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: August 09, 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. You will not have all of the semester away experiences available to you if you take a leave, so it is important to work with ISSS.

Accordion

Important Considerations

Leave of Absence

Students who take a leave of absence, regardless of the reason, must work with ISSS to plan their options to maintain their immigration status. By taking a leave of absence, this reduces the options available to you during your semester away and impacts the need for full-time enrollment in a future semester.

Work Authorization Requirements

International students cannot start any off-campus employment inside the U.S. (co-op, internship, “volunteer” work) without obtaining work authorization from ISSS. The process for students 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.

From an immigration perspective, your semester away experience will be either a “part-time” experience or a “full-time” experience. This impacts your SEVIS registration and what you may be required to do when you return from your Semester Away. More details on each experience are listed below based on your Semester Away choice. Options can be found when you expand each section listed below.

Accordion

Fall Semester Away Experience Options

Individual Learning Experience (ILE)

The Individual Learning Experience (ILE) can be used when you have a project in mind which does not align with the other semester away opportunities. For more information on this, please see The Arch website > Individual Learning Experience (ILE): https://info.rpi.edu/arch/semester-away/#SemesterAwayOpportunities

For assistance with building an ILE, please see these links:

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

For immigration purposes, at RPI the Individual Learning Experience (ILE) is NOT considered a full-time experience.

  • This means that ISSS will not register you in SEVIS for the fall semester and this semester will be considered your yearly annual vacation.

For the Spring semester, you must be enrolled full-time in classes and take at least 12 credits to maintain your immigration status. You will be eligible for your next annual vacation in the following Summer semester.

Co-Operative Educational experience

A Co-Operative Educational experience is at least 16 week experience in an industry which can be fulfilled in either consecutive months or two experiences (e.g. fall and the next summer).

Your co-op experience can occur inside or outside of the U.S. You will work with CCPD to get approval and to register your co-op experience.

  • If your co-op experience is inside of 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 co-op until after you have received this new I-20.
    • When you work with CCPD to get approval and register your co-op experience, your employment information will be sent to ISSS. After we review your co-op experience, 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 CCPD approval.
  • If your co-op experience is outside of the U.S., you do not need to obtain any work authorization from ISSS.

For immigration purposes, a co-op experience at RPI is considered a full-time experience.

  • This means that ISSS will register you in SEVIS as enrolled for the semester as a full-time student (regardless of if your co-op occurs inside or outside of the U.S.).

For the Spring semester, you will need to be enrolled full-time in classes and take at least 12 credits to maintain your immigration status. You will be eligible for your next annual vacation in the following Summer semester.

Paid internship

A paid internship is typically a 3 month experience related to your field of study that occurs during the semester.

Your internship experience can occur inside or outside of the U.S. You will work with CCPD to get approval and to register your internship experience.

  • If your internship experience is inside of 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 internship until after you have received this new I-20.
    • When you work with CCPD to get approval and register your internship experience, your employment information will be sent to ISSS. After we review your internship experience, 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 CCPD approval.
  • If your internship experience is outside of the U.S., you are not required to obtain work authorization.

For immigration purposes, at RPI an internship experience is NOT considered a full-time experience.

  • This means that ISSS will not register you in SEVIS for the fall semester and this semester will be considered your yearly annual vacation.

For the Spring semester, you must be enrolled full-time in classes and take at least 12 credits to maintain your immigration status. You will be eligible for your next annual vacation in the following Summer semester.

Research experience NOT at Rensselaer

Students may conduct research with a national or regional lab, or another institution (domestic or abroad) during their away term. Students can work with Rensselaer faculty and the CCPD to locate opportunities.

  • If this research experience is inside of 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 research experience until after you have received this new I-20.
    • When you work with Undergraduate Education (for all unpaid positions) or the Center for Career & Professional Development (for all paid positions) to get approval and register your research experience, your experience information will be sent to ISSS. After we review your research experience, 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 Undergraduate Education or Career Development approval.
  • If this research experience is outside of the U.S., you are not required to obtain work authorization.

For immigration purposes, at RPI a research experience not at RPI is NOT considered a full-time experience.

  • This means that ISSS will not register you in SEVIS for the fall semester and this semester will be considered your yearly annual vacation.

