Immigration Information for ELI Students
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. government has provided temporary guidance and
changes to regulations related to your immigration status. Please review the
for changes to regulations that relate to employment, travel, maintaining status and other guidance from the university and federal agencies.
This page contains visa and immigration information for English language students currently studying at the English Language Institute. For questions on your immigration or visa status, contact the Center for Global Programs & Services (CGPS) at email@example.com or one of your ISS Advisors.
Passport: You must keep your passport valid at all times while you are in the U.S. You should plan to extend your passport at least six months before it expires to remain in valid status. For more information about how to extend your passport, please contact your Embassy or Consulate of your home country in the U.S.
F-1 visa: The F-1 visa is a student visa and it gives you permission to enter the U.S. Your visa must be valid every time you enter the U.S. If your visa expires while you are in the U.S., you may remain in the U.S. as long as your I-20 is valid; however, you will need to renew your visa outside of the U.S. before re-entering. Your visa cannot be renewed in the U.S.
F-2 visa: The F-2 visa is a visa for dependents (wife, husband, or children) of an F-1 visa holder.
J-1 visa: The J-1 visa is granted to students in a J-1 Exchange Visitor Program and it gives you permission to enter the U.S. Your visa must be valid every time you enter the U.S. If your visa expires while you are in the U.S., you may remain in the U.S. as long as your DS-2019 is valid; however, you will need to renew your visa outside of the U.S. before re-entering. Your visa cannot be renewed in the U.S.
J-2 visa: The J-2 visa is a visa for the dependents (wife, husband, or children) of a J-1 visa holder.
I-20 form: This is the certificate of eligibility issued by CGPS and it proves your eligibility for F-1 (or F-2) status. You must ensure that it is accurate and valid at all times. If you need to extend your I-20, you will need to submit an ELI I-20/DS-2019 Extension Request form. CGPS advises you to keep every I-20 document that is issued to you. If your I-20 is lost or stolen, notify CGPS immediately.
DS-2019 form: This is the certificate of eligibility issued by CGPS or your primary program sponsor and it proves your eligibility for J-1 (or J-2) status. You must ensure that it is accurate and valid at all times. If you need to extend your DS-2019, you will need to submit an ELI I-20/DS-2019 Extension Request form. CGPS advises you to keep every DS-2019 document that is issued to you. If your DS-2019 is lost or stolen, notify CGPS immediately.
I-94 record: International students arriving in the U.S. will have an I-94 record. You can access your arrival/departure record information online. Please check your I-94 to ensure that you entered in the correct visa status and that all the information is correct. If you have any questions about your I-94 record, please contact CGPS.
In status: To be “in status” means that you have legal immigration status in the U.S. Please see the information about how to Maintain Your Immigration Status below.
Out of status: To be “out of status” means that you have illegal immigration status in the U.S. Please see the information about how to prevent from being out of status in the section about Maintaining Your Immigration Status. If you have any questions or doubts about being out of status, please contact CGPS or an ISS advisor.
SEVIS: The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is the web-based system that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses to maintain information about F-1, F-2, J-1, and J-2 visa holders while in the U.S.
Terra Dotta: Terra Dotta is the system that CGPS uses to comply with immigration regulations and manage the immigration records of international students and scholars at UD. Students will use the Terra Dotta system to submit various requests, such as I-20/DS-2019 extensions, transferring out, and many others.
Maintaining your status is your responsibility! The Center for Global Programs & Services (CGPS) is here to help advise you, but it is up to you to keep your records up to date. Here are some tips from CGPS on how to stay legal and be a responsible visa holder:
Always keep your I-20 or DS-2019 current
You must always have a valid I-20 or DS-2019 while you are studying in the U.S. If your I-20 or DS-2019 is expiring and you need to extend it (make it longer), submit an ELI I-20/DS-2019 Extension Request, found on the CGPS Forms webpage.
If your F-1 or J-1 visa expires while you are in the U.S., this is OK, as long as your I-20 or DS-2019 is valid. Once you leave the U.S. with an expired visa, be sure to apply for a new one before returning to the U.S.
Register as a full-time student every session
ELI students must be enrolled in a minimum of 18 clock hours every session to remain in status. This means that you must attend both your Listening/Speaking course and your Reading/Writing course in order to meet this requirement. If you are not enrolled full time, you will be considered to be violating your visa status. If you withdraw from a class and it puts you below full-time status, you will be out of F-1/J-1 status.
