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Maintaining Immigration Status

F-1 Students

Federal regulations as administered by the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) require that you enroll in classes each semester and maintain a full course of study. Below is a summary of some of your main responsibilities as an F-1 student. You will also find links to OISS forms necessary to maintain your student status. If you fail to follow these regulations, you may lose your F-1 immigration status. If you have questions or concerns, please contact an OISS advisor for help. 

Enroll Full-Time at MSU

According to immigration regulations, F-1 Students are required to enroll full-time. 

How many credits are full-time?

Full-Time Enrollment

  • Undergraduates: 12 credits per semester
  • Masters without assistantship: 9 credits per semester
  • Masters with assistantship: 6 credits per semester
  • Doctoral without assistantship: 6 credits per semester
  • Doctoral with assistantship: 3 credits per semester
  • Doctoral students who have passed all required comprehensive exams: 1 credit per semester. To be eligible your department must report your comprehensive results to the Office of the Registrar and your student status must be All But Dissertation (ABD). The policy will take effect in the semester following your exam.

Fall and Spring Semesters

You must enroll full-time during the fall and spring semesters or be approved for Reduced Course Load (PDF) before the semester begins.  

Summer Semester

Summer semester is considered an annual vacation period. Students who will enroll in classes during the following fall semester do not need to enroll in classes during the summer semester.

If summer semester is your first or final semester, you must enroll full-time during the summer or be approved for Reduced Course Load (PDF) before the semester begins. 

Final Semester - Reduced Course Load and Online Classes

If you are approved for Reduced Course Load (PDF) during your final semester, you must enroll in at least one in-person course. If you need only one course to complete your studies, that course must be in an in-person course. 

 

Can I enroll less than full-time?

International students are required to enroll full-time during the academic year. If you cannot or will not meet this requirement, you must request a Reduced Course Load before the beginning of the semester. Federal immigration regulations greatly limit a student's ability to be less than full time, but it may be allowed in some circumstances.

If you drop below full time without authorization, OISS is required to report this in the Department of Homeland Security's Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and you will lose your F-1 status. 

 When to Apply 

  • Apply for Reduced Course Load before the semester begins.  
  • Once the semester begins, students must be enrolled full-time before applying for Reduced Course Load.

Acceptable Reasons to Enroll Below Full-time

Academic Reasons
This reason can only be used one time per program of study. Only the categories below qualify for academic difficulties.

During the First Year of Study

  • Initial difficulties with the English language 
  • Initial difficulties with reading requirements 
  • Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods

Anytime During the Program of Study

  • Improper course level placement

Medical Reasons
If you have a medical or mental health condition that prevents you from studying full-time, you can apply for a Reduced Course Load. You may be approved to enroll part-time or take the semester off depending on the recommendation of your U.S. doctor or licensed clinical psychologist. You may be approved for up to 12 months of Reduced Course Load for medical conditions per program of study.

Final Semester
You must enroll in a minimum number of credits required to graduate. If you only need to take one course, it may not be online. You must enroll in at least one in-person course during your final semester.

Apply for Reduced Course Load

How many online classes can F-1 students take?

Online Class Regulations

U.S. Immigration Regulations require that only one online or distance learning class per semester can be used to count toward the minimum number of credits needed for full-time enrollment as an F-1 student.

What happens if I break this rule?

  • Failure to follow the online class regulations may result in termination of your I-20 and SEVIS record.
  • Termination of your I-20 and SEVIS record means that you have violated your F-1 nonimmigrant status and your I-20 is no longer valid. 
  • Termination of your I-20 and SEVIS record is very serious and can have many negative consequences for you. It can end your ability to stay in the United States and attend MSU.

Can I take more than one online class each semester? 

If the total number of credits of all your in-person classes and one of your online classes are more than your required full-time credits, you can enroll in as many online classes are you wish.

How do I know if a class is online?

The MSU Office of the Registrar has identified MSU classes with section numbers of 730-739 and 790-799 as online classes.

If I am approved for Reduced Course Load or Dual Enrollment, does this rule still apply to me?

Yes. Even if you are authorized for Reduced Course Load (PDF) or Dual Enrollment (PDF) you are still required to follow the online education enrollment rule.

