Maintaining Your Immigration Status
- Keep 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
Please view our handout on Academic Dismissal Effects on Immigration Status for F-1 and J-1 Students 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 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
If students meet one of the four less than full-time enrollment exceptions, they may 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.