Studying and Working Abroad as an International Student

ISS defines study abroad as a current University of Wisconsin–Madison student who is continuing their enrollment and studying outside of the U.S. or on an International Academic Program (IAP). This includes but is not limited to participating in an IAP, internship abroad, dissertation work abroad, and more.

If you plan to leave the US and not enroll in courses please see our Leave of Absence Page.

The study abroad office for UW–Madison is the International Academic Programs (IAP) Office. Certain schools and colleges also have their own individual offices who collaborate with IAP. If you have questions about study abroad programs such as types of programs, how to apply, and experiences abroad please contact an IAP advisor. The IAP office has also made a handbook about academics and a page explaining the types of IAP programs. There are also resource pages to provide information for students’ multiple identities including international students.

If you are doing a program through UW–Madison, please see the tabs below for more information. If you do not see your situation below or have more questions please send an information request to your ISS advisor or come to drop-in advising.

If you are considering a University of Wisconsin Systems or third-party study abroad program (not through UW–Madison), please make sure to discuss with your academic advisor and ISS advisor about your situation. You will not be able to maintain your non-immigrant status if you do a program that is NOT part of UW–Madison’s study abroad program. ISS is required to terminate your SEVIS record if you are not maintaining your status.

Any UW–Madison student planning to study or work abroad should view the International Safety and Security website for university polices, recommendations, and resources.

To maintain your status while abroad, please make sure you are following the steps below based on your visa type.

    • Be enrolled full-time at your study abroad institution and making academic progress
      • Study Abroad programs through IAP will give you UW-Madison residence credit. Work with your academic advisor and IAP advisor to ensure the courses you take will be making progress towards your degree. Questions about course equivalency, grade processing and transcripts should be directed to an IAP Enrollment Specialist. Find your Study Abroad IAP Advisor here
    • Complete the F-1 Out of Country or Exchange Visitor Out of Country form in Terra Dotta at one month before going abroad. You must submit the form before each semester you are abroad.
    • Report your international address in your MyUW Student Center (Local 1) during the time you will be abroad
    • Have an updated I-20 or DS-2019 with travel signature
    • Have a valid F-1 visa or J-1 visa in your passport for re-entry to the U.S.
    • Have a passport valid for 6 or more months by the time of your re-entry to the U.S.

**J-1 Students have unique requirements, we would highly recommend that you meet with an ISS advisor as soon as you know you will be abroad studying or conducting your thesis/research.

If you are going to be abroad for the semester you plan to complete all of your degree requirements, its very important to meet with an ISS advisor to discuss your plan. Below we have some common end of program requirements to check.

    • If your I-20/DS-2019 Program End Date does not match your planned graduation date, please submit a Shorten Program request in Terra Dotta. If this is the correct end date, no action needs to be taken.
    • If you are in an abroad program where your end date will be different from the UW-Madison session end dates, please meet with an ISS Advisor as soon as possible.
    • If you have less than full-time credits remaining to complete your degree, you must check with your International Academic Program about your enrollment requirements. If it is okay with your International Academic Program, then to maintain your full-time enrollment as an international student you must submit a Final Semester Academic: Reduce Course Load form in Terra Dotta and be approved by ISS for a Reduce Course Load.  

After you graduate, you have several options if you maintained your status. You may:

    • Return home after studying abroad, not returning to the U.S.
    • Begin a New Program at UW-Madison (Change of Education Level)
    • Transfer-Out to another SEVP-Certified School for continuation of studies
    • Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT). Note, you must apply while physically present in the US.
    • Post-Completion Academic Training (AT). Note, you must apply while physically present in the US.

Please see our Program Completion website for more details on these options. Maintaining your immigration status and how long you have maintained your immigration status impacts what options you are eligible for. If you have questions about what options you have please send an information request to your ISS advisor or come to drop-in advising.

As you end your studies you may also need to consider applying for graduation, ending your housing and US bank accounts and more. See our Program Completion page for more information about tasks to consider when graduating.

