Maintaining Your Student Status

Visa vs. Visa 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 your I-94 arrival record.

  • This means you are permitted to stay in the U.S. as long as you follow the rules of your immigration status.
  • Note that 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-1 and J-1 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.


What is a status violation?

A status violation can occur any time you fail to meet the F-1 or J-1 rules. For example, failing to enroll in a full course of study is a status violation.

How can a status violation affect me?

Status violations can lead to the termination of your F-1/J-1 immigration status and/or negatively impact any future applications for U.S. visas or immigration benefits.

How can I maintain my status?

Below are the main requirements for maintaining your F-1/J-1 status.

1. Maintain a valid passport at all times.

Your passport must be valid for at least six months into future at all times. If you have a new passport, please upload a copy to myIO > General Services > Immigration Document Update 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 the SEVIS Transfer Form in myIO. If you are leaving UT to attend another college or university, please complete the Transfer Out Release Form in myIO.

3. Enroll in a full course load.

A full course of study is defined as 12 hours per semester for undergraduates and nine hours per semester for graduates. However, graduate students may be eligible to enroll for three hours once all coursework is completed and they are 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 towards a full course of student for immigration purposes. Only three credit hours from an online course may be counted towards 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; however, 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 three 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.

To extend your I-20 within the same degree program, request an F-1 Extension of Stay. To extend your DS-2019 within the same degree program, request a J-1 Extension of Stay. Your extension must be processed before your I-20 or DS-2019 expires and you need to account for ISSS processing times, so we strongly recommend submitting your extension request at least one month prior to your I-20/DS-2019 program end date.

5. Obtain a new I-20 or DS-2019 if you change your degree level.

You must obtain a new I-20 or DS-2019 reflecting the correct education level for 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 have already begun (or completed) one program of study at UT and have been admitted to another, you will receive a "New UT Admission" notification in myIO. Complete the required steps to request your new I-20. If you do not see a "New UT Admission," please email

6. Work by the rules.

F-1 and J-1 students are limited in the types of employment they can pursue. F and J visas are student visas and are issued for the purpose of completing a course of study. All employment must be incidental to study and must be authorized prior to the employment start date.

Learn more about work authorization options for international students. If the type of employment you want to engage in is not listed on our website, then engaging in it would likely be a violation of your status. Note that "employment" can have a very broad meaning and can refer to any scenario where you are providing a service and receiving compensation for it. To avoid violating your status for "unauthorized employment," do not engage in any type of compensated activity without checking with our office first.

7. Have the proper documents for international travel.

All F-1 and J-1 students must have a valid travel signature on their I-20/DS-2019 to re-enter the U.S. from abroad. You can easily request this through myIO. If you plan to travel abroad, be sure to review our Know Before You Travel prior to departing the U.S.

8. Keep your address up-to-date.

All F-1 and J-1 students are required to keep their address updated with the university. Update your address online in MyUT. This must be done within 10 days of your move.