Frequently Asked Questions

Responsibilities of International Students

International students who enter the United States agree to follow all the regulations that apply to their F-1 or J-1 status. It is important for you to know and pay close attention to these regulations because they affect your academic study, travel, and employment while in the U.S. If you are not sure about the regulations, do not hesitate to go to the Office of International Students for information. The regulations change periodically and OIS has handouts that may be helpful to you.

Common Questions

Students who are new to the U.S. frequently have questions about their status and the regulations regarding it. The following questions are among the most common, and answers are provided to help you understand the regulations.

1. As an international student, I must be enrolled full-time. How many credits must I carry?
Answer: The minimum number of credits each student must carry per semester is: Undergraduate 12 credits, Masters 9 credits, Doctoral 6 credits.

2. When may I take a vacation or holiday from my academic study?
Answer: During any summer period. All International students must be enrolled in a full course of study for two consecutive semesters before a vacation period other than summer can be taken.

3. What must I do if I am unable to enroll for full-time status or I must drop below the minimum number of credits during the semester?
Answer: If you have a legitimate reason (i.e., a medical or academic problem) for not being able to carry a full-time load, you should obtain an Enrollment Status Form signed indicating your reason. The form must then be given to OIS for verification and approval.

4. Can an F-1 student apply for work permission?
Answer: Off-campus work permission may be granted by the INS when there is economic necessity due to unforeseen changes in a student’s financial circumstances and such necessity is well documented. Applications for off-campus work permission may be submitted to INS after completion of 12 months in F-1 status. Work is limited to 20 hours per week with full-time enrollment required. Permission to work is rarely granted and should not be viewed as a viable source of support. On-campus employment is limited to 20 hours per week during school; INS approval is not required.

5. Can J-1 and J-2 holders accept employment?
Answer: Yes. For J-1, permission to work (on or off-campus or for academic training) must be granted by the sponsor. Spouse or dependents (J-2) can request permission from INS to work only if the additional income goes to support the J-2 holders. Work cannot begin until approval is granted by INS.

6. I want to visit Canada and/or Mexico. What documents will I need to take with me?
Answer: You should first determine from OIS if a visa is required for citizens of your country to enter Canada or Mexico. If you need a visa, plan to contact the nearest consulate office well in advance of your planned trip. In some cases, five days are needed to process a visa application. Addresses and phone numbers are available at OIS. After determining your need for a visa, the following guidelines apply for you to re-enter the U.S:

For a trip less than 30 days in duration you need to take these documents:


  • Valid I-94
  • Passport (valid for at least 6 months)
  • Endorsed page 4 of I-20 ID within 6 months or new I-20 if necessary
  • A U.S. visa stamp (does not need to be valid unless it is marked with 212 (d) (3) (28) and is exempt from automatic re-validation)


  • Valid I-94
  • Passport (valid for at least 6 months)
  • Pink copy of IAP-66 form (with endorsement within one year on back if required)
  • A U.S. visa stamp (does not need to be valid unless it is marked with 212 (d) (3) (28) and is exempt from automatic re-validation)

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