Current Students: The Arch

The Arch is a unique approach to education that provides flexibility in the semester schedule, allowing students to pursue professional and personal development opportunities that prepare them to meet the multifaceted challenges of the 21st century.

For general information about The Arch, go here: info.rpi.edu/the-arch

This page was last updated on: November 12, 2019.

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Summer Here

During The Arch, students will participate in a full course of study over the summer, enrolling in at least 12 credits.

If taking a personal leave of absence and not participating in The Arch for a full 12 credits, you must depart the U.S. and work with ISSS to learn about your options to maintain your immigration status upon your return. If taking a medical leave of absence that has been processed by the Student Health Center at RPI and not participating in The Arch for a full 12 credits, you can remain in the U.S. for treatment if required by your doctor or can depart the U.S. to obtain treatment.

Please meet with an ISSS advisor during Open Hours to discuss your options before you leave if possible, otherwise communicate with us via email so we can advise you.

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Important Considerations

Leave of Absence

If taking a leave of absence, regardless of the reason, you must work with ISSS to plan options to maintain your immigration status. By taking a leave of absence, this can impact your options to maintain your immigration status.

Work Authorization Requirements

International students cannot start any off-campus employment inside the U.S. (co-op, internship, “volunteer” work, etc.) until after they have obtained work authorization from ISSS.

  • The process for you to obtain work authorization takes approximately two weeks from when ISSS receives your Semester Away information.
  • We will notify you via email when a new I-20 has been issued with your work authorization.
  • If anything is needed before then, ISSS will be in contact via email.
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Semester Away

Student must choose a semester away and will plan a specific experience to occur during this time. Preparing for your semester away is a critical part of The Arch experience.

An Arch Institute Policy was signed on September 23, 2019 for all Semester Away experiences to be considered the equivalent of full-time. You can view the policy here:  https://rpi.box.com/v/archmemo092319

This policy supports international students, as it permits ISSS to register you in SEVIS during your Semester Away so that you can take your annual vacation during the summer session instead of during your Semester Away.

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Semester Away Experience Options

ILE - Self-Design

For details about the Self-Designed Experience within The Arch, please see this link https://info.rpi.edu/arch/semester-away and click the ILE - Self-Design/Entrepreneurship option.

Please note that for international students, entrepreneurship is not an option available for you to pursue.

For the next semester (Fall or Spring), you will need to be enrolled full-time and take at least 12 credits to maintain your immigration status.

You will be eligible for your next annual vacation the summer following your Away Semester.

ILE - Co-op or Internship

For details about Co-op and internship within The Arch, please see this link https://info.rpi.edu/arch/semester-away and click the ILE - Co-op or Internship option.

Your work experience can occur inside or outside of the U.S..

If your work experience is inside the U.S., ISSS must provide you with a new I-20 that has Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization on Page 2. You cannot begin your work until after you have received this new I-20.

  • You must work with ISSS to refine your plan for your experience off-campus. Your co-op or internship must be related to your field(s) of study to be eligible to request CPT.
  • When you work with the appropriate departments to get approval and register your work experience, your request for work authorization will be sent to ISSS. You will receive an email from ISSS to request a copy of your employment offer letter. After we review your work experience and supporting documentation, we will issue a new I-20 for you, approve your semester away experience, and notify you to come and pick up the new I-20.
  • The process to issue the I-20 can take up to 2 weeks after approval from the other departments.

If your work experience is outside of the U.S., you do not need to obtain any work authorization from ISSS. You must have a valid travel signature for your return to the U.S.. Travel signatures for current students are valid for 12 months from the date it was issued.

If you do not intend to return as a full-time student for the spring/fall semester after your Semester Away, you need to speak with an ISSS advisor for guidance.

You will be eligible for your next annual vacation the summer following your Away Semester.

ILE - Research (On Campus and Off-Campus)

For details about Research (On Campus and Off-Campus) within The Arch, please see this link https://info.rpi.edu/arch/semester-away and click the ILE - Research (On Campus and Off-Campus) option.

Research at Rensselaer is considered on-campus employment. International students automatically have on-campus work authorization from the start date on their I-20 and do not require additional authorization.

If your research experience is inside of the U.S. and is off-campus, ISSS must provide you with a new I-20 that has Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization on Page 2. 

  • You cannot begin your off-campus research experience until after you have received this new I-20.

You must work with ISSS to refine your plan for your experience off-campus. Your research must be related to your field(s) of study to be eligible to request CPT.

  • When you work with the appropriate departments to get approval and register your work experience, your request for work authorization will be sent to ISSS.
  • You will receive an email from ISSS to request a copy of your employment offer letter. After we review your work experience and supporting documentation, we will issue a new I-20 for you, approve your semester away experience, and notify you to come and pick up the new I-20.
  • The process to issue the I-20 can take up to 2 weeks after approval from the other departments.

