Immigration information

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 in order to attend The University of Texas at Austin. 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 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 an academic department at The University of Texas at Austin in the form of a Graduate Assistantship, Teaching Assistantship, Fellowship, etc. Other sources include funding from a government agency or other sponsoring agency. All reciprocal exchange students attend in J-1 status, regardless of source of funding.
  • A spouse and/or child of a J-1 visa holder are classified as J-2 dependents. 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 and their dependents 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 The University of Texas at Austin, please take the following steps:

  1. Get admitted to a program at The University of Texas at Austin.
  2. Provide your Certificate of Financial Responsibility (CFR) to International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS). Exchange Students require a specific CFR for those studying through a reciprocal exchange program.
  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 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 at the nearest embassy or consulate. 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 page.

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.

Students who are already in the United States with in F-1 or J-1 status must obtain an immigration transfer (SEVIS transfer) in order to attend The University of Texas at Austin. In order to process a transfer, please complete the following steps:

  1. Get admitted to a program at The University of Texas at Austin.
  2. Inform your current school of your intent to transfer your immigration record to The University of Texas at Austin.
  3. If you are in the United States in F-1 status, complete the top portion of the F-1 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 The University of Texas at Austin.
  4. If you are in the United States in J-1, status, complete the top portion of the J-1 Transfer Release Form and submit to your current school. Your current school will set a "release date" for your SEVIS record to be transferred to The University of Texas at Austin.
  5. Provide your Certification of Financial Responsibility (CFR) to International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS).
  6. 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 The University of Texas at 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 The University of Texas at Austin. Additionally, if you plan to work at The University of Texas at Austin, you will first need to transfer your immigration record before being eligible to begin on campus employment.

If you plan to leave the U.S. before enrolling, please use the transfer Form I-20 or DS-2019 that The University of Texas at Austin issues along with your valid F-1 or J-1 visa when you return to the U.S. If your current visa has expired, you will need the new I-20 or DS-2019 issued by The University of Texas at Austin to apply for a new visa.

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 full time; 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 International Briefing and Check-In. For individuals interested in changing their status within the U.S., the change of status must be submitted to USCIS before the expiration of your current status (and prior to the termination of employment for H-1 visa holders). Please contact an international student advisor at the International Office as soon as possible for advice on your visa status.