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Visa Compliance and Requirements

Federal regulations require all international students to maintain their F-1 or J-1 status while residing in the U.S.

Learn About Regulations

Maintain I-20/DS-2019 Accuracy

Any changes to the information that appears on your I-20 or DS-2019 must be up-to-date. This information includes:

  • Academic updates or changes (including change in academic level/program)
  • Financial information
  • Personal information

If any of the above changes, please request an update to your I-20/ DS-2019 through the OISS Portal.

Understanding your Immigration Document provides additional information about your immigration document.

Academic Updates or Changes

  • If you need to change the degree-completion date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019, you must apply for an I-20 or DS-2019 extension prior to the expiration date listed. Request your extension at the OISS Portal
  • Report any changes to your academic major/program.
  • Report a change in your academic level, such as a change from Master's to PhD or PhD to Master’s.

Financial Information

Report any financial support/funding changes, such as a change from scholarship funds to family funding. Contact your OISS Advisor if you need to update your financial information.  

Personal Information

Report changes such as name, dependent name, or immigration status:

  • Report a change of legal (passport) name to your OISS Advisor. You must submit a copy of your new passport before OISS can update your immigration documents and SEVIS record.  
  • Report any name changes for your dependents. 
  • Notify the Office of International Student and Scholar Services if you obtain another immigration status. You will also need to submit a copy of your USCIS Approval Notice, Green Card, etc. 
  •  At this time, OISS is unable to process any changes in gender that are not along the gender binary of male/female. The SEVIS system only allows for one of two genders in the system. If your gender changes along the gender binary M/F, you will need to submit a copy of your updated passport before we can change that in SEVIS and on your immigration documents.  
  • Always maintain a valid passport while you are in the U.S. You do not need to send a copy of your new passport to OISS unless you are requesting a personal information update.  

Full-time Enrollment Requirement

International students must uphold certain academic program objectives:

  • Attend the institution listed on your Form I-20/DS-2019
  • Maintain full-time enrollment each term

Attend the Institution Listed on Your Form I-20/DS-2019

Northwestern University should be listed on your Form I-20 or DS-2019. If that becomes inaccurate, follow the instructions below: 

  • Concurrent enrollment at another institution: Contact the Office of International Student and Scholar Services for approval. 
  • Transfer to another institution: Complete the transfer out request at the OISS Portal 

Maintain Full-Time Enrollment

At Northwestern, full-time enrollment is defined as 3 or more credits per quarter or 8 credits per semester (law). 


Reduced Course Load

Qualifications for Reduced Course Load

In certain situations, students may be authorized for less than full-time enrollment.   

Academic Reduced Course Load – Requires recommendation of student’s academic or major advisor. There are three types of academic reduced course loads available to international students:  

  • A final-term student completing their course of study who does not require a full course load to complete. 
  • Academic difficulties due to initial difficulty with the English language or reading requirements, unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods, or improper course level placement. This is only applicable during the first quarter; student must resume a full course load at the next academic term.   
  • Concurrent enrollment at another approved institution. Between both schools, enrollment equates to a full course of study. Please note:  
    • More than half of the units must be at Northwestern.  
    • The student must have prior approval from their department and the Registrar's Office verifying the courses taken at another institution will be counted toward the degree program.  

Medical Reduced Course Load– Medical conditions based on a medical condition diagnosed and documented by a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist. Please note:  

  • A reduced course load for medical reasons may be recommended for more than one term but cannot exceed 12-months. Students must reapply for a medical reduced course load each term.  
  • For students not working with Student Assistance and Support Services (SASS), additional documentation may be required. A letter may be needed which must specify and include recommendations from the physician or psychologist on whether the student should have part-time or no enrollment, as well as indicating the term for which the reduced course load is applicable.  

How to Apply for a Reduced Course Load

If you qualify for Reduced Course Load, please submit your request at the OISS Portal. If you request a reduced course load for academic difficulties or concurrent enrollment, please email or schedule an appointment with your OISS Advisor.  

Abide by Employment and Internship Regulations

Federal regulations limit F-1 and J-1 student employment options.

Regulations for On-Campus Work

  • You may work up to 20 hours a week at an on-campus job while school is in session.
  • You may work full-time at an on-campus job during holiday breaks and the summer vacation.
  • On-campus authorization ends with the end date of your I-20 or DS-2019. After this, you will need additional authorization such as OPT or AT.

Regulations for Off-Campus Work

Regulations vary depending on your visa status

Off-campus work requires prior authorization

Refrain from working off-campus without prior approval and authorization from the IO.

To attain authorization, please review our student employment information and then meet with an advisor to discuss your options.

Maintain Personal Information Accuracy

Maintain Address Information

U.S. federal immigration regulations require all international students to maintain a permanent foreign address and current U.S. address. These are maintained as your Permanent (non-U.S. address) and Current (U.S. address) Address in CAESAR, and these are automatically reported to SEVIS.

Failure to correctly maintain these addresses may result in a delay in processing any requests.

How to Update your Addresses in CAESAR

  1. Use CAESAR's instructions to navigate to My Addresses.
  2. Select the Edit button next to the address type you would like to edit, or select the Add a New Address button if the address type you are adding has not yet been created.
    • Your Current Address must be a U.S. address. Change the country type using the Change Country hyperlink.
    • Your Permanent Address must be a non-U.S. address. Change the country type using the Change Country hyperlink.
  3. Select the OK button when finished, and then select Save to save your changes.

Maintain Emergency Information

All NU students are required to maintain accurate emergency information in their CAESAR account, which includes listing your emergency contacts phone number and address.

How to update your emergency contact in CAESAR

  1. Use CAESAR's instructions to navigate to Emergency Contact
  2. Select the Edit button next to the contact you would like to edit, or select the Add Emergency Contacts button if the contact has not yet been created.
    • If your emergency contact's phone number is in the United States, be sure to first select the USA checkbox.
    • If your emergency contact's phone number is in the United States, be sure to first select the Int checkbox.
  3. Select the Save button to save your changes.

Abide by Travel Restrictions

International students in F-1 or J-1 status may travel within the U.S. or abroad during their tenure at Northwestern, but they must follow certain travel restrictions.

Visit the Student Travel webpage to learn about these requirements. 

Purchase Health Insurance

All new and returning full-time international students are required to purchase the Northwestern Aetna Student Plan; no exceptions or waivers will be granted. Learn more about this requirement.

Please note that additional regulations may impact compliance. Consult with an International Student Advisor for more information.