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Advising international students


International students have unique advising needs because they must maintain their immigration status and meet university academic requirements. This FAQ provides helpful tips on basic immigration regulations pertaining to their academic progress and employment. 


An international student holding either an F-1 or a J-1 visa status ( is required to enroll in a full course of study during the fall and spring semesters.

•  What is full-time enrollment for international students?

  • Undergraduates: 12 credits per semester
  • Masters without assistantship: 9 credits
  • Masters with assistantship: 6 credits
  • Doctoral without assistantship: 6 credits
  • Doctoral with assistantship: 3 credits
  • Doctoral holding ABD (All But Dissertation) status: 1 credit (All ABD paperwork must be officially filed and updated in the Office of the Registrar system to qualify)

•  Does a student need to enroll full-time in the summer?

  • Enrollment is usually not required during the summer semester; however, students must be enrolled full-time if the following conditions apply:
    • Summer is the first semester of the degree program
    • Summer is the semester in which the student will graduate and/or complete degree requirements
    • Student took the previous fall or current spring semester off

•  Can international students take online courses?

  • F-1 international students can only count ONE online class toward their minimum number of credits as their full-time enrollment during their normal semesters. If a student only needs one course to complete your program of study, the course cannot be online or distance learning.
  • Sections of courses coded by the Office of the Registrar as "online" in MSU Schedule of Course ( are considered online and count toward the online course requirement. Hybrid courses are exempt from this classification.
  • International students in other visa categories (i.e. H-4, L2) are exempt from this limitation.

• Can international students pursue online degree programs?

  • According to U.S. immigration regulations, F-1 students cannot pursue online degrees.
  • International students in other visa categories (i.e. H-4, L2) are exempt from this restriction.

• Can international students ever register below full-time?

• Can international students enroll concurrently at more than one institution?

  • Yes, students may enroll concurrently. However, at least half of their credits toward full-time enrollment must be at MSU. Students must complete a dual enrollment form (PDF)* ( and get approval signature from their advisor/major professor.
  • Summer semester exception:
    • Students that registered full time for Spring and will register full time for Fall semester, are not required to take classes in summer. If they wish to take classes in summer, they can and there are no restrictions on the type of classes. Lansing Community College (LCC) will not require students to complete the dual enrollment form for summer, other institutions may still require the form.
    • If summer is the student's first or last semester, then it is not considered a vacation semester and the student must comply with all the full time enrollment rules. These students should seek advice from OISS to make sure that they are in compliance with immigration requirements.

• Can international students transfer to another institution?

  • Students may transfer their immigration and academic record to another institution under certain circumstances.

• What steps must an international student take for transferring to another institution?

• What does a dismissed, recessed, or withdrawal international student need to do about their immigration status?

  • If an academic advisor sees a dismissed, recessed, or withdrawing international student, advise the student to come to OISS to take care of immigration status before departing the U.S


U.S. immigration regulations, under certain circumstances, allow international students to pursue part-time or full-time employment during the course of their studies.

• Can international students work on-campus?

  • Yes, students may work on campus up to 20 hours per week while classes are in session. When classes are not in session, international students may work more than 20 hours.
  • Please note that some students on J-1 visas with outside financial sponsorship may have additional restrictions on their work options.
    • If students have specific questions about working more than 20 hours when classes are in session, have them consult the Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS).
    • Even with work authorization, MSU regulations do not allow students to work more than 29 hours per week when classes are in session.

• Can international students work off-campus?

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