For the Spring semester, you must be enrolled full-time in classes and take at least 12 credits to maintain your immigration status. You will be eligible for your next annual vacation in the following Summer semester.

Research at Rensselaer

Students may conduct research on-campus at Rensselaer provided that they also spend part of the semester completing an experience off-campus. This off-campus experience must be approved by Undergraduate Education.

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

As research at Rensselaer is not considered full-time and you will not be registered in SEVIS, you are permitted to work more than 20 hours per week in this on-campus position because it occurs during your annual vacation.

You must work with ISSS to refine your plan for your experience off-campus. If you are pursuing employment related to your field of study, you can request CPT from ISSS.  ISSS will communicate with you to learn more about your intended experience off-campus before we approve your Semester Away experience.

For immigration purposes, at RPI research at Rensselaer is NOT considered a full-time experience.

  • This means that ISSS will not register you in SEVIS for the fall semester and this semester will be considered your yearly annual vacation.

For the Spring semester, you must be enrolled full-time in classes and take at least 12 credits to maintain your immigration status. You will be eligible for your next annual vacation in the following Summer semester.

Civic engagement

Civic engagement is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in which students give their time, energy, and unique talents to help meet the communities needs in the following areas: non-profit organizations, schools, hospitals, healthcare facilities, government agencies, and advocacy groups.

For immigration purposes, at RPI civic engagement is NOT considered a full-time experience.

  • This means that ISSS will not register you in SEVIS for the fall semester and this semester will be considered your yearly annual vacation.

For the Spring semester, you must be enrolled full-time in classes and take at least 12 credits to maintain your immigration status. You will be eligible for your next annual vacation in the following Summer semester.

International experience

International experiences can fall within the following categories: affiliated exchange programs (see the Rensselaer study abroad section for more information), non-affiliated study abroad, affiliated research and internship opportunities, and non-affiliated research and volunteer opportunities.

For more information on each category, please see The Arch website > International Experience: https://info.rpi.edu/arch/semester-away/#SemesterAwayOpportunities

For immigration purposes, at RPI, an international experience is NOT considered a full-time experience. The ONLY exceptions are Rensselaer study abroad through an affiliated exchange program  and non-affiliated Study Abroad (see next section for details).

  • This means that ISSS will not register you in SEVIS for the fall semester and this semester will be considered your yearly annual vacation.

For the Spring semester, you must be enrolled full-time in classes and take at least 12 credits to maintain your immigration status. You will be eligible for your next annual vacation in the following Summer semester.

Rensselaer study abroad & Non-affiliated study abroad

Affiliated exchange programs offer Rensselaer students the opportunity to take regular classes at partner universities worldwide, allowing full immersion with host country peers and integration into the host institution.

For immigration purposes, at RPI a Rensselaer study abroad program and non-affiliated study abroad processed by the Office of International Programs are considered a full-time experience.

  • This means that ISSS will register you in SEVIS as enrolled for the semester as a full-time student.

For the Spring semester, you must be enrolled full-time in classes and take at least 12 credits to maintain your immigration status. You will be eligible for your next annual vacation in the following Summer semester.

Courses at another U.S. institution

Students can enroll for study at another U.S. institution of their choosing. Implications for credit transfer may apply.

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, then your fall semester away will be treated as your annual vacation.

  • For immigration purposes, at RPI study at another U.S. institution is NOT considered a full-time experience.
  • This means that ISSS will not register you in SEVIS for the fall semester and this semester will be considered your yearly annual vacation.
  • For the Spring semester, you must be enrolled full-time in classes and take at least 12 credits to maintain your immigration status. You will be eligible for your next annual vacation in the following Summer 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 before the start of the Spring semester.
  • You will be required to enroll as a full-time student (taking at least 12 credits) for the Spring semester.
  • You will be eligible for your annual vacation starting in the Summer semester.
Accordion

Spring Semester Away Experience Options

Individual Learning Experience (ILE)

The Individual Learning Experience (ILE) can be used when you have a project in mind which does not align with the other semester away opportunities. For more information on this, please see The Arch website > Individual Learning Experience (ILE): https://info.rpi.edu/arch/semester-away/#SemesterAwayOpportunities

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

For immigration purposes, at RPI the Individual Learning Experience (ILE) is NOT considered a full-time experience.

