Maintaining Legal Status
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Basic U.S. Immigration Regulations for F-1/J-1 Students
Valid Passport and I-20/DS-2019. Keep your passport valid and your I-20/DS-2019 up-to-date at all times. Note: Your visa is allowed to expire while you are in the U.S., but you will need to renew it if you travel outside the U.S. and need to re-enter.
Full-Time Enrollment. If you are a student, maintain your full-time enrollment during the academic year (Fall and Spring). Enrollment in the summer session is not required. Full-time means a minimum of 12 credits for undergraduates and 9 credits for graduate students, each semester. Graduate students who are doing a graduate assistantship or working on thesis credits are only required to be enrolled in 6 credits per semester to be considered a full-time student.
Authorization Required for Reduced Course Load: Although limited, there are a few scenarios in which a visa authorization to drop below full-time may be granted by ISSS. Authorization for a reduced course load (RCL) must be granted by ISSS prior to the student dropping below full-time. Students may request an RCL from ISSS for (and only for) the following documented reasons:
- Difficulty with English language or reading requirements (may be used only once).
- Unfamiliar with American teaching methods.
- Improper course level placement.
- Less than a full course load is needed to complete the degree program.
- Documented medical reason for requesting a less than full-time schedule.
Change of Address. File a change of address to both the Registrar’s Office and International Student and Scholar Services office within 10 days of moving. Failure to do so may result in termination of your student status. Always make sure that the International Student office has your current address and cell phone number.
Change of Major. If you change your major, make an appointment with the ISSS office. Your major will need to be updated in SEVIS and you will need a new I-20 reflecting the new major.
Changes/Issues to Report to ISSS. Contact International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) for the following reasons:
- If any of your documents (passport, visa, I-20/DS-2019, I-94 card) are stolen, lost, or damaged.
- If your name or source of funding changes.
- If you will be leaving the University of Wisconsin-Platteville permanently or temporarily (withdrawing, transferring to another school, or stopping out for a semester or more).
Online Course. No more than one fully online course (3 credits) per semester may be counted toward the full-course of study requirement by F-1 or J-1 students.
Travel. If you are traveling outside the United States, you need a valid travel signature from the Designated School Official (DSO) in the ISSS office on your I-20 or DS-2019. Do not TRAVEL outside the United States even briefly without the proper documents and signatures on those documents. Travel signatures for an I-20 (page 3) are valid up to 12 months, and travel signatures for a DS-2019 (page 1) are valid for 6 months.
Employment Authorization. Do not accept employment unless the employment is officially authorized or is routinely permitted for people in your immigration status (such as on-campus employment for F-1 students). F-1 students may not work off-campus without prior approval for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT) from ISSS, and J-1 students may not work off-campus without Academic Training (AT) authorization. This includes internships, co-ops, and other unpaid curricular training programs. Students must have a written job offer to apply for a social security number.
Program Extension. You must file a program extension before the end date on your I-20 or DS-2019 if you need more time than allowed on the I-20 or DS-2019 to complete the program of study. F-1 students: You are eligible for an extension if you have been maintaining your nonimmigrant status, if you have been making normal progress toward completion of your degree, and if academic dismissal or probation has not delayed your completion.
Filing Taxes. International students are required to file a federal tax form for each year they are in the USA, whether or not they have any income. As mandated by United States laws, international students must file the following tax forms:
- If you worked in the United States during the previous calendar year: Please file Form 1040-NR or Form 1040-NR-EZ, and Form 8843.
- If you didn't work: Please file Form 8843.
Completing Your Program. If you are about to graduate or otherwise complete the activity for which you came to the U.S. and you want to remain in the U.S. for further study or some other activity, apply BEFORE you complete your current activity for whatever authorization you need to remain here. If you plan on leaving the U.S. permanently, fill out a departure form at ISSS.
Grace Period. Abide by grace period rules (Duration of Status):
- F-1 - you have a 60 day grace period from the program end date on your I20. During this time you can make arrangements to return home - move to another immigration status - apply for 'post-completion Optional Practical Training' or transfer to a new degree/program/University.
- J-1 - you have a 30 day grace period to prepare for departure after the end date on your DS-2019.
Rights and Responsibilities. Give truthful answers to any questions a law enforcement officer or government official might ask you about your student visa status. For more information about your rights and responsibilities when stopped by Police, Immigration Agents or the FBI, please click here.
Print 2 copies of your Form I-94 from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94 each time you re-enter the U.S. from overseas and bring one copy to the ISSS Office in Royce Hall.
Never throw away or lose your I-20 or DS-2019, even after you have completed your program. Make copies of all of your immigration documents and store them in a separate place away from your originals, in case something happens to your original immigration documents. If you ever decide to apply for future immigration benefits in the U.S. (such as OPT, H-1B visa, etc.), you will need to submit copies of ALL of your past I-20s and/or DS-2019s.
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Like all other countries of the world, the United States has laws and regulations governing foreigners who are temporarily within its boundaries. These regulations are often complex, and they change periodically. Violating any of these regulations will result in your falling out of status and may subject you to serious consequences such as the loss of future immigration benefits or even deportation.
As an F or J visa holder, it is your responsibility to know and abide by these U.S. immigration regulations.
According to U.S. immigration regulations, students on F or J visas must update their address with the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) office within 10 days of moving. Please fill out the form below to notify the PDSO/RO at ISSS that your address has changed, and your SEVIS record will be updated with your new address.