Maintaining Visa Status

Students are responsible for learning and complying with the terms and conditions of their F-1 or J-1 immigration status. Failing to comply is deemed a violation of immigration status and may have serious consequences to the ability to remain in or return to the United States.

Definition of a Full Course of Study

During the fall and spring terms, F-1 and J-1 students are required to enroll full time. Summer terms are considered to be optional and thus enrollment is not required unless it is the student’s first or last semester.  Full time enrollment is defined as follows:

Term

Undergraduate

Graduate

Online Course Restrictions

Fall

12 credits

9 credits

3 online credits allowed (Section Code “W”)

Spring

12 credits

9 credits

3 online credits allowed (Section Code “W”)

Summer A, C, D (if 1st semester)

9 credits

6 credits

3 online credits allowed (Section Code “W”)

Summer B (if 1st semester)

6 credits

3 credits

Undergraduate: 3 online credits allowed (Section Code “W”) 

Graduate: 3 credits cannot be online

For additional information on graduate enrollment requirements, click here.

During the final semester (including Summer semester), students must enroll in at least a 1 credit hour, face-to-face course (entire enrollment cannot be online or Section Code “W”).

Students cannot withdraw from classes without prior approval from an immigration adviser.

Master’s level students who complete all required coursework and are pursuing a thesis option program may enroll in a minimum of 3 credit hours of thesis each semester (including summers).

Doctoral level students who complete all required coursework and have passed candidacy may enroll in a minimum of 3 credit hours of dissertation each semester (including summers).

Reduced Course Load Information

Prior to under-enrolling or dropping below the full-course requirement, students must first receive authorization from an immigration adviser.  Authorization from an immigration adviser is required even if an academic program recommends a student to enroll for less than a full-course load.

Federal regulations permit requests for a reduced course load for the following reasons, all of which must be supported by an academic adviser or medical documentation:

  • Unfamiliarity with US teaching methods
  • Difficulty with English language
  • Improper course placement
  • Medical condition
  • Completion of course of study (Final Semester)

Per university policies, students must meet the standard full-time enrollment criteria to be eligible for a graduate fellowship or assistantship.  Approval of a reduced course load request does not change this requirement. Students not receiving a qualifying award are responsible for their full tuition and fees at the Non-Florida Resident rate.

  • Concurrent enrollment (requires enrollment receipt/record from other institutions)

For detailed information on required documentation and deadlines, please review the Reduced Load Request Form.

 

Change of Major / Change of Program of Study

Students changing their major or program of study must inform an immigration adviser immediately.  Students will need to have their Form I-20 or DS-2019 updated by making an appointment with an immigration adviser and bringing the following documents to the appointment:

Please be aware that by changing majors, students may need to request a program extension to accommodate the requirements of the new major.

 

Change of Degree Level

Students accepted into another degree level or who have finished a program and would like to continue studying at UCF in another degree level will need a new Form I-20 or DS-2019 to reflect this change. Please make an appointment with an immigration adviser as soon as possible and bring the following documents to the appointment:

 

Program Extensions

To qualify for an extension, students must be maintaining their immigration status and be making normal academic progress towards completion of degree. Students must apply prior to the end date of their Form I-20 or DS-2019. Failure to apply for a timely extension will place the student out of status.

To apply for a program extension, an appointment must be made with an immigration adviser and the following documents need to be submitted:

International Affairs and Global Strategies reserves the right to consult with a student’s academic adviser if academic progress is in question.

 

Transfer Out

Students wishing to transfer to another institution within the U.S. must meet with an immigration adviser to review their eligibility for a SEVIS record transfer. The following documents must be submitted:

  • Copy of acceptance letter from new institution
  • Transfer In Form from new institution
  • International Student Transfer Out Form

Please note students may be required to get clearance signatures from UCF departments. Sufficient time to complete the transfer process will be needed.  Students are responsible for providing an acceptance letter to an immigration adviser. Records cannot be released in SEVIS without this document.

Note for J-1 students: Students with this visa may only transfer to pursue the same educational objective for which he or she was admitted to as a J-1 student. Students interested in transferring to another institution should consult with an IAGS immigration adviser.

 

Reinstatement

A student may be eligible to apply for reinstatement as long as they meet the following criteria:

  • Student has not been out of status for more than five months prior to filing for reinstatement.
  • Student does not have a record of repeated status violations.
  • Student is pursuing or will pursue a full course of study in the next available term.
  • Student has not engaged in unauthorized employment.
  • Student’s violation of the status resulted from circumstances beyond their control.

To apply for reinstatement, gather the items listed on the Checklist for Reinstatement and make an appointment with an immigration adviser.

Note for J-1 students: Students with this visa who have an approved waiver to the two-year home country residency requirement are not eligible for reinstatement.

 

Health Insurance

All international students on an F-1 or J-1 visa and their accompanying dependents are required to have health (medical) insurance coverage for their entire duration of studies. Students must carefully select a health insurance plan that meets all the State of Florida Board of Governors regulations.

Please note that students are not able to register or continue to be enrolled for classes without proof of valid health insurance.

Any J-2 dependents who choose to enroll in courses at UCF must also purchase health insurance according to state requirements.

