the academic semester students are not registered full-time, their SEVIS record will be 'Terminated' as dictated by USCIS regulations. Note: Students who are 'Out of Status' do not have employment benefits (including employment performed under GAs & TSs) until an application for 'Reinstatement' is made to and approved by USCIS. For more information please visit Study in the States Website:

Reduced Course Load: There are limited  some exceptions to the full time enrollment, as follows: as  reasons to be enrolled in fewer credit hours, which are:

1. Initial Adjustment Issues (Difficulty with English, or American teaching methods)

• Only in your initial semester (transfer students do not qualify)
• Must be within 21 days from the start of classes
• Requires Academic Advisor's Approval

2. Improper Course Level Placement

• Only in initial semester (transfer students do not qualify)
• Must be within 21 days from the start of classes
• Requires Academic Advisor's Approval

3. Medical/Mental Health reasons (Doctor or Licensed Psychologist/Therapist's approval required)

4. Student is in the Final semester of an academic program; or

5. Student is completing Graduate/Doctoral Level Thesis or Dissertation.

• Departmental or medical provider  approval is required for all*reduced course load requests. Please complete this Request Form. Approval is only valid for one (1) semester. Please see the International Student Advisor for more information.

Employment: International students are eligible for on-campus employment of no more than 20 hours per week during the academic year (spring and fall terms). Students may work on campus full time during the summer. Off-campus employment is available under restricted circumstances. J-1 students must obtain specific written authorization to work on-campus and Academic Training (AT) for any off-campus employment (including internships).

Address Changes: You must keep the Office of International Programs informed of your current telephone number, mailing and physical address. 

Extending Your Program: An F-1 or J-1 student who is currently maintaining status and making normal progress toward completing his or her educational objective, but who is unable to complete his or her course of study by the program end date on the Form I-20/DS-2019, must apply prior to the program end date for a program extension.

An F-1/J-1 student who is unable to meet the program completion date on the Form I-20/DS-2019 may be granted an extension by the Designated School Official/Alternate Responsible Officer (DSO/ARO) if the DSO/ARO certifies that the student has continually maintained status and that the delays are caused by compelling academic or medical reasons, such as changes of major or research topics, unexpected research problems, or documented illnesses. Delays caused by academic probation or suspension are not acceptable reasons for program extensions. A DSO/ARO cannot grant a program  extension if the student did not apply for an extension until after the program end date noted on the Form I-20/DS-2019.

An F-1/J-1 student who is unable to complete the educational program within the time listed on Form I-20/DS-2019 and who is ineligible for program extension is considered out of status and may apply for reinstatement. To apply for a program extension, please see the F-1 extension form link.

Transferring to Another Institution: If you have attended ETSU for a semester or more and plan to transfer to another school in the U.S, you will have to request that we release your SEVIS records to the new institution. To request SEVIS release, please complete the SEVIS release form, sign it and bring it to our office at your earliest convenience. Please note that you must be in lawful F-1/J-1 status to transfer.

On-Campus Employment

International Students in lawful F-1 Status are eligible for on-campus employment of 20 hours per week during the academic year and full time during the summer. On-campus employment for F-1 students does not have to be authorized in writing. Work required by a university scholarship, fellowship or assistantship is also considered on-campus employment. Work performed on ETSU premises for an outside contractor such as the cafeteria or bookstore is considered on-campus employment.

On-campus employment is limited to a total of 20 hours per week during fall and spring semesters and up to full-time hours (more than 20) during the summer.

Eligibility to work on campus is contingent upon your maintaining your lawful F-1 status. On-campus student worker  job openings may be found at the Financial Aid Office website: On-Campus RSWP Jobs.

Students in the J-1 status have limited opportunities for Academic Training. Please schedule an appointment with the International Student Advisor by contacting the International Programs office for additional information.

For more information please visit Immigration and Customs Enforcement website regarding on-campus employment:

Template for ETSU On Campus Employer - F1 Students


Graduate students with a graduate assistantship will receive a monthlyt stipend but may not received the first month stipend immediately upon arrival.  As such, it is important to budget from personal funds for the financial obligations due at the beginning of the term:  health insurance, service and activity fees, insurance, books, rent deposits, etc.

Please note that students must have a Social Security Number before they can be paid. Students in F-1 or J-1 immigration  status are not eligible for a Social Security Number without a paying job offer. 
Graduate Assistantships/Tuition Scholarships


Off-Campus Employment

There are two main types of off-campus employment benefits to F-1 students:

Curricular Practical Training 

Optional Practical Training 

For more information, please visit Immigration and Customs Enforcement website regarding off-campus employment:

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT)

In accordance with the ETSU Board of Trustees Policy on Admissions, "students enrolled pursuant to an F visa must have and maintain medical and hospitalization insurance as a condition of initial and continued enrollment at the institution." Please note that you will be required to purchase health insurance directly from the ETSU Provider or submit a waiver request.  Waivers request will only be considered for private policies whose coverage benefits meet of exceed those provided by the ETSU Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan. 

The cost for insurance coverage per semester is approximately $700.

The health insurance coverage that you purchase at ETSU will not provide you with dental or eye coverage. We strongly recommend that you have a dental and eye examination before departing for the United States. Please watch the video below regarding this and more information. 

The current insurance provider for ETSU international student health insurance is United Healthcare Student Resources.


This short video provides helpful information. We highly recomend students review it.  


Reinstatement to F-1 Status

If you failed to maintain lawful F-1 status (enrolled part time without authorization, worked without authorization, failed to renew I-20, etc.), you may apply for reinstatement to lawful status. Application for reinstatement procedures are as follows:

1. Provide The Office of International Programs and Services with financial documents so that we can issue you a new form I-20
2. Complete form I-539.
3. Provide letter of explanation, with documentation, about the reasons for falling out of status. Students who have worked illegally cannot be reinstated.
4. Please see the following Checklist.

DISCLAIMER: Always confirm updated information with USCIS, as our office may not receive notice of changes.

This application package is mailed to the USCIS for adjudication. If an immigration officer reinstates you, you are again under lawful F-1 status. If not, you will be given a certain amount of time to leave the United States.

If you are denied reinstatement in the United States, you can obtain a new I-20, travel outside the United States, apply for a student visa, if necessary, and reenter in legal F-1 status. If this is your situation, please make sure to meet with the International Student Advisor.

Visitor Visa (B-2) for Family and Friends

Family and friends from abroad who wish to visit and/or attend ETSU international students’ graduation ceremony may apply for a B-2 visa from the United States consulate nearest to the place of their residence. International Programs & Services (IPS) advises that international students read the handout prepared by the U.S. Department of State on tips for Visitor Visas – Business and Pleasure ( ), and assist their guests by following the suggestions found here.[DCL1] IPS does not issue invitation letters to parents or guests of international students.

At times students may find themselves overwhelmed and stressed. Services, free of charge, to assist students in these hard times are available. Please don't hesitate to use these resources: 

UnderGraduate Success Specialists

Graduate Success Specialists

Counseling Center

Bucky's Food Pantry


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