The Center for International Education (CIE) is located in room 124 of the Hardin Administration building. Our mission is to provide high-quality, life-changing opportunities for cross-cultural learning that have Christ at the center. The focus of this work is to help enrich the ACU educational experience through study abroad and to offer vital assistance to F and J international students and scholars on our home campus.
Please be aware that ACU has an obligation to report various information to both the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as well as the U.S. Department of State. Please inform the CIE if you have information about any serious incidents involving J exchange visitors (sponsored students or scholars), as these must be reported within 1 business day. For questions, please contact Lucy Dawson at X2237.
In most ways, the international students who attend ACU are just like other college students. They go to the Depot with questions, join clubs, and learn to navigate the college campus when they arrive. They come to get a degree and participate in college life to prepare for their future.
International students do have unique needs in the areas of language and cultural understanding as well as immigration status. While international students may come with various visa types, the CIE is tasked with managing the university’s obligations to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) for students specifically in F or J immigration status. These students can be identified by viewing the GOAINTL screen on Banner.
In order to maintain the DHS approval to host F and J international students, the university must comply with strict reporting requirements. Faculty, advisors and coaches play a key role to assist both the students and the university in compliance with the immigration regulations. Students who lose their immigration status may not work on campus or apply for immigration benefits and are subject to deportation. Given the significant consequences of non-compliance, we have developed this resource to help inform our community of some of the basic regulations and request that any relevant information that ACU faculty and staff become aware of be shared with the CIE.
Students are informed of the U.S. immigration regulations at the new international student orientation and are provided with both government and CIE documents outlining their responsibilities. The CIE maintains a website with specific immigration information, and Lucy Dawson, ACU’s Immigration Specialist, is available to advise students, faculty, staff and coaches on questions relating to the federal immigration laws for F and J students.
Lucy Dawson, Immigration Specialist
Veronica Whitt, International Student Services Coordinator
Stephen Shewmaker, Executive Director
Michael Gray, Student Abroad Coordinator
When communicating with prospective international students, contact our office with questions.
Immigration regulations are not always easy to understand, and giving prospective students correct information will make a difference in their successful arrival on campus. Many international students must apply very early for their visa appointment in their home country (sometimes 6 months in advance) in order to arrive on campus for the start of the semester. Transfer international students must initiate a SEVIS transfer to ACU. Instructions for this (SEVIS transfer) are on the CIE web page.
New F/J International students must check in at the CIE and attend the new international student orientation when they arrive on campus.
The CIE must collect all required documents from F and J international students, check their immigration status, and collect emergency contact information. The orientation presents the details of the DHS regulations, insurance, campus and cultural adjustment issues.
F/J International students must be full-time students each Fall and Spring semester.
“Full-time” enrollment at ACU is 12 hours for undergraduates and 9 hours for graduate students. When a student drops below full-time enrollment, the students violates his/her immigration status and the CIE must take action in a timely manner. Therefore, please discuss these issues with the student before initiating a drop. Staying in a class and receiving an “F” may be a better solution (from an immigration standpoint) than dropping a class. International students cannot be dropped retroactively.
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:
Please refer the student to the CIE 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. J-1 students should consult their program sponsor in the CIE to discuss reduced course load options.
F/J international students have restrictions regarding online classes.
International students physically present in the US 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 CIE for more information.
F/J students need to make progress toward their degree and are time-limited.
Immigration documents have an end date by which the degree should be completed. Students may request an extension based on several allowable reasons. Students on academic probation or suspension are not eligible for extensions. View extension forms for advisor endorsement.
The CIE is responsible to report all institutional knowledge related to graduation, changes of major, program, name, immigration status or physical residence while at ACU within 21 days of any change.
While processes are in place to glean this information from Banner, please notify the CIE when changes are made within 2 weeks of the end of the semester. Retroactive changes can be very problematic and often have unintended immigration consequences, so please contact the CIE prior to making such changes.
“Do you have US government issued work authorization?” is an important question to ask before hiring any student to work.
International students should not begin any employment prior to the completion of the International Student Employment Approval Form and the I-9 in the ACU HR office. Please also see the Hiring Manager Resources for more details.
F international students in good immigration status with an ACU I-20 may work up to 20 hours per week on the ACU campus during the regular semesters, and over 20 hours during holidays and semester breaks, as long as they plan to enroll at ACU in the following semester. J-1 students generally have the same benefits, but also need advanced authorization from the Responsible Officer of the exchange program that issued their DS-2019 before beginning on-campus employment. F and J international students may not work off-campus or be paid by outside sources unless they have special permission.
Students may apply for off-campus work permission for various reasons, including to fulfill the work requirements for an internship course. Advanced planning is essential, so please encourage students to speak with the immigration specialist in the CIE early in the process. For more information, see section III below.
Working without proper authorization is a serious violation for students that can cause severe consequences for international students, such as deportation or future denial of immigration benefits.
View an online resource for employers interested in hiring an international students.
All university and program admissions criteria must be met as published in order for immigration documents to be issued.
Immigration documents can only be issued to fully admitted students who meet all the qualifications for admission. Students must also provide documentation to ACU that they have the necessary financial resources to pay for their expenses while studying in the U.S.
If a student is having difficulties adjusting to American culture, please notify the CIE.
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 CIE staff have cross-cultural experience and can help guide a student through cultural issues. In many situations, an email to Veronica Whitt at firstname.lastname@example.org will be sufficient to get the process started.
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 for international students to maintain their status (see section II). Other complications relating to location may exist, so faculty are advised to contact the immigration specialist for more details when developing a new program at an off-campus site. Please notify the CIE after the SACS accreditation has been completed for the program to initiate the potentially lengthy DHS approval process.
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 CIE 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 CIE 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 Immigration Specialist in the Center for International Education concerning work authorization procedures as soon as possible.”
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 CIE. 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 CIE anytime for assistance.