Make good academic progress
In addition to being enrolled full-time, you must also be making good academic progress in your ELI program and meet attendance requirements. This means passing your classes with an average of 70% (C-) or higher and attending 85% of your classes and tutoring. Failure to meet these requirements may put you at risk of being put on probation or dismissed from the ELI. A dismissal may lead to the termination of your SEVIS record.
Make sure your passport is valid at all times
If you have lost or need to extend your passport, you will need to contact the embassy or consulate of your home country in the U.S.
Report any changes of address to the ELI within 10 days
If you have changed your address, you must report this to the ELI Housing Coordinator within 10 days of moving. CGPS must report the most current U.S. address for all international students to the U.S. government.
Talk to CGPS before you accept any type of employment, even volunteer opportunities
ELI students are eligible to work for up to 20 hours per week during the session. Learn more about employment in the Employment section below.
Obtain a travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 BEFORE you travel abroad
ELI students must receive travel approval from the ELI Registrar’s office before getting a travel signature on their I-20 or DS-2019 from CGPS, and BEFORE leaving the U.S. Learn more about this in the Travel section below.
Do not overstay past your status date
If you have been in the U.S. illegally (past your end date or authorized grace period) for 180 days, you cannot return to the U.S. for at least 3 years. If you stay in the U.S. illegally for one year or more, you cannot return to the U.S. for 10 years.
Do not accept public assistance
If you receive any type of public assistance, you have violated your student status. In the U.S., citizens and permanent residents are sometimes eligible for social benefits such as subsidized care and government assistance, like food stamps, welfare or child care subsidies. As a non-immigrant, you are NOT eligible to apply for or receive these benefits. If you have trouble supporting yourself or your family, or finding care, please contact CGPS and we will be happy to help you look for legal options.
The Center for Global Programs & Services (CGPS) is the designated office on campus to provide immigration advising for international students, including English language students. The ISS Advisors for English language students at the University of Delaware are:
If you have any questions about your I-20 or DS-2019, F-1 or J-1 visa, immigration status, SEVIS, transferring out, extending your I-20 or DS-2019, travel signature, leave of absence, or any other changes/issues that may affect your visa status, please contact your ISS Advisor at CGPS.
You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (302) 831-2115 to make an appointment. The office is located in Elliott Hall at 26 E. Main Street, Newark, DE 19716.
Remember, only ISS Advisors can give you the most up-to-date and accurate information about YOUR immigration status. What may work for your friend or classmate may not work for you. Be sure to ask your ISS Advisors about any questions or doubts.
If you are planning to travel outside the U.S., please submit a Travel Request form. Once your travel request has been approved by the ELI Registrar’s office, bring your I-20/DS-2019 to CGPS for a travel signature. If your F-2/J-2 dependents are traveling with you, you should also bring their I-20s or DS-2019s. The travel signature indicates that CGPS certifies you are maintaining legal status at the time of your travel and you are expected to come back to continue your studies at the ELI.
Always check with CGPS before you travel to make sure your visa status is currently valid before travelling and when you return.
What to bring with you for re-entry into the U.S.:
Valid I-20 or DS-2019 with a travel signature from CGPS
Passport valid for six months into the future
Valid F-1 or J-1 visa in your passport
Financial information showing proof of funds
If your F-1 or J-1 visa has expired, you will need to renew it in your home country. Be sure to bring all documents listed above to your visa appointment. In addition, check the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will be applying to find out which additional items are required. Please visit the U.S. Embassy website for more information.
If you are ill and cannot attend school, you will need to submit a Request for Medical Leave of Absence to CGPS verifying that you are unable to attend classes. You will also need to notify your teachers and the ELI Registrar’s office about your situation.
To request an MLOA, submit the Medical Leave of Absence request form, found on the CGPS Forms webpage.
Please note that CGPS does not grant MLOA to women with a normal pregnancy/delivery.
If you have studied at the ELI for at least four sessions (8 months) without a break and wish to skip a session at the ELI, you may be eligible for a vacation.
You have studied at the ELI for at least four sessions (8 months) without a break.
You must return to the ELI to study full time in the session immediately following your vacation period.
You must be maintaining valid visa status.
