Student Admissions FAQs

Maintaining Status

New Students

Upon arrival in Cleveland as a new international student, you must check in with International Student Services (ISS). This process is done online and is the first step in properly maintaining your visa status.

Visit our step-by-step guide for more information on how to check in.

Upon completion of the process, ISS will be able to properly register your personal information in SEVIS and indicate to the government that you have arrived and are complying with federal regulations.

Current Students

Students who are continuing their education at CWRU do not need to check in online with ISS when they arrive on campus every semester. ISS ensures that you’re properly validated in SEVIS by verifying your enrollment status during subsequent semesters of study.

The only time when you would be required to submit your passport or the passport of your dependents to ISS would be if new ones are issued. ISS keeps copies of your documentation in your student file.

J-1 students: if your DS-2019 is issued by a sponsor other than CWRU, be sure to contact them directly about their preferred processes and procedures to ensure that you properly maintain your J-1 status.

Within the first 10 days of first arriving in the U.S., you must report your address to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This is accomplished by providing your local address on Form AR-11, Change of Address Form and submitting it electronically to DHS.

After you’ve submitted your AR-11, anytime in the future that you move to a new location within the U.S., whether it be a different apartment in the same building or a whole new state, you must update the Student Information System (SIS) within 10 days of moving. The information that you log in SIS is automatically forwarded to ISS and we then use that information to update SEVIS. If SIS is not kept up to date, neither is the government. Failure to properly maintain that information with the government is a violation of your visa status.

Important points to keep in mind when maintaining/updating your address:

  • Do not list CWRU’s main address or any department address as your local address. You must indicate where you are physically living.
  • If you live on campus, make sure to include your box number. Only putting your street address does not tell the post office where you receive your mail. This will cause delays in receiving your mail or prevent you from receiving it all together.
  • Do not list your apartment number or street number before your street name. This can cause confusion for the post office and delay delivery of your mail. In the U.S., the proper way to write your address is:
  • Street Number Street Name, Apartment Number, City, State Zip
  • Example: 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH, 44106 or 123 Main Street, Apt 456, Cleveland Heights, OH, 44120

Whether you’re moving down the hall from your current apartment or to another state, you always need to make sure that you’re properly reporting your address. This is essential for maintaining your visa status and regulations state that students are required to report any change in personal contact information within 10 days of the occurrence.

As an enrolled student, you are expected to promptly update your contact information using the Student Information System (SIS). Instructions about how to do this can be found on the Registrar’s website. The information that you update with the Registrar is provided to ISS through an electronic interface and then ISS passes this information along to SEVIS.

As you’ll see when looking at the Registrar’s instructions, there are multiple types of addresses to maintain. Keeping this information up to date in SIS is the best way to ensure that the university can reach you (either in-person or by mail) with important information.

Students who have graduated from CWRU and are authorized for Academic Training, OPT or STEM OPT are also required to report on any changes in personal contact information within 10 days; however, the method through which that is done is different. For F-1 student, these processes are explained on the OPT & STEM OPT Reporting Requirements page. For J-1 students, please email to report your personal contact information updates.

An F-1 or J-1 student must be enrolled full-time.

Undergraduate Students

The Department of Homeland Security defines a full-time course of study for undergraduate students as 12 semester credits for undergraduate study. Certain experiential learning opportunities allow for a full-time course load based on different registration requirements. Always consult with ISS about course registration to be sure that you're maintaining full-time status.

Graduate Students

A full-time course load of nine credit hours is generally considered full-time for graduate and professional programs; however, some programs do have different credit hour requirements.

Graduate students enrolled in thesis and project coursework will also find that certain courses come with full-time enrollment status even when registration is less than 9 credit hours. Always consult with ISS about course registration to be sure that you're maintaining full-time status.

Graduate students must also understand the impact that the Waiver of Registration has on their visa status.

Part of your responsibility as an F-1 or J-1 student is being registered in a full course of study during the academic year. International Student Services is required by federal regulations to report on the status of each student’s enrollment every semester and at any point that there’s a drop below the required full-time course load.