Can English Language Center students take online classes?

No. If you are an English language student, you are not eligible for online classes.

During my final semester before graduation, can I take all of my classes online?

It depends on whether you will complete your program of student from outside the U.S. or from inside the U.S.

Completing Program of Study Outside the U.S. and Not Applying for OPT

If you will leave the U.S. to return home before graduating, you may take your final classes online. You must complete the Notice of Departure for F-1 Students (PDF). Your I-20 and SEVIS record will be completed after you leave the U.S. You will not be eligible to apply for OPT to work in the U.S. after graduation.

Completing Program of Study Inside the U.S.

If you only need one class to complete your program of study and you are in the U.S. then your final class cannot be online. You must apply for a Reduced Course Load (PDF) for your final semester. You will be eligible to apply for OPT to work in the U.S. after graduation.

Can I enroll at another U.S. college or university?

International students attending Michigan State University who wish to enroll at another institution are required by the Department of Homeland Security to maintain full-time enrollment between their attendance at MSU and the other institution.

MSU credits + credits at another institution = full-time enrollment

For full-time enrollment requirements, click on How Many Credits Are Full Time? above.


Fall and Spring Semesters

You must enroll full-time during the fall and spring semesters at MSU or be approved for Dual Enrollment before the semester begins.  

Summer Semester

Continuing Students

  • Summer semester is considered an annual vacation period. Students who will enroll in classes at MSU during the following fall semester can enroll in classes at another college or university. Dual enrollment approval is not needed.

New Students

  • If summer semester is your first semester at MSU, you must enroll full-time during the summer at MSU or be approved for Dual Enrollment before the semester begins. 

Students who are Graduating or Completing their Program of Study

  • If summer semester is your final semester at MSU, you must enroll full-time during the summer at MSU or be approved for Dual Enrollment before the semester begins. 

 When to Apply 

  • Apply for Dual Enrollment before the semester begins.  
  • Once the semester begins, students must be enrolled full-time at MSU before applying for Dual Enrollment.

Apply for Dual Enrollment

  1. Complete the student section of the Dual Enrollment (PDF) form.
  2. Enroll in at least half of the full-time credits required in your level of study.
  3. Meet with your academic advisor in your department to assist you in completing the academic advisor section of the form. To make an appointment with your academic advisor:
  4. Provide the completed Dual Enrollment form to OISS during walk-in hours or by appointment.
  5. After the end of the semester, you must provide proof of courses you were enrolled in at the other institution to OISS. This can be grade reports or transcripts. Failure to provide proof of enrollment courses may cause your I-20 and SEVIS record to be terminated. 

Failure to apply for dual enrollment or not providing proof of full-time enrollment to OISS may result in termination of your I-20 and  SEVIS record. Termination of your I-20 and SEVIS record means that you have violated your F-1 status. Termination of your I-20 and SEVIS record is very serious and can have many negative consequences for you. It can end your ability to stay in the United States and attend school.

Can I take a semester off?

Summer Semester

Summer semester is considered an annual vacation period. Students who will enroll in classes at MSU during the following fall semester do not need to apply for a semester off. 

Fall and Spring Semesters

You must enroll full-time during the fall and spring semesters or be approved to take a semester off before the semester begins. You must be maintaining F-1 status at the time you apply for a semester off.

When to Apply 

Apply for a semester off before the semester begins.  

Apply for a Semester Off

  1. Complete the Notice of Departure for F-1 Students (PDF) form.
  2. Meet with your academic advisor to discuss any impact on your graduation plans and future enrollment. To make an appointment with your academic advisor:
  3. Meet with an OISS advisor to submit the Notice of Departure for F-1 Students form and discuss immigration options for returning to MSU. 
  4. You are required to leave the United States by the deadline given to you by an OISS Advisor.
  5. OISS will terminate your I-20 and SEVIS record after you leave the U.S.

Returning to MSU

To return to MSU you must obtain documents in order to re-enter the U.S. 

Learn more about how to return to MSU


 

 

What happens if I don't apply for a semester off?

