Information for Faculty and Staff

Who Is an International Student?

Non-U.S.-citizens attending Detroit Mercy can be classified into three groups:

  • Immigrants (aka U.S. permanent residents, resident aliens or "green card" holders)
  • Nonimmigrants
  • Undocumented (illegal) aliens.

At Detroit Mercy, the term "international student" refers only to those students currently in the United States., or intending to enter the U.S., in a nonimmigrant classification (see below). International Services tracks the legal status of nonimmigrants in F and J status. Neither U.S. permanent residents nor undocumented aliens come under the auspices of the International Services Office; admission procedures for both of these groups are the same as those for U.S. citizens.

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    Non-immigrant Classifications

    A nonimmigrant is an alien who has been admitted to the U.S. for a limited, temporary purpose (e.g., to study) and who intends to depart the U.S. after completing that purpose. There are 24 classes of nonimmigrants. Those most commonly encountered at Detroit Mercy are listed below.

    Class (Status) and Enrollment Restrictions

    • F-1 (student) — Must be full time
    • F-2 (dependent of F-1) — May study only part time
    • J-1 (exchange visitor) — Students must be full time
    • J-2 (dependent of J-1) — May study full or part time
    • H-1B (worker in a specialty occupation) — May study full or part time
    • H-4 (dependent of H-1) -- May study full or part time
    • L-1 (intra-company transferee) — May study part time
    • L-2 (dependent of L-1) — May study full or part time
    • TN (Canadian/Mexican professional under NAFTA) — May study full or part time
    • TD (dependent of TN) — May study full or part time
    • B-1/B-2 (visitor) — May not pursue a program of study

    The vast majority of nonimmigrants at Detroit Mercy are students in F-1 status. Upon admission, these students are issued a document (Form I-20) that allows them to apply for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. International Services also issues a corresponding document (Form DS-2019) to individuals accepted or invited to study, teach, or do research at Detroit Mercy under the U.S. Department of State's Exchange Visitor Program. These individuals enter the U.S. in J-1 status.


    SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System)

    SEVIS is an internet-based system that provides U.S. schools and officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State (DOS) with accurate and current information on exchange visitors and international students in F-1 status from the time their initial immigration documents are issued by the school until they depart the U.S.

    School personnel authorized to create and update SEVIS records for students in F-1 status at their institution are known as Designated School Officials (DSOs). Those authorized to oversee the SEVIS records of the school's exchange visitors (J-1 status) are known as Responsible Officers (RO) or Alternate Responsible Officers (ARO). At Detroit Mercy, the Director of International Services, the International Admissions Counselor and the Foreign Student Advisor serve as both DSOs and (A)ROs. The majority of SEVIS record keeping involves the reporting of events (such as registration for a full course of study) that indicate the student or exchange visitor is maintaining legal nonimmigrant status, or events (such as working without authorization) that constitute a violation of status.


    Full course of study requirement

    Nonimmigrant students in F-1 (Student) and J-1 (Exchange Visitor) status are required to register for a full course of study (defined below) in the fall and winter semesters for the duration of their academic program. Students may take a vacation or register part time in the summer term unless that term is the student's first term at Detroit Mercy. There are few exceptions to the requirement for full-time enrollment and failure to enroll for a full course of study can result in the loss of the student's status, making the student subject to deportation.

    Full course of study defined

    • Undergraduates and post-degree students: In any semester, a full course of study is 12 credits.
    • Graduate students: In any semester, a full course of study is 9 credits, unless registered in any course or program of study deemed by the University to constitute full-time enrollment regardless of the number of credits, e.g., PYC 798, AL 500, DDS program.
    • Students in ALCP (English-language) classes: AL101 = full time
      Undergraduates and post degree students: AL201 + 6 credits, AL315 + 9 credits = full time
      Graduate students: AL201 + 3 credits, AL315 + 6 credits = full time
    • Students concurrently enrolled: Students enrolled on a part-time basis at Detroit Mercy and concurrently enrolled on a part-time basis at another U.S. institution are considered enrolled for a full course of study provided the total number of credits from both institutions constitutes full-time study as defined above. Students taking courses at another institution during a summer semester need not be concurrently registered at Detroit Mercy. However, registration at Detroit Mercy is required if that semester is the student's final semester at Detroit Mercy.

    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 you only need one course to complete your program of study, the course cannot be online or distance learning.

    Exceptions to full-time enrollment

    Exceptions to full-time enrollment may be made under certain circumstances. The following circumstances must be reported in SEVIS and require prior authorization by ISO. Failure to obtain authorization prior to assuming a reduced course load can result in the loss of the student's status. To request authorization, students must complete a Request for Exception from Full-time Enrollment form.

    • Illness or other medical reason
    • Improper course-level placement
    • Difficulty with English-language or reading requirements
    • Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
    • Student is in the final semester of the program and credits required for completion constitute less than a full course load.

    Limits on reduced course load

    Students experiencing the academic difficulties listed above may be authorized to drop below a full course of study for one semester during their entire program. They must maintain a course load of at least six credits and must resume full-time study the following semester (excluding summer).

