The United States has laws governing foreign nationals living within its borders. It is vital for you to take responsibility and learn about these laws which are constantly updated.
Students who come to the U.S. are granted nonimmigrant classifications known as “F-1”, “J-1” and “M’. This is commonly referred to as your “status.” (South Dakota State University only admits F-1 and J-1 Students.) A spouse or child (under the age of 21) who is allowed to come to the U.S. to be with a J-1 student/scholar is considered a “dependent” and is given J-2 status. This status is valid as long as the J-1 student/scholar maintains valid status.
In order to remain legally present in the U.S., you must “maintain” your status. To maintain legal status in the U.S., you must follow the rules that apply to your Visa Category.
**It is your legal responsibility to know and adhere to these rules.**
The most important rules for J-1 students:
- You must attend the school that you were authorized to attend on your DS-2019.
- You must engage only in activities permitted under your program and category.
- Students must maintain a full course of study during the academic year.
- Scholars must teach or perform the research they were authorized to do.
- You must maintain the required health insurance coverage.
- You cannot be employed without proper authorization (on campus or off campus.) Please stop by the Office of International Affairs for authorization.
You must follow the Department of States’ rules regarding:
- Filing timely and appropriate transfer and extension notifications.
- Report any changes in your residential address by updating the current mailing address with the Office of International Affairs.
Full course of study requirements
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires all international students with J-1 student visas to register for a minimum number of credits each semester to maintain their student status in the U.S. It also requires the university to verify that its international students are registered for a full course of study.
Minimum credit levels to maintain your J-1 Student Status:
- Undergraduate students (including transfer undergraduate students) must be registered for a minimum of 12 credits.
- Graduate Students (Including Masters and Ph.D. students): Full course of study is typically 9 credits at the graduate level; however, the credits may vary depending on the percentage of graduate assistantship a student has.
IMPORTANT: To be able to be considered taking a full course load, your transcript must indicate that you are in 12 credits at the undergraduate level or 9 credits at the graduate level. (Unless the graduate student has an assistantship.) As a result, it is not possible to withdraw from a course unless you meet certain criteria. If you are in jeopardy of failing a course, you may want to consider changing the way the course is graded to avoid it affecting your GPA. If this happens, you will want to speak with the Records and Registration Office to change from being grade on an A to F scale, to either an AU (audit) or P/F courses. Furthermore, only 3 credits of online courses can count toward full time enrollment each semester.
If you fall below full-time status during a term for any reason that is not recognized in the regulations, you will lose your legal status in the U.S. This is the most common way students lose their legal status! Meet with your international student adviser for prior approval before you finalize your plans to register for less than a full course or to withdraw from a class.
Note: For independent study courses and for courses in which you have taken an "incomplete," the credits count only in the academic term in which you registered for them.
Graduate Students who have an assistantship or who have completed their formal course work and are working on his/her thesis/dissertation, will need to complete the Full-time Enrollment Verification Form. You must then submit the signed form to your international adviser during a scheduled appointment. The form is processed and kept in your permanent file in the Office of International Affairs. One copy should also be kept by you. It is important to keep copies of your signed forms. You may be required to present them to a U.S. consular or USCIS official in the future if you request a new visa stamp, file for a change of visa status or request an adjustment of status to permanent residence.