The only time when an F-1 or J-1 student is considered to be in status without being enrolled full-time is during a vacation period between semesters, such as summer break, so long as he or she is eligible and intends to enroll for the next semester.

Never drop below a full-time course of study during the academic year before having a conversation with ISS about your options. Dropping below full-time status without involving ISS will likely result in serious consequences that will negatively impact your visa status. If you have questions about the definition of full-time course of study, contact ISS at or 216.368.2517 or visit us at Tomlinson Hall, Room 143.

If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot maintain full-time enrollment, ISS may be able to suggest options for you to maintain your status or will advise you about the proper steps to take if you cannot maintain status.

There are certain exceptions to the full-time course of study requirement; only ISS can determine if a student qualifies for an exception and authorize the Reduced Course Load (RCL). DHS allows individuals to be less than full-time under very specific circumstances.

Valid academic reasons

There are a few valid academic reasons by which a student can maintain status without being enrolled in a full course of study. If you think you may have a valid academic reason for being unable to maintain full-time enrollment, you must discuss your situation with ISS prior to withdrawing from coursework and provide the required documentation.

Only ISS can determine whether or not you qualify for one of these exceptions based on the Application for Reduced Course Load that you submit.

Maintaining your status based on this reduced course load is only available once during an academic level and must be authorized by ISS or the sponsor prior to withdrawing from coursework. Without proper authorization from ISS, students are considered to be in violation of their visa status. You must resume full-time enrollment status in the semester immediately following the RCL semester.

Completing all course requirements in the current semester

Students who are completing their final semester of study may take less than a full-time course load if a lesser course load is necessary to complete the remaining program requirements during the final semester.

Students requesting a Reduced Course Load in their final semester must submit the Reduced Couse Load request to ISS in order to be considered for authorization.

Medical reason

A student who needs to drop below full-time for medical reasons is considered to be in legal F-1 or J-1 status during the illness if they provide documentation from U.S. licensed medical or mental health professionals to ISS. The student must be able to resume a full-time course of study upon recovery. An F-1 or J-1 student is only allowed to drop below a full course load for medical reasons for a total of 12 months during each academic level.

In the event that a student doesn’t qualify for RCL or have other viable options to maintain status, the student may choose to completely withdraw from the program and request authorization to do so from ISS or the sponsor. This withdrawal still results in failing to maintain status, but being authorized is better than failing to maintain status without any authorization. An authorized withdrawal provides a student with an additional period of time to arrange for their departure, while an unauthorized withdrawal does not.

Based on the date the student is considered to have dropped below full-time enrollment status, and whether or not the withdrawal had been authorized, the international advisor will inform the student of how long they may legally remain in the U.S. and of how they may regain F-1 status, if desired, in the future.

J-1 Exchange Visitor Program regulations require that J-1 Exchange Visitors (both student and scholar) and their J-2 dependents carry health insurance meeting specific minimum standards (Code of Federal Regulations – 22 CFR 62.14. Failure to maintain the required minimum insurance coverage can result in termination of J status.

Because health care expenses in the United States are expensive, coverage in the amounts listed below may not be sufficient to cover all expenses for medical care, and higher levels of coverage may be considered.

J-1 health insurance must provide the following minimum coverage (in U.S. dollars):

  • Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness;
  • Repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000;
  • Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of the exchange visitor (or accompanying spouse or dependent children) to his or her home country in the amount of $50,000;
  • A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.

An insurance policy secured to meet J-1 coverage requirements:

  • May require a waiting period for preexisting conditions, which is reasonable as determined by current industry standards;
  • May include a provision for co-insurance under the terms which the exchange visitor may be required to pay up to 25% of the covered benefits per accident or illness;
  • Shall not unreasonably exclude coverage for perils inherent to the activities of the exchange program in which the exchange visitor participates.

