Maintaining Your Immigration Status
- Keep your passport valid (unexpired). Request to renew your passport with your home country embassy at least 6 months before your passport expires.
- Maintain full-time academic student status, which is a minimum of 12 hours for undergraduates or 9 hours for graduates.
- Obtain appropriate permission to work on or off campus
- Apply for program extension if more time is needed PRIOR to expiration of I-20 or DS-2019
- Keep your local mailing address up to date on My UNC Charlotte
- Follow procedures for transferring to another U.S. institution
Have you been notified of an academic violation (low GPA, academic dishonesty etc.)? Please view the webpage on Academic Dismissal, Integrity, and Immigration impacts for more on your rights and responsibilities.
F-1 or J-1 students must enroll full-time every fall or spring semester to maintain their immigration status. Full-time enrollment is defined as:
- Undergraduate students - 12 credit per semester minimum
- 9 out of 12 credits must be in person or hybrid
- Graduate students - 9 credit per semester minimum
- 6 out of 9 credits must be in person or hybrid
- Thesis or Dissertation students may enroll in GRAD 7800 or 9800 to fulfill their full time enrollment requirements. Enrollment in these classes is at the discretion of the Graduate School.
Unlike enrollment for fall & spring terms, summer enrollment is generally optional for international students, and is not reported to the U.S. government. Continuing international students may enroll in whatever they wish for summer, for any number of credits in whatever course format. The only time full-time summer enrollment is mandatory occurs if a new student has been admitted to start their program in the summer term--then summer full-time enrollment is required (read more about this here).
If students want to take less than full-time enrollment for a fall or spring term, they must meet one of the four less than full-time enrollment exceptions and must request approval for a Reduced Course Load to maintain their immigration status.
Can I remain in the U.S. if my F-1 or J-1 visa is expired?
Your F-1 or J-1 visa must be valid the day you enter the U.S. - Your F-1 or J-1 visa is similar to a "key" that you would use to enter a house (enter the U.S.). To get into your house, you must have a valid key (an unexpired F-1 or J-1 visa, unexpired passport, and an unexpired immigration document I-20 or DS-2019). Once you are in the house (in the U.S.), you no longer need to use the key to go from room to room. The same way with the F-1 or J-1 visa. Once you are in the U.S., it is not a problem if your F-1 or J-1 visa expires. You do not have to exit the U.S. by your visa expiration date. F-1 or J-1 status students are allowed to remain in the U.S. for "Duration of Status". If you are outside the U.S. and your F-1 or J-1 visa is expired, you must renew your visa before you can re-enter the U.S.
Remaining in the U.S. for "Duration of Status" - F-1 or J-1 students may remain in the U.S. as long as they are maintaining "status" (see the Maintaining Status section), even if their F-1 or J-1 visa has expired.