Embarking on a study abroad program can enhance an international student’s educational experience while attending American University. Since international students on study abroad programs are still enrolled at AU, there is no break in their immigration status, even though they are physically outside the United States. Therefore, it is important that they are informed of immigration responsibilities while pursuing their studies overseas. To learn about potential implications of study abroad on immigration status, F-1 and J-1 visa students must consult with the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) office before finalizing their study abroad plans.
Students on study abroad or permit to study programs, like a regular AU student, must maintain a full-time course enrollment. Falling below full-time will result in the termination of the student’s immigration record. The minimum credit hours requirements are as follows:
Level of Study
Credit Hours per Semester
Undergraduate and Juris Doctor (JD)
12 credit hours
9 credit hours
Master of Business Administration (M.B.A)
9 credit hours
Master of Laws (LL.M) and Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.)
8 credit hours
Immigration Check-in and Address Update
Students must update their address at their AU Portal (go to Academics, Personalized Links, and click on Contact Information Current Students). Students must also complete their immigration check-in every semester at their AU Portal (go to Academics, Personalized Links, and click on iEagle. Log in to iEagle and click on immigration check in under the current students tab). Because students are overseas, they can use/enter the ISSS address as theirs in the following order:
Suite 410 Butler Pavilion
4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016-8041
Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Because immigration status is not interrupted by study abroad, students are eligible for OPT or CPT upon return if they were enrolled full-time for one academic year upon returning from abroad. Note: for post-completion OPT, students must be physically in the US to apply for OPT authorization from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Similarly, students on J-1 visa are eligible for academic training upon return provided that they maintained full-time enrollment while overseas.
Renewal of F-1/J-1 Visa and the 5 Month Rule
Independent of the time a student has been studying abroad, if their visa expires while overseas, he/she needs to apply for a new visa before making travel plans to return to the US. For students studying abroad for 5 or more months, he/she needs to apply for a new visa before making travel plans to return to the US even if their current visa is still valid. Please contact the ISSS office or the US Embassy in your country for questions.
Study Abroad Advising Checklist
SEVIS Status will stay active, for F-1 and J-1 students with remarks that student is on study abroad program.
Student must complete immigration check-in every semester while abroad.
F-1 students will be eligible for CPT or OPT if they maintained full-time study for one academic year upon return from study abroad. Similarly, J-1 exchange visitors will also be eligible for academic training upon return if maintained full-time enrollment while studying abroad.
If the study abroad program was completed during last semester and he/she wishes to apply for post-completion OPT, the student must be physically in the US to apply for OPT authorization.
It’s mandatory to maintain full-time enrollment at all times during study abroad. If students fall below full-time due to it being their last semester, they must contact ISSS for reduced course load authorization.
If travel signature is over a year old or the student doesn't have one, contact ISSS to obtain an "in-lieu of travel signature” letter to be sent to you while studying abroad.
Visa Need and the 5 Month Rule
If an F-1 visa expires while outside the US, a student must apply for a new visa to return to the United States. Although it is possible for a student to obtain an F-1 visa in a country other than his/her own country, the student may face more stringent requirements than in the home country. In some instances, the consular officer in the third country will find it necessary to check with the consular office in the student's place of residence, and this can be time-consuming. Returning students should make travel plans to allow for such delays.
If an F-1 visa is not expired but the student has been studying abroad for five or more months, he/she must apply for a new visa to return to the United States. Please contact the ISSS office or the US embassy in your country with further questions.