Maintenance of Status

F-1 and J-1 students will find information pertaining to maintaining their immigration status in this section.  The international student advisers in ISSA assist students in maintaining their status, but ultimately maintenance of status is the individual student's responsibility.  Students should read the information in this section carefully.

Enrollment Requirements

Both F-1 and J-1 students must maintain full-time academic status.

Undergraduate students in F-1 or J-1 status should enroll for a minimum of twelve (12) credits to fulfill Department of  Homeland Security (DHS) requirements. Generally students will enroll for fourteen (14) to nineteen (19) credits per semester to complete an undergraduate degree in four years. Students beginning in Summer I must be registered for 12 credits; students beginning in Summer II must be registered for 6 credits.

Graduate students will enroll for variable credits up to fifteen (15), with nine (9) credits being the minimum required to fulfill DHS visa requirements for full-time enrollment. Students beginning in summer must be registered for 5 credits in summer unless they have a 1/2-time assistantship which requires only 4 credits.

Exceptions to full-time study must be cleared through the International Student Adviser in advance by completing the Reduced Course Load eForm in iStart. All exceptions granted by the International Student Adviser must be reported to DHS within 21 days as well as the return to full-time status. Note: Exceptions to full-time study due to academic difficulties are limited to one semester during the entire program of study; documented medical illnesses are limited to one year during the program of study. Failure to enroll for full-time study or to obtain approval from the International Student Adviser in advance is automatically out-of-status.

Distance Education or Web-based Courses


  • F-1 and J-1 students may count only one 3-credit course in distance education (Independent Learning, World Campus, web) or on-line course towards full-time enrollment each semester.

F-1 and J-1 students cannot change their campus designation to World Campus and remain in the United States. Full-time enrollment in World Campus within the U.S. is a violation of F-1 and J-1 status.  In addition, if you have been approved for a reduced course load or your last enrollment is in summer session, you cannot be enrolled for only distance education (web-based) courses.  Both full-time or part-time students must have resident instruction classes or you do not need to be in F-1 or J-1 status.  You can take web-based course from outside the United States.

Summer Enrollment

If a student does not intend to enroll in fall then summer is not a vacation period.

Students who intend to graduate or complete their program in summer, must enroll in the summer.  Enrollment must be for a resident credit (not web-based), although 3 credits of online course (Penn State World Campus) is allowed, a resident class must also be taken. Full-time enrollment must be maintained at Penn State.

Students who are not completing their program of study in summer and who plan to return in the subsequent fall semester are not required to enroll in summer because it is considered a vacation period.


Withdrawals occur once the semester has begun.  There are three possible consequences of withdrawing from all classes:

  1. Termination of the SEVIS record based on “authorized early withdrawal” if the student seeks advice from an international student adviser in ISSA in advance of the withdrawal and completes the Exit Form in iStart.  The grace period to remain in the U.S. is 15 days from the date of termination.
  2. Termination of the SEVIS record based on “unauthorized early withdrawal” if the student does not seek advice from an international student adviser in ISSA in advance of the withdrawal nor completes the Exit Form in iStart in advance.  There is no grace period and the student is required to leave the U.S. immediately.  All retroactive withdrawals will cause a student’s SEVIS record to be terminated.
  3. Authorized medical leave if the student remains in the U.S. for medical treatments.  Otherwise, the termination will be #1 or #2 above.  The limit of this is 12 months.

It is important to note that ISSA does not withdraw students from any classes.  Withdrawing from classes is an academic function by the student or academic advising unit, not an immigration function processed by ISSA.  To withdraw from classes, students must go to LionPath and process the withdrawal on-line. We suggest the student seek the advice of an academic adviser beforehand.  Again, students must initiate the withdrawal:  see for instructions.

Note:  It is possible to withdraw from summer only, (except for first year students), without affecting fall enrollment.   See Summer-Only Withdrawal at  

Concurrent Enrollment

Students are not allowed to enroll at Penn State and another institution at the same time without prior permission.  Courses taken concurrently at another institution typically do not count toward the full-time requirement for international students.