Like many nations, the United States has very specific and detailed laws governing nationals residing temporarily within its borders. You may be confused by the many forms, numbers and deadlines, but if you understand and meet the following requirements, you will be able to maintain your legal status in the United States.
It is important for all F-1 and J-1 visa holders to
understand the regulations and benefits of their visa status. This will allow students to make informed
decisions that will positively impact their academic standing and lawful stay
in the United States. The below list is to remind you of the basic requirements to maintain your visa status. However, additional policies will apply if you are working in the United States, changing your visa status, transferring between schools or if you have another unique situation.
Ten things to remember:
- Keep your passport valid for 6 months at all times.
- If it is expired, have the ISSS office sign your travel signature on your I-20 (F-1 visa holders) or DS-2019 (J-1 visa holders) before leaving for travel outside the United States. Travel signatures are valid for six months and must be valid on the day you plan to re-enter the US.
- Do not work without written authorization from the USCIS or the ISSS office, as required.
- Report a change of address within 10 days of your move to the ISSS office so we can update your information in SEVIS system. Also, update your address on the web using USF Connect so all USF offices have your current information (instructions).
- Register and complete each semester as a full-time student (12 units for undergraduate students; 10 units for LLM students; 12 units for JD students; 6 units for graduate and doctoral non-Law students).
- Visit the ISSS office before dropping below full-time.
- Maintain good academic standing (2.0 grade point average for undergraduate students and 3.0 grade point average for graduate students).
- Contact the ISSS office (or J-1 sponsor) if you need to transfer to another institution or change your status.
- If authorized to work, submit required tax forms and pay any taxes due.
- Apply to the ISSS office for an extension of your program at least 45 days before your document (I-20 or DS-2019) expires.
Consequences To Violating Your Status:
Once you violate your status you are considered “out of status” and no longer eligible for F-1 or J-1 benefits, such as employment authorization. Your authorized period of stay in the U.S. ends immediately and you will need to take immediate action to regain your status. ISSS will help you with regaining status by explaining your options and assisting you with getting the needed documentation. However, regaining status can be very inconvenient, require international travel, and be expensive. ISSS does not recommend violating your status, but if you do, make an appointment to talk with an ISSS advisor immediately.
If you do not contact ISSS and take immediate action to regain your status, there can be lasting consequences. You may be considered a “visa overstay” or “unlawfully present” and subject to the following penalties:
- Cancellation of visa
- Restriction on future visa applications
- 3-year bar to readmission to the U.S. if unlawfully present for more than 180 days
- 10-year bar to readmission to the U.S. if unlawfully present for 1 year or more