SEVIS Student Guidelines for Academic Advisors, Departments, and Colleges

SEVIS is an electronic reporting system that provides the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with information on international students, scholars, and student-interns in the United States.

Working with F and J Students


  • Students must register for and complete a full course of study each semester during the academic year.
  • Students who plan to withdraw or cancel from a course causing them to drop below a full course load must consult with an ISSS adviser before taking action.
  • Graduate students not planning to enroll either for 6 credits, or for 8333 or 8444 must complete a “Reduced Course Load” form and have it approved by ISSS prior to the beginning of the semester.
  • Undergraduate and professional school students not planning to enroll for a full course of study must complete a “Reduced Course Load” form and have it approved by ISSS prior to the beginning of the semester.
  • F-1 Students: Enrollment for less than a full course due to an academic reason (for example, unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods, initial difficulties with the English language or with reading requirements, or improper course level placement) is limited to one time per program level (that is, one exception at the bachelor’s level, one exception at the master’s level, one exception at the doctoral level.) Prior approval from an ISSS advisor is required.
  • Students admitted to begin a program of study effective Summer Session must enroll for a full course of study during the summer session. A “Reduced Course Load” form will not be acceptable if student fails to enroll full-time.
  • Academic advisors should consult with an ISSS advisor about students having academic difficulty so that ISSS can work with the student to improve performance or explore other options before the student is dropped or suspended.
  • F-1 students can count a maximum of three online and distance learning (ODL) credits per term toward the full-course of study requirement. The course is to be completed within the semester of enrollment.
  • F-1 students are allowed to use a medical reason for falling below a full course of study for a period not to exceed 12 months per program of study. Students must complete a Reduced Course Load form and obtain a letter from their doctor. Students who reach the 12 month limit will need to explore different visa options or return home to recover.
  • Individuals who hold a B-1/B-2 Business/Tourist Visa are not, under DHS regulations, able to enroll for a course of study as defined by DHS. Departments should refer these individual to ISSS.
  • Individuals who hold F-2 visas are not able to pursue a course of study. J-2 Visa holders may study.

Loss of Legal Status

  • Common reasons for loss of legal status include, but are not limited to, failure to maintain a full course of study, illegal employment, and allowing visa documents (I-20, DS-2019) to expire. 
  • Inappropriate advice given to the student by a faculty member, academic advisor, or international student advisor that results in loss of legal status is not accepted by DHS as grounds to reinstate.
  • Students who are in violation of legal status will be required to return home and re-enter the U.S. to regain legal status or apply for reinstatement. There is no guarantee that students will be granted reinstatement or allowed to return to the U.S.

New Student Arrival Limitations

  • New students on F-1 visas are limited to a 30-day window prior to the “report-by date” on their I-20 form for entry into the U.S. I-20 report-by dates are not negotiable. New students on J-1 visas may be admitted for a period of up to 30 days before the program start date indicated on form DS-2019.
  • Graduate departments can ask students admitted for Fall Semester to arrive in the summer to begin a project prior to the 30 days window.
  • Undergraduate colleges should consider the arrival limitation when assigning orientation dates.
  • Students who are unable to arrive prior to the report-by date on their I-20 will be required to obtain a new SEVIS-generated I-20 for entry. The electronic tracking system automatically expires any I-20’s not used by the “report-by” date.

J-1 Scholars and Staff

Review the SEVIS guidelines for working with J-1 scholars and staff.

Last updated: June 15, 2021