To request a vacation, follow these steps:
Complete the online Travel/Vacation Request form at least two weeks before the end of the session.
Wait for the travel/vacation request decision from the ELI. Normally, travel/vacation decisions are made during the last week of the session. When a decision has been made, you will receive an email from the ELI Registrar’s office.
Contact the ELI Financial Office at email@example.com.
Bring your I-20 or DS-2019 form to CGPS to receive a travel signature.
Students are not permitted to return late from their travels. Any student who tries to return to the ELI later than the return date that was authorized will not be allowed to return to the ELI. Instead, the student will be required to skip a session. This may result in a Leave of Absence.
If you have an emergency in your home country in the middle of the session and need to leave the U.S. immediately OR if you are not eligible for a vacation OR if you wish to skip more than one session (two or more), you are eligible for a Leave of Absence.
To request a Leave of Absence, follow these steps:
Complete the online Travel/Vacation Request form before the deadline that is listed on the form (usually the deadline is 3-4 weeks before you plan to travel).
Wait for the ELI to process your request. Normally, the ELI will begin processing all Leave Request forms during the week after the deadline that was listed on the Leave Request form. This means that it will take 1-2 weeks to process your request.
Receive ELI’s decision about your request by email.
Take your I-20 to CGPS for advising and to receive a travel signature.
Your SEVIS record will be terminated for Authorized Early Withdrawal.
Steps to return to the U.S.:
If you are eligible, you may request to have your SEVIS record reactivated. To learn more about the SEVIS record reactivation, please contact CGPS or an ISS Advisor at CGPS.
Contact the ELI Financial Office at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask for a “half-session bill.” Students who plan to miss one session are required to pay one-half of the tuition fees as a deposit for the session when they will return.
For questions about your academic status, please contact ELI at email@example.com.
For questions about your ELI bill, please contact the ELI Financial Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your I-20 or DS-2019 is expiring at the end of the current session, but you need to stay longer to complete your ELI program, you will need to submit an ELI I-20/DS-2019 Extension Request.
To request an I-20 or DS-2019 extension, follow these steps:
Inform the ELI that you are planning to continue your program next session by submitting your Intention Form, visit Read about the Intention Form for more information.
You will need to upload a bank statement or financial guarantee letter (for sponsored students) in the application.
• The bank statement should be issued within the last six months.
• The bank statement should be issued in English and on the bank letterhead.
• The bank statement should show liquid funds (checking, savings, time deposit, etc.) and the currency is clearly labelled.
• If the bank statement is not in your name, you will also need to submit a Sponsor Letter.
• If you need a financial guarantee letter, it should indicate that your sponsor will pay the University of Delaware for your studies and should have dates extending into the future (not expired or expiring in the current ELI session).
Please refer to the price of your program for more information.
If you have completed and submitted all required documents, CGPS will review your application and extend your I-20 or DS-2019. If CGPS has any questions, you will be contacted via email. Once your new I-20 or DS-2019 is ready, you will receive an email from CGPS.
Important note for students on vacation abroad:
If you are not in the U.S. and need to extend your I-20 or DS-2019, please remember the following:
To access the I-20/DS-2019 Extension Request, you will need to be able to access your UDEL email and your Two-Factor Authenticator code. Please visit the IT website for help with your Two-Factor Authenticator.
You will also need to request a shipping label so that your new I-20 or DS-2019 can be shipped to you. In the I-20/DS-2019 extension request, there are instructions on how to order your shipping label, or you can visit our information on eShipGlobal.
Deadline to submit the I-20 or DS-2019 Extension Request:
All documents must be submitted to CGPS by I-20/DS-2019 Extension Day, which is typically held on Wednesday of Week 5 of each session in the SALC of 108 East Main Street, from 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm. During I-20/DS-2019 Extension Day, ISS Advisors from the CGPS will be present at ELI to answer any questions or check your documents.
If you do not submit the online extension form at I-20/DS-2019 Extension Day, CGPS cannot guarantee that your I-20/DS-2019 extension will be completed on time.
To transfer to another school, please follow these steps:
- Complete your ELI Departure Form. You will receive the Departure Form during your final weeks at the ELI. When you complete this form, write the name of the school where you intend to transfer. Submit the Departure Form to the ELI. This is a required document for transferring; CGPS cannot transfer your SEVIS record without this form.