  • Failure to apply for a semester off can result in a termination of your SEVIS record and I-20.
  • Termination of your I-20 and SEVIS record means that you have violated your immigration status and your SEVIS record has come to an end.
  • Termination of a SEVIS record is very serious and can have many negative consequences for you. It can end your ability to stay in the United States and attend school.

 

Maintaining Status  

Additional requirements for F-1 students

Understanding Your I-20

The I-20 is a U.S. Department of Homeland Security document issued by colleges and universities in the U.S. It certifies that a student is admitted to a full-time program of study and has sufficient financial resources to stay in the U.S. 

  • The I-20 one of the most important identification and legal documents for international students in the U.S. 
  • The I-20 is not a visa, however, an I-20 is required to apply for a F-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate.
  • The I-20 is required for entry to the U.S.
  • While in the U.S. the I-20 is used as identification and proof of legal and academic status.

For more information watch our Understanding your I-20 video

What To Do

  1. Read the Instructions to Students on page three of your I-20.

  2. Do not work off campus unless you have an updated I-20 from OISS that details the type of employment authorization you are approved for.  Learn more about working in the U.S.

  3. You must get a new I-20 from OISS if you change degree level (e.g. from Bachelor’s to Master’s level) or if you change your major (e.g. from Engineering to Physics). You must also get a new I-20 from OISS if your source of funding changes (e.g. from Scholarship to Family Funds). To report these changes, complete and submit the F-1 I-20 Request Form for Students (PDF) to OISS.

  4. Get a travel signature from OISS before leaving the U.S. Learn more about traveling outside the U.S.

  5. Maintain an updated and unexpired I-20 at all times.

  6. Apply for an I-20 extension before the end date on your I-20. To apply for an extension, F-1 students must complete and submit the I-20 Request Form (PDF) to OISS. Requests for extensions must be submitted no later than 30 days before the end date on your I-20.

Get a Travel Signature

Before traveling outside the U.S., make sure that OISS has signed your I-20 for travel. To get a travel signature, leave your I-20 at the OISS Front Desk. Your I-20 will be signed within three business days.

For enrolled students, travel signatures are valid for 12 months. 

For students on OPT or STEM OPT, travel signatures are valid for 6 months.

Learn more about traveling outside the U.S.

Keep Your Passport Valid

Keep an unexpired passport valid for at least 6 months into the future. Failure to keep a valid passport is a violation of your immigration status. To renew your passport in the U.S., contact your country's embassy or consulate for procedures.

Check Your MSU Email Every Day

OISS uses email as the official way to let you about important information, including your immigration status. You must check your MSU email every day.

During your time at MSU, OISS will communicate with you regularly via email. We will send a weekly email with immigration tips and updates as well as information regarding campus events.

We will also communicate with you directly via email for any urgent immigration issues, so you must check your MSU email every day.

If you forward your MSU email to another account, please be sure that OISS emails are not sent to your spam, junk or clutter boxes.

Common Emails From OISS

  1. OISS Weekly email newsletter with important immigration and visa status reminders and on and off campus events and activities.
  2. General reminders about specific immigration topics. For example: enrolling full-time, getting a travel signature, online class policy violation, etc.
  3. Individual emails just for you. If you are in violation of any U.S immigration regulation or if we have something very important to tell you, OISS will send you an email. You must to respond to OISS immediately.

Not Getting OISS Emails?

If you are not getting OISS Weekly emails or other emails from OISS, read OISSLive blog post Are you not receiving OISS email? to find out how fix the problem.

Update Your Address and Phone Number

You must report any change of living address in the U.S. and phone number to the Office of the Registrar via www.stuinfo.msu.edu within 10 days of the change. This information will be updated in your Department of Homeland Security SEVIS record.

We created a blog with step-by-step instructions on how to update your address.

 

Work in the U.S.

U.S. immigration law allows F-1 students to work on-campus and off-campus with work authorization. There are specific rules for each employment type that all students must know. Failure to follow these rules will result in the termination of your F-1 status and you will be required to leave the U.S. which may make it difficult or impossible for you to finish your degree at MSU. 

