Enrollment Requirements in Final Semester
Undergraduate Student Last Semester Exception:
- F-1 and J-1 undergraduate students who are in their final semester of study at The University of Alabama may enroll in less than 12 credit hours of classes if they require less than full-time enrollment to graduate. This exception is only for the final semester of study. PLEASE NOTE: If you only require one class to graduate, it cannot be taken as an online or distance learning class.
Graduate Students Last Semester Exceptions and Minimum Enrollment:
- F-1 and J-1 graduate students who are in their final semester of study at The University of Alabama may enroll in less than 9 credit hours of classes if they require less than full-time enrollment to graduate. This exception is only for the final semester of study. PLEASE NOTE: If you only require one class to graduate, it cannot be taken as an online or distance learning class.
- International graduate students on F-1 or J-1 student visa status cannot use the 0-credit hour exception listed in the Graduate Catalog’s Degree Requirements’ Minimum Enrollment Information as the basis of maintaining minimum enrollment requirements as an active student.
- Please see our Enrollment Requirements page section for dissertation and thesis students for guidance on enrollment requirements in final semester for dissertation and thesis students and how it impacts your I-20/DS-2019 end-date.
- See also the Graduate School’s website for other Graduation Deadlines.
Reporting Final Semester to ISSS:
- All F-1 and J-1 students, regardless of whether they will enroll full-time or part-time in their final semester, must submit a Final Semester Notification (DOCUSIGN Form). Please initiate this process via Docusign, entering your personal information and your academic advisor’s information, which will then email you and your advisor a link to complete the form to confirm that you are in the final term of study.
- After submission of the Final Semester Notification (DOCUSIGN Form), ISSS shortens the Program End Date on the I-20/DS-2019 and in SEVIS to the anticipated completion date. A student MUST complete their program by the end-date listed in the Final Semester Notification (DOCUSIGN Form).
- If after submitting the Final Semester Notification (DOCUSIGN Form) a student or academic advisor anticipates a significant delay in completion beyond the anticipated final semester, please speak with an ISSS advisor as soon as possible to initiate an extension.
If you are interested in working in your field of study after completing your academic program, you will need to apply for employment authorization.
• F-1 students: Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides one year of employment authorization in your field of study. Your application must be submitted and arrive at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within 60 days of your program completion date (the final day of your final semester at UA); however, you are encouraged to apply much earlier. Due to slow processing times, we recommend applying approximately three months in advance. For more information about eligibility requirements and how to apply, see Optional Practical Training (OPT). F-1 students who wish to apply for OPT must complete an online Optional Practical Training Seminar (OPT Seminar Slides).
• J-1 students: Academic Training provides an opportunity for employment in your field of study. The training must begin within 30 days after completion of studies. If you have a training opportunity, you will need to coordinate authorization with your J program sponsor before the end of your academic program. For more information about eligibility requirements and how to apply, see J-1 Student Academic Training.
Your on-campus work eligibility ends the last day of your final semester. While The University of Alabama allows student hourly workers to continue employment for some time following graduation, this option does not apply to international students.
Exception: you may be able to continue working if you have been authorized for OPT but only if the OPT EAD Card has been received and the start date immediately follows the semester end date and the position is in your field of study (a requirement for OPT employment authorization).
Grace Period and Travel
• F-1 students: If you do not apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), you have a 60-day grace period after the last day of your final semester. Within this 60-day period you have the following options:
1. Depart the U.S. – Once you leave the U.S. (including trips to Canada and Mexico) after completing your studies you are not eligible to re-enter the United States with your current I-20. The grace period is meant for travel within the states and preparation to depart the U.S.
2. Request a new I-20 (I-20/DS-2019 Request Form) if you will continue at UA in a new degree program.
3. If you are moving from a Bachelor’s to a Master’s or a Master’s to a PhD program, you must request a Change of Level I-20 from International Student and Scholar Services.
4. Transfer your SEVIS record to a new school (I-20/DS-2019 Transfer-Out Request Form).
5. Apply with USCIS to change status to another visa category.
• J-1 students: If you do not apply for Academic Training, you have a 30-day grace period after the last day of your final semester. Within this 30-day period you have the following options:
1. Depart the U.S. Please note that once you leave the U.S. (including trips to Canada and Mexico) after completing your studies you are not eligible to re-enter the U.S. with your current DS-2019. The grace period is meant for travel within the U.S. and preparation to depart the U.S.
2. Request a Change-of-Level on your DS-2019 (I-20/DS-2019 Request Form) if you will continue at UA in a new degree program.
