The Catholic University of America

International Students

Archived 6/16/06


Approved by: Vice President for Student Life
History: Issued --
  Revised --
  Additional History
Related Policies: International Student Employees
Additional References: Office of International Student and Scholar Services
Responsible Official:

Director of International Student and Scholar Services; 202-319-5618


I. Introduction
International students in F or J status must abide by federal regulations governing their status. Failure to comply with these regulations may invalidate their legal status in the U.S. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 places the responsibility of maintaining lawful status squarely on the shoulders of the individual international student.

II. Insitutional Reporting Requirements
Federal law requires the university to report the following information for each F or J student sponsored by the university:

  • Any legal changes in name for the student and any accompanying dependents
  • Current physical address in the U.S. for the student and any accompanying dependents. Students are required to report changes their address to International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) within 10 days of the change.
  • Enrollment status including notifying the government within 21 days of any failure to carry a full course load or failure to enroll. Enrollment status must be reported each semester.
  • Any changes in level of study or course of study or changes in source(s) of financial support for studies.
  • Failure to maintain F or J status or to complete program.
  • Graduation prior to date listed on immigration documents
  • Any disciplinary action taken as a result of a conviction of a crime.

Students are urged to consult with ISSS prior to taking any action that could inadvertently invalidate their immigration status


III. Notification Procedures for Changes in Curriculum, School or Funding

Students who change their major or change their school must follow all applicable university policies and procedures to affect this change. Students who move from one degree level to another must coordinate this change through the Admissions Office. International Students in CUA-sponsored F or J status must notify the International Student and Scholar Services Office of any change in curriculum, school or level of study within ten days so that the federal government can be duly notified and updated immigration documents can be issued in compliance with federal regulations.

Additionally, international students in F or J status are required to notify ISSS within 10 days of any significant changes in their source of financial support. In compliance with federal regulations, ISSS is required to notify the government of such changes and issue updated immigration documents.

IV. Requirements for Maintaining Lawful Immigration Status
Maintaining Full-Time Status: International students who hold F or J status are legally required to maintain full time status as a student at the university. Failure to do so could jeopardize their immigration status.

  • Undergraduate students: 12 credit hours, as defined by federal law.
  • Graduate students: Refer to the Graduate Announcements for standards of full time status.
  • Law Students: Refer to the Law School Announcements for standards of full time status.
  • English language students: 21 classroom hours per week

Audited classes do not count towards the determination of full-time enrollment for immigration purposes.

Authorization for Reduced Course Loads: There are legally permissible reasons that would allow an international student to fall below full time status. To take advantage of one of these, a student must obtain prior approval from ISSS before dropping below the required course load.

  1. Academic difficulties in the first semester: Students experiencing difficulty in their first semester of study at a given educational level may be authorized by ISSS legally to reduce their course load. The student and his/her academic advisor must complete a Full-time Enrollment Certification Form and return it to ISSS before dropping classes.
  2. Medical conditions necessitate dropping or withdrawing from classes: A student who experiences a medical condition that prevents him or her from carrying a full course load, may be authorized by ISSS to carry a reduced load without jeopardizing legal status in the U.S. Medical conditions need to be documented by the medical doctor, a doctor of osteopathy or a licensed clinical psychologist. Immigration regulations allow up to 12 months of reduced course load for medical conditions. Each semester, however, must be approved individually with updated information from the appropriate health care provider. If the medical condition is serious enough, a student may be exempt from having to take any classes at all during the semester.
  3. Completing coursework required for degree: If the student is in his or her final semester of coursework and is taking only the courses needed for degree requirements, he or she is not required to take additional classes. This option is available only in the last semester of coursework.

It is important to note that students are expected to make reasonable progress towards their academic objectives.


V. Procedures Regarding Withdrawal from the University
International students who hold F or J status are urged to consult with ISSS prior to withdrawing from the university. Official university withdrawal procedures must be followed. However, international students must be aware that failure to consult with ISSS in advance of their withdrawal from the university could invalidate their legal status in the U.S. effective as of the day following withdrawal. Students would then begin to accrue periods of unauthorized presence in the U.S. that could potentially bar them from returning in the future.

