ACU Faculty and Advisors

Immigration Resources

This page is intended to provide information for ACU Faculty and Advisors working with international students.

This page is intended to provide information for ACU Faculty and Advisors working with international students.

Main Content

Faculty and Advisor Immigration Resources

Contents on this page   

  1. Introduction
  2. Immigration Basics Q & A
  3. Exchange visitor scholars and professors
  4. Administrative Issues in Program Development
  5. Other Resources
  6. Caveats and Conditions


In order to maintain federal approval to host F and J international students, the university must comply with strict reporting requirements to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State.

The information listed below is general and is listed here to aid ACU faculty and staff to be more familiar with potential opportunities and restricitons for international students.

The International Student Advisor in the Office of International Students and Visiting Scholars provides holistic advising regarding complex immigration issues for students and scholars at ACU. Please do not hesitate to refer students or call Lucy Dawson, at extension 2237.

Immigration Basics Related to ACU International Students: Q & A

ACU typically hosts around 150 F-1 and J-1 students. F-1 students are admitted to the U.S. for the purpose of academic study and are usually self-sponsored. J-1 exchange visitors come for academic and cultural exchange and are sponsored by national governments or private sponsors. The regulations differ in some areas for each visa type.

While some students can easily be identified as international students, others may look and speak just like domestic American students. Therefore, we recommend you check the GOAINTL screen on Banner or call the OISVS to identify which of your students are F-1 or J-1 students.

International students must:

  • Check in physically at the OISVS with their documents upon arrival
  • Attend the International Student Orientation (scheduled each long semester)
  • Complete a full load of face to face courses each Fall and Spring semester (12 hours for undergraduates, 9 hours for graduate students)
  • Abide by the online restrictions (see below)
  • Report their physical address, phone and mailing address to the OISVS within 10 days of moving
  • Work only with authorization
  • Maintain the accuracy and validity of their immigration documents
  • Make progress toward their degree at all times
  • Depart the U.S. within the grace period (30 or 60 days) after the completion of their degree or status.
  • Other regulations may apply in certain circumstances.  This list is not exhaustive.  Students are encouraged to refer to the OISVS website ( and check with the international student advisor for any questions.

First, any “internship” that is paid by ACU and carried out on campus is considered on-campus employment and should remain within the bounds of the 20 hr/ week limitation during the Fall and Spring semesters. International students in F and J status have authorization to work on-campus if they are in good immigration and academic status. (Note: DHS views “work” as any effort for reward)

Secondly, any off-campus activity with employers (profit or nonprofit, paid or unpaid) is a potential risk for an international student’s status, and therefore needs to be entered into only after careful consideration. 

If you encourage or require students to be involved in off-campus internships, please review the following two resources:

  1. See this checklist, used to assist faculty and international students to clarify the parameters of the opportunity prior to meeting with Lucy Dawson in the OISVS. Be aware that sometimes even “volunteering” could still put a student at risk.
  2. Please review the document about “Curricular Practical Training” (CPT) for F-1 students, which is a type of work authorization which can be granted for “work” that is required by the curriculum, such as an “internship” course. Click here to learn more about CPT from the faculty perspective.
F-1 international students in good immigration status may work on-campus 20 hours or less during the Fall and Spring semesters and apply for authorization to work off-campus in limited circumstances.  F-1 students may also receive 12 or 36 months of work authorization (called “Optional Practical Training”, or OPT) after graduation to get experience in their major if they file a benefit application within the required timeline.  Additional information is located on the OISVS website.

J-1 international students may request on-campus work authorization at any time.  They are also eligible to request off-campus work authorization to work in an area related to their major (called “Academic Training”) during and after their studies.

F-1 and J-1 international students are free to travel in the U.S. with immigration documents in their possession, and may leave and reenter the U.S. as students if they meet certain requirements.

F/J international students may be eligible to take a reduced course load (RCL) for one semester per degree program (not available retroactively).

Allowable reasons to drop below full-time enrollment (usually by 3 credit hours) are:

  • Illness/medical condition (as recommended by a U.S.-based medical practictioner)
  • Initial difficulty with the English language in the first year;
  • Initial difficulty with reading requirement in the first year;
  • Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods;
  • Improper course level placement; or
  • To complete the course of study in the current term.

Please refer the student to the OISVS to discuss whether they would qualify for this authorization before the student stops attending class or the reduction in course load takes place. Advisors will be asked to verify the reasons the student is requesting an RCL. View the Reduced Course Load Advisor Forms online or email Lucy Dawson to send a form for e-signature.

F-1 international students in a residential program may count one online class (without face-to-face interaction) per semester toward the 12/9 hour full-time status, and may not take an online class as the only class in their final semester. In most cases, international students are not eligible to enroll in online degree programs while they are physically present in the US. Please contact the OISVS for more information.

