How to Maintain Your Immigration Status

As an F-1/J-1 student, you are admitted to the U.S. for “duration of status”, which is notated as D/S on the form I-94. This means you are permitted to stay in the U.S. as long as you follow the rules of your immigration status. A visa is different from immigration status; the visa stamp is placed in your passport by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and is granted for entry purposes only.

Even if your visa is valid, you can lose your immigration status if you do not comply with immigration laws regulating your stay in the U.S. If you fail to maintain your immigration status, you will need to speak to an Immigration Advisor at International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) to discuss your options for restoring your immigration status.

All F and J enrolled students, and those applying for a change of status to F-1 or J-1, are required to have health insurance and will automatically be enrolled and charged for the UT Student Health Plan. In certain cases, students holding comparable coverage may be eligible to waive enrollment in the UT Student Health Insurance Plan. For additional information, including waiver eligibility, process, and deadlines, please see Insurance Waivers.

  1. Maintain a valid passport at all times
    If you have a new passport, please upload a copy to ISSS so that we can update your records.
  2. Attend the school that is listed on your current I-20 or DS-2019
    F-1 students who change educational institutions must complete the SEVIS transfer process. This is a totally separate process from transferring academic credits and must be completed within 15 days of starting classes at your new school. You must register for classes at the new school and receive an I-20 confirming the completion of your transfer. J-1 students must complete the SEVIS transfer process within 30 days of the transfer release date from your previous institution.
    If you are transferring from another university to UT, please complete our F-1 Transfer In Form or J-1 Transfer In Form.
    If you are leaving UT to attend another college or university, please schedule an appointment to see an International Student advisor and bring the following documents to your appointment:
  3. Complete a full course of study during the fall and spring semesters
    A full course of study is defined as 12 hours per semester for undergraduates and 9 hours per semester for graduates. However, graduate students may be eligible to enroll for 3 hours once all coursework is completed and they’re enrolled in thesis or dissertation. For Law students, a full course of study is 10 hours per semester. Correspondence courses and in absentia registration do not count toward a full course of student for immigration purposes. Only 3 credit hours from a online course may be counted toward full time enrollment. If you have an academic appointment, please check with your department for coursework requirements. Continuing students are not required to take summer courses, though if you plan to graduate in the summer semester, you should enroll in at least one academic course at UT. If summer is your first semester you are required to enroll full-time, which is 12 hours for undergraduates and 3 hours for graduate students. If you need to drop below a full course of study, please speak with an International Student Advisor prior to dropping any courses.
  4. Apply for an extension of your program if you cannot complete your degree by the end date listed on your I-20/DS-2019
  5. Obtain a new I-20 or DS-2019 whenever you make a change in degree levels.
    You must have a new I-20 or DS-2019 within 15 days of beginning courses in your new program. This includes changing from English language studies to a university degree, from bachelor’s to master’s, from master’s to a doctorate, from Optional Practical Training to a new degree, etc.
    If you will advance to a new degree level at UT, you will need to request a Change of Level I-20.
    If you are currently an F-1 student and your degree level has changed (ex: you are in a Doctoral program, but have decided to graduate with your Master's degree instead; or you a Master's student, but will advance to the Doctoral level without earning a Master's degree) you will need to request a Correction of Level I-20.
  6. Work by the rules
    If you want to work off campus, you must receive authorization from an International Student Advisor or USCIS. If you want to work on campus and you a J-1 student whose DS-2019 was issued by a sponsor other than UT, you must get an authorization letter from your program sponsor to work on the UT campus. F-1 and J-1 students may work on campus only up to 20 hours per week during fall and spring semesters unless they have special authorization to work more hours. During the summer and official school breaks, however, you may work more than 20 hours per week. If your supervisor every assigns you to more than 20 hours a week during the fall and spring semesters, you must immediately request an assignment that complies with your work limitations. Learn more about work authorization options for international students.
  7. Before you leave the U.S., request a travel endorsement on your I-20/DS-2019 from ISSS, so that it is not more than one year old when you return to the United States
    You may obtain a travel endorsement (also known as a travel signature) by visiting the International Office with your I-20 or DS-2019 during our scheduled advising hours. No appointment is necessary for a travel signature.
  8. 8. Report your change of local address within ten days of your move. Update your address online in MyUT within MyUT.