Immigration Benefits and Responsibilities for Students in F-1 or J-1 Status

Purpose

This is a summary of your F-1 and J-1 student benefits and responsibilities. The International Center (IC) can provide information, advice, and assistance regarding U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Service (USCIS) and Department of State (State) regulations in order to help you achieve your educational goals. You should work closely with the staff in the IC to make certain that you maintain lawful status while you are a student at UNF.

1. Required Immigration Documents

 

The following documents must be valid at all times while you are in the U.S. Keep them in a safe place and keep photocopies in a different secure location. Notify the IC immediately in order to obtain a new document if any of these are damaged, lost or stolen or if any of the information contained in them changes.

  • Passport. This document must be valid for at least an additional six months at the time you apply for any of the benefits of the F-1 or J-1 status or when you re-enter the U.S.
  • Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student (F-1) Status (SEVIS I-20 Form) or Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status (State Form DS-2019). This form authorizes you to pursue a particular course of study for a specific period of time at only one institution in the U.S. It is essential that you notify the IC if changes need to be made to any of the information it contains.
  • Arrival/Departure Record (USCIS Form I-94). You are issued a new I-94 (paper or electronic) each time you leave and re-enter the United States. It states your current status and how long you may remain in the U.S. To retrieve your electronic I-94 record, please visit https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/request.html

Note: The student visa (F-1 or J-1) inside your passport is your permit to enter the U.S. You will not be out of status if it expires while you are in the U.S. However, if you leave the U.S. you will need a valid visa to re-enter.

2. Transferring From or To Another U.S. College or University  

  • To complete the transfer from another educational institution in the U.S., you must report your presence to the IC within 15 days after the program start date indicated on the SEVIS I-20 Form or DS-2019 Form.
  • If you wish to cease your studies at UNF and transfer to another institution, you must consult with the IC and follow USCIS transfer procedures before you attend a different school.

3. Program Requirements & Extension  

  • Academic Course Load. International students are required to engage in a full course of study with very few exceptions. You must obtain authorization from the IC prior to registering for less than 12 hours (Undergraduate students) or 9 hours (Graduate students) in Fall and Spring terms. Attendance during the Summer is optional unless you are a new international student who begins attending UNF during any Summer term, in which case you must be full-time (12 or 9 hours) for the Summer.
  • Online/Distance Learning courses. International students are only allowed to take one three-credit hour online/distance learning class that counts towards the full course load requirement.
  • Extension of Program. The USCIS requires that you make normal progress toward completing your course of study. For example, normal progress on a typical Bachelors degree is 15 hours per semester for 4 years. You must obtain a new SEVIS I-20 Form or DS-2019 Form in the 30-day period prior to your program end date if you need more time to finish your academic program. You may be required to submit a new Affidavit of Support & Financial Certification.

4. Concurrent Enrollment  

After consultation with your academic advisor and with prior authorization from the IC, you may enroll in courses at another school while continuing to study at UNF.

5. Change of Academic Major  

You must consult with your Academic Advisor and obtain a new SEVIS I-20 Form or DS-2019 Form whenever you change majors or add a major. You may be required to submit updated financial documentation.

6. Change of Academic Level 

You must submit new financial documentation when you change academic levels (for example, Bachelor's to Master's degree) in order to obtain a new Form I-20/DS-2019.

7. Change of Address

You must notify the IC and the USCIS within 10 days whenever your address in the U.S. changes.

8. Employment 

  • On-Campus Employment. You may work up to 20 hours per week on campus while classes are in session.
  • Practical Training.         
    • F-1 students - After 9 months as a lawful F-1 student, you may engage in off-campus employment that is an integral part of your program of study. You may engage in Curricular Practical Training (CPT) part-time during your studies and full-time between school terms, during holidays and during the summer. You may also engage in up to 1 year of Optional Practical Training (OPT) following (full-time) or during (part-time) your program of studies. Do not begin any off-campus employment without prior authorization under any circumstances.
    • J-1 students - May engage in up to 18 months or the period of the full course of study at UNF, whichever is less, following their program of studies. Do not begin any off-campus employment without prior authorization under any circumstances.
  • Severe Economic Hardship. You may apply for Severe Economic Hardship employment after one year of study in the U.S. if you have experienced an unforeseen change in your financial circumstances that results in "severe economic hardship."
  • Social Security Number. A valid Social Security number is required for all employment in the United States.

9. Travel  

  • Within the U.S. You may travel within the U.S. without any authorization or restriction.
  • Outside the U.S. You must have a valid signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 in order to re-enter the U.S. Each time you return from a trip outside the U.S., you must bring your passport and immigration documents to the IC so that we may photocopy your current documents. You should always consult with the IC at least two weeks before making any trips outside the U.S. If you intend to return to the U.S. for the purpose of attending a different school, you must enter the U.S. with an I-20 or DS-2019 from your new school. Be sure that your F-1 or J-1 visa is valid for re-entry.
  • Completion of program of study: You may remain in the United States up to 60 days (F-1) or 30 days (J-1) following completion of your program.

10. Dependents and Other Family Members  

You may be eligible to have your spouse and children visit you or join you for during your studies. Other members of your family may be able to visit you, too. Please contact the IC to talk about your options.

11. Failure to Comply with Responsibilities  

Falling out of lawful status carries severe penalties including loss of all benefits and forced departure from the United States. Applying for reinstatement requires paying a fee and can take many months, during which time you are ineligible for any international student benefits. It is sometimes preferable to leave the U.S. and apply for a new visa rather than apply for reinstatement. However, doing so does not "reinstate" you to the lawful student status that you previously had. Rather, you enter in "new" student status and have to begin again the 9 months requirement before applying for certain student benefits