International Student Services

Division of Student Services

While at Reed

Once at Reed, students are required to continue following specific immigration regulations. This process, which we often refer to as maintaining status, is vital for the student's success at Reed and in the United States. It is very important that students understand and comply with the requirements governing their stay to ensure that they don’t jeopardize their immigration status. Also, we use this page to discuss other immigration related issues such as working in the U.S. and obtaining a driver's license.

Maintaining your Immigrant Status

Staying in status is extremely important for Reed international students and you should carefully study and understand the concepts of immigration status and the consequences of violating that status.

By violating the requirements that govern your immigration status, you may jeopardize your ability to remain in the United States as an F-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor. Some examples of violations include:

  • Failure to arrive at Reed and enroll in classes by the program start date.

  • Unauthorized employment during your stay. For more details about employment, see Working at Reed.

  • Failure to leave the United States following completion of your program, exchange visitor program, or program-related employment. For more information, see the Leaving Reed page.

  • For academic students (visa category F-1): Failure to maintain a full course load (3.0 units) without prior authorization for a reduction from your designated school official. If you begin to struggle in classes, please contact Dana Lawson or make use of the other resources on campus so we can ensure that you remain in status.

  • Please note that this is not a complete listing of potential status violations.

For more information, click here.

F-1 Reduced Course Load (RLC)

To maintain F-1 status, international students must be enrolled in a full course of study, a minimum of 3.0 units, each fall and spring semester.  Students may drop below the minimum unit requirement in one of these three rare cases:

  1. Final Semester RCL: If a full course load is not needed to complete a degree.

  2. Medical Condition RCL: A temporary medical condition that hinders a student’s ability to maintain a full course load.

  3. Academic Difficulty RCL: Students who are struggling to adapt to the academic setting (i.e. difficulties with the English language).

In the case of a medical condition or academic difficulty, students must be approved by International Student Services prior to dropping the course(s) before the class withdrawal deadline.

If you wish to apply for a medical condition RCL, you must receive a letter from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist.  This letter should state that a specific illness or medical condition compelled the student to reduce their full course of study.  An F-1 student may receive a Medical Condition RCL for a maximum aggregate of 12 months per degree level.  The letter can be emailed to Dana or dropped off at International Student Services.

For medical officials, your signed letter could include something similar to the following: “As a [licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist], I recommend [Student’s full name] reduce their course load due to a temporary illness or medical condition for the [Fall/Spring year] semester.”

An academic difficulty RCL is only applicable in the first semester of study.  Enrollment in 1.5 units is still required, and you must return to a full course of study in the following semester.  If you wish to pursue a RCL due to academic difficulty, set up an appointment to talk with Dana about your concerns and possible support services.  In order to move forward with the RCL, you must have documentation from your academic adviser that confirms you’ve experienced academic difficulties with one of the following:  

  • English Language

  • Reading Requirements

  • Unfamiliarity with U.S. Teaching Methods

  • Improper Course Level Placement

Once documentation from your academic adviser has been received by the ISS office, we will process your one-time reduced course load.

For more information about F-1 RCLs, please visit Department of Homeland Security's website.

Alternatives to Taking a LOA

There are several alternative options to taking a leave of absence. Read more about these options here.

Additionally, international students with documentable medical reasons can request a reduced course load instead of taking a LOA from the college.  This would allow you to take one or two courses instead of requiring that you are registered for three units.  Read more about that option here.

Leave of Absence

In addition to the LOA processes at the college, there are additional considerations for international students taking a LOA. When an international student on an F-1 visa takes a leave of absence, there are implications for their student visa and SEVIS records. International student visas are based on full-time enrollment, so when you take a LOA, and are no longer enrolled at the college, your SEVIS record and visa are no longer valid.  

When you pursue a LOA from the college, this results in the termination of your SEVIS record/visa. The SEVIS record is terminated with the reason “Authorized Early Withdrawal”.  This designation does not adversely affect your immigration record.  The SEVIS record is terminated as of the LOA effective date. Once the SEVIS record is terminated, you have a 15-day grace period in which you must depart the U.S.  You should not exceed this 15-day grace period, and if you do, there could be adverse implications for your immigration status or benefits in the future.

If you wish to return to the U.S. at any point during your leave from the college, while you are not enrolled, you must return on another type of visa, like a tourist visa, or a student visa for another college. You cannot re-enter on your F-1 visa through Reed College.  

Medical Leave of Absence

Taking a Medical Leave of Absence from the college is an option, and you can read more about that process here.  The same implications discussed above apply if you are taking a Medical Leave of Absence from the college.  You must be approved for a return from your MLOA, however, and the timing may impact your return to Reed. Read below for more information about returning to Reed, and note that ISS cannot request reactivation of your SEVIS record or issue an initial I-20 until you have been approved to return to the college.