Employment Types: 

  • On-Campus
    • On-Campus Employment
    • Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for on-campus employment that will exceed 20 hours per week. 
  • Off-Campus
    • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
      • Available before graduation.
      • Must receive academic credit for the employment. This includes internships, cooperative education programs, and work related to thesis or dissertation completion.
    • Optional Practical Training (OPT)
      • For work in the U.S. after graduation.
      • Work must be related to your major field of study.

Learn more about On-Campus employment, CPT and OPT

Transfer to another U.S. College or University

If you intend to transfer to another educational institution in the U.S., you must notify OISS in advance of this transfer by completing the Transfer Out form and meeting with an OISS advisor. 

Learn how to transfer out

Before you leave the U.S. after graduation

If you complete your studies or wish to leave the U.S. and return home, you must complete the F-1 Notice of Departure (LINK) form and submit to OISS.

Grace Period After Program Completion

Add content for F students

Dependents in F-2 Status

If you wish to bring a spouse or child, under the age of 21, to the US as a F-2 dependent you must submit the F-2 I-20 Request Form for Adding Dependents (PDF) to request a dependent I-20 from OISS.

Learn more about Family and Dependents

J-1 Students

As a J-1 student, there are certain federal laws and requirements you must meet to maintain your student status while at Michigan State University. Below you will find a general overview of main responsibilities and J-1 requirements. It is your responsibility to maintain your J-1 status. If you have questions or concerns, please contact an OISS advisor for help.

Arrival and Check-In

Arrival 

You may enter the U.S. no more than 30 days before the program start date and no later than 20 days after the program start date, as listed on your DS-2019. If you will be delayed in your arrival, please notify jvisas(at)msu.edu.

Check-In

You must complete government check-in with OISS as soon as possible after arriving in the U.S. 

Learn more about pre-arrival, arrival, orientation and check-in 

Immigration Documents

You must maintain a valid passport at all times. When entering the US, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months into the future from your date of entry. If your passport will expire, contact your home country consulate or embassy for information on how to get a new or extended passport.

You must maintain an updated and unexpired DS-2019 at all times. This includes a DS-2019 with the correct level and major, current funding and correct personal information.

You must attend the college or university listed on your DS-2019.

Enrollment Requirements

Federal regulations require you to enroll full-time and attend your classes during the fall and spring semesters. Summer enrollment is optional unless you begin or end your studies during the summer. If you plan on taking a semester off other than summer, you must obtain prior approval from an OISS advisor.

Full-Time Enrollment

  • Undergraduates: 12 credits per semester
  • Masters without assistantship: 9 credits per semester
  • Masters with assistantship: 6 credits per semester
  • Doctoral without assistantship: 6 credits per semester
  • Doctoral with assistantship: 3 credits per semester
  • Doctoral students who have passed all required comprehensive exams: 1 credit per semester. To be eligible your department must report your comprehensive results to the Office of the Registrar and your student status must be All But Dissertation (ABD. The policy will take effect in the semester following your exam.

Enrollment Deadline

You must be enrolled for your courses by the beginning of each semester. OISS is required to report under-enrollment to the Department of State within 30 days of the end of the registration period. Any student who is not enrolled will be reported and will be considered out of status.

Online Courses

Only one online course per semester will count toward full-time enrollment.

Reduced Course Load

If you will not be enrolled full-time, you must receive prior approval from an OISS advisor. You must complete and submit the Reduced Course Load Form (PDF) to OISS prior to dropping below full-time enrollment

Dual Enrollment at another College or University

If you wish to dual-enroll and take classes at another institution prior approval from an OISS advisor is needed. You must submit the Dual Enrollment Form (PDF) to OISS. If you dual enroll, you must take at least half of the minimum number of credits per semester at MSU.

Health Insurance Requirements

Ensuring you and your J-2 dependents have adequate health insurance coverage is one of your top priorities upon arriving at MSU. You are responsible for maintaining your and your dependents' immigration status while in the US. Failure to maintain health insurance that meets the following criteria will result in a violation of your J-1 or J-2 status.

