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International Student Services

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  • Immigration

    Making the decision to come to Minnesota State University Moorhead to pursue your academic goals is a huge step and we understand that reaching these goals is top priority. In additional to your courses, registration, books, health insurance and lab work, there is one more important subject you will need to "study" to ensure success during your stay at MSUM: how to maintain your F-1 or J-1 status.

    Please take time to review the information below. If you have any questions or concerns about how to maintain your immigration status and employment, please contact International Student Services at 218.477.2956 or email at

    Maintaining International Student Status

    All international students who are in F-1 and J-1 visa status must follow a set of immigration regulations as outlined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in order to maintain the students international student status. The following rules and regulations is a guide to properly maintain international students status at MSUM.

  • Full Course of Study

    International students must register for a full course of study during Fall and Spring Semesters:

    • Undergraduate Students - 12 credits
    • Graduate Students - 8 credits
    • Post graduate, seeking a second bachelors degree - 12 credits

    Please note:

    • Full time course registration is not required for summer semester
    • On-line courses must be limited to only 3 credits or one on-line course per semester is applicable to the full-time enrollment total
    • Audit or incomplete course units are not applicable to the full-time enrollment total

    On-Campus Employment

    If you are an F-1 student, you are eligible to work on-campus as long as you meet the following eligibility criteria

    • You are a full-time degree seeking student at MSUM
    • You are registered for a minimum of 12-credits as an undergraduate student or 8-credits as a Graduate student
    • You have a valid, unexpired I-20 from MSUM
    • You have a valid, unexpired passport
    • I-94 information

    There is no "waiting period" before you are allowed to accept an on-campus job once you are a student at MSUM, but if you are a new entering international student, you must attend mandatory international student orientation.

    On-campus employment restrictions

    Employment is limited to part-time positions during the school year; full-time positions are permitted during official vacation periods. For hourly positions, part-time employment is a maximum of 20 hours per week; full-time employment is over 20 hours per week.

    Your employment may take place at any MSUM office or department, or a commercial firm located at MSUM that provides direct services to students (e.g., Sodexo and Affinity Credit Union). On-campus employment also includes graduate assistantships or teaching assistantships.

    In certain circumstances on-campus employment may include off-campus (Regional Science Center) sites under "extended" on-campus employment. This applies if you are working at an off-campus MSUM site but you are being paid through MSUM.


    If you meet all of the above criteria, you do not need to obtain specific authorization from the ISS to work on-campus. Speak to your hiring department's administrator to complete the necessary forms. However, when it is your time to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN), please have your hiring department complete the F-1 Employment Authorization Form and submit to ISS for approval and for the issuance of SSN letter. More information on applying for a SSN.

    On-Campus Resources for seeking Employment

     To find on-campus employment and internship opportunities visit the Career Development Center (CDC) The CDC provides assistance with resume writing, interview skills and other services that will help you put your career on track. Please note: International students must meet certain requirements in order to take  part in an internship. Please consult ISS for more information.

    Off-Campus Employment

    In order for international students to work off campus, they must obtain a work authorization from International Student Services and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Please visit the Employment page for more information on how to apply for the below options.

    For F-1 students, off-campus work authorization options are:

    For J-1 students, off-campus work authorization options are:

    • Academic Training
    • Off-campus employment based on severe economic hardship

    Maintaining Valid Immigration Documents

    Passport: Students must have a valid passport at all times. The passport must be at least 6 months into the future. If the passport will expire soon, students must make necessary arrangements to renew the passport. In most cases the passport can be renewed from your home country embassy or consulate in the U.S.  

    •  Please note: give enough time to renew your passport. Certain countries may have to send your passport to your home country for renewal.

    I-20/DS-2010: International students must be aware of the expiration date on their I-20/DS-2019. If it is not possible to complete your academic program by the I-20/DS-2019 expiration date, students must request a program extension a minimum of 2-3 weeks prior to the I-20 expiration date on the I-20/DS-2019. Students who fail to complete a Program Extension Form with International Student Services will be considered out of status.

    Change of Local Address

    International students who change their local address or move to a different apartment must report the change to International Student Services within 10 days of the move. Please complete the Update Information page as soon as you move to a different place.

    Grace Period

    International students have a set of grace period regulations that must be met to their visa status.

    • F-1 students who complete an academic program or OPT have a 60-day grace period to depart the U.S.,
      • change to a different program, degree level, transfer to a new school
      •  change institutions or change visa status (H1-B, PR)
        •  Immigration status for F-2 is dependent on F-1 student and they cannot remain in the U.S. under the F-2 status after the F-1 student has departed the U.S. during the grace period
    • J-1 students who complete an academic program or academic training have a 30 day grace period to depart the U.S.
      •  change to a new program
      •  transfer or change to a different institution or change of visa status (H1-B, PR)
        •  Immigration status of J-2 is dependent upon J-1 student and they cannot remain in the U.S. under the J-2 status without the presence of the J-1 student

    F-1 or J-1 students who have received prior authorization to withdraw from classes have 15 days to depart the U.S. after the withdrawal date. Students who withdraw from classes without prior authorization are not eligible for a grace period.

