Maintaining Student Visa Status

Maintenance of visa status is a student’s responsibility.

As an institution authorized to accept international students for F-1 and J-1 status, the OISS is required to carry out certain procedures for students to maintain their nonimmigrant statuses. When possible, the OISS notifies students of potential violations of status. However, maintenance of status is the student’s responsibility. The Unlawful Presence memo goes into effect as soon as a student violates their status.  The consequences are very harsh and impossible to overcome.

It is the student’s responsibility to become informed about the regulations governing their status and to abide by those regulations. To become informed about possible violations of status (e.g. dropping below a full time course load or undertaking any employment) students should always speak with an international student advisor before proceeding and potentially have a violation of status on their record and accrual of unlawful presence

F-1 Students

To maintain status, an F-1 student must carry a full-time course load, attend the school he or she was authorized to attend, complete the appropriate transfer procedures if transferring institutions, apply for an extension if the program is not completed by the expected date, work no more than 20 hours (both on and off campus) per week when school is in session, apply for work permission to work off campus, obtain a new I-20 to change degree levels within the university, report any change of address within 10 days of change of address, and keep his or her passport valid.

Get more information on unlawful presence and maintaining F-1 student status.

J-1 Students

A J-1 is an exchange visitor who is coming to the U.S. for purposes of international educational exchange. The exchange visitor status is used for a variety of individuals, including students, camp counselors, professors and researchers. The information included here only discusses those provisions that relate to the J-1 exchange visitor who is in the “student” category. In general, Washington University uses the J-1 “student” category for exchange students and students who are sponsored by the U.S. or foreign governments.

Get more information on unlawful presence and maintaining J-1 student status.

Differentiating “Visa” and “Status”


An entry visa is a sticker stamped on a page in a person’s passport by a consular officer. Once the entry visa has been obtained by the nonimmigrant, it is needed only at the time s/he presents him-/herself at the port of entry to the U.S. It allows the nonimmigrant to enter the country. Thus, the entry visa’s expiration date concerns only the limit of validity to enter the United States and does not affect the status of the nonimmigrant once in the country. If the nonimmigrant leaves the country and then wishes to return, s/he must have an entry visa with an unexpired date of validity; if the entry visa has expired, the nonimmigrant must apply for a new entry visa at a U.S. consular office before being allowed to gain re-entry to the U.S.


Nonimmigrant status indicates a legal condition granted to an alien by an immigration officer at the port of entry into the U.S. This status is maintained by following DHS regulations that detail the responsibilities of nonimmigrants in each status category (e.g., J-1). The DS-2019 is the document that provides information about a nonimmigrant in J status and shows eligibility to apply for a U.S. entry visa.

Beware of Scams!

A scam is a dishonest way to make money by deceiving people. According to the Treasury Department’s website, the Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration (TIGTA) issued a warning to taxpayers to beware of phone calls from individuals claiming to represent the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and saying there were problems with the person’s visa status in an effort to defraud them. Get more information on how to avoid this and other scams.