Skip to main content

Visa Regulations and Information

Students on walking tour of Boise

F-1 and J-1 students must follow US Immigration regulations to stay “in status”.  These include regulations about study and work. There are also requirements to update US Immigration (via ISS) about changes in your contact details or academic program.

The consequences of not following visa regulations can be severe. Please contact an immigration advisor in the Center for Global Education if you have any questions about the information below.


Student writing a paper

You must study full time (12 credits undergraduate, 9 credits graduate)

No more than one course (or 3 credits) of the full time load can be online

There are limited exceptions to the full time requirement but they must be approved by ISS in advance

More Study Information


B statue on Boise State campus

You may work on-campus up to 20 hours per week during the semester (more than 20 hours is allowed during semester breaks like summer)

J1 students must have advance permission from ISS before starting any job

All work off-campus requires prior permission from ISS and/or US Immigration

Not all jobs and internships are eligible for work authorization

In some cases, off-campus employment authorization can take 3-4 months for approval so it is best to plan ahead

More Employment Information (F1 students)

More Employment Information (J1 students)


Student train travel

It’s important to have the right documents when you re-enter the US

Original and valid I-20 or DS-2019

Valid visa and passport

Valid travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 (less than 1 year old during study; 6 months for OPT participants)

IMPORTANT: Bring your I-20/DS-2019 to the ISS office at least 5 business days before your departure date if you need a new travel signature

More Travel Information

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


How many credits to I have to take each semester?

Undergraduate students must enroll in 12 credits each semester, of which 9 credits must be on-campus courses (not online).  You do not have to register in summer courses.

Graduate students must enroll in 9 credits each semester, of which only one course (maximum 3 credits) can be online. If you have finished all your formal coursework and have just comprehensive exam, thesis or dissertation remaining then you can be in less than 9 credits.

All students can study less than full-time in their final semester if it is approved in advance by ISS. If you wish to take your final semester on campus then you must have at least one required course that is on campus.  This is also the case if you are finishing your degree in the summer session.

It's my final semester. Do I have to study full time?

You do not have to study full time in your final semester, but you must have advance permission from ISS.  If you wish to take your final courses from within the US and/or you want to apply for post-graduation work authorization (OPT) then you must have an on-campus course in your final semester.  If you only have online courses remaining then you would be expected to take those courses from outside the US.

Final semester information

What are the full time study exceptions?

An advisor in International Student Services may authorize a Reduced Course Load (RCL) for the following reasons:

  1. Initial difficulty with American teaching methods (first semester only)
  2. Initial difficulty with the English language or reading requirements (first semester only)
  3. Improper placement in a particular course level
  4. Last semester of the academic program and graduation due at the end of that particular semester
  5. Graduate student with only thesis or dissertation remaining (this is not the case for graduate students pursuing projects)
  6. Medical reasons (maximum of one year per academic level)

Students authorized for a reduced course load based on approved academic reasons (1-3) must still enroll in at least six credits.

Contact the International Student Services Office before you drop below full time to learn if you qualify for an RCL.  We are here to answer any questions about the RCL application paperwork.

I failed a required class and won't graduate as scheduled. What do I do?

Contact ISS as soon as you realize you will not graduate as scheduled.  This is very important if you have an OPT application pending or approved, or if you will need an I-20 or DS-2019 extension.

All I-20 extension must be requested before the I-20 or DS-2019 program end date.

I'm planning to do a study abroad experience. Do I need to tell ISS?

Study abroad can be a great way to further enrich your degree at Boise State University! If you are planning to study abroad for a semester or year then notify an immigration advisor in ISS.  We will update your SEVIS record to note that you are studying abroad as part of your degree. Don’t forget you will need a valid F1 visa and travel signature when you return to the US to complete your degree.

I'm doing research and field work outside the US. What happens to my F1 status?

If you are planning to do thesis or dissertation field research abroad for a semester or year then notify an immigration advisor in ISS so that we can get you the correct paperwork to authorize it from an immigration perspective.  Then we will update your SEVIS record to note that you are completing research abroad as part of your degree. Don’t forget you will need a valid F1 visa and travel signature when you return to the US to complete your degree.


How many hours per week can I work on-campus?

F1 and J1 students may work on-campus up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and more than 20 hours during semester breaks.

J1 students must have prior authorization before taking any job on campus. Each work opportunity for J1 students requires a separate prior authorization.

Can I work off-campus?

Off-campus employment is quite restricted for F1 and J1 students. Any off-campus employment requires authorization from International Student Services and/or USCIS before work begins and not all internships and jobs qualify for an authorization.

I have an internship. How do I get work authorization?

That’s great news!  Work authorization for internships for F1 students during your degree is usually Curricular Practical Training (CPT). The internship must be done for academic credit and must be related to your major. If the internship is after your degree is completed then you must use Optional Practical Training (OPT) for the internship.

Graduate students who are at the thesis or dissertation stage of their degree can use CPT if the internship directly relates and adds in a meaningful way to their thesis or dissertation. Otherwise, Optional Practical Training (OPT) is the best option.  Graduate students can apply for OPT once all formal coursework is completed and only thesis/dissertation is remaining.

