Terms to Know

Advising international students can be challenging. Here are some terms common to international students’ records and a plain English description as it applies to advisors. Specific advice about these forms and processes should be directed to the International Services (IS) Office at 417-836-6618.

Immigration documents

Form I-20: Certificate of Eligibility to obtain an F-1 student visa to enter the U.S. These forms are issued to students once they are admitted to a degree program at Missouri State University and are valid for an average of 48 months for undergraduates, 24 months for graduates, and 24 months for undergraduate transfer students. The expiration date may be extended BEFORE the program end date on I-20 with approval from an advisor and the International Services office (see Verification of Progress form).

Visa: Included in the student’s passport as a separate page. Visas allow students’ entry to the U.S. along with their valid Form I-20. A student doesn’t need a current visa to study at Missouri State, but does need it for re-entry (i.e., if the student leaves the country with an expired visa, he or she will need it renewed at the U.S. consulate in the home country or at a U.S. consulate outside the U.S. before he or she can return to the U.S.).

  • F-1: (Note: This is the visa you'll usually see.) These are for full-time students in the U.S. who are seeking degrees in programs intended to last for more than one year’s time. Students do have the opportunity to work on campus part time up to 20 hours per week when school is in session (full time during break). The on-campus employment must be for a University service. “Close to campus” does NOT count. Students must obtain a work authorization from the IS office or USCIS to work in a degree-relevant employment off-campus (see CPT and OPT below).
  • H-1b: Work visa allowing a student to be employed full time in the U.S. for a defined period of time (typically 3 years). Students try to obtain this visa status en route to a permanent residency and citizenship.
  • J-1: Exchange or short program visa, allowing students to come to the U.S. for a program of study for a defined term. Students have opportunity to work on campus part time up to 20 hours per week when school is in session (full time during breaks) but must have prior approval from the IS office.

Note: Some students who appear to be international may not be according to immigration rules. A student who is listed as a permanent resident or U.S. citizen is not governed by the International Services’ office and is considered to have the same status as native students. However, they may have typical international student concerns (English proficiency, getting translated transcripts, etc.).


Only the International Services Office (or the Department of Homeland Security) makes the final decision for granting these submitted forms.

Verification of Progress Form for Extension Request: Signing this form verifies that 1) the student needs more time to complete his or her degree requirements and 2) that you have estimated the time the student needs to complete his or her program. Satisfactory Progress means that the student, in your estimation, has made progress toward his or her degree intentionally (hasn’t taken several elective classes out of major or out of sequence or is unnecessarily delaying his or her degree completion).

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Verification Form: Signing this form verifies that the student has 1) been approved for academic credit for an internship; 2) this internship satisfies a requirement (or elective) in the student’s major; and 3) that the student is in good academic standing. CPT is designed to allow students to work off-campus in a major- (or degree-) related job for a defined period of time (usually a semester). Students are required to be enrolled for academic credit for the internship during semester when they are pursuing the internship. IS then approves CPT, and a note is made on the student’s SEVIS[1] record that he or she is eligible for CPT for a defined period. A student needs a new I-20 from the IS office with CPT approval information in order to begin his or her internship on the approved start date until the approved end date.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) Verification Form: Signing this form verifies that this student is eligible to graduate at the end of the current semester. You aren’t guaranteeing that the student will graduate—just that it is possible the student could graduate. OPT is a provision allowed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for a student to seek degree-related employment for 12 months after his or her graduation date. Once the OPT is approved by the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS), the student may legally begin to work. Students typically apply for OPT two to three months prior to graduation.

Reduced Course Load (RCL) Approval Form: Signing this form verifies that the student has a legitimate reason to be enrolled less than full-time (Note: Full time is 12 hours for an undergraduate student, 9 hours for a graduate student). This form is usually used for medical conditions that prevent the student from attending full time, and academic advisors are usually notified by IS first. For some students, the RCL form is necessary when it’s the last semester in their degree, and they only need half-time enrollment to complete the degree. A student who presents the form to be half-time due to English language proficiency is likely to be denied his or her request (given that the students typically have to meet an English proficiency standard to even be accepted).

Applying for a Driver’s License: Some students will ask you to write a letter verifying they are full-time students, so they may apply for a driver’s license. The Office of the Registrar will do that for them; the Registrar’s Office has a template letter to give to the student that has been approved by the Missouri DMV).

[1] SEVIS: Student Exchange and Visitor Information System. Manages information on F, J, and M visa holders. Immigration data is entered into this federally-managed database, and the International Services office manages student data for the University as a representative of USCIS.