Maintaining F-1 or J-1 status

Full-Time Status

International students are required to maintain full-time status at all times.

Full-time status at UMass Lowell (UML) is determined as follows:

  • 9 credits for graduate students
  • 9 credits for graduate certificate students
  • 12 credits for undergraduate students

International students must be registered for “required” work towards completion of degree.

International students may only take one online course per semester.

All reductions of course load must be pre-approved by the International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO).

  • To update your personal information, please follow the links below.

  • F-1 and J-1 students who are currently enrolled in a degree program must always maintain their visa document valid while they are in school. If students can’t complete their program by the program end date as noted on their I-20/DS2019, they must request a visa document extension from ISSO at least one month prior to the program end date. Failure to extend your I-20 or DS2019 in a timely manner will cause you to fall out of your visa status.

  • On the Form I-94, the U.S. immigration inspector records either an admitted-until date or "D/S" (duration of status.). All F-1 and J-1 students must receive the D/S notation on your Most Recent Form I-94, so that you may remain in the United States as long as you continue your course of studies or remain in your exchange program or qualifying employment such as Optional Practical Training (OPT) / Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

    If your Form I-94 contains a specific date, you must report it to ISSO immediately and receive assistance for the Form I-94 correction.

    The D/S notation, shown on your Form I-94 is the official record of your authorized length of stay in the United States. You cannot use your F or J visa expiration date in determining or referring to your permitted length of stay in the United States. 

  • SEVIS is an abbreviation for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). It is an electronic tracking database. It requires US academic institutions to maintain and report certain information pertaining to international students and research scholars who are on F-1 or J-1 status. There are particular monitoring and reporting requirements pertaining to: enrollment status, changes in academic discipline, country of citizenship, address changes, changes in funding, work authorization status, and more.

    • Our office is required to register each international student with SEVIS within the first 30 days of each semester. We are required to certify that you are maintaining the required registration status. All students are required to be full-time unless they have been approved to be on reduced course load by the International Students & Scholars Office.
    • Part of SEVIS registration requires that we also confirm your US address and permanent home country address information. Be sure to keep your SiS address information current at all times. Our office receives weekly updates from SiS on all international student address corrections to be entered into your SEVIS record. All address changes must be reported to SEVIS within 10 days of your address change.
    • All students are required to be in the US by the first day of each academic session. Students are not permitted to arrive in the US late without the permission of our office and that of their academic department. This is especially true for students who are the recipients of a Teaching Assistantship or Research Assistantship. Students are not permitted to take extensive leaves during a semester for a period longer than one week without the permission of the ISSO.
  • Student cannot exceed 20 hours of on-campus employment per week during the academic semester.

    All paid and unpaid off-campus work must be pre-approved by the International Students and Scholars Office and a new Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 will be generated before a student is legally authorized to commence his/her off-campus employment. Occasionally, additional authorization may be needed from the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).

  • The completion date of your academic program is not necessarily the same date as that listed under Program End Date on the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019*. Your completion date is the date that you complete your degree requirements. It is NOT the date that you submit your Declaration of Intent to Graduate (DIG) form, your Commencement date, nor the degree conferral date.

    *Although your visa document (Form I-20 or Form DS-2019) may list a future "Program End Date", this does not mean you can necessarily continue to maintain your F-1 or J-1 status through that date should your ACTUAL completion date come sooner.

    Students cannot intentionally delay the completion of their academic program to suit an immigration-related need, to allow more time to secure post-graduate employment, to take additional non-required courses, or to otherwise continue to maintain their student visa status. Be aware that USCIS sets critical deadlines around the actual degree completion date as per above-mentioned description.

    • The completion date for coursework (non-thesis) students is typically the last day of exams of the term in which they will complete their program.
    • The completion date for graduate thesis or PhD students is the date by which the student has finished all post-defense revisions, which is normally from 2-4 weeks beyond the thesis/dissertation defense date.

    The ISSO will depend on the thesis/dissertation advisor to determine what the student's completion date will be as it relates to the student's eligibility for post-graduate work authorization, extension of status, etc.

    If a student misses the DIG deadline, they will be added to the following degree conferral roster, but it will not extend their official immigration completion date.