Any policy, plan or contract must, at minimum, be:

  • Underwritten by an insurance corporation having an A.M. Best rating of “A−” or above; a McGraw Hill Financial/Standard & Poor’s Claims-paying Ability rating of “A−” or above; a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of “B+” or above; a Fitch Ratings, Inc. rating of “A−” or above; a Moody’s Investor Services rating of “A3” or above; or such other rating as the Department of State may from time to time specify; or
  • Backed by the full faith and credit of the government of the exchange visitor’s home country; or
  • Part of a health benefits program offered on a group basis to employees or enrolled students by a designated sponsor; or
  • Offered through or underwritten by a federally qualified Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) or eligible Competitive Medical Plan (CMP) as determined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In addition to being a federal requirement for J-1 students, having proper medical (or health) insurance is a requirement for all CWRU students. CWRU provides a student medical plan for all students (also available to their dependents for an additional cost) that meets all of the above listed criteria. The university conveniently bills the cost directly to students’ accounts so that they’re fully covered year-round.

There are many options for medical insurance; however, not all plans are equal. If you choose to waive CWRU’s student medical plan because you either already have insurance or have purchased another insurance plan, you must prove, in a timely manner and as described by University Health Service, that your plan meets the same level of comprehensive coverage that CWRU’s student medical plan provides. If the other plan does not meet CWRU standards, the CWRU student medical plan fee is reapplied to the student account and coverage goes into effect.

Some J-1 exchange visitors are required to return to their home country for two years at the completion of the J-1 program as part of the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 212(e). This requirement is imposed for one of four reasons:

  • The country and field are listed on the Exchange Visitors Skills list (a list of skills needed in the student’s home country).
  • The exchange visitor has been funded by the U.S. government.
  • The exchange visitor has been funded by the home country government.
  • The exchange visitor has participated in a medical education training program sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates.

The J-1 exchange visitor may not change to another status in the U.S. if he or she is subject to this requirement. In some circumstances a waiver is possible. Learn more about applying for a waiver of the two-year home-country physical presence requirement.

Complete the Request for a New I-20 or DS-2019 Form through TerraDotta. The international student advisor will review the documentation, issue a new I-20, and notify you by email about how to collect the new I-20 when it’s ready.

A student is considered to be eligible for a program extension if all three conditions are met:

  • the completion of studies date on the student’s current I-20 has not expired,
  • the student has continually maintained status and
  • the student is unable to finish the degree program by the completion date on his/her I-20 because of compelling academic or medical reasons.

Program Extension Procedures:

You must submit a complete I-20 extension request through TerraDotta no earlier than the semester that your I-20 will expire. Plan to submit your complete request at least 3-4 weeks (sooner is always better!) before your program completion date as listed on your current I-20.

As part of this process, you'll be asked to identify your advisor, who will then be contacted by ISS to provide additional information about your extension request. Undergraduate students should list their dean in Undergraduate Studies. Do not list Dean Wolcowitz. If you do not know who your dean is, please email to inquire. Graduate students should list their academic advisor.

The international student advisor will review the documentation and issue a new I-20 with an extended graduation date for all qualifying program extension requests. Students will be notified by email about how to collect the new I-20 when it’s ready.


Students who do not meet the requirements for an I-20 extension are considered out of status and must apply for reinstatement to legal F-1 status. Consult an international student advisor about the process and any other options.

F-1 students are admitted to the U.S for “duration of status,” or “D/S.”

Duration of status means:

  • the time during which they are pursuing a full course of study and making normal progress toward completing the course of study
  • if applicable, the time they are working in authorized practical training after completion of studies
  • a 60-day grace period during which they prepare to depart from the country, to apply for a change to another visa status, or to begin practical training.

Duration of status is limited by the “completion of studies” date listed in the student’s most recent I-20. A student needing additional time to complete his/her program must apply for an extension of program of study before the original end date printed on the I-20.

If your I-94 has been lost, stolen, or the information entered into the electronic I-94 system is incorrect, call the local Cleveland Customs and Border Protection office at 216.267.3600, then press option 1 for F-1 students, or option 2 for J-1 students.