3. Transfer your SEVIS record to a new school (I-20/DS-2019 Transfer-Out Request Form) to begin a new program.
4. Apply with USCIS to change status to another visa category.
Overstay and Accrual of Unlawful Presence: Staying beyond the authorized period of stay in the U.S. (e.g. staying beyond your grace period or authorized training period) is a serious violation of status. An egregious overstay may result in a bar from being able to return to the U.S. for 3 years, 10 years or even a lifetime bar.
After graduation, if you will continue your studies at The University of Alabama in a new degree program, you will need to submit an application for an updated I-20 or DS-2019.
The action of moving from one degree level to a new degree level is called a Change-of-Level.
F-1 students have a 60-day grace period after the last day of their final semester to request a Change-of-Level I-20.
J-1 students have a 30-day grace period after the last day of their final semester to request a Change-of-Level DS-2019.
- Admission Letter for New Program
- I-20/DS-2019 Request Form
- Proof of funding (e.g. scholarship letter, fellowship letter, assistantship letter, financial guarantee, or personal funds);
- Passport; and
- Current Visa/Visa Document.
PROCESSING TIME: ISSS cannot process the new I-20 or DS-2019 until after your current program has completed. So, if you will graduate in the Spring Semester, the earliest we can process the new documents will be the week after the May commencement ceremonies. After completion of the final term and the submission of a complete I-20/DS-2019 Request Form and supporting documents, it will take ISSS a minimum of 5 business days (1 week) to process the updated I-20 or DS/2019.
If you have secured admission to a new school you must contact your International Student and Scholar Advisor to coordinate the transfer of your SEVIS record – I-20/DS-2019 Transfer-Out Request Form.
• F-1 students: this request must be made before the end of the 60-day grace period.
• J-1 students: Please coordinate your transfer with your current program sponsor before the end of your academic program. This request must be finalized prior to the end of the 30-day grace period.
If you are registered for a future semester of study at UA, don’t forget to withdraw and fulfill any financial obligations with the University before you transfer to your new school or leave the U.S. For information on withdrawing from UA as part of the transfer process to another school, please visit the UA Catalog’s information on Withdrawals.
It is important that you maintain medical insurance coverage after you graduate, as medical expenses in the U.S. can be very costly.
Because you will no longer have your University of Alabama student insurance plan (December graduates’ plans end on December 31 and May graduates’ plans end on July 31), if you will not have insurance through your OPT or AT employer, you should consider purchasing an individual insurance plan through a company that insures international students in the U.S.
Some companies like InsuBuy , ISOA, iNext, International Student Insurance, International Student Protection, and Compass Student Insurance offer plans specifically for students while on post graduation training.
• F-1 students: While working under OPT, you may receive insurance through your employer; however, it is very common to have a gap in insurance coverage between the student plan’s end date and potential coverage through an employer.
• J-1 students: It is a regulatory requirement that you maintain insurance coverage for the duration of your stay.
Graduation, Commencement & Diplomas
Specific steps must be taken to apply for graduation, participate in the Commencement Ceremony, and ensure that your diploma will be mailed to the correct address. Visit the Office of the Registrar’s online application for graduation page for more details – https://registrar.ua.edu/graduation/.
Inviting Family Members to Visit the U.S.
As graduation approaches, you may want to invite your parents or other family members to celebrate commencement with you. Here are some suggestions to help them apply for a visitor’s visa (B-2) at a US consulate or embassy in their home country.
To facilitate their visa interview process you should do the following:
• Write a letter of invitation. A sample of the letter can be found in this Invitation Template (also available as a word document). Include the purpose of the visit, your relationship to the individuals, a statement of your status here, itinerary details and the length of time they will be visiting (usually less than three months). It is best to emphasize the temporary nature of the invitation and to demonstrate their intention to return to their home country following the visit. If you will provide their financial support while they are here, include that information as well.
• Include with your invitation letter an Enrollment Verification Letter from the Office of the Registrar to confirm your student status – https://registrar.ua.edu/student-services/verifications/. Graduate students who hold an RA/TA appointment may want to also attach a departmental funding letter.
• Provide details of the Commencement Ceremony.
For additional information about U.S. consulate/embassy locations and application procedures, review the U.S. Department of State visa information.
Providing your family members with this documentation may improve their chances of obtaining a visa; however, there is no guarantee a visa will be issued. The success of their request for a visa lies in their ability to prove that they have no intention of staying permanently in the U.S.
International Student & Scholar Services no longer provides invitation letters for family or friends. Again, please use the Invitation Template (also available as a word document) to draft your personal invitation to your family or friends.