All J-1 and J-2 visas holders are required to maintain health insurance that meets the following requirements:

  • $100,000 per sickness and illness
  • $100,000 per accident and injury
  • $50,000 for medical evacuation
  • $25,000 for repatriation 
  • $500 deductible
  • Coinsurance may not exceed 25% of covered benefit expense per accident or illness

To learn more click on the "Students" tab on our U.S. Health Care and Insurance webpage.

Change in Name, Address, or Phone Number

You must report any change of living address and telephone number to the Office of the Registrar via www.stuinfo.msu.edu within 10 days of the change. This information will be updated in your Department of Homeland Security SEVIS record.

Learn how to update your address in StuInfo

If you change your name, you must report it to the Office of the Registrar in person and provide an updated passport that shows your name change. Provide a copy of your passport to OISS either in person or by emailing the copy to jvisas(at)msu.edu. After the update is complete you will receive an updated DS-2019. 

Extending your J-1 Program

You must apply for an extension of your J-1 program of study prior to the expiration date on your DS-2019. Requests for extensions should be submitted at least two weeks prior to the expiration date on the DS-2019. Submit the J-1 Student DS-2019 Extension Request Form to OISS. 

Change in Funding Source or Degree Level

If your source of funding changes during your study at MSU, you must submit updated financial documents and the J-1 DS-2019 Update Notification Request (PDF) form to OISS. 

If you change your academic program from one degree level to another, for instance from Bachelor's to Master's level, you must submit a J-1 DS-2019 Degree-Seeking Student Request for New Program (PDF) form to OISS. 

Travel Signatures

Prior to traveling outside the U.S., you will need to make sure your DS-2019 has been signed for travel within the last 12 months by OISS. To request a travel signature, you will need to leave your DS-2019 at the OISS Front Desk. Your DS-2019 will be signed for travel within one business day.

J-2 dependents must also get travel signatures on their DS-2019s. 

Learn more about traveling outside the U.S. 

Dependents in J-2 Status

If you wish to bring a spouse or child, under the age of 21, to the US as a J-2 dependent you must submit a J-2 DS-2019 Request for Adding Dependents (PDF) to OISS.

Learn more about J-2 dependents

Work in the U.S.

In order to maintain your J-1 student status, you must get authorization from OISS before starting your job, either on or off campus.

Learn more about how to apply for work authorization

Transfer to another U.S. College or University

If you intend to transfer to another educational institution in the U.S., you must notify OISS in advance of this transfer by completing the Transfer Out form and meeting with an OISS advisor. 

Learn how to transfer out

Check Your MSU Email Every Day

OISS uses email as the official way to let you about important information, including your immigration status. You must check your MSU email every day.

During your time at MSU, OISS will communicate with you regularly via email. We will send a weekly email with immigration tips and updates as well as information regarding campus events.

We will also communicate with you directly via email for any urgent immigration issues, so you must check your MSU email every day.

If you forward your MSU email to another account, please be sure that OISS emails are not sent to your spam, junk or clutter boxes.

Common Emails From OISS

  1. OISS Weekly email newsletter with important immigration and visa status reminders and on and off campus events and activities.
  2. General reminders about specific immigration topics. For example: enrolling full-time, getting a travel signature, online class policy violation, etc.
  3. Individual emails just for you. If you are in violation of any U.S immigration regulation or if we have something very important to tell you, OISS will send you an email. You must to respond to OISS immediately.

Not Getting OISS Emails?

If you are not getting OISS Weekly emails or other emails from OISS, read OISSLive blog post Are you not receiving OISS email? to find out how fix the problem.

Recess/Dismissed

If you need to withdraw from classes, or are asked to leave the university, you must report this to OISS. An OISS advisor will discuss next steps.

Completing your J-1 Program and Grace Period

• Prior to the completion of your J-1 program, we request that you submit the Notice of Departure for J-1 Scholars/Students (PDF) to OISS. If your program will end more than 14 days prior to your DS-2019 program end date, we will modify your DS-2019 to reflect the actual date your program has ended.

• Following the completion of your J-1 program, you are granted a 30 day grace period to remain in the US. During the grace period you are not permitted to continue your studies or employment, but you may pack up your belongings, If you depart the US during your grace period and wish to immediately return to the US, you must return in a new visa status (such as B1/B2 or ESTA).

