We assist international students and scholars from more than 50 countries each academic year. All international students on F-1 and J-1 visas must comply with federal regulations to keep their student immigration status throughout their time in the United States. We have listed common topics that may assist with advising graduate international students. Please also feel free to reach out to the OIE staff, or direct students to us with questions.

Immigration Regulations about Enrollment

  • Full-Time Status: International graduate students on an F-1 or J-1 visa are required by federal regulations to take a full course load each academic semester. For most IUP programs, this is defined as nine credits (at least six credits in person) each fall and spring. Doctoral programs with required summer terms may define full-time as six credits (at least three credits in person) every fall, spring, and summer. In the thesis or dissertation phase of the program, one credit can be considered full-time enrollment. The federal regulations allow for a few specific situations where students can receive authorization from the OIE to drop below full-time enrollment. Please advise students to contact OIE staff to discuss their situation and to complete the Reduced Course Load Application before dropping/withdrawing from any course(s) that will result in less than full-time enrollment. If a student withdraws without prior authorization from the OIE, she or he will be considered out of status (loss of student immigration status). We want to help students avoid this if possible. If students do lose status, OIE may be able to assist with reinstatement; but the process is costly, processing time is lengthy, F1 benefits are negatively impacted, and approval is not guaranteed.
  • Reduced Course Load: Students are permitted, with prior OIE approval, to take a reduced course load for the following reasons: academic difficulty in the first semester, medical condition, or final semester. Students must complete a Reduced Course Load Application and receive approval from the OIE.
  • Online Classes: Federal regulations only permit one online course per academic semester to count toward the full-time enrollment requirements. Additional online classes can be taken, provided this minimum enrollment requirement has been met. Hybrid classes that predominantly require in-person attendance would be considered in-person courses. If a class is dual-listed and international students have registered for the traditional section, they must attend the class in person. 
  • Thesis or Dissertation: Students who have completed all coursework can meet the full-time enrollment requirement by registering for at least one dissertation or thesis credit. Students still completing coursework must meet the full-time enrollment requirements listed above. 
  • Taking a Semester "Off": Students must communicate with the OIE about any break in study. Only in extraordinary medical circumstances are students permitted to take a break from study while remaining in the US in F-1 or J-1 status. Otherwise, international students who are not enrolling for a semester will need to communicate their plans to the OIE and depart the US until they are ready to enroll again.  
  • Summers: Unless a program requires summer classes, international students are permitted to take an annual vacation. They can travel or stay in the US without enrollment. They can also study at IUP (in-person or online classes) or enroll at another institution. If summer is the final semester of study, it is not considered an annual vacation for immigration purposes. Students need to meet full-time enrollment requirements or complete a reduced course load. 
  • Extension of Program: When a student needs to continue in an educational program beyond the originally estimated completion date, they must apply for an extension at least 30 days before the expiration date on their I-20 or DS-2019. Students must complete an Extension of Program Application in our office. 

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 not enrolled in classes, they can work additional hours on campus.
  • Graduate Assistantships: International students may contact you to request that a GA award or scholarship funding be listed in their immigration documents for their visa interview. OIE staff can assist with this. We can update the student's funding if the GA contract is issued or with confirmation from the program coordinator. Please email intl-education@iup.edu.
  • Internships: A student is permitted to participate in an internship (paid or unpaid) provided it is an integral part of the curriculum, they are enrolled for IUP internship credits, they have been in a valid F-1 status for an academic year, and they have applied for and received immigration permission before the start of the internship. Please direct students to the OIE 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. Most students use this following graduation. Please direct students to contact the OIE for additional details.

Resources for International Students

  • Tutoring or Help with English: If you feel students are struggling with their English or need additional support with their classes, you can refer them to a variety of resources in the community.
    • The American Language Institute is IUP's intensive English program, with classes designed to prepare students for university study in the US. Tuition and fees are charged for ALI classes.
    • ARIN Adult Education Center offers English classes for the community. ARIN primarily offers survival skills in English at no cost.
    • The SkillZone is a drop-in tutoring center for international students. Tutors can assist with English language skills and academic coaching.
    • The IUP Writing Center, with support from the OIE, has tutors who specialize in assisting multilingual writers.
    • Conversation Partners is a program organized through the OIE to help international students share their culture and language.
  • Financial Assistance: Non-US citizens or residents do not qualify for federal financial aid. Our office awards partial tuition waivers to those who qualify. International students are eligible for graduate assistantships, teaching assistantships, and other on-campus work. International students who qualify can work with our office to apply for off-campus work permission after completing 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 intl-education@iup.edu. 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, verifies immigration requirements, creates an immigration document (I-20 or DS-2019), and emails the admission package and immigration documents to the student. International students then apply for a visa (F-1 or J-1), go to the interview at their local US Embassy or Consulate, and, upon receiving a visa, make housing and flight arrangements to come to the United States. 
  • 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 scholarship program and view a list of IUP programs that are approved for study 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. Some sponsored programs have even stricter guidelines for 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. If you know a student is deferring, please direct them to our office.