If your work experience is outside of the U.S., you do not need to obtain any work authorization from ISSS. You must have a valid travel signature for your return to the U.S.. Travel signatures for current students are valid for 12 months from the date it was issued.

If you do not intend to return as a full-time student for the spring/fall semester after your Semester Away, you need to speak with an ISSS advisor for guidance.

You will be eligible for your next annual vacation the summer following your Away Semester.

ILE - Civic Engagement

For details about Civic Engagement within The Arch, please see this link https://info.rpi.edu/arch/semester-away and click the ILE - Civic Engagement option.

Your Civic Engagement opportunity may require work authorization if it is inside of the U.S.. Please contact ISSS before you accept an opportunity for guidance.

If your work experience requires Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization, you cannot begin your work until after you have received a new I-20 with CPT from ISSS.

  • You must work with ISSS to refine your plan for your experience off-campus. Your civic engagement position must be related to your field(s) of study to be eligible to request CPT.
  • When you work with the appropriate departments to get approval and register your work experience, your request for work authorization will be sent to ISSS.
  • You will receive an email from ISSS to request a copy of your employment offer letter. After we review your work experience and supporting documentation, we will issue a new I-20 for you, approve your semester away experience, and notify you to come and pick up the new I-20.
  • The process to issue the I-20 can take up to 2 weeks after approval from the other departments.

If your work experience is outside of the U.S., you do not need to obtain any work authorization from ISSS. You must have a valid travel signature for your return to the U.S.. Travel signatures for current students are valid for 12 months from the date it was issued.

If you do not intend to return as a full-time student for the spring/fall semester after your Semester Away, you need to speak with an ISSS advisor for guidance.

You will be eligible for your next annual vacation the summer following your Away Semester.

ILE - International experiences

For details about International experiences within The Arch, please see this link https://info.rpi.edu/arch/semester-away and click the ILE - International Experiences option.

You must have a valid travel signature for your return to the U.S.. Travel signatures for current students are valid for 12 months from the date it was issued.

If you do not intend to return as a full-time student for the spring/fall semester after your Semester Away, you need to speak with an ISSS advisor for guidance.

You will be eligible for your next annual vacation the summer following your Away Semester.

ILE - Study at another U.S. institution

For details about Study at another U.S. institution within The Arch, please see this link https://info.rpi.edu/arch/semester-away and click the ILE - Study at another U.S. institution option.

You will need to work with the other U.S. institution to determine if they require you to have your SEVIS record transferred to them from RPI (so you can be issued a new I-20 from their institution)

If your SEVIS record will remain at RPI, you will be registered in SEVIS as if you are attending RPI.

  • For the next semester (Fall or Spring), you will need to be enrolled full-time and take at least 12 credits to maintain your immigration status.
  • If the other U.S. institution requires documentation from ISSS to confirm that you are a current F-1 student and are maintaining your status at RPI, please make your request via email for this document to ISSSoffice@rpi.edu
  • If you do not intend to return as a full-time student for the spring/fall semester after your Semester Away, you need to speak with an ISSS advisor for guidance.
  • You will be eligible for your next annual vacation the summer following your Away Semester.

If your SEVIS record is transferred to the new U.S. institution, you will need to work with ISSS to plan out the process and timeline for your return to RPI.

  • You will be required to apply for a new I-20 with ISSS and have your SEVIS record transferred back to RPI. Please contact ISSS for guidance on your SEVIS Release Date for your SEVIS record to return to RPI to ensure that your timing is appropriate. 
    • * Note: This process is for immigration purposes, and does not require you to apply for readmission to RPI, as you are still considered an RPI student while on your Semester Away.
  • You will be required to enroll as a full-time student (taking at least 12 credits) for the semester you return to RPI. Consult with an ISSS advisor before scheduling your SEVIS Release Date so we can advise you.
  • You must complete one semester at RPI before you are eligible to take an Annual Vacation in the summer. If you are a Spring Away student, make sure to contact ISSS for guidance on how the transfer of your SEVIS record impacts your Annual Vacation.
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Early Arch

International students can request to participate in the Early Arch. By participating in Early Arch, your semester away may not be in your junior year, so you must discuss your plan with ISSS in order to maintain your immigration status.

For more information how to request participation in Early Arch, see this link: https://info.rpi.edu/arch/general-information/#EarlyArch

After you have been approved for Early Arch, please come to meet with ISSS during our Open Hours with ideas for your semester away, so that we can provide options on how to maintain your immigration status.

You can find the ISSS Open Hours here: http://bit.ly/ISSSannouncements