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Maintaining Your Status

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You are responsible for maintaining your visa. It will be your job to ask questions and be well informed about your particular visa regulations. ISS is a source of support and guidance for you throughout your academic career at Southeastern. The topics on this page will be a good resource for you as well, but I encourage you to visit ISS with any questions you may have.

Full Course of Study

In order to maintain your visa you must be enrolled as a full-time student.

  • Undergraduates: 12 credit hours
  • Graduates: 9 credit hours
Online/Internet Classes
  • F-1 students cannot pursue online degree.
  • Of the required 12 credit hours for international undergraduate students each fall and spring, only 3 credits may be online/Internet courses. That is, 9 traditional/face-to-face and 3 online.
  • Of the required 9 credit hours for international graduate students each fall and spring, only 3 credits may be online/Internet courses. That is, 6 traditional/face-to- face and 3 online.
  • International students may enroll in more than 3 credits of online courses if they take 13+ hours (undergraduate) or 10+ (graduate). For example, an undergraduate may take 9 hours of face-to-face classes and 6 hours of online classes.
  • For students (undergraduate and graduate) who only need 3 hours to graduate in the fall or spring, that final class can’t be online!
  • For continuing students (that is, students who enrolled full-time for the spring semester and intend to enroll full-time for the fall semester), there are no restrictions regarding online enrollment in the summer. Since summer term is considered a vacation period, it is not a required term.
Reduced Course Load

There are some circumstances when you are able to drop below a full course of study.

  • Illness or Medical Condition – You must show proof of your illness with a note from a medical doctor (M.D.).
  • To complete course of study in current term – If it is your last semester at Southeastern.
Change of Address

If your address changes while you are studying at Southeastern, you must notify ISS of your new address within 10 days of your change of address.

Leave of Absence (LOA)

F-1 international students who need to leave the United States for no more than 5 months, and are unable to maintain full-time student status while outside of the U.S. must receive authorization for a Leave of Absence (LOA) from ISS and their academic department.

LOA Requirements for the Student:

  • You must be outside the U.S. during the LOA.
  • You must be in good academic standing.
  • You must be approved for a LOA by the ISS and the academic department.

The Leave of Absence Form must be filled out by your advisor or department chair. We recommend that you speak to your department about the academic consequences of an LOA (i.e. will you be able to return to your academic program after the LOA?).

LOA Exceeding 5 Months

Students who will be outside the U.S. for longer than 5 months for an LOA will need to apply for a new visa even if your current visa has not expired. You MUST contact ISS at least two months prior to returning to Southeastern to request a new I-20 to present to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate when applying for your new visa. You will also need to pay the SEVIS fee again.

Returning from LOA

All students returning from a LOA MUST report to ISS immediately after returning to the United States.

Students must bring the following documents when reporting to ISS:

  • Stamped I-20
  • I-94 (online)
  • Visa in passport
Visa Renewal
  • You may NOT renew your visa in the United States.
  • You do not have to renew your visa if you have a valid I-20 and you remain in the United States (this does not include Canada or Mexico).
  • How to Renew Your Visa:
    • You must leave the United States.
    • You may renew your visa anywhere outside of the United States, but it is recommended that you renew your visa in your home country. You may not return to the US until you visa renewal is approved.
    • You should contact the US Embassy or Consulate in your country for more information before you leave the US for changes in regulations. You can find the Embassy/Consulate in your country at
    • Visa appointment wait times:
  • What you will need:
    • A completed visa application DS-160
    • Proof of payment for visa application
    • Current I-20 signed on first and second page by DSO (and all previous I-20s)
    • Passport valid at least 6 months into the future
    • Updated financial support documents
    • Proof of enrollment at Southeastern (usually a transcript)
    • Letter from ISS confirming that you are enrolled and in good visa status
    • For dependents applying for an F-2 visa: You should also bring your marriage certificate.

Automatic Visa Revalidation: Allows you to leave the US to visit certain countries for less than 30 days and re-enter on your expired visa if you did not apply for a visa renewal while out of the US. This does NOT renew your visa, it is only valid for a single trip.

I-20 Extension

You may be eligible to extend your I-20 if:

  • You are making normal progress towards your degree.
  • You submit all the required documents to ISS for the extension two months before the program end date on your current I-20.

The extension is no longer than one academic year.

Required Documents:

  • Request for Extension of I-20 Form
  • A letter from your academic advisor explaining why you were unable to complete your program within the specified time as well as the new expected completion date
  • Proof of financial support (see ISS for amount)