Faculty Advisors’ Guidelines for International Student Advising (Updated October, 2015)

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or DHS/SEVIS, the following applies to student visa-holders.  Follow these regulations when advising students for degree plans, registration, setting up internships, etc. A student’s failure to stay in visa status could have serious implications for the student and possibly for the University. All “events” i.e., registration each term, change of address, change of major, internships, etc., are recorded in the DHS tracking program SEVIS(Student and Exchange Visitors Information System).

Terms:  An International Student is defined as an F-1 or J-1 visa- holder.  Traditionally at Sewanee, F-1 students are degree-seeking, and J-1 students are usually here on “exchange” programs for one or two terms.  The F-1 certification document is the I-20; the J-1 document is the DS-2019.  Non-U.S. citizens who do not hold student visas are subject to different and various regulations.  (Office of Global Education Consul, Abby Colbert is the best contact for internationals who are non-F or -J visa holders).  At Sewanee the International Advisor has the SEVIS title of “School Official” (DSO for F’s and ARO for J’s).  Employment issues, which are  item numbers 10-13 below, should be of particular concern to many faculty members and academic advisors.  For any questions about International Students, contact the International Student Advisor, currently Kay MacKenzie, ext. 1884 or kmack@sewanee.edu.  Office of Global Education, Carnegie #108.


1.  Full-time enrollment during the Academic Year:  During Advent and Easter semesters undergraduates  and graduates must be registered for a minimum of 12 hours, Sewanee’s stated full-time enrollment.  

2.  Attending school in the summer:  SEVIS has no minimum-hour requirement for summer term(s) unless a student visa holder enters school initially in the summer.  Then the student must take full-time summer classes.

3.  “Normal Progress” clause:  An international student must make normal progress towards a degree or program completion to be considered “in status” with DHS/SEVIS. The institution’s policies are touchstones for this.  Suspension has immediate and serious immigration implications; nor is prolonged probation tolerated.

EXCEPTIONS to full-time enrollment are listed in items 4 through 8 below:                                                 

4.  Reduction of Course Load (RCL):  Under-enrollment of hours (less than full-time for medical or academic reasons) must be approved by the International Advisor prior to final registration. Academic reasons for RCL can be first-term, limited English; improper course level placement/ prerequisite problems; or rarely, unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods.  Medical RCL (12 month limit) must be documented by a physician or appropriate health official.  

5.  Withdrawal from classes: the International Student Advisor (ARO/DSO) must approve withdrawals resulting in enrollment below the undergraduate and graduate 12-hour minimums prior to the withdrawal.

6.  Final Term:  If need be, a student may take only the hours required to complete his or her degree or program during the last semester of coursework before graduation.  The student needs prior approval for a final term of under-enrollment.

7.  Thesis and dissertation hours (for graduate students):  After being notified by the department or student’s committee director that such is department policy and recommended for the student, the International Advisor/DSO can approve graduate thesis/dissertation hours below full-time. This must be accomplished prior to registration.

8.  Concurrent enrollment: With prior DSO approval a Sewanee international degree-seeker may enroll at another school as long as 50% or more of the hours taken during the term are taken at Sewanee.  Proof of enrollment from the other institution must be provided to the DSO. The status of a scholarship should be considered when deciding upon concurrent enrollment.  Often St. Andrews’ prep school international students are concurrently enrolled at Sewanee.


F and J visa students planning to travel out of the U.S. and return, must see the International Student Advisor before departure. Travel responsibilities are posted on the Office of Global Studies website.

EMPLOYMENT & Related Information are in items 10-13 below. These DHS /SEVIS “benefits” are for in-status students:

10.  On-campus work:  International students may work on campus with permission from the International Advisor/ DSO/ARO to Payroll.  On-campus work is approved , University paid employment or work for on-campus businesses which provide services to students, such as the bookstore or tutoring (not construction work).  Any international student working on campus during class sessions is limited to 20 hours work a week; Sewanee students work far less than that.  Students may hold more than one position but not exceed the 20 hour a week limit in total.  Student visa-holders may not participate in federal work-study programs.  Sewanee provides some institutional work-study and positions paid by the departments.  Be careful of citizenship requirements when hiring and paying students with federal funds, especially grants.

International Students may work full-time on campus during “breaks,” for example, breaks between semesters and spring break. They may also work full-time on campus in the summer when not enrolled in summer classes.  They may not work off-campus without the approval of DHS/SEVIS with an EAD (Employment Authorization Card) or unless training opportunities in the major are granted (see # 11 below for definitions and explanations).   Social Security numbers can only be applied for if a student has an on-campus job, has a valid EAD, or has approved training employment.  (Again, see CPT, OPT, and Academic Training below.) An international student must have legal, documented work to apply for a social security card.  The International Student Office arranges student appointments with and transportation to the Social Security Office in Tullahoma.