    Any student wishing to work in the US after completing their academic program should contact us prior to the completion of their degree requirements to allow for the appropriate processing time of any necessary work application.

  • Continued matriculation is not considered an "active" registration status, therefore it is never permitted for international students for the purpose of maintaining their full-time status.

    Continued matriculation is only intended for use after a student has completed all his/her degree requirements, successfully defended their thesis/dissertation and is awaiting the next degree conferral date by the Registrar. Please refer to the definition of Continued Matriculation as per the University's online Academic Catalog.

  • International Students are not permitted to register simply to file an incomplete. If all the student has remaining is to make up an incomplete, the student must complete it prior to the first day of each academic session. An incomplete does not equal a course in order to maintain full-time status.

    Students wishing to apply for post-completion work authorization must do so upon completion of their last academic semester. Their deadline to apply for post completion work authorization is not UMass Lowell’s deadline of when an incomplete can be made up.

    Please contact the International Students & Scholars Office with your questions. We don’t want you to jeopardize your eligibility for post-completion Optional Practical Training work authorization.

  • F-1 students have a 60-day grace period beyond the completion date of their program and also beyond the completion date of the Employment Authorization Document (OPT/STEM OPT).

    J-1 students have a 30-day grace period beyond the completion date of their program and also beyond the completion date of the J-1 Post Completion Academic Training Work Authorization.

    You may not work during this grace period, but you may apply to transfer to another F-1 or J-1 academic program, or apply to a different non-immigrant status, as long as you remain in the US during this process.

    If you depart the US during the grace period, you will be unable to re-enter in F-1 or J-1 status. You will need to have a new approved status and may need to renew or apply for a new visa stamp in order to re-enter the US.

  • F-2 dependent visa holders may enroll in less than a full course of study at an SEVP accredited institution of higher education. This means that F-2 dependent visa holders can study at a College or University while in the US, but not on a full-time basis. F-2 visa holders are permitted to engage in a full-time course of study from the K-12 grade levels, though. F-2 dependent visa holders are not eligible for work authorization in the US, neither on-campus nor off-campus.

    J-2 dependent visa holders are permitted to engage in either part-time or full-time study at an SEVP accredited institution of higher education. J-2 visa holders are also eligible to apply for work authorization from USCIS upon arrival to the US, and only if they can evidence that any money earned through said work will be supplemental to any money earned as part of the J-1 visa holder’s exchange visitor program. Please consult an ISSO advisor upon arrival to the US should a J-2 visa holder be interested in applying for work authorization through USCIS.

    These pages include information you may find helpful in maintaining your status. If you need further help please do not hesitate to contact us directly.

  • Any extended leave for a period longer than one week during the academic semester (i.e., between the start and end dates of an academic term as determined by the academic calendar) must be pre-approved by the International Students & Scholars Office. This includes leaves for the purpose of travel, medical reasons, military, academic discipline, etc. Please review our Leave of Absence page for more information.

    Students must maintain an active passport, valid for at least 6 months beyond their I-20 or DS-2019.

  • All non-immigrants must have a valid status at all times while in the United States. USCIS monitors maintenance of status for all non-immigrants in all non-immigrant visa categories.

    Accumulation of 180 days of unlawful presence will result in a three-year re-entry bar to the U.S. Accumulation of 180+ days of unlawful presence will result in a ten-year re-entry bar to the U.S. There are also other legal ramifications to falling out of legal status.

    Please note that filing a Reinstatement Request in and of itself does not stop the unlawful presence clock. If the Reinstatement Request is denied, the unlawful presence started the day non-immigrant fell out of status.

  • Plagiarism can result in an academic or judicial dismissal or suspension - A dismissal or suspension from the university will result in the termination of F-1 or J-1 status.

    Please review the UMass Lowell Library's guide on how to not plagiarize.

  • Under a new regulation, applicants for adjustment of status will undergo a closer review of their personal circumstances to determine whether they have used “or” are likely to need certain federal public benefits in the future, though this could also affect those in F-1, J-1, H-1B, O-1, or TN status seeking or who are likely to use these benefits.

    Please find more information on the Public Charge Rule on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.