J-1 Scholars and Student Interns

J-1 Scholars at MSU are responsible for maintaining valid J-1 status after arrival. Scholars must take all necessary steps to comply with the requirements described on this page in the sections below. Failure to meet J-1 status requirements will result in J-1 program cancellation and termination of the DS-2019. 

Arrival and Check-In

Arrival 

You may enter the U.S. no more than 30 days before the program start date and no later than 20 days after the program start date, as listed on your DS-2019. If you will be delayed in your arrival, please notify jvisas(at)msu.edu.

Check-In

You must complete government check-in with OISS as soon as possible after arriving in the U.S. 

Learn more about pre-arrival, arrival, orientation and check-in 

Continuous Program Participation

J-1 scholars at MSU are given specific program goals by the host department during the invitation process. Scholars are required to continuously pursue these program goals during their program. Scholars must engage in their J-1 program activities at least 20 hours per week.

Short Breaks in Program Participation Outside of the U.S.

Host departments may authorize J-1 Research Scholars or Professors to take a short break for personal international travel. Short breaks in program participation cannot be exceed more than two months per year.

Out-of-Country Program Participation - More Than Two Months

Continuing program participation outside the U.S. for more than two months must be approved by OISS before the scholar leaves the U.S.

Apply for continuous program participation outside the U.S. by completing and submitting the Notice of Departure for J-1 Scholars/Students (PDF) form to OISS. Applications must include an endorsement letter from the host department that meets the requirements described on the Notice of Departure form. 

Health Insurance Requirements

Ensuring you and your J-2 dependents have adequate health insurance coverage is one of your top priorities upon arriving at MSU. You are responsible for maintaining your and your dependents' immigration status while in the US. Failure to maintain health insurance that meets the following criteria will result in a violation of your J-1 or J-2 status.

All J-1 and J-2 visas holders are required to maintain health insurance that meets the following requirements:

  • $100,000 per sickness and illness
  • $100,000 per accident and injury
  • $50,000 for medical evacuation
  • $25,000 for repatriation 
  • $500 deductible
  • Coinsurance may not exceed 25% of covered benefit expense per accident or illness

Learn more about U.S. Healthcare and Insurance

Report Address, Phone and Email Changes

J-1 scholars provide a residential address, U.S. telephone number, and email address at OISS check-in. Changes to residential address, U.S. telephone number, and email address must be reported to OISS within ten days of the change. Updates can be emailed to jvisas(at)msu.edu.

Report Program Changes

Each J-1 scholar program begins with a specific program plan, including program goals, program dates, activity site address, and funding source. Each J-1 scholar also has both a designated faculty host and a department contact person. The department contact is usually an administrator in the host department.

Any and all changes to the program plan, faculty host, or department contact person must be promptly reported to OISS.

The following is a list of changes and required forms or letters that must be submitted to OISS immediately following the change.

Funding Source Change or Increase

Submit to OISS:

Activity Site Change

Submit to OISS:

Placement at Off-Campus Worksite

Submit to OISS:

New Research Objective

Extension of Program and DS-2019

Submit to OISS:

New Faculty Host

Submit to OISS:

New Department Contact

Submit to OISS:

Early Program Completion

Submit to OISS:

Program Discontinuation - Scholar's Decision 

Submit to OISS:

Program Discontinuation - Department's Decision 

Submit to OISS:

  • Letter from department addressed to OISS

Out-of-Country Program Participation - More Than Two Months

Submit to OISS:

 

Extensions

Requirements

Extensions of J-1 scholar programs are possible if the following conditions are met:

  • MSU host department desires a program extension
  • J-1 scholar desires a program extension
  • Program objectives remain the same or are highly similar to initial objectives
  • Adequate funding is available for the extension time period

Maximum Program Lengths

Maximum program lengths for scholar categories are as follows:

  • Research Scholar or Professor: 5 years
  • Short-Term Scholar: 6 months
  • Student Intern: 12 months

Required Forms

Research Scholar, Professor, or Short-Term Scholar

Student Intern

Departures

Each J-1 scholar must complete the Notice of Departure for J-1 Scholars/Students (PDF) when preparing to finish the program and depart the U.S.