It is extremely important that a student who has lost his or her passport report this to the police immediately. The police report will likely be required when the student applies for a replacement passport from the home government.

Obtaining a new passport is done directly with the student’s home country's embassy or consulate and does not require any documentation from ISS. Each country’s procedure is different: Some may require in-person applications while others accept requests by mail, so students must investigate the process. This information is generally accessible on their website.

Maintaining a valid passport at all times while studying in the U.S. is also the student’s responsibility and is required to maintain visa status. For a passport to be considered valid, it must be current for at least 6 months into the future at all times. Like issuance of a replacement passport, issuance of a new passport or extending a current passport is country-specific so it’s essential that a student investigate the procedure well in advance of its expiry. The website of the home country’s embassy should have instructions regarding passport renewal or extension.

The visa in your passport governs when and how often you can enter the United States but it does not determine how long you can remain in the U.S. Students may (and do!) stay in the US with expired visas and are properly maintaining their status as long as their I-20s or DS-2019s remain valid and there are no other visa status violations to consider.

The only time you need to apply for a new visa is if yours is expired and you will be traveling abroad. You need a valid visa to enter the U.S., so you need to make plans to obtain your new visa before returning to the U.S. The process is very similar to what you did when you applied for your initial visa. You can find information about obtaining a visa on our website and ISS strongly encourages you to check the website of the local embassy or consulate at which you'll apply. Some offices do have very specific local requirements, such as but not limited to requiring transcripts or enrollment verification which you can request through the University Registrar, so you'll want to prepare accordingly.

It is not possible to renew a visa in the United States. Visas are issued only by a U.S. consul in a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the United States.

F-1 Students

F-1 students are permitted to work on campus no more than 20 hours per week during the academic year but may be employed full-time (more than 20 hours per week) during breaks and between semesters so long as they are properly authorized by ISS prior to engaging in employment and they are eligible and intend to enroll for next semester. Employment may not interfere with the student’s academic program

All off-campus employment must be authorized by ISS prior to beginning work. For more information, visit the F-1 Student Employment and Training page.

J-1 Students

Students in J‑1 status may be employed in three situations:

  • As part of the terms of a scholarship, fellowship or assistantship.
  • On the premises of the campus the student is authorized to attend.
  • Off-campus by showing serious, urgent and unforeseen circumstances that arose since acquiring exchange visitor status.

All J-1 employment must be authorized in writing by ISS or the sponsor. Students must be in good academic standing and must continue full-time studies while working. The employment may not exceed 20 hours per week during the academic year.

For more information, visit the J-1 Student Employment and Training page.

F-1 students who complete one degree and wish to pursue another degree at CWRU must obtain a new I‑20 for the new degree.

To obtain a new I-20, you’ll need to provide:

  • an admission letter from CWRU
  • documentation of sufficient financial resources

The new I-20 must be generated by ISS within 60 days of the completion of the first degree; be sure to submit everything in a timely manner to maintain your visa status!

F-1 Students

F‑1 students may transfer their SEVIS records from one academic institution to another. The process is pretty simple and an international student advisor will be glad to assist you. To be eligible for transfer, students must start their new program at their new university within 5 months of transferring out of CWRU to maintain their current legal F-1 status.

Students who have completed a degree from CWRU and want to begin a new program at another school must have their SEVIS record released to the new school within 60 days after graduation.

Students who are transferring schools during an academic program may choose any release date for their SEVIS record as long as that release date is after the completion of coursework at CWRU and before the semester begins at the new school.

To initiate the transfer of your SEVIS record, follow the steps to complete the online Transfer-Out Form. Upon receiving your completed form and any required supporting documents, ISS will initiate the transfer of your SEVIS record to the new school.

J-1 Students

A J-1 transfer is a very time-sensitive process and requires careful coordination between a student’s current sponsor and their new sponsor; be sure to act promptly and consult with your sponsor if you have questions.

