Advising Graduate International Students

We assist international students and scholars from more than 50 countries each academic year.All international students on F-1 and J-1 visas have to comply with US federal regulations to keep their status during their stay in the United States. The following list is offered as additional information for you to assist with advising graduate, international students.

Immigration Regulations about Enrollment

  • Full-Time Status: Students are required, by federal regulations, to register for and complete nine credits each academic semester. Exceptions are given for doctoral programs that have a required 18 credits per year (six credits every fall, spring, and summer). 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 below nine 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 ($450) 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 when they are in the United States. 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.
  • 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.
  • Summers: Unless a program requires summer classes, international students are permitted to travel or study at IUP or another institution.

Immigration Regulations about Employment

  • On-Campus Work: International students may work on-campus for 20 hours per week when classes are in session. During breaks, when a student is not enrolled in classes, s/he can work full-time.
  • Graduate Assistantships: 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/DS-2019 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.
  • 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's Employment page 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.

Resources for International Students

  • Tutoring or Help with English: If you feel students are struggling with their English or need additional help with their classes, you can refer them to a variety of resources in the community.
    • The American Language Institute or ARIN Adult Education Center offers English classes for all students. The ALI charges for its services, and ARIN primarily offers survival skills English for free.
    • The SkillZone is a drop-in tutoring center for international students. Students can request tutoring in any subject and workshops are held every week on various academic topics.
    • The IUP Writing Center, with sponsorship from the office, has ESL tutors available to help with writing. The International Education office and the English TESOL department offer ad hoc programming from time to time.
    • Conversation Partners and the International Friendship Program are two other programs organized through our office to help international students share culture and language.
  • Financial Assistance: Non-US citizens or residents do not qualify for financial aid. Our office does award partial tuition waivers to those who qualify. Students are eligible for graduate assistantships, teaching assistantships, and on-campus work. Also, international students can work with our office to obtain off-campus work permission after two semesters of coursework.
  • Request for Longer Test Times: International students are required to meet English proficiency requirements for admission to IUP, but individuals may still experience challenges related to language and cultural adjustment. International students sometimes request extended time on tests to allow additional time for language processing. IUP does not have a policy regarding accommodations for English learners, and test proctoring services are not available through the OIE or through D2A2 unless students have a verified disability. Faculty and departments may offer extended test time at their discretion. The OIE can assist with verifying international student status: email English learners who are not at IUP on a student visa may self-identify.

Other Information You May Find Helpful

  • International Students Pathway to the United States: 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 US Embassy or Consulate, and, upon receiving a visa, will make housing and flight arrangements to come to the United States. 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.
  • Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission (SACM) sponsored students: Many students who attend IUP from Saudi Arabia are sponsored by their employer or government. There are very strict criteria for obtaining and continuing a SACM sponsorship. Read more about the SACM sponsorship program and view a list of IUP programs that are approved for students from Saudi Arabia.
  • 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 United States.
  • Deferrals: International students outside of the United States must obtain a new admission letter and immigration document every semester they defer to obtain a visa or enter the United States. 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.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us. We are here to assist international students and to make their IUP experiences positive and rewarding.

Michele Petrucci, PhD
Associate Vice President for International Education and Global Engagement

Jessica Dories
Director, International Student and Scholar Services

Lauren Phillips
International Student and Scholar Advisor (F-1 visas)