J1 students have different work authorization processes for off-campus work, including internships. Please contact an ISS advisor to learn more.

I-20 Information

What do I do if I've lost my I-20 or DS-2019?

If you’ve lost your I-20 or DS_2019 or it’s badly damaged then please request an updated one via the Forms section of the ISS website/

Request a new I-20 or DS-2019

I changed my major/minor. How do I update my I-20?

If your academic program has changed then please request an updated I-20 via the Forms section of the ISS website. Although new minors do not print on an I-20 but please complete the form anyway so that we can update your SEVIS record with your new program.

Request an updated I-20

I need an I-20 extension. What do I do?

If your I-20 will end before you complete your degree then you must request an I-20 extension from ISS before the program end date.  We recommend that you request the extension by submitting the required paperwork at least one month in advance. All I-20 extensions require a verification form from your academic advisor as well as updated financial documents if your financial support has changed. In some cases you may also need to submit a degree plan. You must also be eligible to register in courses (no registration holds).

To qualify for an extension you must be making normal academic progress. Please work with your academic advisor to make sure you are taking the right courses at the right time.


What documents do I need to re-enter the US?

1) Valid F1 or J1 visa

2) Valid passport

3) Valid I-20 or DS-2019 with a travel signature on page 2 that is less than 12 months old

If you don’t have a travel signature that’s valid, please make sure you’re fully registered for the next semester (if enrollment has opened). Then drop off your I-20 or DS-2019 at the Center for Global Education at least 5 business days before you depart.  Our team here will complete the travel signature request for you.

If you drop off your I-20 or DS-2019 without enough time before you leave then we can help you arrange for express mail (FedEx/UPS/DHL) of your signed documents to your location outside the U.S.

What do I do if I forgot to get a travel signature?

If there is enough time, you can request a replacement I-20/DS-2019 with a travel signature from our Forms page. Please request express shipping as part of that process (FedEx/UPS/DHL). Please note that it takes 3-5 business days to reprint and mail out a replacement document, so it may take 2 weeks for the I-20 to reach you, depending on mail time frames. Please allow extra time over holiday periods, or if the US is experiencing a bad weather event as this may affect mail times.

Request a replacement I-20 or DS-2019

If that is not enough time before you leave then you have some choices:

1) Change your travel dates so that you can receive your I-20/DS-2019in time.

2) Travel without the travel signature. It will be up to the discretion of the immigration officer to admit you to the U.S. They may admit you with an I-515A form. If so, please consult ISS when you return to assist with fulfilling that I-515A requirement.

Unfortunately, we cannot email you a copy of the updated I-20 or DS-2019 with travel signature.


What is SEVIS?

SEVIS stands for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.  It is a US government electronic database that maintains accurate information about J-1 and F-1 students and their F-2 or J-2 dependents.

I-20s and DS-2019s are printed based on the information that is in SEVIS.  This includes your program start and end dates, your major and other biographical information.

What information must I have in SEVIS? When are updates due?

  • Local address, email and phone number
  • Program of study (including your major/minor)

It’s really important that you keep the International Student Services Office updated with any change in this data, so that Boise State can keep your SEVIS record accurate.

US Immigration expects you to update your contact information within 10 days of any change.  This also includes an official name change or change in dependents.

When must I update ISS?

  • Name change or new contact details (within 10 days of the change)
  • Change of address (use the Change of Address form within 10 days of any change)
  • Change of major, minor or degree program (use the Replacement I-20 form)
  • Study Abroad Plans
  • Taking a semester off classes (report via the Leave of Absence form before you take the semester off)
  • Leaving the university before your degree is finished (report via the Request to Withdraw form before you drop courses)
  • If you need to drop below full time (this must be approved before you drop classes)
  • Transfer to another university or degree program (Transfer Out form)

Family Members

Can family members and friends visit me?

Yes! It is wonderful when family members and friends can visit. Depending on their country of citizenship, they may need a B-2 visitor visa. You can learn more about how to support their B-2 visitor visa application on our Visitor Visas for Family Members website.

I've just got married. How can my spouse apply for an F-2 visa?

Congratulations on your marriage! The Center for Global Education can help you update your I-20 to show that you have dependents. Please make a request to add a dependent using our Forms & Letter Request page. You will need to show updated financial support documents, including that you have the funds to cover your spouse’s living expenses. Your spouse can then apply for an F-2 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Any unmarried children under 21 are also eligible for F-2 dependent I-20s through this request process.

If you have not yet started studying at Boise State University then please contact our Center’s International Admissions team, who will assist you with F-2 dependent paperwork.

Can I invite my parents to graduation?

Yes! It is wonderful when family members are able to join you in celebrating graduation. In many cases, family members will need to apply for B-2 visas at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. You can find information on how to support their visitor visa applications on our Visitor Visas for Family Members website.


The information contained in this web site is provided as a service to the international students, faculty, staff, employees and administrators of Boise State University, and does not constitute legal advice, including legal advice regarding any immigration, tax or other matter. We make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this web site or any associated site which is provided for general information purposes only. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Neither Boise State University nor the Center for Global Education is responsible for any errors or omissions contained in this website, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.