If a J-2 dependent departs the U.S. prior to the J-1 scholar and does not plan to return in J-2 status, the J-1 scholar must send a completed Notice of Departure for J-2 Dependents (PDF) to OISS as soon as possible.

J-1 scholars and J-2 dependents are allowed to remain inside the U.S. for 30 days after the end date of the DS-2019. This is called a grace period. Please note that it is not possible to depart and re-enter the U.S. in J-1 or J-2 status during the 30-day grace period.

H-1B Employees

This information is only for H-1B employees hired by Michigan State University.

H-1B temporary worker non-immigrant status is designated for individuals coming temporarily to the U.S. to perform services in a specialty occupation. The maximum period of time an individual may remain in the U. S. on an H-1B status is six (6) years.

The position must be a specialty occupation as defined as "an occupation that requires (A) theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, and (B) attainment of a bachelor's or higher degree in the specific specialty as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States." INA214(i); 8USC 1184(i).

H-1B status is an employer-sponsored nonimmigrant classification. The employer must petition for the H-1B on behalf of the prospective H-1B employee through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Read the H-1B Welcome Guide (PDF) for a quick overview of H-1B status. Then click on the items below for more detailed information. 

Importance of Maintaining Status

Michigan State University (MSU) has petitioned an H-1B on your behalf and secured approval to employ you in H-1B status. There are many rules and procedures governing H-1B status that you must follow. It is important to understand these rules and procedures so that you maintain lawful status and to remain lawfully employed by MSU.

Your H-1B Status is Employer and Position Specific

Once USCIS approves your H-1B, you will only have the authorization to work at Michigan State University under the conditions described in the submitted H-1 petition. You are not eligible to accept any payment from any other source except MSU. If you move to another institution or if you change MSU departments you must inform OISS in writing.

If you move to another institution, they will be responsible for maintaining your H-1 status. You should check with the new institution before resigning your position at Michigan State.

If you move from one MSU department to another or you change positions (title, duties, salary) within the same department, you must let OISS know. In some cases, an amended H-1 petition will be necessary.

Employment Start Date

If you are currently outside the U.S., you may enter the country up to ten (10) days before the start date indicated on the I-797 Approval Notice.

You must begin employment at MSU by the start date listed on your H-1B Approval Notice or when you enter the U.S. in H-1B status. If you are changing your status within the U.S., you should begin employment listed on your H-1B approval notice. Please consult with OISS if you have questions about your start date at MSU.

Employment End Date

MSU must employ you up to, and including, the end date on the I-797 Approval Notice. However, you may not stay in the U.S. beyond the end date of your I-94. There are very serious consequences under U.S. regulations for "overstaying" your period of H-1B authorization. Please plan accordingly and contact OISS with any questions.

Time Limitations in H-1B Status

  • U.S immigration law allows you to be in the U.S. in H status for a total of six (6) years. At the end of six years, you must either change to another immigration status or leave the U.S.

  • If you are able to prove that you have traveled outside the USA during your H-1B status, then there is a possibility of "re-capturing" time spent outside the U.S. to add to your six year limit.

  • There are some exceptions for beyond the 6 years for those with pending/approved permanent residency documents. OISS will help to determine if you are eligible for exceptions. Please contact OISS with any questions.

  • Once you have remained outside the U.S. for at least one year, an employer may obtain a new H-1B approval on your behalf. Then you may once again enter the U.S. to begin another six years in H status as long as the H is approved.

Extension of H-1B Status

MSU may request employment for an individual for up to 3 years. The H-1B can be extended if the individual is eligible. The maximum amount of time that an individual can hold H-1B visa status is 6 years. Many factors determine how long the department wishes to petition for an H-1B.

The departments should submit the requests for extensions to OISS 6-7 months before the expiration of current I-797 Approval Notice.

Working for Another Employer - Concurrent Employment

Your H-1B status permits you to work only for MSU and only for the position the original petition specified. You cannot accept employment from any other employer unless that employer submits a concurrent H-1B petition. 