  • This means that ISSS will not register you in SEVIS for the spring semester and this semester will be considered your yearly annual vacation.

For the Summer semester, you will have two possible options that impact your immigration status. Either you:

  • (1) Enroll full-time in classes for the summer semester and take at least 12 credits to maintain your immigration status, OR
  • (2) Depart the U.S. for the summer. With this option, ISSS must terminate your SEVIS record.
    • If you are inside of the U.S. for your semester away experience, you will need to depart the U.S. within 15 days of the end of the spring semester.
      • ISSS will work with you to reactivate the same SEVIS record for your return in the Fall so that you will keep the same SEVIS ID, I-20/DS-2019, and visa.
      • If your visa will expire before your return, note that you will need to apply for a new visa after ISSS reactivates your record with SEVIS. 
      • ISSS can request to reactivate your SEVIS record up to 60 days before the start of the Fall semester. You will need to provide us with certain documentation, such as your plane ticket to the U.S., to initiate this process.
      • Come to ISSS during Open Hours before you leave to discuss this process in greater detail. Find our Open Hours schedule here: bit.ly/ISSSannouncements 
    • If you are outside the U.S. for your semester away experience, you must remain outside the U.S.
      • If you have been outside of the U.S. for more than 5 months before you will return for the Fall semester, we cannot reactivate your I-20 and you must apply for a brand new I-20.
      • Come to ISSS during Open Hours before you leave to discuss this process in greater detail. Find our Open Hours schedule here: bit.ly/ISSSannouncements 
    • This impacts your eligibility for work authorization.
      • You must be enrolled for two consecutive semesters before you are able to apply for CPT.
      • You must be enrolled for two consecutive semesters to be able to apply for OPT. Normally, students apply for OPT in their final semester before graduation.
Co-Operative Educational experience

A Co-Operative Educational experience is at least a 16 week experience in industry which can be fulfilled in consecutive months or two experiences (e.g. fall and the next summer).

Your co-op experience can occur inside or outside of the U.S. You will work with CCPD to get approval and to register your co-op experience.

  • If your co-op experience is inside of the U.S., ISSS must provide you with a new I-20 that has Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization. You cannot begin your co-op until after you have received this new I-20 with the CPT endorsement listed on page 2.
    • When you work with CCPD to get approval and register your co-op experience, your employment information will be sent to ISSS. After we review your co-op experience, 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 CCPD approval.
  • If your co-op experience is outside of the U.S., you do not need to obtain any work authorization from ISSS.

For immigration purposes, at RPI a co-op experience is considered a full-time experience.

  • This means that ISSS will register you in SEVIS as enrolled for the semester as a full-time student (regardless of if your co-op occurs inside or outside of the U.S.).

You will be eligible for your next annual vacation in the following Summer semester.

Paid internship

A paid internship is typically a 3 month experience related to your field of study that occurs during the semester.

  • If your internship experience is inside of 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 internship until after you have received this new I-20.
    • When you work with CCPD to get approval and register your internship experience, your employment information will be sent to ISSS. After we review your internship experience, 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 CCPD approval.
  • If your internship experience is outside of the U.S., you are not required to obtain work authorization.

For immigration purposes, at RPI an internship experience is NOT considered a full-time experience.

  • This means that ISSS will not register you in SEVIS for the spring semester and this semester will be considered your yearly annual vacation.

For the Summer semester, you will have two possible options that impact your immigration status. Either you:

  • (1) Enroll full-time in classes for the summer semester and take at least 12 credits to maintain your immigration status, OR
  • (2) Depart the U.S. for the summer. With this option, ISSS must terminate your SEVIS record.
    • If you are inside of the U.S. for your semester away experience, you will need to depart the U.S. within 15 days of the end of the spring semester.
      • ISSS will work with you to reactivate the same SEVIS record for your return in the Fall so that you will keep the same SEVIS ID, I-20/DS-2019, and visa.
      • If your visa will expire before your return, note that you will need to apply for a new visa after ISSS reactivates your record with SEVIS. 
      • ISSS can request to reactivate your SEVIS record up to 60 days before the start of the Fall semester. You will need to provide us with certain documentation, such as your plane ticket to the U.S., to initiate this process.
      • Come to ISSS during Open Hours before you leave to discuss this process in greater detail. Find our Open Hours schedule here: bit.ly/ISSSannouncements 
    • If you are outside the U.S. for your semester away experience, you must remain outside the U.S.
      • If you have been outside of the U.S. for more than 5 months before you will return for the Fall semester, we cannot reactivate your I-20 and you must apply for a brand new I-20.
      • Come to ISSS during Open Hours before you leave to discuss this process in greater detail. Find our Open Hours schedule here: bit.ly/ISSSannouncements 
    • This impacts your eligibility for work authorization.
      • You must be enrolled for two consecutive semesters before you are able to apply for CPT.
      • You must be enrolled for two consecutive semesters to be able to apply for OPT. Normally, students apply for OPT in their final semester before graduation.
Research experience NOT at Rensselaer

