While GEO is here to help, your immigration status is just that: yours! Take ownership of this responsibility and be proactive to avoid problems. Always check with GEO before doing something that could jeopardize your status.

Helpful Tips:

  • Upon initial arrival to campus, you must check-in with the Global Engagement Office (Moody 102) in-person so we may register your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 and activate your immigration record. Stop by the office or email us at least once per year to verify your immigration status.
  • Always read your emails and respond to requests for information.
  • Set calendar reminders for important deadlines, such as travel signature expiration, program end date, visa expiration date, etc.
  • Do not begin work without prior authorization from GEO.
  • Follow all local, state, and federal laws.
  • Email iss [at] stedwwards.edu any time your contact information changes, such as when you move to a new address or get a new number.
  • Enroll full-time each semester and do well in your classes.

Basic Requirements:

Important Documents

Form I-20 or Form DS-2019

  • Have it signed by an International Student Advisor at least once per year.
  • Request an update if your information changes.
  • Keep ALL old versions for your records, but always use the most recent signed in blue ink. 


  • Serves as an entry document only.
  • Can be expired while you are in the U.S.
  • Must be valid/unexpired to re-enter the U.S. after any international travel.
  • If your visa expires and you intend to travel, see GEO for visa renewal information.

I-94 Entry / Departure Records

Created by Customs & Border Protection (CBP) when you enter the U.S., the I-94 is official documentation of your immigration status. There are two types of I-94 records:

  1. Electronic - Get online at www.cbp.gov/i94
  2. Paper - Hard copy given to you when entering by car or bus.

Make sure it lists your correct visa status upon initial entry into the country. If “D/S” is listed on your record, that means you are allowed to remain in the U.S. for "duration of status," i.e. until your current program end date as long as you maintain active immigration status.

Course Load Requirements: Full-Time Enrollment

You are required to be enrolled full-time (12 hours for undergraduate students and 9 hours for graduate students) during the academic year. All students may take a one-semester vacation after two consecutive semesters of full-time enrollment, usually enrolled fall/spring with a vacation during the summer.

Exceptions to the full-time enrollment rule may be granted for the following reasons:

  • Final Semester: You have less than 12 hours of undergrad / 9 hours of graduate coursework left in your degree plan. In this case, you may be authorized to enroll part-time to complete your degree in your final semester.
  • Severe medical situation: Requires specific documentation from licensed medical professional stating you cannot maintain full course load.
  • Limited academic reasons: There are a few academic situations (primarily in the first semester) where you may qualify for a reduced course load. Your academic advisor and GEO advisor will evaluate your situation to see if you qualify.

All of the above require advanced approval from GEO. If you need to drop below full-time, schedule an appointment with a GEO immigration advisor to discuss your options.


Do not begin any type of employment - job, internship, volunteer work, or otherwise - without first checking with GEO and receiving authorization. Violating this rule will jeopardize your ability to legally stay in the U.S. and continue your studies. Learn more about employment opportunities available to international students on the work authorization page.

Expiration Dates

It is your responsibility to monitor expiration dates on your immigration documents. Take note of the program end date listed on your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019, and the expiration date listed on your visa, and set calendar reminders. Ask GEO how to renew or extend your documents before the expiration date, or you will go out of status.

Upon Program Completion

F-1 students have a 60-day grace period to depart the U.S. upon program completion; whereas J-1 students have a 30-day grace period. Other options to extend your stay include, but are not limited to:

  • F-1 Students: Apply for Authorized Post-Completion OPT work authorization
  • Transfer to another school / program
  • Change your education level (e.g. bachelor’s to master’s)
  • Apply to change to another nonimmigrant visa status
  • Apply for a work visa

Plan ahead and contact GEO if you wish to pursue any of these options.

Status Violations

If a DSO learns you have violated your immigration status in any way, they must take appropriate action, which may include the termination of your Form I-20. Common termination reasons include:

  • Failure to register initial I-20.
  • Failure to request program extension before program end-date.
  • Failure to maintain active full-time enrollment
  • Failure to make “satisfactory academic progress”
  • Working without authorization
  • Being arrested for violation of any local, state, or federal law

Violations leave a permanent, negative mark on your immigration record and may complicate future interactions with USCIS. If you go “out of status,” inform GEO immediately to discuss your options for regaining status.