 

 

Giving Lectures or Seminars at Other Institutions

You may accept the invitations to give lectures or seminars at other institutions, however you cannot accept compensation. The host institution may pay directly for your expenses or reimburse you (i.e. transportation to the lecture, food, hotel, etc.). You may not accept an honorarium. To accept this type of compensation is a violation of your immigration status.

Change of Address

If you move at any point while living in the U.S. in H-1B status, immigration regulations require that you notify USCIS of your new address within ten (10) days of moving. You must fill out form AR-11 which can be found on the USCIS website. This form can be submitted in paper format or electronically.

You should keep a copy of the completed and signed form for your records.

Keep Copies of Your Documents

It is strongly recommended that you make photocopies of all of your immigration documents, including:

  • the I-797 Approval Notice
  • your passport
  • your I-94 records

Keep these documents in a safe place and part of your permanent records.

Leaving MSU to Work for Another Employer - Portability

If you plan to leave MSU and begin working for another employer at any point, it is important to do the following:

  1. Consult with your new employer and OISS. This is to ensure you handle the transition in a way that does not violate your immigration status. If handled correctly, you can "amend/port" your H-1B status to a new employer; however, the timing is very important.

  2. You must continue working at MSU until the petition has been properly filed with the USCIS.

  3. Fill out the H-1B Departure Notice (PDF) and submit the form to OISS.

Taking Classes

You are permitted to enroll in individual classes while in H-1B status as long as you continue working in your H-1B position without any changes to your employment. The study must be incidental to employment and not the primary purpose for remaining in the U.S.

Taxes

Federal Taxes

Employees in H-1B status are subject to Social Security and Medicare tax. H-1B employment is also subject to federal and state income tax unless a tax exemption is specifically provided by a treaty.

All foreign nationals, regardless of visa status, who receive payment while in the U.S. are required to file U.S. income tax returns. 

Learn more:

State Taxes

If you live in Michigan, you are considered a resident for tax purposes and you must file tax forms in the state of Michigan. Learn more about Individual Income Tax in Michigan (Michigan Department of Treasury website).

If you lived in other states in the U.S. during the year, you may need to file taxes in those states as well. 

For more information about taxes contact the MSU Payroll Office

Social Security Number (SSN)

MSU scholars who are employed on campus need to apply for a Social Security number. The U.S. Government uses Social Security number to identify wage earners for tax purposes.

You will need the following documents to apply for SSN:

  • Valid passport
  • I-94 record
  • I-797 (H-1B approval notice)

You should expect to receive your SS card in the mail in about two to four weeks.

H-4 visa holders are not eligible to apply for SSN. If you wish to include them in your tax filing, H-4 dependents are eligible to obtain an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) from the IRS. Learn more about the ITIN on the IRS website.

OISS cannot give tax advice. Please consult with a tax advisor or accountant. 

H-4 Dependents

Learn more about H-4 immigration requirements on our Family and Dependents webpage.

Travel in H-1B Status

Learn more about traveling on our Travel and Visas webpage.

USCIS Site Visits

As part of an on-going investigation of potential fraud in the H-1B Temporary Worker program, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is increasing its unannounced visits to employers across the USA. Such a visit would most likely start at OISS. However, DHS officers might also directly contact an H-1B employee, the academic department, or simply show up at the work site indicated on the petition filed by USCIS. These visits are usually routine.

If a DHS officer contacts you, here are some guidelines:

  1. As with any government office contractor, ask to see their badge and/or identification. Please take business card or write down their name and ID number, if applicable.

  2. Contact an H-1B advisor in OISS or the Director of OISS, if you are able to.

  3. The officer will confirm employee identity and details about your employment listed within the I-129 petition: title, salary, duties, degree requirements, and location.

  4. The officer may also take pictures of the workspace, worksite, lab, office or classroom.

  5. If you can't answer any question right away, explain to the investigator that you do not know the answer and can get back to them. Please also feel free to refer the officer to OISS at any time.

Reminder: when MSU submits an H-1B petition to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, we are attesting to specific statements about the position, title, salary, hours, duties, degree requirements, and location. If any of these aspects of the H-1B employee's work changes, MSU may need to file a new petition before the changes are instituted. If this is the case with any H-1B employee, the department needs to contact OISS immediately.