If the program sponsor is CWRU, provide the following information to ISS:

  • the admission letter from your new school
  • a completed Transfer-Out Form from CWRU
  • any documentation that your new school wishes to have CWRU submit to them

An advisor will review all material and if the transfer is recommended, your SEVIS record will be updated to reflect the intent to transfer to a new program. The new sponsor will be able to issue the new DS-2019 for the new program after the date when the student is released from CWRU.

If the program sponsor is not CWRU, you will have to contact the sponsor directly and coordinate the transfer with them based on their procedures.

It is extremely important to maintain your legal status in the United States. The Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 imposes certain penalties on those who overstay their status in the United States and those who are “unlawfully” present for certain periods of time. DHS has published guidelines to outline these definitions—overstay and unlawfully present—as well as the penalties.

The visa of an individual who stays beyond the period authorized is automatically considered void (although it may appear to be valid as it is stamped in the passport). All subsequent nonimmigrant visa applications must be made in the country of nationality- applying for an In-Country Change of Status is not possible- unless the circumstances have been defined as “extraordinary” by the Department of State. If an individual has been unlawfully present in the United States for more than 180 days and less than one year, the individual is not eligible to be admitted to the US for three years from departure from the U.S. Those who have been unlawfully present for more than one year are not eligible to be admitted to the U.S. for 10 years from departure from the U.S.

Immigration authorities have stated that an overstay and unlawful presence occurs when the date on the I‑94 has expired, or an immigration judge or immigration officer determines that a status violation has occurred. Students are advised to pay close attention to the dates on the I‑94, especially if they’ve been admitted on an I-515A with a specific ending date (usually 30 days) and must have their status returned to F-1. Failure to renew the I‑94 in time will cause an overstay and unlawful presence. Those with “Duration of Status” (D/S) can also be ruled to have violated status and will be considered an overstay and unlawfully present.

Failing to maintain visa status can have a significant impact on your plans to study at CWRU and long-lasting consequences that can affect your ability to obtain another visa status in the future. It is extremely important to maintain status at all times.

If you have failed to maintain your status, you must consult with an international student advisor immediately to evaluate your situation and be advised about any options for reinstatement. The standards for reinstatement are very high, so it is advisable for students to maintain status.

F-1 Students


If you are no longer maintaining F-1 status, you may wish to file for reinstatement with USCIS. If USCIS authorizes the reinstatement, your F-1 status will be restored. If USCIS denies the reinstatement, you would need to leave the U.S. immediately. Remaining in the U.S. after a reinstatement application has been denied may result in a 10-year bar from the United States. If you plan to apply for reinstatement, talk to your international student advisor first to discuss your eligibility—it is extremely difficult to qualify for a reinstatement—and the application process.

Departure and New Entry

If you are no longer maintaining F-1 status, you may choose to restore your status by obtaining a new I-20 from ISS and leaving the U.S. to apply for a new visa abroad. Having a new I-20, with a new SEVIS ID, generated will result in you having to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee again and affect your eligibility for Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical Training. For more information, talk to an international student advisor by contacting or 216.368.2517.

If you are a graduate student submitting a Waiver of Registration for this semester, it is essential that you understand the impact of this decision on your visa status. The Waiver of Registration is an administrative process of the university, but does not fulfill federal regulations that stipulate a requirement to be properly registered at all times. Proper registration is required to maintain your visa status and if you are not properly registered, you need to take other steps to maintain your visa status.

