F-1 Immigration Information
This information is to help you follow the rules of your F-1 visa category and maintain your legal F-1 standing in the United States. Although the ISSS team is here to help you and your dependents maintain valid status, the legal responsibility is ultimately yours, so it is important for you to stay up to date on requirements, read your documents, and ask questions.
- Address Information
You must submit new address information through Ursa whenever your address changes. The U.S. government wants to know within 10 days any time you move while you're in the United States -- that includes moving from one room to another in the same dorm, or changing from one apartment to another in the same building complex.
Mailing Address in Ursa is what you use for your local living address in the United States. It should always include your full street address including apartment number or room number, if you are not in a single-family house.
Permanent Address or Foreign Address are used to record your home address information outside the United States. Please remember to update these if your address at "home" changes.
Please make sure you keep your phone numbers up to date in Ursa as well.
- Full Time Enrollment Required
The primary reason you come to the United States as an F-1 student is obviously to study. F-1 Students must be enrolled full time during fall and spring semesters, and full time in the summer if it is their first term. Full time enrollment means
- Intensive English Program - 18 contact hours per week
- Undergraduate/Bachelor's - 12 credits per semester
- Graduate/Master's/Ph.D. - 9 credits per semester, depending on program. There are additional exceptions for students enrolled in thesis or dissertation credits.
One online class of up to three credits can count towards the full time load requirement for academic students. English language learners cannot take any online classes. There are some exceptions to the full time enrollment, but a reduced course load must be approved in advance by ISSS.
You must also continue to make "normal progress" in your academic program.
- Authorization for Training and Employment
It is important that all of your immigration documents are correct and up-to-date at all time s during your stay in the United States. The ISSS team must report information on every student during each academic term, and whenever something happens that the government considers a "reportable event." Regularly check all of your documents to be sure they are valid. Submit copies of any new passports, visas, or I-94s whenever you get them.
Before you travel outside the U.S., make sure that you have a valid travel endorsement (signature) on page 2 of your unexpired I-20 (and your dependents' I-20s). Travel signatures cannot be more than a year old when you re-enter the United States. You must also have a valid visa and passport valid for at least six months after you enter.
When you re-enter, it is important to verify that you have entered in the correct status. Always check your passport for an entry stamp that is marked "F-1" and "D/S" (or "F-2" and "D/S" for your dependents). Also check your I-94 Arrival/Departure record online for the correct entry information. Save a copy and upload one to your UNC Global profile.
Travel can be complicated. See our additional travel information here.
F-2 dependent spouses may study part time, but may not engage in any employment or work of any kind while they are physically in the United States. F-2 spouses who wish to study full time must apply for a change of status or get a new F-1 visa to return in F-1 status.
F-2 dependent children must enroll in school full time between the ages of 6 and 16. F-2 dependent children "age out" (are no longer eligible for dependent status) at age 21.
Please see your ISSS advisor for additional information and assistance on changing status and aging out.
- TransfersStudents transferring to another SEVIS approved school may do so during their 60 day grace period after completing their program, or may request a transfer before completing their studies here, however, you must remain enrolled full time until your transfer takes effect. Transfers require you to provide your admission letter to the new university and to complete our transfer out form.
Anyone who was in the United States in F or J immigration status during any part of a calendar year must file tax forms the following spring. For students with no U.S. income or U.S. based scholarships, usually you have to file one form called an 8843 to demonstrate that you are not subject to U.S. taxes at this time. If you have any earned income in the United States, or you have a scholarship that covers more than tuition and books, you will need to file income tax forms and pay income tax, unless you take advantage of a tax treaty your country has with the United States.
ISSS provides access to Sprintax software to assist students and scholars with their U.S. tax obligations.
- SEVISSEVIS, or the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, is the U.S. government database that we use to issue Forms I-20, authorize employment, recommend immigration benefits, and report on international students through the course of their studies and any practical training.
- InsuranceInternational students of all kinds are required to carry insurance that meets certain standards at UNC.
- Violations of Status
If you fail to follow all the rules of the F-1 category, you "violate your status". Being in violation of your status puts you at risk of administrative arrest, detention (immigration jail), and deportation. It can also make it very difficult to re-enter the United States at some point in the future.
F-1 students with dependents should be aware than when an F-1 violates their status, all F-2 dependents also lose valid F-2 status.
If you are in violation of your status, there are two possible ways to correct the situation:
- Reinstatement -- applying to US Citizenship and Immigration services to "forgive" your violation. It's a slow and expensive process, and is not available if you have been employed in the United States since violating your status.
- Reentry - getting a new F-1 I-20 to come back in a "new" F-1 status. It's like restarting the clock, and can be faster than reinstatement, but you can also be denied entry.
There are many factors to consider regarding reinstatement and reentry. Please talk to your ISSS advisor as soon as possible if you believe you are in violation of your status.
- Marijuana, Drugs, Alcohol
Being arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol will get your visa automatically canceled. These are very serious offenses, and if convicted, you may be barred from returning to the United States for several years.
Marijuana (grass, pot, weed, dope, ganja -- cannabis) in any form is not legal under federal (national) law, which supersedes Colorado law. That means that it is never, ever, legal for you to use cannabis in any form in the United States. Use of marijuana can make you ineligible to enter the United States, and students have been denied entry when evidence of marijuana use was found on their phones or in social media. Do not use cannabis, even medicinally, while you are in the United States, even if your friends tell you it's "legal" in Colorado.
If you have any arrest for any kind of substance abuse, it is very important that you discuss it with your immigration advisor. It can have serious impacts on your ability to enter the United States or take other immigration actions. We don't share the information with your home government or the U.S. government (they already know, anyway), but it is very important for us to know so we can advise you properly.
Study In the States website from U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Tax information for non-citizen students and scholars from the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
United States Code includes laws passed by Congress http://uscode.ecfr.io/ Title 8 refers to Aliens and Nationality
Some laws and regulations regarding nonimmigrant "Aliens" in the United States
- IIRIRA § 641 – authorizing program to collect information relating to nonimmigrant foreign students and other exchange program participants (SEVIS authority)
- INA § 101(a)(15)(F) & (J) – Immigration & Nationality Act definition of F-1 nonimmigrant students & J-1 Exchange Visitors
- 22 C.F.R. § 41 – visa issuance for nonimmigrants
- INA § 101(a)(15)(F) – admission of nonimmigrants
- INA § 214(m) – limitations for nonimmigrants attending public elementary or secondary schools
- 8 C.F.R. § 214.2 – 214.4 – F-1: requirements for admission, maintenance of status, extension of status, & school certification