It is the responsibility of all nonimmigrants in the U.S. to know and follow the rules governing maintenance of their lawful visa status.


Although the regulations governing F-1 and J-1 visa classifications are similar, there are some fundamental differences between the two.

An F-1 student "is a bona fide student qualified to pursue a full course of study" at an academic or language institution authorized to admit international students. Most F-1 students at UNCW are degree-seeking students or students in the English as a Second Language (ESL) program. F-1 students apply independently to UNCW.

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. 


 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.

Students on UNCW's F-1 visa sponsorship must abide by all U.S. laws and F-1 immigration regulations in order to maintain lawful F-1 status.

NOTE: Immigration regulations are subject to change. Always consult with your F-1 advisor before taking any action that may affect your lawful F-1 status.

  • Check-in with the Office of International Students & Scholars (OISS) within 15 days of your initial arrival in the U.S. F-1 students are required to complete the check-in in order for OISS to register your F-1 SEVIS immigration record. New students will receive more information about this requirement via email.
  • Maintain valid immigration documents at all times. Apply for updates or renewals of these documents in a timely manner.
    • you must keep your passport valid at least 6 months into the future at all times while you are in the U.S.
    • request an I-20 program extension to continue your studies at least one month before the current document's program end date
    • request OISS update your I-20 with changes to your degree program (major), degree level, or funding source before making the change
    • after every entry to the U.S. in F-1 status, make sure your I-94 record is marked "F-1 D/S"
  • Meet the full-time enrollment requirements each semester.
    • Undergraduate students: full-time is 12 credit hours, at least 9 hours must be in face-to-face classes.
    • Graduate students: typically 9 credit hours, at least 6 credit hours in face-to-face classes.
    • Some exceptions apply. You must receive approval from OISS and your academic advisor before dropping below full-time enrollment.
  • Maintain good academic standing with UNCW and make normal academic progress towards your degree program. The definition of "good academic standing" is determined by university policy, not by OISS. See the UNCW Registrar's Office FAQs for more information.
  • Request and receive authorization from OISS or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), as appropriate, before beginning any employment. See the F-1 employment overview for details on the types of employment allowed for F-1 students.
  • Do not work more than the hours permitted by the specific type of authorized employment.
    • F-1 students can work up to 20 total hours per week during the academic year. Students may work on campus more than 20 hours per week during the summer.
    • The number of weekly hours permitted for off-campus employment (CPT, OPT) varies by employment authorization. Contact your OISS advisor to confirm the number of hours you are permitted to work.
  • File federal and state tax return forms each year you earn income in the U.S., or a Form 8843 for each year you are in the U.S. but have not earned income.
  • Report any changes to your U.S. address to OISS within 10 days of moving.
  • Obtain a travel signature on the second page of your Form I-20 before leaving the U.S. if you plan to return to the U.S. in F-1 status. Travel signatures are valid for one year.
  • When leaving UNCW and ending your UNCW F-1 visa sponsorship permanently, inform OISS of the date and reason for your departure.
  • Within 60 days of completing your degree program, you must:
    • File an application for Optional Practical Training (OPT) with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), transfer your F-1 SEVIS record to another school, or depart the U.S.
    • Students are not permitted to work or study during the 60-day grace period.
    • Travel within the U.S. is permitted during the grace period. However, if you leave the U.S. during the 60-day grace period your F-1 status will end and you will not be permitted re-entry in F-1 status.