Keep in mind:

  • By virtue of submitting a Waiver of Registration, ISS is obligated to shorten the length of your I-20 or DS-2019 to reflect the Drop/Add deadline. Your legal status in the U.S. actually becomes shorter because it is now based on this Drop/Add deadline rather than your future intended graduation date.
  • In order to maintain your visa status after submitting a Waiver of Registration, you must, in a timely manner, either apply for OPT or apply and be authorized for Academic Training before the Drop/Add deadline, or make arrangements to begin a new academic program.
    • F-1 Students: OPT applications must be submitted within the 60-day grace period following the new Drop/Add deadline. Don't forget, it takes an average of 90-120 days for an OPT application to be processed. If you wait too long to apply, you're not likely going to be authorized for your full 12 months of OPT.
    • J-1 Students: Academic Training applications must be submitted to ISS at least 2 weeks before the DS-2019 end date and authorized before that end date. Don't forget, it takes ISS 3-5 business days to review and authorize an Academic Training application. If you wait too long to apply, you're not likely going to be authorized and you will fall out of status.

If you intend to begin another academic program, to maintain your current F-1 status (and SEVIS record), your new academic program must start within 5 months of the Drop/Add deadline. Any program beginning later than 5 months will result in you falling out of status.

If you do not intend to maintain your status either through OPT or continued education, you are required to leave the United States within 60 days of the Drop/Add deadline. Remaining in the US beyond the 60 day grace period can have extremely negative consequences such as fines and being barred from the US in the future.

Please get in touch with ISS if you have additional questions or concerns. We are here to help!

**For Academic Year 2022-2023, please refer to the information on the Fall 2022 - Spring 2023 Guidance & Student and Exchange Visitor Program Updates page.**

F-1 and J-1 students are eligible to enroll in online classes. Up to 3 credit hours can count towards maintaining full-time enrollment during a semester. Here are some examples to better explain. 

For the sake of these examples only (check with ISS whenever you have questions about your enrollment requirements!), we’re going to state that full-time enrollment to maintain status is 12 credit hours.

  1. Student is enrolled in 3 classes for 9 credit hours. These 3 classes meet on campus. Student enrolls in another online class for 3 credit hours. The total credit hours is 12 and the student is properly maintaining enrollment. If the student decided to engage in additional online coursework, that would be permissible; however, only one of those online courses counts towards maintaining visa status and the 12 credit hour requirement.
  2. Student is enrolled in 3 classes for 9 credit hours. These 3 classes meet on campus. Student enrolls in 2 online class for 6 credit hours. Total enrollment is 15 credit hours. Student decides to drop one of the courses that meets on campus. Student is still enrolled in 12 credit hours; however, only one online class can count towards maintaining full-time enrollment. That means that the student is only in 9 credit hours (6 credit hours on campus and 3 credit hours online) that can count towards maintaining status. This is a violation of status.

Whenever you’re considering enrolling in online coursework, consult with ISS to ensure that you’re properly maintaining status.

If your status changes, you need to inform ISS immediately. Send an email to

If you know that you will be changing your status, it is best to reach out to ISS early on so that staff can advise you about how to maintain your current status until your change is approved as well as any necessary actions that need to be taken with your SEVIS record. This will help ensure that all of your information is properly reflected at the time that your status ends.

Any questions you have about your new status should be directed towards the immigration attorney or immigration specialist that has helped you file for your change of status.

Be sure to keep all of your DS-2019s or I-20s and related materials in a safe place as they reflect your history as a visa holder. If you continue to make immigration-related transitions, you may need to provide these materials as part of future applications. ISS does not retain copies of your visa-related documents so it is very important that you keep track of all of your documents.

Yes! You can use the Updated Document Upload- Registration Form to provide International Student Services with a copy of a document that you want our office to maintain in your Terra Dotta record. Use this form to provide a copy of an updated passport, visa page, or anything else. You can access the information that you upload at any time by logging into your account at, and looking for the link titled "Updated Document Upload."

Please note that no action will be taken on your current SEVIS record by uploading a document through this form. ISS is simply providing a safe, accessible, digital storage option for you.

If you need any action to be taken on your SEVIS record (for example, you have received permanent residency or changed your status) or if ISS staff should be aware of this document that you're uploading, please email us at rather than using this form.

Students can report material changes to ISS by submitting their update to Terra Dotta.

ISS staff members receive notifications when students submit updates and process them in a timely manner. Staff members will only contact students regarding their updates if they have questions or concerns. If a student does not receive any notification from an ISS staff member, it is safe to assume that the update is being processed successfully. 