- Check with the ELI Financial Office at email@example.com to make sure that you have paid all monies owed to the University.
- Submit the ELI Transfer Out request. To access this form and to watch a video tutorial on how to complete this form, visit the CGPS Forms webpage.
- You will need to upload the following documents in the ELI Transfer Out request:
• Your acceptance letter to the new school (it should have a clear start date).
• A transfer-in form from the new school (usually you will have to complete the top section of this form).
• SACM students: If you are sponsored by SACM, to ensure your transfer goes smoothly, also upload the SACM Financial Guarantee letter for the new school. For questions about this letter, please speak with your ISS Advisor at CGPS.
- If CGPS has any questions about your request or if there are any missing documents or information, CGPS will contact you via email.
- Once CGPS has received your Transfer Out request with all the required documents, CGPS will transfer your SEVIS record to the new school and notify you via email.
Important notes about transferring out:
CGPS will not accept any paper documents or forms. You must use the ELI Transfer Out request online form to submit your documents.
As long as you are eligible for a transfer, your transfer will be completed as soon as possible. If you have questions about eligibility, contact CGPS or an ISS Advisor at CGPS.
F-1 students are eligible to transfer their records during the 60-day grace period at the end of their program at the ELI. It is your responsibility to make plans and transfer before the end of this grace period. For more information about the grace period, please see the section below on End of Program Information.
J-1 students must transfer their record BEFORE the program end date of their DS-2019. A transfer cannot be done during their 30-day grace period. It is your responsibility to make plans and transfer before the end of your program end date. For more information about the grace period, please see the section below on End of Program Information.
Once you submit the ELI Transfer Out form, you cannot change your mind about your transfer. If you do change your mind, it is your responsibility to contact CGPS as soon as possible.
As an F-1 or J-1 student, you may find that you are interested in work opportunities in the U.S. Work may provide you with additional funds, or beneficial opportunities for you to practice your skills.
It is important to remember that the U.S. government defines “work” as any activity that someone would normally be paid to perform. Even if you are not being paid, you still may need authorization. Always check with CGPS before accepting any position, even if it is unpaid or “volunteer.” We will help you meet your goals in a legal way.
ELI students are only eligible to work on campus and are eligible to work up to 20 hours per week during an ELI session. On-campus employment can include work conducted at on-campus facilities, such as the dining hall, library, or offices on campus, as well as with associated businesses on campus, such as the Barnes and Noble Bookstore.
Before you accept any employment, you should check with the CGPS to confirm if the opportunity is valid.
If you require a social security number, or if your potential employer requires verification that you are eligible to work, you should complete and submit the On-Campus Employment Eligibility Form.
J-1 Students: All on-campus employment must be approved in advance and in writing by CGPS. In order to request on-campus employment, you must submit an On-Campus Employment (J) Application to CGPS through your Terra Dotta Student Portal before the start of employment. On-campus employment may be granted for up to 12 months at a time. If your on-campus employment will last more than 12 months, you are required to submit an updated On-Campus Employment (J) Application and offer letter every year.
When you have reached the end of your studies at the ELI, the following will impact your immigration status:
F-1 students: Your I-20 program end date will reflect the last date of your studies at the ELI. You have a 60-day grace period to do the following:
• Prepare to leave the U.S.
• Transfer to another school
• Request a change of educational level (to a UD undergraduate or graduate program)
J-1 students: Your DS-2019 program end date will reflect the last date of your studies at the ELI. You have a 30-day grace period to prepare to leave the U.S. If you wish to attend a new school, please contact CGPS or an ISS Advisor. J-1 students CANNOT transfer to a new school or matriculate to UD during the 30-day grace period.
During your grace period, you should not continue to attend ELI classes or continue to work. If you remain in the U.S. after your grace period, you will begin to accrue days of unlawful presence. This means that you are out of status (do not have legal immigration status in the U.S.). If you have been in the U.S. illegally for 180 days, you cannot return to the U.S. for at least 3 years. If you stay in the U.S. illegally for one year or more, the bar for reentry is 10 years.
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ISSS Disclaimer: The information contained on this web site is provided as a service to international students, faculty, staff, employees, and administrators at the University of Delaware, and does not constitute legal advice on any immigration, tax, or other matter. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of official counsel. For assistance on your immigration status, we encourage you to contact an ISS advisor for specific guidance at firstname.lastname@example.org.