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International Student and Scholar Services

International Programs & Global Engagement

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Maintaining F1 & J1 Status

Maintaining F-1 Status

U.S. federal government regulations require all international students to maintain F-1 student status. It is your responsibility to be aware of the factors that impact your legal status and make sure you remain compliant. Non-compliance is a very serious matter with severe consequences. While the responsibility for maintaining compliance is yours, IPGE is here to help you navigate the complexities of U.S. government regulations and procedures. This section will assist you in providing key information for maintaining your student status.

Full-Time Enrollment

You must maintain full-time enrollment each academic term (except during designated vacation periods) and make normal progress toward the completion of your program of study. Full-time enrollment is as follows:

  • Undergraduate students: 12 units during the spring and fall semesters 
  • Graduate students: 9 units during the spring and fall semesters

Address/Email/Phone Number Change

You must update IPGE and your MySacState within 10 days of any change. To update IPGE, complete an address update form at the IPGE front desk.

Online Course Restriction

You are limited to 3 units of online courses that count towards your full-time requirement. In other words, undergraduates must have at least 9 units in-person and graduates must have at least 6 units in-person. "Hybrid" courses that have meetings both in-person and online are considered in-person courses.

Examples of students in status:

  • Undergrad with 3 units online and 9 units in-person
  • Undergrad with 6 units online and 9 units in-person
  • Graduate with 3 units online and 6 units in-person

Examples of students out of status:

  • Undergrad with 6 units online and 6 units in-person
  • Graduate with 6 units online and 3 units in-person
Reduced Course Load

You must normally enroll in and maintain a full-time course load as explained in the "Full Time Enrollment" section above. However, there are certain limited circumstances where you may reduce your course load temporarily. These circumstances fall under several categories, Medical Condition, Academic Difficulty, Final Term, or a graduate student working on thesis, project, or comprehensive exam. In each case, you must seek approval from a DSO (International Student Advisor) prior to the reduction in course load. Each type of authorization has specific eligibility criteria, required documentation, and time restrictions. For more on eligibility and how to request a drop below full course of study, please see the Authorization for Drop Below Full Course of Study Form.

Concurrent Enrollment

Concurrent Enrollment allows you to enroll in a limited number of classes at another SEVP approved institution while attending Sacramento State. The process is as follows:

  1. Receive a Concurrent Enrollment letter from IPGE. This letter informs the other institution that you are in-status and eligible to take courses. This letter can be requested at the front desk.
  2. Maintain full time enrollment throughout the semester. No fewer than 6 units may be taken at Sacramento State. Total enrollment between Sacramento State and additional school must meet full time enrollment minimums (12 for undergraduates, 9 for graduates).
  3. Ensure you meet the online course restrictions.
  4. By the end of week 2 of the semester, submit proof of enrollment to IPGE and an Authorization to Drop Below Full Course of Study form. Proof must contain your name, school, class, and number of units.
  5. After course completion, submit an unofficial or official transcript to IPGE showing course grades.

Note: If you are registered in full-time units at Sac State and you wish to take additional units at another school, you do NOT need to submit an Authorization to Drop Below Full Course of Study form.

Extension Of Program

The completion date on your I-20 is an estimate. If you are unable to complete your program by that date, you must request an extension of your program through IPGE at least 30 days before the end date on your I-20. However, we recommend you apply for an extension up to three months before expiration. Once your I-20 expires, it is not possible to complete an extension and you are considered out of status. To complete the extension, please submit the Program Extension form to IPGE. As part of the form, you will be required to receive a recommendation from your academic advisor.

Social Security

International Students who have been approved for on or off campus employment will be required to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) before they may begin work. SSNs are generally assigned to F-1 students who are authorized to work in the United States and are used to report their wages to the IRS. Please be aware that a SSN is not a work authorization.

