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Advising Graduate International Students

To: Graduate Coordinators and Academic Advisors
From: Office of International Education

We enroll approximately seven hundred international students from more than seventy-five countries each academic year. All international students on F-1 and J-1 visas have to comply with U.S. federal regulations to keep their status during their stay in the U.S. The following list is offered as additional information for you to assist with advising graduate, international students.

  • International Students Pathway to the U.S: Once an international student is admitted, the Office of International Education receives the original admission letter from the Graduate School, creates an immigration document (I-20 or DS-2019), and mails the package to the international student. We use regular airmail, which can take two to four weeks to reach the student. Students apply for a visa (F-1 or J-1), go to the interview at the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate, and, upon receiving a visa, will make housing and flight arrangements to come to the U.S. Students wishing to obtain documents within two to four days can go online to schedule and pay for express mailing through this site: Express Mailing of Admissions Package. We mail admission packages for students admitted for Spring semesters beginning in October and packages for students admitted for Summer and Fall semesters beginning in February of each year.
  • Fulbright, IIE, Muskie, and Government Sponsored Students: As these students are being sponsored, they must gain the approval of their sponsor for reduced course loads, travel, internships, working after graduation, and other issues. Sponsored students are held to the same requirements as other degree-seeking students regarding full-time status and online classes. Please contact our office if you have questions about a sponsored student.
  • Orientation: Our office holds a week-long orientation program every Fall and Spring semester to assist international students with registration and cultural adjustment to the U.S.
  • Graduate Assistantships: Our office is not aware of graduate assistantships until we receive a copy of the contract from the Graduate School, after it has already been mailed to a student. GAs are awarded usually after an admission package has been mailed to a student; therefore, we only mail an updated immigration document at the request of the student. International students often want the GA award amount added to their immigration document for their visa interview (students must take original immigration documents to their visa interview—scanned or faxed documents are not generally acceptable). Although the updated I-20 is not required with the addition of IUP funding for the visa interview, it often helps the student’s chance of obtaining a visa. Mailing of these new documents is time-sensitive, and often there is not enough turnaround time for a student to receive a new immigration document via regular airmail. Students wishing to use express mail can go online to schedule and pay for express mailing through this site: Express Mailing of Admissions Package.
  • Deferrals: International students outside of the U.S. must obtain a new admission letter and immigration document every semester they defer to obtain a visa or enter the U.S. While their admission remains valid, new documents are required. If you know a student is deferring, please ask the international student to contact our office immediately.
  • Full-time Status: Students are required, by federal regulations, to register for and complete nine credits each academic semester. However, if a student is encountering difficulties with English or the academic level of a course, she or he is permitted, with prior authorization from the Office of International Education, to drop below full-time status for one semester. Please advise students to contact the Office of International Education to discuss their situation and to complete the Reduced Course Load Application before dropping/withdrawing from any course(s) that will take them belownine credits. If a student drops without prior authorization from the Office of International Education, she or he will be considered out of status (illegal) with the federal government. This is something the Office of International Education wants to avoid, as the reinstatement process is costly ($300) and time consuming for the student and is not guaranteed.
  • Reduced Course Load: Students are permitted, with prior Office of International Education approval, to take a reduced course load (less than nine credits) during two semesters for the following reasons: academic difficulty, medical reason, and complete coursework in their last semester. Students can take a three-credit online class their last semester. Students must complete a Reduced Course Load Application in our office.
  • Online Classes: Students are limited, by federal regulations, to take only one online course per academic semester to reach full-time status. More online classes can be taken if a student takes more than nine credits.
  • Thesis or Dissertation: Students not registered for credits (preparing for comprehensive exams or completing the thesis) must have the academic advisor complete an Office of International Education verification form to maintain their legal status.
  • Summers: Unless a program requires summer classes, international students are permitted to travel or study at IUP or another institution.
  • Help with English: If you feel students are struggling with their English, you can refer them to a variety of resources in the community. The American Language Institute or ARIN Adult Education Center offers classes for all students. The ALI charges for its services, and ARIN primarily offers survival skills English for free. The IUP Writing Center, with sponsorship from our office, has ESL tutors available to help with writing. The Office of International Education and the English TESOL department offer ad hoc programming from time to time. For help with speaking, our office coordinates conversation partners through the Conversation Club and matches students with American families through the International Friendship Program.
  • Taking a Semester “Off”: Only in extraordinary medical circumstances are students permitted to take off an academic semester. In such cases, the student must make an appointment with the Office of International Education before withdrawing. Taking off for a semester because of financial problems is not considered a legitimate reason by the federal government, and the student will violate their immigration status.
  • Internships: A student is permitted to participate in an internship (paid or unpaid) provided it is an integral part of the curriculum, the student is enrolled for IUP internship credits, and she or he applies for and receives immigration permission before the start of the internship. Please direct students to the Office of International Education for more details and application forms.
  • Working After Graduation: Students are eligible to apply for one year of work permission, Optional Practical Training, and Academic Training to begin following graduation and, in some cases, before graduation. Please direct students to attend a mandatory workshop held by the Office of International Education each month to find out more details and to receive the application.
  • If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our International Student Advisor, Jessica Dories, (jessica@iup.edu); J Advisor, Christina Arroyo (carroyo@iup.edu); or me (michelep@iup.edu). We are here to assist international students and to make their IUP experiences positive and rewarding.

Best regards,

Michele L. Petrucci, Ph.D.
Assistant Vice President for International Education and Global Engagement

Jessica A. Dories
Assistant Director: Student Immigration

Christina Arroyo
J Advisor

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