    Reduced Course Load (RCL)

    F-1 or J-1 students are required by federal immigration regulations to be engaged in a "full course of study", which means 12 credits each for Fall & Spring Semester for undergraduate students and 8 credits each for Fall & Spring Semester for graduate students. You must obtain authorization from International Student Services to be enrolled less than full-time during any Fall or Spring Semester.

    International Student Services must indicate the authorization in the SEVIS system in order to make it official. There are only a few exceptions to the full time enrollment requirements for Fall and Spring Semesters. Each exception has its own criteria, which are outlined below. The deadline for submitting the Reduced Course Load (RCL) Form from the Forms page is the last day to add/drop for that semester, and must be approved by the student's academic adviser prior to submission to International Student Services.

    Students should not drop below full time enrollment unless the student have received authorization from International Student Services to do so. Student who drop below full time enrollment without proper authorization from International Student Services will be considered out of status.

    Academic Difficulty RCL

    Students may request an RCL due to academic difficulty only once per degree level. Academic difficulty could be due to the following reasons:

    • Difficulty with English language or reading requirements
    • Unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods
    • Improper course replacement

    Students who receive an academic Reduce Course Load (RCL) must resume a full course of study in the next available semester in order to maintain status. Please submit the Reduce Course Load Form to International Student Services along with other supporting materials.

    Medical RCL

    International Student Services may authorize a medical RCL due to a temporary medical condition with an appropriate official doctor's letter recommending the RCL for medical reasons. Students must receive prior approval from International Student Services for medical RCL. To submit a medical RCL, F-1 or J-1 students must meet with an International Student Advisor at International Student Services. Please see below for the medical RCL requirements:

    • Letter from licensed physician, medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist that recommends student to take less than the minimum units required for full time enrollment
    • Receive prior approval from International Student Services
    • Full time enrollment due medical reasons cannot exceed total of 12 months per degree level
    • If the condition prevents student from enrolling beyond the first semester, new documentation must be provided from your physician and authorization must be granted from International Student Services
    • Must take a minimum of 6 credits for undergraduate students or 4 credits for graduate students
    • If a doctor believes that a student is unable to meet this minimum credit enrollment, then the student must consider a Medical Leave of Absence.
    • If you are considering to apply for a Medical RCL or Medical Leave of Absence please visit the Forms page to submit the relevant forms. 

    Final Semester RCL

    International Student Services may authorize a final semester RCL for students who are in their final semester of study and only have a few credits remaining to meet the academic program requirements. Students may request a RCL due to final semester only once per degree program. Please complete the Reduce Course Load Form on the Forms page.

    Graduate Students - Thesis, Projects and Examinations Pending RCL

    Graduate students who register for thesis, projects or qualifying exams are considered to be enrolled full time, although the number of credits enrolled will be below the normal full-time course load. Students must complete a Reduce Course Load Form and submit to International Student Services.

    Leave of Absence

    F-1 or J-1 international students who want to take a semester off during the academic year (Fall or Spring Semester) and not enroll in courses must receive authorization for a leave of absence from International Student Services.

    Students must meet the following criteria for leave of absence:

    • Student must be in good academic standing when requesting requirements
    • Students must be outside the U.S. during the leave of absence period

    It is the student's responsibility to meet with the relevant academic advisers and complete the leave of absence process for the relevant department. Students also need to confirm with their department if they are eligible to return back to the academic department, and must receive written approval from their academic department adviser. Please complete the Leave of Absence Form on our Forms page. 

    Medical Leave of Absence

    F-1 or J-1 students are eligible to take a leave of absence due to medical reasons. Students have the option to return to their home country or remain in the U.S. to receive medical treatment. Students who wish to remain in the U.S. must obtain a doctor's letter recommending the leave of absence for medical reasons. Students who remain in the U.S. without obtaining advance approval for a medical leave of absence from International Student Services will be considered out of status.

    Requirements and limitations of medical leave of absence include:

    • Must have an official letter from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist recommending leave for a specific semester
    • Must have prior approval from International Student Services before withdrawing from courses
    • No more than 12 months total leave are allowed per degree level

    Students considering to apply for a leave of absence due to medical reasons must meet with an adviser in International Student Services as soon as possible.

