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 more about the following regulations:

Please note: Additional regulations may impact compliance; consult with an International Student Advisor for more information. 

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 oissportal.

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/DS-2019 extension prior to the expiration date listed.
  • 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 from scholarship funds to family funding.

Personal information

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

  • Report a change of legal name to our office. You must submit a copy of your new passport to your assigned International Student Advisor or during walk-in hours.
  • 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.

Maintain a valid passport at all times. Passport should be valid 6 months into the future each time you enter the U.S.

 

Academic Objectives

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 form and have your SEVIS record transferred.
  • Withdrawal from Northwestern: You must report to the Office of International Student and Scholar Services any plans to leave the university. If you are dismissed from the university or plan to take a temporary leave of absence, you must complete a Withdrawal request through the oissportal to withdraw your SEVIS record.

See our Transfers, Withdrawals and Your SEVIS Records page for detailed instructions.

Maintain full-time enrollment each term

At Northwestern, full-time enrollment is defined as 3 or more credits per quarter.

Qualifications for reduced course load

In certain situations, students may drop below a full course load.

  • 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. 
  • Medical conditions based on a medical condition diagnosed and documented by a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist. Please note:
    • Additional documentation is required. It must be specific 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.
    • A reduced course load for medical reasons may be recommended for more than one term, but cannot exceed 12-months. The student must reapply for a reduced course load each quarter/semester.
  • A final-term student completing his or her course of study does not require a full course load to do so. 
  • 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.
How to apply for a reduced course load

If you qualify for one of the circumstances listed above,go to the OISSPortal page and click on the appropriate link for your Reduced Course Load. Submit your application. Please note that the Reduced Course Load for Final Term requires an advisor's electronic recommendation

A new I-20 is generated as a result of this action. We will notify you when the new I-20 is ready for pick up.

 

Job & 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.

 

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.