  • With prior approval from ISSS: A student may remain in the U.S. for an additional 15 days after the effective date of the withdrawal from the university.
  • Without Prior approval from ISSS: A student loses his/her legal status in the country the day following his/her withdrawal from the university.

VI. International Student Employment Policies

International students face limited opportunities for employment while holding F or J status:

  1. On-Campus Employment: Students may legally engage in employment on campus for up to 20 hours a week while school is in session and full time during periods when school is not in session. Individuals who have a research assistantship or teaching assistantship that requires them to work 20 hours a week and individuals who are resident assistants in the dorms are not eligible for any additional on-campus employment. In rare circumstances, under the immigration regulations governing F-1 status only, some employment opportunities at off-campus locations may be considered to be on-campus employment if the student is working under the direct supervision of a CUA faculty member pursuant to a research conducted by the faculty member in his/her capacity as a CUA faculty member. In such instances, the student's pay must come from CUA as opposed to the employer on whose premises the work may physically occur.
  2. Curricular Practical Training (F-1 Students only): An international student may be eligible to engage in curricular practical training, gaining valuable work experience in their field of study. CPT may be authorized by ISSS if:

    1. He/she has been a bona fide student for one full academic year (graduate students may be immediately eligible if the graduate program requires the practical training),
    2. He/she has a specific job offer,
    3. He/she continues to work towards the fulfillment of his/her degree requirements,
    4. The work is an integral part of the established curriculum in the student's course of study and must be recommended by the academic adviser, and
    5. The student maintains a full course of study as required under applicable immigration regulations.
  3. Optional Practical Training (F-1 students only): Another mechanism for gaining valuable experience in the field of study, optional practical training affords international students the ability to work for up to 12 months per degree level in off-campus in positions related to their study but that are not integral to the course of study. Students may take advantage of this either before completing their coursework or after completing their coursework. OPT must be recommended by ISSS and approved by the Immigration Service prior to commencement of employment. As with CPT, qualifying F-1 students must have been students for one academic year.
  4. Academic Training (J-1 students only): A combination of curricular practical training and optional practical training, academic training is available to J-1 students almost immediately upon arrival. To qualify, the proposed employment must be related to the student's course of study as confirmed by his or her academic adviser, the job must be offered prior to applying for academic training. ISSS must approve the academic training in advance of employment.
  5. Employment Based on Severe Economic Hardship: If unforeseen economic situations have arisen since you obtained your student status, you may be eligible to apply for employment authorization. To be eligible for this type of employment, a student must have held F-1 status for a year and be able to document severe economic hardship that was unexpected. As with other types of employment, ISSS should be consulted to provide appropriate recommendations.
  6. Employment with an International Organization (F-1 students only): To qualify for this, students must have a specific job offer from an international organization such as the World Bank, the Organization of American States, etc. Employment does not need to relate to the student's course of study. The Immigration Service must approve this type of employment prior to commencement of employment. While school is in session, employment is limited to 20 hours per week, full time when school is not in session.

VII. Address Change Reporting Requirements
International students are required by law to notify the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service of any changes in either their permanent address overseas or in their physical address in the U.S. Any changes to their U.S. address must be reported within 10 days of the move. Students in F-1 or J-1 status are required to notify International Student and Scholar Services of this change. ISSS will enter the new address into the government's Student Exchange Visitor Information System in compliance with federal regulations. Failure on the part of a student to notify ISSS of the change of address could result in the government's cancellation of the student's legal status in the United States.

In addition to notifying ISSS, students should report their address changes to the Registrar's Office.

VIII. Other Legal Obligations
International students in F or J status are required to:

  • Obtain timely extensions of their stay
  • Maintain a valid passport at all times
  • Compliance with all other federal, state, and local laws: International students must comply with all applicable federal, state and local laws. Arrests and or convictions for failure to obey laws and regulations could result in difficulties in re-entering the U.S. or even removal from the U.S. with potential barriers to returning. In the event a student is arrested or convicted of a crime, the international student should seek appropriate legal counsel from both a qualified immigration attorney and a criminal attorney.

IX. Information Requests

For additional information on or questions regarding policies, procedures, and services for international students, please contact the Office of International Student and Scholar Services at 202-319-5618.