    Students experiencing illness or injury may be authorized to drop below a full course of study for a maximum of one year. Students must obtain authorization each semester.

    Reduced course load with a graduate teaching or research assistantship

    Students assigned teaching or research responsibilities "pursuant to the terms of a scholarship, fellowship or assistantship" may request permission from International Services to carry a reduced course load of at least six credit hours. However, ISO will authorize a reduced course load only if the assistantship meets all three of the following criteria:

    • The position is offered by the student's academic department.
    • The work is integral to the student's program of study and contributes significantly to the student's knowledge or experience in the field.
    • The responsibilities constitute a demand on the student's time and energy, which mandates, or is substantial enough to justify, a reduction in class hours.

    The intent is to distinguish between significant academic-based assistantships and other University assistantships and "scholarships," which are merely forms of on-campus employment.

    Students requesting authorization must bring to the ISO the following form, completed and signed by their supervisor or department chair: Request for Reduced Course Load (Teaching or Research Assistantship).

    ISO will consider requests for a reduced course load on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the hiring department.

    Students and advisors should know that a program extension is generally not available to students who, because they have been authorized for a reduced course load based on a teaching or research assistantship, fail to finish their program by the completion date indicated on the I-20.

    Students should be advised that they must be authorized by ISO before registering for less than a full course of study. Students who register for a reduced course load before obtaining authorization risk losing their F-1 status if the authorization is not granted.

    It should be clear that international students enrolled in a full course of study are permitted to accept any University assistantship which does not exceed 20 hours per week, and that students do not require authorization from ISO to be employed in such a position. However, an assistantship must meet the criteria outlined above in order for a student to be considered eligible to carry a reduced course load.


    Employing an F-1 or J-1 student on campus

    International students in F-1 and J-1 status may engage in on-campus employment for up to 20 hours per week while attending classes full time and for 21 hours or more during a vacation period or school holiday. Students may not continue to work on campus after their program of study ends. F-1 students require no authorization in order to work on campus; however, J-1 students must obtain an authorization letter from Weihong Sun, Director of International Services. She may be reached at or 313-993-3323.

    New hires should be instructed to request the International Student Employment Packet from the Office of Financial Aid since this packet contains, in addition to the standard paperwork, forms and information relevant to international students.

    Certification of employment letter required for Social Security card

    The Social Security Administration no longer routinely issues Social Security numbers to international students. Such students must present evidence of employment (or of an offer of employment) when applying for a Social Security card. For new on-campus hires, this evidence will take the form of a letter from International Services as well as a letter from the student's supervisor. A form letter for supervisors, which may be filled in online and printed out on University letterhead, is available here.


    Off-campus employment for F-1 and J-1 students

    Off-campus employment in the field of study is available, with certain restrictions incidental to status, to F-1 and J-1 students both during and after the course of study. All off-campus employment must be authorized and failure to obtain authorization is grounds for termination of the student's status. In-depth information on international-student employment regulations and procedures is available here.

    J-1 students and scholars must obtain an authorization letter from Weihong Sun, Director of International Services. She may be reached at or 313-993-3323.

    Practical Training authorization for students in F-1 status

    International students participating in co-op or in a required, paid internship during the course of their program must be authorized to engage in Curricular Practical Training (CPT) by a DSO in the International Services Office before beginning employment. The student must be in valid F-1 status for at least one academic year before being eligible for CPT. (Exception: Graduate students whose program requires that they begin an internship before the end of the first academic year are not subject to this regulation.)

    Students may also participate in up to one year of Optional Practical Training (OPT) either before or after finishing their program. OPT is authorized by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Students must apply through the International Services Office.

    Academic Training authorization for students in J-1 status

    Off-campus employment for J-1s is known as Academic Training. The training can be done either during the course of study or after completion and must be authorized by a Responsible Officer (RO) or Alternate Responsible Office (ARO) for the school's J-1 program.

    Before the student can be authorized, the academic advisor or dean in the student's department or college must complete the form Recommendation for Academic Training. The form is then submitted to the (A)RO, who writes a letter addressed to the student authorizing him/her to work.

    For questions regarding the Academic Training, please contact Weihong Sun, Director of International Services at or 313-993-3323.


    Bringing an exchange visitor to Detroit Mercy

    Detroit Mercy's participation in the Department of State's Exchange Visitor program makes it possible for Detroit Mercy faculty to invite a scholar or professor from abroad to do research or teach at Detroit Mercy on a temporary basis. The minimum program duration is three weeks; the maximum duration is five years. Exchange visitors can be funded by Detroit Mercy, the exchange visitor's government, agencies of the U.S. Government, specific international organizations, as well as other organizations and the exchange visitor's personal funds. Anyone interested in promoting educational and cultural exchange by inviting an international researcher or professor to Detroit Mercy should fill out the form Request to Sponsor Exchange Visitor and submit it to the International Services Office. Please direct any questions regarding the Exchange Visitor Program to Weihong Sun, Director of International Services at or 313-993-3323.