The Wisconsin in Washington program integrates academics with an internship to equip UW-Madison students of all majors with the knowledge and professional skills to excel in a globally connected workforce.

To be maintaining status in this program, you must have work authorization from our office BEFORE participating in the program.

After you have received authorization for this program, you must connect with the Wisconsin in Washington coordinator to confirm enrollment and prepare yourself for the program. You will be required to keep your US Address (Local 1) updated in your MyUW Student Center during your time in this internship to be your address in the DC area.

If you are planning on conducting research or your dissertation abroad, you are required to do the following:

    • Work with your Graduate Coordinator or Faculty Advisor to make sure you are enrolled properly for your time abroad
    • Complete the F-1 Out of Country form or J-1 Exchange Visitor Out of Country form in Terra Dotta one month before you depart the U.S. and each semester you will be abroad 
    • Report your international address in MyUW Student Center (Local 1) during the time you will be abroad
    • Have an updated I-20 or DS-2019 with travel signature
    • Have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa in your passport for re-entry to the U.S.
    • Have a passport valid for 6 or more months by the time of your U.S. re-entry date
    • Work with the International Safety and Security office on campus to make sure you are meeting the safety and security requirements for your time abroad

To maintain your status abroad you must be making academic progress towards your degree during required terms. A required term is Fall and Spring semester. Your first semester in-person and graduating semester at UW-Madison are also required terms. If you will be graduating in summer and want to do an internship abroad, you should contact your ISS advisor about your immigration status.

If you are interested in doing a UW-Madison internship abroad you can consult with International Internships in IAP. See their advising services and internship opportunities here. International Internships has a database of internships and internships specifically for UW-Madison students. As part of an International Internship you may be able to enroll in the WIP (World Internship Program) Course. However, the WIP course is only available for credits if the internship you do is not in your home country.

International Internship Abroad During Fall or Spring Semester

If you plan to do an International Internship program in the Fall or Spring Semester outside the U.S. you must submit the F-1 Out of Country form or J-1 Exchange Visitor Out of Country form in Terra Dotta. If you plan to enroll in the WIP, you may be able to maintain your status. Please contact your ISS advisor for more information.

Virtual Internships

To work in the U.S. you must have work authorization before participating in the paid or unpaid internship. If you are physically in the U.S. on an active F-1/J-1 status while doing a virtual internship for a company based in a different country you must have work authorization. Work authorization can only be issued for U.S. based employers.

If you will be doing a virtual internship for a company based outside the U.S. while you are outside the U.S., then you do not need work authorization.

Working in Your Home Country

ISS does not recommend working outside the U.S. for a company that is based in the U.S. while you are actively on your non-immigrant student status unless you have work authorization. Working for a company that has presence in the U.S. is not the same as working for a U.S. based company.

If you plan to work during your winter, spring, or summer break in your home country for a company that is not a U.S. based company then you do not require work authorization. You also do not need to complete an F-1 Out of Country form or Exchange Visitor Out of Country form.

If you plan to stop your studies and leave the U.S. to work for a company that is not a U.S. based company, then you must submit a F-1 Out of Country form or Exchange Visitor Out of Country form. Please see our Leave of Absence Page to make sure you are reporting to ISS correctly and contact your assigned ISS advisor if you have any questions.

Insurance

It is required to be enrolled in insurance to maintain your immigration status even if you are in your home country. Students participating in a UW-Madison IAP international program will automatically be enrolled in Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI), the university’s international health, medical and repatriation insurance policy. Students doing research abroad must be enrolled in CISI Insurance. Enrollment in CISI will automatically waive domestic SHIP coverage. If you have questions about Self-Enrollment in CISI see the Knowledge Base and contact Risk Management with any questions.

If you don’t see your situation above or have more questions based on your F-1/J-1 student status, contact ISS to discuss your situation. Send an information request or make an appointment with your assigned ISS advisor through Terra Dotta or come to drop-in advising.