    Leave of Absence Exceeding 5 Months

    Students who will be out of the U.S. for longer than 5 months on a leave of absence must obtain a new I-20 with a new SEVIS ID, pay the $200 SEVIS fee and obtain a new F-1 student visa from your country U.S. consulate in order to re-enter the U.S. and return regardless of your U.S. visa expiration date. The current I-20/DS-2019 will no longer be valid after being outside of the U.S. for more than 5-months.

    It is the student's responsibility to contact International Student Services AT LEAST two months prior to returning to request a new I-20. If you are planning to return before the 5 month duration, it is the student's responsibility to contact International Student Services at least 4 weeks before your arrival date to the U.S. We recommend that you contact International Student Services before you depart the U.S. and make necessary arrangements. 

    Returning to Full-Time Enrollment After Leave of Absence

    Upon your return to the U.S. from a leave of absence, students must validate their return with International Student Services 21 days before the start of your new semester. Students must meet with an International Student Services advisor and submit the following:

    • Passport and visa
    • Stamped I-20/DS-2019
    • I-94 card

    Program Extension

    F-1 and J-1 students are given a specific period of time to complete the academic program requirements. For F-1 students, this period of time is shown under Program of Study of your I-20 and for J-1 students, this period is shown on #3 of your DS-2019. Please note the program end date or expiration date on the I-20/DS-2019. Students who are unable to meet the academic program requirements by that date must request a program extension from International Student Services before the I-20 program end date. If the date on the I-20/DS-2019 has passed, students must meet with an international student adviser immediately, as the student is considered to be out of status. 

    Eligibility Criteria

    • The expiration of your I-20/DS-2019 has not yet passed
    • Continuously maintained the F-1 or J-1 student status
    • The delay in completion or program must be due to one of the following reasons:
      • Compelling academic reasons (change of major, change in research topics, unexpected research problems, unexpected grades, repeat courses)
      • Compelling medical reasons (documentation is require from Hendrix Health Center or U.S. licensed medical physician)
    • Must have sufficient funds to cover the additional time needed to complete program requirements.

    If you need a program extension, please submit the Program Extension Form along with the supporting documents from your academic adviser and/or medical practitioner.

    Concurrent Enrollment

    F-1 students are eligible for simultaneously taking full-time enrollment with a combination of courses from MSUM and another SEVIS approved college or university, only if approved by MSUM International Student Services. 

    Eligibility Requirements

    • Students must be registered for at least one credit at MSUM during all terms including the final term
    • Students who wish to be admitted, enroll and go to classes full time at an institution other than MSUM need to request a transfer to the new institution
    • Combined credits for which the student is enrolled are equivalent of a full courses of study (undergraduate 12 credits and graduate 8 credits)
    • Students must be enrolled at MSUM, MSUM must issue and maintain the students SEVIS I-20, handle all SEVIS reporting requirements and ensure that the student is pursuing a full course of study
    • The student has permission from MSUM International Student Services to concurrently enroll with MSUM and another institution
    • Course work at the other institution must not be vocational and must be accepted as credits transferable to MSUM. This must be confirmed by a letter from an academic adviser at MSUM
    • MSUM International Student Services will issue a new I-20 documenting the concurrent enrollment, based on evidence that the student's enrollment in both institutions is the equivalent of a full course of study 

    How to Apply for Concurrent Enrollment

    • Complete the Concurrent Enrollment Form on the Forms page
    • A letter from your MSUM department academic advisor, indicating that you have permission for this enrollment and that the credits earned at the other school will be counted toward your degree at MSUM. The letter must also indicate the number credits to be taken at each school
    • Proof of registration in classes from the concurrent school, indicating that you are enrolled
    • A copy of your I-20
    • An unofficial copy of your academic transcript - print from E-services

    Please note: A student wishing to be a guest student at another institution for incidental courses while maintaining full-time enrollment or during the summer term does not need to be issued an I-20 for concurrent enrollment.

    Out of Status/Reinstatement

    Reinstatement is an option for an F-1 student who fails to maintain status and wishes to regain status without leaving the U.S. An F-1 student must be in status to be eligible for any benefits such as work permission as practical training, program extension, school transfer and adjustment of status. Depending on the student's case, reinstatement may or may not be the best option. In certain cases we encourage you to consult an immigration attorney. Please consult International Student Services for more information. A student may be considered out of status if the student: 

    • Fails to apply for program extension before I-20 expiration date on the I-20 (#5 on your I-20)
    • Fails to maintain a full course of study each semester
    • Fails to maintain international student F-1 status (see above)
    • Unauthorized off-campus employment

    To apply for Reinstatement, student:

    • Should not be out of status for more than 5 months at the time of filing reinstatement
    • Does not have a record of repeated or willful violations of USCIS regulations
    • Is currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study in the immediate future
    • Has not engaged in unauthorized employment 

    Read the Reinstatement Information to obtain information on how to apply for reinstatement.