11.  Internships, Practicums, Field Studies, Research Opportunities, etc., which are part of a student’s curriculum and are off-campus, must be approved by the DSO/ARO International Advisor prior to the student beginning “training/work” (going on site).  Such programs, required or integral to the degree plan or course of study, have specific academic and reporting requirements and are scrutinized for approval on a case-by-case basis by the DSO/ARO.  If approved for F-1 status students, the position is added to the SEVIS record as Curricular Practical Training (CPT) with an updated I-20 documenting the CPT; if approved for J-1 exchange students, the DS-2019 is updated for Academic Training (AT).  

CPT cannot be applied for until the student has spent a full academic year in F-1 status.  Please do not register a degree-seeking international Freshman or J-1 exchange student for a class that requires any off-campus internship, training, or observation component, paid or unpaid, as CPT cannot be granted until after an undergraduate’s first year.  This includes education courses taken the first year which have off-campus tutoring or classroom components. (Social security numbers are also necessary for background checks to enter public school classrooms even as an observer.  Remember, a student cannot apply for a social security number without an approved job on campus.  This may make taking an education course with a public school component impossible.)

A student will present the academic advisor and internship director or faculty contact with a verification form to sign prior to applying for CPT or Academic Training.  Verification of the following must be presented to the International Advisor/DSO:  internship dates, company or agency name and address, course number (if applicable), a description of the training, the “internship offer” or course requirement, student/employer or student/professor agreement, and the internship director’s or Career & Leadership Development signed approval.  (Academic follow-up on the internship by the faculty contact or internship director is required.)  Any and all off-campus, paid or unpaid, credited or non-credit, full-time or part-time internships, field studies, practicum, research, etc. training experiences off-campus must be CPT or J Academic Training approved.  CPT Verification Forms and J Academic Training Forms are available in the International Student Office, Carnegie #108, and on line.  CPT and Academic Training are sensitive areas of SEVIS benefits and is scrutinized on a case-by-case basis by the International Student Advisor.

12.  **OptionalPractical Training:  Known as OPT, this F-1 benefit is a training opportunity in a student’s major for up to 12 months, unless a student qualifies for a longer STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math) OPT.  Sewanee offers post-graduation OPT whichmust be applied forno later than 60 days after completion of study. During his or her final semester a student will present the faculty advisor with a form to sign verifying the student’s graduation date.  If a student uses OPT as an undergraduate, he or she will be eligible for another 12-month OPT only after graduating at a higher education level, i.e. M.A.  Any student with 12 months of full-time CPT (Curricular Practical Training) may not apply for OPT.  Unlike CPT, OPT is granted by USCIS with an EAD card. No job offer is required before applying though a student will lose F-1 status if without a job for a total of 90 days during the approved OPT dates.

13.  J-1 Academic Training:  If an international student carries a J-1 visa, he or she may engage in “training,” paid or unpaid, after the end of study here if approved by the sending institution, the J Responsible Officer, and the International Advisor.  Academic Training can last as many months as the J-1 was a student, up to 18 months.  Applications for J-1 students to accept Academic Training are available in the International Student Office and online.  

14.  Immediate Reporting of all “events”:  change of  address; change of major; change of level, i.e. B.A. to M.A.,   must be reported to the International Advisor by the student within 10 days of the “event.”  Withdrawals and  RCL’s (Reduced Course Load, see # 3) must be pre-approved by the International Advisor; last term under-enrollment before graduation must be reported in SEVIS within 10 days.   

15.  Extension:  If a student needs more time to graduate or complete the program of study, the student must contact the Advisor/DSO/ARO immediately for an Extension of Program. This extension must be completed before the existing program end date on the student’s I-20 or DS-2019. Failure to apply for an extension before the program end date will “terminate” the document, with negative implications for future entry into the U.S. in any status.  Notify the International Advisor of any international degree-seeking student who may not be graduating on time.

16.  SEVIS Transfer:  Besides following Sewanee’s procedures for withdrawal and transfer to another school, any student visa-holder transferring to another school or to a higher degree level must see the International Advisor to arrange a date-certain “release” in SEVIS so the transfer can proceed.  (As noted above, a SEVIS record transfer is also necessary if the student graduates and is admitted to a U.S. school for further education, i.e. a Master’s.  The student has 60 days to transfer the I-20 and 5 months to start classes at the new school.

17.  Departure from the United States:  If a student is out of status, decides to leave the University, is suspended or expelled, or fails to register full-time without prior approval from the International Advisor/DSO/ARO, the student must depart the U.S. immediately.  If the student has notified and received approval from the Advisor/DSO/ARO to depart, the student has 15 days to do so. If an F-1 visa-holding student completes the program of study on the I-20 end date, departure from the U.S. must take place within 60 days of that date, unless the student is waiting for an EAD/OPT card,  is transferring to another university at a higher level of study, or is awaiting a decision for a change of visa status.  

J-1 students completing study on the end date on the DS-2019 have a 30-day grace period to depart the U.S. unless beginning Academic Training or waiting for a visa status change.    

Students receive a copy of this information and it is reviewed at International Student Orientation.  They are reminded often of their responsibilities to stay in status.                                         

As always with student visa-holders, timing is vital!  We always urge international students to “Plan and Communicate” well in advance.