Students may conduct research with a national or regional lab, or another institution (domestic or abroad) during their away term. Students can work with Rensselaer faculty and the CCPD to locate opportunities.

  • If this research experience is inside of 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 research until after you have received this new I-20.
    • When you work with Undergraduate Education (for all unpaid positions) or the Center for Career & Professional Development (for all paid positions) to get approval and register your research experience, your experience information will be sent to ISSS. After we review your research experience, 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 Undergraduate Education or Career Development approval.
  • If this research experience is outside of the U.S., you are not required to obtain work authorization.

For immigration purposes, at RPI a research experience not at RPI is NOT considered a full-time experience.

  • This means that ISSS will not register you in SEVIS for the spring semester and this semester will be considered your yearly annual vacation.

For the Summer semester, you will have two possible options that impact your immigration status. Either you:

  • (1) Enroll full-time in classes for the summer semester and take at least 12 credits to maintain your immigration status, OR
  • (2) Depart the U.S. for the summer. With this option, ISSS must terminate your SEVIS record.
    • If you are inside of the U.S. for your semester away experience, you will need to depart the U.S. within 15 days of the end of the spring semester.
      • ISSS will work with you to reactivate the same SEVIS record for your return in the Fall so that you will keep the same SEVIS ID, I-20/DS-2019, and visa.
      • If your visa will expire before your return, note that you will need to apply for a new visa after ISSS reactivates your record with SEVIS. 
      • ISSS can request to reactivate your SEVIS record up to 60 days before the start of the Fall semester. You will need to provide us with certain documentation, such as your plane ticket to the U.S., to initiate this process.
      • Come to ISSS during Open Hours before you leave to discuss this process in greater detail. Find our Open Hours schedule here: bit.ly/ISSSannouncements 
    • If you are outside the U.S. for your semester away experience, you must remain outside the U.S.
      • If you have been outside of the U.S. for more than 5 months before you will return for the Fall semester, we cannot reactivate your I-20 and you must apply for a brand new I-20.
      • Come to ISSS during Open Hours before you leave to discuss this process in greater detail. Find our Open Hours schedule here: bit.ly/ISSSannouncements 
    • This impacts your eligibility for work authorization.
      • You must be enrolled for two consecutive semesters before you are able to apply for CPT.
      • You must be enrolled for two consecutive semesters to be able to apply for OPT. Normally, students apply for OPT in their final semester before graduation.
Research at Rensselaer

Students may conduct research on-campus at Rensselaer provided that they also spend part of the semester completing an experience off-campus. This off-campus experience must be approved by Undergraduate Education.

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

As research at Rensselaer is not considered full-time and you will not be registered in SEVIS, you are permitted to work more than 20 hours per week in this on-campus position because it occurs during your annual vacation.

You must work with ISSS to refine your plan for your experience off-campus. If you are pursuing employment related to your field of study, you can request CPT from ISSS. ISSS will communicate with you to learn more about your intended experience off-campus before we approve your Semester Away experience.

For immigration purposes, at RPI research at Rensselaer is NOT considered a full-time experience.

  • This means that ISSS will not register you in SEVIS for the spring semester and this semester will be considered your yearly annual vacation.