J-1 students may only take online courses above the full-time load.  No online classes may be used toward full time status.

Students who lose their immigration status begin accruing days of unlawful presence as long as they remain in the U.S. They are not allowed to work on campus or apply for immigration benefits and are subject to deportation. Please advise the student in this situation to meet with Lucy Dawson to discuss his or her options for regaining immigration status.
  • Encourage students who are in danger of losing their immigration status to speak with the international student advisor and other support staff. While international students must meet all standards of the university, faculty may choose to allow an international student to continue to attend their class even though they will complete with a failing grade. In most situations, this would allow the student to maintain their status. However, the student must actually attend classes for this to be a viable option. For more information, please contact the international student advisor.
  • Report any critical incidents involving international students, such as hospitalization, arrest, or negative media attention to the OISVS.  Please contact Veronica Whitt (X2821) or Lucy Dawson (X 2237) immediately if such you learn of this type of information.
  • Encourage international students to check with the OISVS for information about work authorization or immigration status for internships and off-campus employment of any kind.
  • Notify the OISVS if you are part of last-minute changes that could allow a student to graduate early.
  • Do not support retroactive changes to a student’s academic record without first consulting the OISVS.
  • Only schedule international students to begin work in your department after the completion of the I-9 and the OISVS confirmation of status.  (View an online resource for employers interested in hiring international students.)
  • Follow all published admissions criteria in the admissions process for graduate students.  Immigration documents may only be issued upon unconditional admission following all published criteria. For questions, please contact Lucy Dawson (X2237).
  • Create new academic programs with international students in mind.  Please see the section below titled “Administrative Issues in Program Development”
The Associate Director for the Office of International Students and Visiting Scholars provides holistic advising regarding complex immigration
issues for students and scholars at ACU. Please do not hesitate to refer students or call Lucy Dawson, at extension 2237.
Cultural adjustment can affect students’ behavior in the U.S. classroom, their interactions with other students and their general well-being at any point during their stay in the U.S. The OISVS staff have cross-cultural experience and can help guide a student through cultural issues. In many situations, an email to Veronica Whitt at will be sufficient to get the process started.

Please see the OISVS website for the other services offered to international students.

Exchange visitor research scholars and professors   

  1. ACU is able to host exchange visitor scholars and professors through the U.S. Department of State J-1 Exchange Visitor Program. The goals of the program are to foster the exchange of ideas and stimulate international collaborative teaching and research efforts in substantive fields.
  2. Departments interested in sponsoring an exchange visitor scholar or professor should complete the J-1 Scholar Department Sponsorship document and submit it to the OISVS at least 3 months prior to the proposed period of the visit.
  3. Please refer to the Best Practices for Hosting Exchange Visitors document.
  4. Exchange visitors come on non-immigrant visas and are not eligible for tenure-track appointments. Read more about the J-1 visa

Important Documents


Administrative Issues in Program Development   

New programs must gain DHS approval before immigration documents may be issued for students to participate.
Approved programs must offer sufficient face to face classes each Fall and Spring semester for international students to maintain their status in the U.S. (see section II).  Please submit this form to request a new program be approved by DHS for international student participation. After SACS accreditation has been approved, it can be submitted. Approval may take from 6-9 months.

If your new program is not located on the Abilene campus, please contact Lucy Dawson, as other complications relating to location exist.

Students may need work permission for required off-campus internships, practicum or other curricular work experiences.
Unpaid internships are often considered “work” by DHS since there are tasks performed that may be paid in other circumstances. For this reason, the OISVS recommends all international students involved in off-campus internships seek the proper work authorization prior to engaging in the internship. Students who serve in volunteer positions with a non-profit organization may not need work permission, but please check with the OISVS first before allowing an international student to serve in a volunteer role. Since faculty are not always aware of the international students in their classes, a suggested syllabus paragraph is provided below:

The tasks performed in this internship experience may be considered “work” from an immigration standpoint. Therefore, all non-U.S. citizens are advised to obtain the proper work permission well before the internship begins. F-1 and J-1 international students should consult the Associate Director in the Office of International Students and Visiting Scholars concerning work authorization procedures as soon as possible.”

Other Resources

The U.S. Government pages Study In the States offers explanations about the international student regulations (F-1).

This U.S. Department of State website lists the J-1 regulations.

ACU’s H1B page is helpful for H1B employment visa information (to employ a foreign national at ACU)

The American Immigration Lawyer’s Association (AILA) laywer search tool is helpful to find a board certified immigration attorney.

Caveats and Conditions   

This document does not contain a complete review of immigration regulations or address specific situations. Advisors, faculty and staff are advised to discuss any questions they may have with the OISVS. Please be aware that the regulations can and do change on a regular basis. This document should not be taken as legal advice; if legal advice is required, please contact an immigration attorney.   

Please feel free to contact the staff of the OISVS anytime for assistance.