SSN Procedures:

  1. Receive a Job Offer
  2. Obtain a SSN support letter from your employer’s Payroll office.
  3. Complete an IPGE letter request form for an IPGE SSN Support Letter. You must first be authorized to work (on-campus, CPT, or OPT). Your letter will be available the next business day.
  4. Apply in person at the Social Security Administration Office. The closest office to Sac State is:

SUITE B 
8581 FOLSOM BOULEVARD 
SACRAMENTO, CA 95826

Bring the following documents to the SSA:
  • Valid Passport
  • Original I-20
  • I-94
  • SSN Support letter from Employer
  • SSN Support letter from IPGE
  1. Once you have your Social Security number, visit your payroll office to complete the hiring process.

Note: If you are a new student, please wait 10 days after the semester starts before you apply for an SSN.

Employment (On-Campus, CPT, And OPT)

International students must adhere to specific rules and regulations regarding employment in order to ensure it is allowed by the F-1 regulations. "Employment" is considered work performed in exchange compensation. Before accepting any kind of employment, please read the employment information below carefully and contact your International Student Advisor with additional questions.

On-Campus: F-1 and J-1 students are eligible to work on-campus while attending classes. See the On-Campus Employment site for eligibility, job search resources, and approval process.

CPT: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a type of off-campus work authorization which permits eligible F-1 students to engage in a work experience that is directly related to their major area of study. See the Curricular Practical Training site for eligibility and application procedures.

OPT: Through OPT, F-1 students can gain hands-on work experience related to their academic field of study. See the Optional Practical Training site for eligibility, the application process, and reporting requirements.

External Resources

Traveling

All F-1 students are advised to carefully follow the guidelines and advice regarding traveling outside of the United States.

Required Documents for travel outside of the US:

  • Passport valid at least 6 months into the future
  • Most recent I-20 with a travel signature less than one year old
  • Unexpired F-1 visa

To receive a travel signature, bring your most recent I-20 to IPGE and submit at the front desk along with a Letter Request Form. Please request travel signatures at least 7-10 days in advance of your travel. Signatures may not be available on a last minute basis.

If you have an expired F visa and are traveling for a short period of time to Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island, you may fall under the Automatic Revalidation provisions.

Transferring To Another Institution

Submit a copy of your acceptance letter and transfer-in form (if any) from your transfer-in institution to your International Student Advisor at IPGE. You will also need to specify your requested SEVIS release date. If you have just finished your program at Sac State, your SEVIS record will need to be transferred before the end of your 60 day grace period.

Completing Your Studies

Once you complete your program, you have a "60-day grace period." During this grade period you may:

  1. Transfer to another institution in F-1 status (see above). Please complete this process early in your grace period, as processing at IPGE can take up to 5 days.
  2. Depart the United States, thereby ending your current F-1 status. You are free to travel within the U.S. during your 60-day grace period. However once you leave the United States, your F-1 status will end. If you plan on re-entering the U.S. after departure, it would need to be on a new status.
  3. If eligible, you may apply for 12 months of Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT).
Understand And Maintain Your Immigration Documents

You are required by law to keep your immigration documents up to date. It is solely your responsibility to keep and maintain your documents, so you are advised to keep physical copies and/or scans of all of your documents. It is common practice for agencies to ask for copies of past documents when you apply for benefits or a new immigration status (H-1B or Permanent Residency). Although ISSS retains copies of some of your documents, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to provide you with a copy of a previously issued document upon request.

Reminder: Be Sure To Check Your SacLink Email Regularly For Updates From IPGE!

Maintaining J-1 Status

U.S. federal government regulations require all international students and scholars to maintain J-1 status. It is your responsibility to be aware of the factors that impact your legal status and make sure you remain compliant. Non-compliance is a very serious matter with severe consequences. While the responsibility for maintaining compliance is yours, IPGE is here to help you navigate the complexities of U.S. government regulations and procedures. This section will assist you in providing key information for maintaining your J-1 status.

