What is a visa?

A visa is a permit to enter a country. It is stamped into your passport by the visa office of the country you intend to visit. The I-20 or DS-2019 is not your visa but your visa certificate that defines your program.

The visa is obtained at a U.S. Embassy or consulate overseas, and states the period during which the student may use the visa to enter, as well as how many times the student may enter on the same visa. Your visa does not need to be valid after you have entered the U.S., since it is nothing more than a permit to enter -- it is NOT a permit to REMAIN in the U.S.

What is an I-94?

The I-94 is a record of admission to, and departure from, the U.S., and it indicates exactly how long a person can remain in the U.S. All nonimmigrants are given a Form I-94 upon entry to the U.S.; it is a small white card that is usually placed inside your passport. The I-94 states the visa classification under which the person entered and how long the person may remain in the U.S. For F-1 and J-1 students, the I-94 says you may remain until "D/S."

What does "D/S," which appears on my I-94 and I-20 or DS-2019 mean?

"D/S" stands for "Duration of Status," and means that you may remain in the U.S. for as long as you are in status.

How do I know if I'm in status?

If you are in possession of a valid passport, a valid I-94, and a valid I-20 or DS-2019, and as long as you are not violating any of the terms of your visa classification, you are in status. At a minimum, this means being enrolled full-time if you are a student, or working only in your sponsoring department if you are a scholar, as well as not undertaking any unauthorized employment.

What is the difference between F-1 and J-1 status?

F-1 status is the primary student visa classification, regulated by the United States Citizenship & Immigration Service. All "traditional" degree-seeking students are given an F-1 certificate of eligibility, I-20, to obtain an F-1 visa and enter the U.S. in F-1 status. J-1 status is regulated by the United States Department of State, and is designed to promote education exchange between the U.S. and other countries. One may enter the U.S. in J-1 status to pursue studies, conduct scholarly research, serve as a professor, and more. Students who are pursuing a degree in the home country and study at UNCW for one or more semesters while still maintaining ties to their home institution are issued a J-1 certificate of eligibility, DS-2019, to obtain a J-1 visa and enter the U.S. in J-1 status.

I am a student. My I-20 or DS-2019 will expire soon, and I have not yet finished my program at UNCW. How can I extend my stay in the U.S.?

Submit a request for program extension here. You will be required to obtain a signature from your academic adviser and submit financial documentation showing you have sufficient funds.

Can I work on-campus?

F-1 and J-1 students are permitted to work on-campus for a maximum of 20 hours/week, while school is in session. During the winter and summer break, students can work an unlimited number of hours on-campus.

Review more about employment regulations here.

Can I work off-campus?

F-1 and J-1 students can only work off-campus after they have been in F-1 or J-1 status for one academic year. After this time, students must apply for, and be authorized for, either Practical Training or Academic Training. Please meet with the Director of International Services to obtain specific instructions on applying for authorization.

Review more about employment regulations here.

What is "Practical Training?"

Practical Training is a 12-month period in which F-1 students are permitted to pursue employment directly related to their field of study. The 12 months may be divided up, or used all at once; they may be used part-time while school is in session, part or full-time during vacation periods, and full-time beginning no more than 60 days after degree completion. In addition, "curricular practical training" is available to students whose academic programs require or give degree credit for internships or work experience. All periods of practical training must be authorized; students must meet with the Director of International Services to obtain specific instructions on applying for authorization.

Review more about F-1 employment regulations here.

What is "Academic Training?"

Academic Training is work directly related to the student's field of study. There are special procedures for J-1 "Academic Training," including a monitoring requirement. J-1 students are normally allowed up to 18 months for Academic Training.

I need to travel outside the U.S. What should I do before I leave? What do I need to take with me?

Before you leave the U.S., you must have your I-20 or DS-2019 signed by the Director of International Services to be validated for re-entry. Always take your passport, I-20 or DS-2019, current financial documentation and transcript. You will always need to have a valid visa stamp to re-enter the U.S.; if your visa stamp will expire before you re-enter, you will need to apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a new one, before you re-enter.

I am covered by a non-UNCW health insurance policy. Do I still have to pay the insurance fee on my term bill?

If you are covered by another health insurance policy that meets UNCW and Department of State minimums, and do not wish to be covered by UNCW's insurance plan, you may request an exemption from payment. To do this, you must submit a copy of your insurance policy and sign the waiver form by the first day of class each semester. You must reapply for a waiver each semester.