If a new I-20 is prepared as a result of any submitted updates, students will be notified by email when that new I-20 is ready. It generally takes 5-7 business days for a new I-20 to be prepared.

Students on an OPT STEM Extension will be required to submit an update every six months during their extension, even if there are no changes to their employment. ISS will email students when it is the appropriate time to submit these updates. This email will also contain detailed instructions on how to submit the update to our office.

If you are unable to log into Terra Dotta, please visit the Terra Dotta home page and follow the instructions to request a password reset. 

Travel and Re-Entry

If you forget to get a travel signature before leaving campus, don't panic! ISS will be available to help you year-round, except when the university is closed. Changes in ISS availability will be posted in ISSNews.

Effective March 16, 2020 and until further notice, ISS has adapted how we will issue travel signatures to students who depart the US without getting one. 

If your DS-2019 has not been issued by CWRU, you'll need to reach out to the entity that helps you maintain your visa status for assistance with getting a travel signature.

If your DS-2019 or I-20 has been issued by CWRU, you can request a DS-2019 or I-20 Reprint, which will be signed and sent to you. When your document has been generated, ISS will notify you by email and provide instructions for receiving your document.

If you're unable to receive the reprint in time, be prepared to receive an I-515A from the officer at US Customs. The I-515A is temporary admission to the U.S. and you must comply with the requirements of the form in order to return to good standing. This is an extremely time sensitive process so you must work with ISS staff immediately upon your return to Cleveland to resolve this situation. Failure to handle this properly could result in the government terminating your student visa status.

If you have other questions or concerns, be sure to send an email to

And remember, ISS should be your first point of contact whenever you have questions or problems regarding your visa status. Never attempt to resolve a problem with your status without first contacting our office as there may be very serious consequences for your actions. We're here to help!

F-1 students:

  • F-1 students can make travel signature requests on behalf of their F-2 dependent(s).

J-1 students:

  • If ISS has issued your DS-2019, a J-1 student can make travel signature requests on behalf of a J-2 dependent.
  • If your DS-2019 has not been issued by ISS at CWRU, you need to reach out to the entity that helps you maintain your visa status for assistance with getting a travel signature.

You should make your request using the Travel Signature Request

If the travel signature request is just for a dependent, you should make note of that in the text box request within the form.

An ISS staff member will review the request and be in touch by email when it is ready.

Nonimmigrants wishing to apply for a visa in a country other than their country of citizenship are referred to as "Third Country Nationals" (TCNs). Students should know that consular offices are not required to provide service to TCNs. If they do, the process likely will be more time consuming—officers adjudicating TCN application must take extra necessary measures to become informed about the applicant’s relationship to his/her home country and the U.S.—and the possibility of denial of a visa is significantly higher than if the student were applying in his or her own country, due to the officers’ unfamiliarity with the applicant's situation.

International Student Services strongly urges students who are considering applying as TCNs to consult with an advisor before doing so.

Generally, nonimmigrants (and their dependents) must present a valid, unexpired visa in their passport each time they enter the United States. An exception to this rule exists when nonimmigrants (and their dependents) enter the U.S. after a short trip (less than 30 days) to Canada, Mexico or “adjacent islands” other than Cuba. In this case, the visas are considered to be extended to the date of reentry through “Automatic Revalidation of Visa Validity.”

Individuals seeking to benefit from automatic revalidation must retain their I-94 when leaving the U.S., as it is essential for re-entry. In addition, all other travel documents relevant to the particular status (passport, I-20 or DS-2019) must be present, valid and properly endorsed.

For more information about automatic revalidation, please read the automatic revalidation information on the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website.

Please be aware that there is never a guarantee that an individual in F or J status seeking re-entry will be admitted, even if all of the criteria are met. Border officials have the authority to approve or deny entry to whomever they choose for reasons that may or may not be apparent.

Taking a cruise is a popular activity for international students, so here’s what you need to know before you book yours.