Full-Time Enrollment (Students)

J-1 students must maintain full-time enrollment each academic term (except during designated vacation periods) and make normal progress toward the completion of your program of study. Full-time enrollment is as follows:

  • Undergraduate students: 12 units during the spring and fall semesters 
  • Graduate students: 9 units during the spring and fall semesters

Address/Email/Phone Number Change (Students And Scholars)

All J-1 visa holders must update IPGE and your MySacState within 10 days of any change. To update IPGE, complete an address update form at the IPGE front desk.

Online Course Restriction (Students)

J-1 students are limited to 3 units of online courses that count towards your full-time requirement. In other words, undergraduates must have at least 9 units in-person and graduates must have at least 6 units in-person. "Hybrid" courses that have meetings both in-person and online are considered in-person courses.

Examples of Students in Status:

  • Undergrad with 3 units online and 9 units in-person
  • Undergrad with 6 units online and 9 units in-person
  • Graduate with 3 units online and 6 units in-person

Examples of students out of Status:

  • Undergrad with 6 units online and 6 units in-person
  • Graduate with 6 units online and 3 units in-person
Reduced Course Load (Students)

J-1 students must normally enroll in and maintain a full-time course load as explained in the "Full Time Enrollment" section above. However, there are certain limited circumstances where you may reduce your course load temporarily. These circumstances fall under several categories, Medical Condition, Academic Difficulty, Final Term, or a graduate student working on thesis, project, or comprehensive exam. In each case, you must seek approval from a Responsible Officer of Alternate Responsible Offer (International Student Advisor) prior to the reduction in course load. Each type of authorization has specific eligibility criteria, required documentation, and time restrictions. For more on eligibility and how to request a drop below full course of study, please see the Authorization for Drop Below Full Course of Study Form.

Two-Year Home Residency Requirement (Students And Scholars)

The Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement[212(e)] applies to some J-1 visa holders. After completion of a J-1 program, the scholar may be required to reside in the home country for a minimum of two years. If the J-1 is subject to this requirement, the J-2 is as well. This requirement limits the ability of some Exchange Visitors to change their status or obtain certain kinds of entry visas after participation in the program.

You may be subject to the Two-Year Home Country Residence Requirement if:

  • You receive any funding from your home country government (including travel grants etc.).
  • Your field is on the U.S. government‘s Exchange Visitor’s "Skills List.”

During the course of or after the completion of your J program you may find it necessary to apply for a waiver of the requirement. Keep in mind that once you have submitted the waiver application, Sacramento State cannot extend your stay as a J-1 scholar.

Extension Of Program (Students And Scholars)

The completion date on your DS-2019 is an estimate. If you are unable to complete your program by that date, you must request an extension of your program through IPGE at least 30 days before the end date on your DS-2019. However, we recommend you apply for an extension up to three months before expiration. Once your DS-2019 expires, it is not possible to complete an extension and you are considered out of status. To complete the extension, please submit the Program Extension form to IPGE. As part of the form, you will be required to receive a recommendation from your academic advisor (students).

Research Scholars should discuss with their ISSS Advisor if they are considering an extension of their program. Short-Term Scholars are not permitted to extend their program beyond 6 months.

Social Security (Students And Scholars)

International Students who have been approved for on or off campus employment will be required to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) before they may begin work. SSNs are generally assigned to J-1 students who are authorized to work in the United States and are used to report their wages to the IRS. Please be aware that a SSN is not a work authorization.

SSN Procedures for J-1 Students:

  1. Receive a Job Offer
  2. Obtain a SSN support letter from your employer’s Payroll office.
  3. Complete an IPGE letter request form for an IPGE SSN Support Letter. You must first be authorized to work (on-campus or Academic Training). Your letter will be available the next business day.
  4. Apply in person at the Social Security Administration Office. The closest office to Sac State is:

SUITE B 
8581 FOLSOM BOULEVARD 
SACRAMENTO, CA 95826

Bring the following documents to the SSA:
  • Valid Passport
  • Original DS-2019
  • I-94
  • SSN Support letter from Employer
  • SSN Support letter from IPGE
  1. Once you have your Social Security number, visit your payroll office to complete the hiring process.
  2. Complete the online "Glacier" process (campus employers).

