The Center for International Education (CIE) is located at 124 Hardin. 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.
Assisting International Students on the ACU Campus
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 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for students specifically in F or J immigration status. These students can be identified by viewing the GOAINTL screen on Banner.
Leanne Moore, International Student Services Coordinator:
- Pre-arrival correspondence (billing, housing, expectations, etc.)
- Arrival assistance
- New Student Orientation
- Transportation assistance
- Counseling for the unique needs of international students
- Advising the International Students' Association
- Liaison with interested community partners
- Emergency contact for international students at ACU
Lucy Dawson, Immigration Specialist:
- Serving as the liaison for F and J students with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)and the Department of State (DOS).
- Advising F and J visa holders on issues related to their student immigration status; issue immigration documents and assist students with applications to DHS and DOS.
- Working to ensure ACU compliance with DHS regulations.
- Providing information and letters for students seeking US Driver Licenses and Social Security Cards.
- Providing assistance with the International Student Medical Insurance.
- Assistance with the International Student Medical Insurance Plan
- New student orientation
- Staff/faculty education
Rachel Brown, Study Abroad Coordinator
- Assists as a DSO when necessary
- Assists ACU students to study at ACU locations abroad
Stephen Shewmaker, Interim Director
- Assists as a DSO and ARO when necessary
- Directs all functions of the CIE
Information about some of these services specific to students can also be accessed via our website.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is strictly enforcing the regulations regarding F and J non-immigrant students at universities and both the students and the universities that host them must take care to comply.
Students are informed of the regulations at the new international student orientation and provided with both government and CIE documents outlining their responsibilities. Students are responsible to be aware of and follow the immigration regulations related to their student status in the U.S.
The university, in hosting F and J students, must also 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.
Here are some vital regulations you need to know and ways you can help:
- When communicating with prospective international students, feel free to contact our office with questions. Immigration regulations are not always easy to understand, and giving prospective students correct information can make a difference in their successful arrival on campus. In addition to this, be aware that international students must apply very early for their visa appointment (sometimes 6 months) in order to arrive on campus for the semester. Transfer international students also have to take care of transferring their immigration records to ACU as well. Instructions for this (SEVIS transfer) are on our web page.
- New F/J International students must check in at the CIE when they first arrive on campus. In order to assist the students and the university, we need to make the required copies of their documents, get emergency information, and help them get connected with others. Besides, we want to meet them!
- F/J International students must be full-time students each Fall and Spring semester. Full-time at ACU means 12 hours for undergraduates, and 9 hours for graduate students. When students drop below the required hours, the CIE is required to immediately terminate their immigration status. Therefore, Please refer students to the CIE BEFORE the student, professor or advisor drops a class causing the student to fall below full time and before the student stops attending the class(es) in question. Often, staying in a class and receiving an “F” is a better solution (from an immigration standpoint) than dropping the class. If you as an advisor or professor drop an international student from your class, please immediately inform our office. Communication is key.
- F/J international students may be eligible to take a reduced course load (RCL) for one semester per degree program. There are some circumstances under which students can be authorized to take less than a full course of study. These are: Illness/medical condition, Initial Difficulty with English Language, Initial Difficulty with Reading Requirements, Unfamiliarity with American Teaching Methods, Improper Course Level Placement, Complete Course of Study in Current Term. Please refer the student to the CIE to discuss whether they would qualify for this permission before 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 with their program sponsor in the CIE to discuss reduced course load options. RCL advisor forms are available at our website.
- F/J International students have restrictions enrolling in online classes. International students physically present in the US may only 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 last semester. 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. International students in other visa categories (i.e. H-4, L2) are exempt from these limitations.
- F/J students need to make good academic progress toward their degree. This means that being on academic probation or suspension could result in severe immigration consequences, if it impedes the “normal” progress toward the degree.
- F/J students must complete their degree within the timeframe on their immigration documents. This completion date may be extended if the student requests an extension from the CIE prior to the expiration of his/her current completion date, and qualifies on the basis of a valid academic reason, such as a change of major. An academic standing of probation or suspension is specifically excluded from the qualifying reasons for an extension.
- F/J students must inform the CIE of any changes to their major, program, name, immigration status or physical residence at ACU. Students have a 10 day window to report changes to the CIE; the CIE has a 21 day window to report these changes to DHS. This includes informing the CIE when they change levels – for example, from undergraduate to graduate student. The CIE does not get automatic notifications for this. Please encourage students to inform the CIE of any changes to their major, academic program, name, immigration status or address.
- F/J students must follow the restrictions on work carefully. Working illegally is a serious violation that can cause severe consequences for our students, such as deportation or future denial of immigration benefits. They 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 in the following semester. As per the Department of Labor, a work week is from Sunday and through Saturday regardless of ACU's time sheet period. J-1 students 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. Please contact the CIE for more information. “Do you have US government issued work authorization?” is an important question to ask before hiring a student to work. Be sure to complete the I-9, Part I on the first work day.
Partnership Action Points
- Please encourage the new international students to attend the new international student orientation. This is where they will learn about the regulations they must follow as well as many other things necessary for their well-being at ACU. Students are notified of the dates and times by our office. It is usually held the weekend before classes begin.
- If students, advisors or professors make last minute changes to a student’s degree plan that enables them to participate in commencement or graduate early, please notify the CIE. We have very short reporting windows to DHS and are not notified automatically when an international student graduates.
- If a student is having difficulties adjusting to American culture, please notify the CIE. Each staff member in our office has cross-cultural experience and can help guide a student through a difficult adjustment to the US. In many situations, an email to Lucy Dawson, at Lucy.Dawson@acu.edu or Leanne Moore, at email@example.com will be sufficient to get the process started.
Caveats and Conditions
This document does not contain a complete review of immigration regulations concerning F or J students, so advisors, coaches and staff are invited to discuss any questions they may have with the CIE. Please be aware that the regulations are subject to change as well. This document should not be taken as legal advice; if legal advice is required, please contact an immigration attorney.
We are Here for You!
Please feel free to contact the staff of the CIE anytime for assistance.
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