Understanding Your Legal Requirements

This section contains information about maintaining your F-1 and J-1 immigration status. While Penn State’s international student advisers can assist you in understanding the benefits, requirements, and limitations of your status, it is ultimately your responsibility to maintain your immigration status. Please read the information in this section carefully.

Enrollment Requirements

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

Undergraduate and Law students in F-1 or J-1 status need to enroll for a minimum of 12 credits/semester to fulfill Department of  Homeland Security (DHS) visa requirements for full-time enrollment.

Graduate students in F-1 or J-1 status need to enroll in a minimum of 9 credits/semester to fulfill the Department of Homeland Security visa requirements for full-time enrollment.

F-1 and J-1 students may count no more than 3 hybrid-remote/online credits toward their minimum requirement. 

The following instructional modes count as in-person for immigration purposes:

  • In person (P)
  • Hybrid 25%-50% Remote (H2)
  • Hybrid 51-74% Remote (H5)

Part-time Enrollment/Reduced Course Load

Part-time enrollment/exceptions to full-time study must be cleared with an International Student Adviser in advance. For additional information, review the reduced course load information.

Hybrid, Web-based Courses, or Online Courses

F-1 and J-1 students may count only 3 credits that are taught hybrid-remote/online, including World Campus, and Web, courses towards full-time enrollment each semester.

These instructional modes count as hybrid-remote/online: 

  • Hybrid 75% and up Remote (H7)
  • Remote Blended (RB)
  • Remote Asynchronous (RA)
  • Remote Synchronous (RS)
  • Video Receiving (VR)
  • Distance Education (DE)

World Campus Enrollment

F-1 and J-1 students cannot do a change of campus 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. You can take web-based courses from outside the United States and do not need to be in F-1 or J-1 status. 

Summer Enrollment

Starting during the Summer

Undergraduate Students:

  • Undergraduate students beginning their degree in Summer Session I must be registered for 12 credits.
  • Undergraduate students beginning their degree in Summer Session II must be registered for 6 credits.
  • F-1 and J-1 students may count no more than 3 hybrid-remote/online credits toward their minimum requirement.

Graduate Students:

  • Graduate students beginning their degree in Summer Session I must be registered for 9 credits.
  • Graduate students beginning their degree in Summer Session II must be registered for 5 credits.
  • F-1 and J-1 students may count no more than 3 hybrid-remote/online credits toward their minimum requirement.

Graduating at the End of Summer

Students who intend to graduate or complete their program in summer must enroll in summer courses. No more than 3 hybrid-remote/online credits may count towards full-time summer enrollment.  If requesting approval for part-time enrollment for final semester, enrollment cannot be fully hybrid-remote/online.

Continuing Your Studies in the Fall Semester

Students who plan to enroll in the following fall semester may do any of the items listed below during the summer as it is considered a "vacation" period:

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 do not count toward the Department of Homeland Security’s full-time enrollment requirement for international students.

Withdrawals

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. International Student and Scholar Advising (ISSA)-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 online. We suggest that the student seek the advice of an academic adviser beforehand. Again, students must initiate the withdrawal: see instructions on the Registrar's website.