Research Scholars and Short-Term Scholars can receive a SSN without receiving an offer of employment. If you wish to get a SSN, your advisor will issue a letter to assist you in securing a SSN during your orientation. Then, follow the instructions above with the exception of the employer letter and Glacier process.

Note: If you are a new student or scholar, please wait 10 days after the semester starts before you apply for an SSN.

Employment (On-Campus, Academic Training)
On-Campus Employment

J-1 students may engage in part-time on-campus employment (full-time when school is not in session) if they have obtained approval from their program sponsor (a clearance must be issued by IPGE).

Off-Campus Employment

Full-time J-1 students in good academic standing may engage in part-time (full-time when school is not in session) off-campus employment if they encounter financial difficulties due to unforeseen circumstances. In order to apply for permission to work off-campus it will be necessary that you meet with your IPGE advisor, and provide detailed information concerning the nature of your unforeseen financial difficulties. Employment permits will be issued when conditions warrant approval.

Academic Training

J-1 Estudents may engage in academic training during their studies without wages or other remuneration, or for wages with the approval of their international student advisor. Paid academic training can be authorized for a maximum of 18 months during or after their academic studies. Academic training after completion of studies must begin no later than thirty (30) days after completion of studies and cannot be approved for a period of time longer than the student’s academic program. Paid academic training can only be undertaken by students whose primary reason for being in the US is to study, not to engage in academic training. In order to begin paid academic training, J-1 students must:

  1. Be in good academic standing.
  2. Plan to engage in academic training that is clearly related to their major field of study.
  3. Receive written permission from their International Student Advisor.
Employment Of J-2 Spouse Of J-1 Exchange Visitor

The J-2 spouse of a J-1 exchange visitor may, under certain conditions, obtain permission from USCIS to accept employment. Permission to accept employment will only be granted if the J-2 spouse can demonstrate that the financial resources of the J-1 are inadequate to cover the essential costs of the J-2 dependents. The money earned by the J-2 spouse cannot be intended for the purpose of assisting the J-1 in meeting his/her costs.

J-1’s or their J-2 dependents interested in one of the off-campus employment opportunities described above should meet with their IPGE advisor to obtain exact application procedures.

Traveling (Students And Scholars)

All J-1 visa holders are advised to carefully follow the guidelines and advice regarding traveling outside of the United States.

Required Documents for travel outside of the US:

  • Passport valid at least 6 months into the future
  • Most recent DS-2019 with a travel signature less than one year old
  • Unexpired J-1 visa

To receive a travel signature, bring your most recent DS-2019 to IPGE and submit at the front desk along with a Letter Request Form. Please request travel signatures at least 7-10 days in advance of your travel. Signatures may not be available on a last minute basis.

If you have an expired J visa and are traveling for a short period of time to Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island, you may fall under the Automatic Revalidationprovisions.

Transferring To Another Institution (Students)

See an ISSS Advisor. If you and your next school believe you’re qualified for a SEVIS transfer, discuss your travel and/or employment plans with us before choosing a SEVIS transfer release date. Considerations include:

  • The start date of the new DS-2019 must be the day following the expiration of the current one.
  • If you are going to work on Academic Training in the summer before enrolling in the fall at the new school, your release date must be on or after the last date of work or you will lose the employment eligibility.
  • If you are currently on post-completion Academic Training, you need to choose a transfer release date on or after he last date of work. AT authorization will automatically end on the release date.
Gather your Documents
  • A letter of admission from your new school
  • Transfer in form from the new school

Submit your documents to your ISSS Advisor. Your advisor will review your documents for eligibility and transfer your record.

Completing Your Program (Students And Scholars)

Once you complete your program, you have a "30-day grace period." During this grade period you are free to travel within the U.S. However once you leave the United States, your J-1 status will end. If you plan on re-entering the U.S. after departure, it would need to be on a new status.

USCIS Links