You must travel with your passport and your most recent I-20 or DS-2019. Your passport must be valid at least six months into the future on the date you return to the United States. The travel signature on page 3 of your I-20 or in the lower right section of page 1 of your DS-2019 must be less than one year old on the date you return to the United States.

If you are an F-1 student on post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) or STEM OPT or traveling to Canada, your travel signature must be less than six months old on the date you return to the United States, and you must also have with you your Employment Authorization Document (EAD). ISS also recommends printing out your most recently issued I-94 card from the Customs & Border Protection website.

Visas for the Countries You Will Visit

Some ports of call may require visas, be sure to research that information with the cruise line or by contacting the embassy or consulate of that country in the United States.

If Your U.S. Student Visa is Valid (Not Expired)

If you have an unexpired U.S. F-1 or J-1 visa inside your passport valid for multiple entries, you should not have any difficulties with your cruise plans, regardless of the itinerary, as long as your passport is valid at least six months into the future on the date you return to the United States, you have a valid travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 (see the section on Documents, above), and you have secured any required travel visas for your ports of call.

If Your U.S. Student Visa has Expired

If your U.S. F-1 or J-1 visa has expired (or will expire during your cruise) your cruise destinations are limited to only U.S. territories, Canada, Mexico and adjacent islands of the Caribbean, and your combined visits to these countries must be limited to fewer than 30 days. It also must be your intention to resume your F-1 or J-1 status upon your return. This benefit is not available to citizens or nationals of Iran, Syria, Sudan and Cuba.

Your passport must be valid at least six months into the future on the date you return to the United States, you must have a valid travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 (see the section on Documents, above), and you need to have secured any required travel visas for your ports of call.

U.S. territories in the Caribbean include Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John).

Adjacent islands of the Caribbean are defined in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations at 8CFR 286.1(a); however, it's important to know that traveling to Cuba will make you ineligible for revalidation.

If your cruise itinerary includes even one port of call not on the above list (for example, Belize) and you have an expired U.S. visa, U.S. immigration officials will not allow you to re-enter the United States. Even if you stay on board the ship during the entire time the ship is docked in that country, it won't matter. The ship has physically entered that country's sovereign territory, and if you are on the ship, you've entered that country, too. Cruise officials may not even permit you to board the ship!

This is why it is so very important to carefully review a cruise itinerary for potential travel problems if your U.S. visa in your passport has expired.

If You are a Citizen of Canada

Citizens of Canada are exempt from needing U.S. visas, so you do not need to be concerned about having a valid U.S. visa in your passport. Just be sure to be compliant with the visa requirements at the ports you plan to visit!

Document Check

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the validity of your passport or I-20 or DS-2019, stop by International Student Services (Tomlinson Hall, Room 143) during walk-in hours before you travel. ISS staff will gladly look everything over and provide you with a fresh signature for your I-20 or DS-2019 if needed.

It's permissible to travel abroad and return to the US while authorized for Academic Training as long as you have:

  • a valid visa
  • a valid passport (for at least 6 months into the future)
  • a valid DS-2019
    • showing your authorization for academic training and
    • a proper Travel Endorsement on page 1.

Students who have either applied or have been authorized for OPT or STEM OPT should read about traveling under the F-1 student employment sections on the website.

Most students will clear Customs after your documents are reviewed by a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer, but sometimes students are instructed to meet with another officer whose goal is to verify your student status or clarify any additional questions they may have. This meeting with an additional officer is known as “secondary inspection”.

Secondary inspection can be intimidating and students may feel nervous about this, but there is not usually cause for serious concern. Completing this process, however, can take some time- an hour or more. Whenever possible, try to schedule your flights with enough time between connections so that secondary inspection does not significantly affect your travel plans.

If the CBP officer has questions that can be answered by ISS ask the officer if they would like to call the office. During business hours, call 216.368.2517. After hours, follow the protocol described on the International Affairs website to get connected with someone who can help.