The same implications discussed above apply if you are withdrawing from the college. Read more about the process of withdrawing from the college here.

Transferring to Another College

You can take classes at another college while on a LOA from Reed.  If you know at the time of deciding to leave Reed that you have been accepted to and plan to attend another institution in the U.S. directly after Reed, it is possible to transfer your SEVIS record to another college.  If you intend to pursue studies at another institution immediately, you can transfer your F-1 program before your LOA is effective and your SEVIS record is terminated. The following information will be required:

  • Confirmation of acceptance by another school with an F-1 visa program (ie: acceptance email or letter)

  • Name and SEVIS school code for the "transfer-in" school

  • Contact information for the international adviser at the new institution

  • Desired SEVIS record transfer release date

You must begin your studies at the new school within 5 months of leaving Reed.  If you have not been accepted to another institution yet, you can still apply to another institution, return home, and return to the U.S. on a new F-1 visa at your transfer-in institution. You can then transfer your SEVIS record back to Reed when you return. Contact ISS at to transfer your SEVIS record.

Emergency Absences

As you remain an enrolled student while on an emergency absence from the college, there are no impacts on your visa and SEVIS record. If your Emergency Absence will culminate in a leave of absence, consult the sections on information you should know about a LOA.

Returning from a LOA/MLOA (of fewer than 5 months):

Please review the college processes for returning from a LOA/MLOA here.  Read below for information about your visa and SEVIS record when returning from a LOA/MLOA.  

If the gap in your enrollment will be fewer than five months, ISS can usually request that your F-1 status is 'reactivated' by USCIS. Reactivation allows you to maintain your OPT eligibility and use the same I-20 and visa (if not expired). Note that ISS can only request that your record is reactivated.  USCIS approves the actual reactivation and often requires additional documentation from the school and the student to make the change.  If your leave is for fewer than five months, you must:

  1. Contact ISS by email at least one month before you plan to return to Reed.  This will give ISS time to request that your record is reactivated with USCIS.  After the request is made, ISS will confirm once your record has been turned back to 'active'.  Processing times vary and can take from a minimum of 1 to up to 4 weeks, so it is important to contact ISS well in advance.  If you have additional considerations, like a visa appointment scheduled, flight already booked, we may be able to request that your SEVIS record is activated more quickly.  This escalation requires documentation and approval from USCIS.  Please contact ISS for more information.

  2. Confirm you have a valid travel signature on page 3 of your I-20.  If not, you can request an updated signature from ISS.  Please consider that it will take some time to for this to be mailed to you, and international mailing rates may vary.

  3. Check your email regularly. USCIS often requires additional information to reactivate your status (such as a transcript copy, proof of travel, or other documents). If additional documents are required, ISS will contact you via your Reed email.  USCIS allows a very short response time, so you must submit required documents to us within 1-2 days.  Once your request has been approved, ISS will notify you via email.

  4. Re-enter the U.S. with all required travel documents, including a valid F-1 visa after your record is set back to 'active'. Note that reactivation times vary.  ISS cannot guarantee when your record will be turned back to 'active'.  Because you will not be able to enter the U.S. unless your record is 'active', you may want to wait until your request is approved before purchasing airfare.

Returning from a LOA/MLOA (after 5 months)

If there will be more than a five month gap in your enrollment, you will require a new, F-1 status and new 'Initial' I-20.  This will be a completely new F-1 record. If your leave is for more than five months, you must:

  1. Contact ISS 2-3 months before you plan to return to Reed.  This will allow time for the creation and receipt of your new SEVIS record/I-20.

  2. Complete the International Student Certification of Finances with supporting documentation that you are able to cover one year of your Reed costs.

  3. Receive your new Form I-20 or DS-2019 from ISS.

  4. Pay the $200 SEVIS fee.

  5. Obtain a new F-1 visa, even if your old F-1 visa is still valid.  You should make a visa appointment well in advance of your return, and look into processing times at the Embassy in your home country.          

  6. Travel to the U.S. no more than 30 days before the start date listed on your new I-20.

Important Considerations and Reminders:

  • If your record is terminated, you cannot remain in the U.S. during your leave. You must leave the U.S.

  • If you take a leave of absence for more than 5 months, you will not be eligible for OPT until you have completed one academic year of full-time enrollment after your return from your leave.  This regulation is especially important to note if you are considering a LOA of over five months in your final year of studies at Reed.

  • You cannot be in the U.S. with a terminated record.  If you are terminated for another reason, such as academic or disciplinary suspension, you do not have a grace period to leave and you must depart immediately.

Travel and Reentry to the U.S.