For the Summer semester, you will have two possible options that impact your immigration status. Either you:

  • (1) Enroll full-time in classes for the summer semester and take at least 12 credits to maintain your immigration status, OR
  • (2) Depart the U.S. for the summer. With this option, ISSS must terminate your SEVIS record.
    • If you are inside of the U.S. for your semester away experience, you will need to depart the U.S. within 15 days of the end of the spring semester.
      • ISSS will work with you to reactivate the same SEVIS record for your return in the Fall so that you will keep the same SEVIS ID, I-20/DS-2019, and visa.
      • If your visa will expire before your return, note that you will need to apply for a new visa after ISSS reactivates your record with SEVIS. 
      • ISSS can request to reactivate your SEVIS record up to 60 days before the start of the Fall semester. You will need to provide us with certain documentation, such as your plane ticket to the U.S., to initiate this process.
      • Come to ISSS during Open Hours before you leave to discuss this process in greater detail. Find our Open Hours schedule here: bit.ly/ISSSannouncements 
    • If you are outside the U.S. for your semester away experience, you must remain outside the U.S.
      • If you have been outside of the U.S. for more than 5 months before you will return for the Fall semester, we cannot reactivate your I-20 and you must apply for a brand new I-20.
      • Come to ISSS during Open Hours before you leave to discuss this process in greater detail. Find our Open Hours schedule here: bit.ly/ISSSannouncements 
    • This impacts your eligibility for work authorization.
      • You must be enrolled for two consecutive semesters before you are able to apply for CPT.
      • You must be enrolled for two consecutive semesters to be able to apply for OPT. Normally, students apply for OPT in their final semester before graduation.
Civic engagement

Civic engagement is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in which students give their time, energy, and unique talents to help meet the communities needs in the following areas: non-profit organizations, schools, hospitals, healthcare facilities, government agencies, and advocacy groups.

For immigration purposes, at RPI civic engagement is NOT considered a full-time experience.

  • This means that ISSS will not register you in SEVIS for the spring semester and this semester will be considered your yearly annual vacation.

For the Summer semester, you will have two possible options that impact your immigration status. Either you:

  • (1) Enroll full-time in classes for the summer semester and take at least 12 credits to maintain your immigration status, OR
  • (2) Depart the U.S. for the summer. With this option, ISSS must terminate your SEVIS record.
    • If you are inside of the U.S. for your semester away experience, you will need to depart the U.S. within 15 days of the end of the spring semester.
      • ISSS will work with you to reactivate the same SEVIS record for your return in the Fall so that you will keep the same SEVIS ID, I-20/DS-2019, and visa.
      • If your visa will expire before your return, note that you will need to apply for a new visa after ISSS reactivates your record with SEVIS. 
      • ISSS can request to reactivate your SEVIS record up to 60 days before the start of the Fall semester. You will need to provide us with certain documentation, such as your plane ticket to the U.S., to initiate this process.
      • Come to ISSS during Open Hours before you leave to discuss this process in greater detail. Find our Open Hours schedule here: bit.ly/ISSSannouncements 
    • If you are outside the U.S. for your semester away experience, you must remain outside the U.S.
      • If you have been outside of the U.S. for more than 5 months before you will return for the Fall semester, we cannot reactivate your I-20 and you must apply for a brand new I-20.
      • Come to ISSS during Open Hours before you leave to discuss this process in greater detail. Find our Open Hours schedule here: bit.ly/ISSSannouncements 
    • This impacts your eligibility for work authorization.
      • You must be enrolled for two consecutive semesters before you are able to apply for CPT.
      • You must be enrolled for two consecutive semesters to be able to apply for OPT. Normally, students apply for OPT in their final semester before graduation.
International experience

International experiences can fall within the following categories: affiliated exchange programs (see the Rensselaer study abroad section for more information), non-affiliated study abroad, affiliated research and internship opportunities, and non-affiliated research and volunteer opportunities.

For more information on each category, please see The Arch website > International Experience: https://info.rpi.edu/arch/semester-away/#SemesterAwayOpportunities

For immigration purposes, at RPI an international experience is NOT considered a full-time experience. The ONLY exception is Rensselaer study abroad through an affiliated exchange program and non-affiliated Study Abroad (see next section for details).

  • This means that ISSS will not register you in SEVIS for the spring semester and this semester will be considered your yearly annual vacation.

