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UT Austin International Office International Student and Scholar Services

Immigration Information

If you currently reside outside of the United States...

Most students come to the United States to enroll in a full-time degree program in F-1 or J-1 student status. These statuses refer to the type of visa you acquire to enter the United States. What's the difference?

F-1 Student Status

  • A Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for an F-1 student visa) is issued to students by UT Austin for entry into the United States.
  • Funding may come from personal funds, UT department support, or other sponsoring agencies.
  • Dependents (spouse or children) of an F-1 visa holder can accompany the student on F-2 dependent visas.
  • F-2s are not permitted to be employed in the U.S. or study full-time.

J-1 Student Status

  • The J-1 visa is administered by the Department of State and is used for a variety of educational purposes including for full-time study.
  • Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for a J-1 visa) is issued to obtain the J-1 visa.
  • In order to qualify for a J-1 visa, the student must receive at least 50% of his or her funding from non-personal sources. Some sponsoring agencies require a Form DS-2019. Sources include funds from a UT Austin academic department in the form of Graduate Assistantships, Teaching Assistantships, Fellowships, etc. Other sources include funding from a government agency or other sponsoring agency.
  • Dependents of a J-1 visa holder are classified as J-2. Dependents in J-2 status may apply for permission to work in the U.S. as well as enroll in full-time degree programs.
  • Students in J-1 status may be subject to a 2-year home residency requirement.

Entering the United States

In order to enter the United States so you can begin your studies at UT Austin, please take the following steps:

  1. Get admitted to UT Austin.
  2. Provide your Certification of Financial Responsibility (CFR) to International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS).
  3. ISSS begins issuing I-20s and DS-2019s after March 1 for summer and fall admits and after October 1 for spring admits. NOTE: You must be formally admitted to UT Austin and have uploaded your CFR before ISSS is notified of your I-20 or DS-2019 document request.
  4. When ISSS issues your immigration document, you will receive an automated email with the information you need in order to pay the SEVIS fee and schedule your visa appointment. ISSS does not send PDF copies of documents.
  5. Depending on what mail method you select on the CFR, ISSS will mail your I-20 or DS-2019 by either regular air mail or express mail.
    1. Regular Mail is free to the student and takes two to four weeks depending on mail service in the region of delivery. Regular mail cannot be tracked.
    2. Express mail is paid by the student at a discounted rate. Once your I-20 or DS-2019 is issued, you will receive instructions on how to pay for express shipping. DO NOT pay for express shipping before you receive notification that your document is ready. Delivery time depends on the service chosen by the student as well as region of delivery.
  6. You must present the original I-20 or DS-2019 (no copies or PDFs) at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy when applying for your F-1 or J-1 student visa. You will also need an unexpired passport, evidence of financial support, and the SEVIS fee receipt. You can find more information about the visa process on our visa handout.

IMPORTANT: If you do not receive the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019, do not enter the U.S. on a B-1/B-2 tourist visa or the visa waiver program! Doing so may prevent you from beginning your academic program on time, or make it necessary for you to leave the U.S. to change to a student status.

If you are already in the United States in F-1 or J-1 status

Students who are already in the United States with an F-1 or J-1 visa must obtain an immigration transfer in order to attend UT Austin. In order to process a transfer, please complete the following steps:

  1. Get admitted to UT Austin.
  2. Complete the top portion of the Transfer Release Form and submit it to your current school. Your current school will set a "release date" for your SEVIS record to be transferred to UT Austin.
  3. Provide your Certification of Financial Responsibility (CFR) to International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS).
  4. After the release date set by your current school, ISSS can issue your I-20 or DS-2019 as long as you have submitted both the Transfer Release Form and CFR.

Failure to complete the transfer process within 15 days of the program start date at UT Austin results in a violation of your immigration status. Furthermore, you may not work on campus until your immigration transfer is processed. If you are out of status, discuss your options with your current international student advisor or with an immigration advisor at UT Austin.

If you plan to leave the U.S. before enrolling, please use the UT Austin transfer Form I-20 to re-enter the U.S. and to apply for a new visa at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy (if your current F-1 visa has expired or if you changed your status to F-1 while in the U.S.).

Students who don't need F-1 or J-1 status

If you are in a status other than F-2, the University does not require you to change your status to F-1 or J-1 student status to be enrolled; however, you may not be eligible to work on campus without changing to F-1 or J-1 status. You are required to present your immigration documents to an immigration advisor during Immigration Briefing and Check-In. For individuals interested in changing their status within the U.S., the change of status must be submitted to USCIS prior to the expiration of your current status (and prior to the termination of employment for H-1 visa holders). Please contact an immigration advisor at the International Office as soon as possible for advice on your visa status.

Useful Links to find information on how to apply for a student visa

Electronic Visa Application - Form DS-160

How long will the visa issuance process take?

Visa Reciprocity Fees by Country

Student Visa Information from Bureau of Consular Affairs

Predeparture information