Every time you decide to travel abroad, you should be familiar with travel related immigration requirements and U.S. reentry requirements. These are some things to keep in mind for international travel:
  • If you will be traveling through a different country prior to arriving home, please make sure you have reviewed its visa regulations. Sometimes travelers may need a visa even if they are simply switching planes in a country. For example, if you will be flying from Portland to Vancouver, B.C. and then from Vancouver to Tokyo, you might need to obtain a Canadian transit visa, which you would need to obtain at the Canadian consulate in Seattle. Visa needs will be dependent on your passport country, so it will vary for each individual.

For reentry to the U.S., the following documents are required:

  • The I-20 Form, endorsed for travel and signed by Dana Lawson. Make sure you get a new I-20 signature every six months or before travelling abroad.

  • A current passport valid for at least six months after the date of your reentry.

  • A valid, current visa. If your visa has expired, you will need to obtain a new one before reentering the U.S. Please contact the ISS Office for details.

  • Financial information showing proof of necessary funds to cover tuition and living expenses.

Replacing Lost or Stolen Documents

Though we advise you to carefully store your documents in safe locations, loss or theft of documents can happen. Here is some information about what to do when you are missing an important immigration document:

Lost I-20: The I-20 can be reprinted by a school official. Please contact Dana Lawson to get your I-20 replaced. If the situation is urgent and Dana is not available, contact SEVP at In the email, give your name, your SEVIS ID number if you have it (N followed by 10 digits on your Form I-20), the name of your school, and your contact information (include your current address, telephone number, and email address if possible). Briefly describe your situation and what concerns or problems you have.

Lost Passport: First, you should file a police report. You should go to the local police station and report your documents as lost or stolen.  You should provide them a copy of the original documents. Hopefully you will have updated copies of your passport and/or visa. ISS keeps electronic copies of your passport and visa, so check with Dana if you do not have these and she can get you copies. When you go to the police station, you will be issued a police report detailing the incident. Come by ISS and let Dana make a copy of your police report so it is on file.

Second, report your lost/stolen passport to your embassy. You should figure out where your nearest embassy is and should look over this website to determine next steps for replacing your passport and contact them with any questions. In some cases, students may be required to go in person to the embassy.

Third, you should report your visa as lost/stolen to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad that issued your visa. Go to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website to locate the emails address and contact information. Be sure to include your full name, date of birth, place of birth, address in the U.S., and an email address. Specifically state whether the visa was lost or stolen. Please email the copy of the passport and visa to them as well.

Lastly, you will need to apply for a replacement U.S. visa next time you go home. These cannot be replaced in the U.S. You must apply in person at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate broad. When applying for the replacement visa, you will need to provide a written account documenting the loss of your passport and visa, and include a copy of the police report. 

Working at Reed

Students on F-1 and J-1 visas are allowed to work on the Reed campus without obtaining any authorization from an ISS or IPO official. The job must not interfere with your academic work and therefore cannot exceed 20 hours per week while school is in session. Students are allowed to work up to 40 hours per week when school is not in session. OPT (Optional Practical Training) is available for students who are interested in working or having internship experiences off campus. Students can only work off-campus outside of OPT if they experience serious economic hardship and special approval is required. An exception to this rule is the Summer Experience Award, which allows students to spend a summer doing an unpaid internship and still cover their living expenses. For more information about employment at Reed, contact the ISS office

Attention: money, goods or any compensation (including housing or board) received for any off-campus employment outside of OPT at any time during an F-1 student's stay in the U.S. constitutes a serious immigration violation and might put you out of status.

Getting a Driver's License

Students on F-1 and J-1 visas are allowed to drive in the United States, but must obtain a driver's license. In order to get a driver's license, you must provide proof of your identification and residence status in Oregon. You should bring your passport with your visa in it, I-20 form, and a letter from Residence Life confirming your residence status (you can obtain a letter by asking at the Residence Life desk at 28 West or emailing Residence Life). You must also complete a Driver License/Permit/ID Card Application, which you can print out and complete before going to the DMV.

Finally, at the DMV, you must pay a fee for the driver’s license and take and pass a vision screening test, a written and practical (driving) exam. You must provide your own car for the driving exam. If you have a valid driver license issued by a U.S. state, U.S. territory, Germany, South Korea or Taiwan, your drive test may be waived.

If you do not already know how to drive, you may want to learn and apply for a Learner’s permit. Some students find that receiving lessons through a company (and taking the test through that company) is most helpful, especially if you do not have access to a car. This website provides a list of Oregon DMV’s approved driver’s education companies.

The fee to take a driving exam is $9, and you will be charged $60 for your license once you have passed all the requirements. The closest options to campus are the Portland Downtown (1502 SW Sixth Ave) and Portland Southeast (8710 SE Powell Blvd) locations. For other locations, visit the Oregon DMV website.

Contact International Student Services

Gray Campus Center 104
Skype: iss.reed

Dana Lawson
Assistant Dean of Students for International Student Services

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