For the Summer semester, you will have two possible options that impact your immigration status. Either you:

  • (1) Enroll full-time in classes for the summer semester and take at least 12 credits to maintain your immigration status, OR
  • (2) Depart the U.S. for the summer. With this option, ISSS must terminate your SEVIS record.
    • If you are inside of the U.S. for your semester away experience, you will need to depart the U.S. within 15 days of the end of the spring semester.
      • ISSS will work with you to reactivate the same SEVIS record for your return in the Fall so that you will keep the same SEVIS ID, I-20/DS-2019, and visa.
      • If your visa will expire before your return, note that you will need to apply for a new visa after ISSS reactivates your record with SEVIS. 
      • ISSS can request to reactivate your SEVIS record up to 60 days before the start of the Fall semester. You will need to provide us with certain documentation, such as your plane ticket to the U.S., to initiate this process.
      • Come to ISSS during Open Hours before you leave to discuss this process in greater detail. Find our Open Hours schedule here: bit.ly/ISSSannouncements 
    • If you are outside the U.S. for your semester away experience, you must remain outside the U.S.
      • If you have been outside of the U.S. for more than 5 months before you will return for the Fall semester, we cannot reactivate your I-20 and you must apply for a brand new I-20.
      • Come to ISSS during Open Hours before you leave to discuss this process in greater detail. Find our Open Hours schedule here: bit.ly/ISSSannouncements 
    • This impacts your eligibility for work authorization.
      • You must be enrolled for two consecutive semesters before you are able to apply for CPT.
      • You must be enrolled for two consecutive semesters to be able to apply for OPT. Normally, students apply for OPT in their final semester before graduation.
Rensselaer study abroad & Non-affiliated study abroad

Affiliated exchange programs offer Rensselaer students the opportunity to take regular classes at partner universities worldwide, allowing full immersion with host country peers and integration into the host institution.

For immigration purposes, at RPI a Rensselaer study abroad program and non-affiliated study abroad processed by the Office of International Programs are considered a full-time experience.

  • This means that ISSS will register you in SEVIS as enrolled for the semester as a full-time student.

You will be eligible for your next annual vacation in the following Summer semester.

Courses at another U.S. institution

Students can enroll for study at another U.S. institution of their choosing. Implications for credit transfer may apply.

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, then your spring semester away will be treated as your annual vacation.

  • For immigration purposes, at RPI study at another U.S. institution is NOT considered a full-time experience.
    • This means that ISSS will not register you in SEVIS for the fall semester and this semester will be considered your yearly annual vacation.
  • For the Summer semester, you will have two possible options that impact your immigration status. Either you:
    • (1) Enroll full-time in classes for the summer semester and take at least 12 credits to maintain your immigration status, OR
    • (2) Depart the U.S. for the summer. With this option, ISSS must terminate your SEVIS record.
      • If you are inside of the U.S. for your semester away experience, you will need to depart the U.S. within 15 days of the end of the spring semester.
        • ISSS will work with you to reactivate the same SEVIS record for your return in the Fall so that you will keep the same SEVIS ID, I-20/DS-2019, and visa.
        • If your visa will expire before your return, note that you will need to apply for a new visa after ISSS reactivates your record with SEVIS. 
        • ISSS can request to reactivate your SEVIS record up to 60 days before the start of the Fall semester. You will need to provide us with certain documentation, such as your plane ticket to the U.S., to initiate this process.
        • Come to ISSS during Open Hours before you leave to discuss this process in greater detail. Find our Open Hours schedule here: bit.ly/ISSSannouncements 
      • If you are outside the U.S. for your semester away experience, you must remain outside the U.S.
        • If you have been outside of the U.S. for more than 5 months before you will return for the Fall semester, we cannot reactivate your I-20 and you must apply for a brand new I-20.
        • Come to ISSS during Open Hours before you leave to discuss this process in greater detail. Find our Open Hours schedule here: bit.ly/ISSSannouncements 
      • This impacts your eligibility for work authorization.
        • You must be enrolled for two consecutive semesters before you are able to apply for CPT.
        • You must be enrolled for two consecutive semesters to be able to apply for OPT. Normally, students apply for OPT in their final semester before graduation.

If your SEVIS record will be 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 before the start of the Fall semester.
  • Come to ISSS during Open Hours to discuss this process in greater detail. Find our Open Hour schedule here: bit.ly/ISSSannouncements
  • You will be required to enroll as a full-time student (taking at least 12 credits) for the Fall semester.
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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