LAWS & REGULATIONS

Like all nations, the United States has laws governing foreign nationals residing within its borders. It is the responsibility of each nonimmigrant in the U.S. to know the rules governing maintenance of his or her legal status.

STUDENT STATUS:  F or J?

Students frequently wonder what the difference is between F and J status. Although the regulations governing the stay of students in both classifications are similar, there are some fundamental differences between the two classifications.

An F-1 visa or F-1 student status may be granted to "an alien who is a bona fide student qualified to pursue a full course of study" at an academic or language institution authorized to admit foreign students.  An F-1 student at UNCW is a degree-seeking student who is at UNCW to earn a degree or a student in the ESL program.

A J-1 exchange visitor is "a foreign national who has been selected by a sponsor to participate in an exchange visitor program and who is seeking to enter the United States temporarily on a J-1 visa." Unlike F-1 students, who apply independently to the university, exchange visitors are participants in specific exchange programs administered by private agencies, the U.S. government, or the university.  A J-1 student at UNCW is pursuing a degree in his or her home country and is at UNCW participating in an exchange program for 1-4 semesters. 

J-1 IMMIGRATION REGULATIONS

 The following are guidelines for maintaining your status: 

  • report to the OIP within 15 days of your initial arrival to the US to complete a mandatory “check-in” procedure. Bring your passport and all other immigration-related documents to the Office with you;
  • maintain accurate and valid immigration documents at all times, and apply in a timely fashion for any needed changes or extensions of any of these documents; specifically, this means:
  • keep your passport valid at all times (preferably valid at least 6 months into the future)
  • obtain DS-2019 extensions to continue your studies, as needed, at least one month prior to the current document’s expiration
  • have your DS-2019 updated to reflect any change of program, degree level or funding source before making the change
  • ensure that your I-94 card is marked “J-1 D/S”
  • meet “full course of study” enrollment requirements for each fall and spring semester (at least 12 credits for Undergraduate students, 9 credits for Graduate students—some exceptions may apply, speak with your adviser at OIP);
  • report all US address changes within 10 days of moving to the OIP;
  • seek and receive proper authorization from the OIP for any off campus employment prior to starting to work;
  • obtain a “travel signature” on your DS-2019 prior to leaving the US if you intend to return to the US after your trip abroad;
  • file a federal tax return for each year you have earned income in the U.S. or a Form 8843 for each year you are in the U.S. but have not earned income;
  • when ending UNCW visa sponsorship, inform the OIP of the date and reason for your departure (required SEVIS information).  Meet the 30-day grace period requirement.

F-1 IMMIGRATION REGULATIONS

The following are guidelines for maintaining your status:

  • report to the OIP within 15 days of your initial arrival to the US to complete a mandatory “check-in” procedure. Bring your passport and all other immigration-related documents to the Office with you;
  • maintain accurate and valid immigration documents at all times, and apply in a timely fashion for any needed changes or extensions of any of these documents; specifically, this means:
  • keep your passport valid at all times (preferably valid at least 6 months into the future)
  • obtain I-20 extensions to continue your studies, as needed, at least one month prior to the current document’s expiration
  • have your I-20 updated to reflect any change of program, degree level or funding source before making the change
  • ensure that your I-94 card is marked “F-1 D/S”
  • meet “full course of study” enrollment requirements for each fall and spring semester (at least 12 credits for Undergraduate students, 9 credits for Graduate students—some exceptions may apply, speak with your adviser at OIP);
  • report all US address changes within 10 days of moving to the OIP;
  • seek and receive proper authorization from the OIP or the USCIS, as appropriate, for any on or off campus employment prior to starting to work;
  • obtain a “travel signature” on your I-20 prior to leaving the US if you intend to return to the US after your trip abroad;
  • file a federal tax return for each year you have earned income in the U.S. or a Form 8843 for each year you are in the U.S. but have not earned income;
  • when ending UNCW visa sponsorship, inform the OIP of the date and reason for your departure (required SEVIS information).  Meet the 60-day grace period requirement.