The United Health Student Resources insurance plan meets all the state of Florida requirements and is the university-sponsored health insurance plan. Students may purchase the plan directly from UCF Health Services or by visiting http://www.gallagherkoster.com/UCF. Graduate students with qualifying assistantships and fellowships may obtain the United Health Student Resources insurance plan as part of their financial assistance package. Please visit the College of Graduate Studies website for additional information.

The UCF Health Services department is responsible for monitoring health insurance for all international students. For more information, please visit the UCF Health Services website.

 

Health Insurance Minimum Requirements and Alternative Plans

 

Options After Graduation

After F-1 students complete their program of study, they are allowed a 60-day grace period to remain in the U.S. J-1 students’ grace period is limited to 30 days. Students who depart the U.S. within the grace period are not eligible to re-enter.

F-1 students who want to remain in the United States may do so under the following options:

  • Begin a new program of study at UCF. Students should follow the procedures for admission to the new program and request a new Form I-20 from an immigration adviser. A Change of Level must be completed within the grace period. The new program of study must begin within five months of completing your current program.
  • Begin a new program of study at another U.S. institution. Students must provide an acceptance letter and their SEVIS record must be Transferred Out to the new institution within the 60-day grace period. The new program of study at the new institution must begin within five months of program completion at UCF.
  • Apply to change to another immigration status through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Leave the U.S. within the grace period. An immigration adviser should be notified of the departure date and a Student Exit Form should be submitted.
  • Apply for post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) employment authorization. The application must be received by the USCIS within 60 days of program completion.  Remember to keep your OPT Status current with the OPT Status Form.

Note for J-1 students: Students under this visa category have the option to change to a higher degree level, transfer to another institution, obtain academic training employment authorization and change to another immigration status. There are limitations to the deadline students may request and obtain these options. Students are encouraged to plan ahead and meet with an immigration adviser for further guidance.

Change of Status

A change of status allows an individual who is in the U.S. and is maintaining a lawful non-immigrant status to change to an F-1 or J-1 international student status. Under these categories, the primary purpose for remaining in the U.S. is to study, thus full-time enrollment is required. The procedure to change status can be completed within the U.S. and takes a few months from the time the application is filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Students are encouraged to contact an IAGS immigration advisor to determine eligibility based on current non-immigrant status. They will also address the advantages and disadvantages of changing status within the U.S.; or traveling outside the U.S., obtaining an F-1 or J-1 visa and re-entering with the new status.

J-1 students subject to the two-year home residency requirement are not eligible for a change of status within the U.S., except to an A visa (diplomatic or government official) or G visa (international organizations).

Important Note on travel:

Students whose change of status applications are pending at USCIS are recommended not to travel outside the United States, as this would be considered abandonment of the change of status application.

Family Dependents

Eligible dependents (spouse and minor children) of F-1 students may obtain the F-2 visa and eligible dependents (spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21) of J-1 exchange visitors may obtain the J-2 visa.

Dependents may apply for an F-2 or J-2 visa at the same time as the principle visa holder or after the principle visa holder arrives in the U.S. To begin the process, principle students and exchange visitors need to request a dependent Form I-20 or DS-2019 from an IAGS immigration advisor. Dependents must then apply to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for an F-2 or J-2 visa. For instruction on both, please schedule an appointment with an IAGS immigration advisor.

Guidelines for F-2 visa holders:

  • Eligible to travel outside of the United States and re-enter with a valid F-2 visa and travel signature as long as the principle visa holder (F-1 student) is maintaining immigration status.
  • May not engage in any type of employment, including unpaid work.
  • F-2 spouses may engage in part-time study.
  • F-2 children may engage in full-time study at the K-12 level.
  • All F-2 dependents who would like to enroll in full-time university-level study can inquire about how to apply for a change in status to F-1.

Guidelines for J-2 Visa Holders:

  • Eligible to travel outside of the United States and re-enter with a valid J-2 visa and travel signature as long as the principle visa holder (J-1 student) is maintaining immigration status.
  • May enroll in courses full-time or part-time as a degree seeking or non-degree seeking student. Please note: J-2 dependents who choose to enroll in courses at UCF must purchase health insurance according to State of Florida regulations, which are currently higher than federal requirements.
  • May apply for work authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as long as employment is not to support the principle J-1 visa holder. Once authorization is obtained, dependents may work full-time or part-time. Please refer to the Employment Guidelines for J-2 Dependents for more information.

Must maintain and provide proof of health insurance throughout their stay in the United States.

Employment

Employment is defined as any work performed or service rendered for money, tuition, fees, supplies, room, food or any other benefit. International students with an F-1 or J-1 visa are eligible for certain types of employment in the U.S. It is the responsibility of students to ensure the type of employment they plan to begin is considered “authorized” or legal. To avoid the negative consequences of falling out of status for engaging in illegal employment, students are encouraged to review the following information and always consult with an IAGS immigration advisor prior to beginning any employment.

 

On-Campus Employment

Students maintaining their F-1 or J-1status are generally permitted to work on UCF’s premises. This type of employment is “incidental to status” and does not require an IAGS immigration advisor to authorize the employment or update the SEVIS record. Employment is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session, but may be full-time during the summer semester or school breaks.

On-campus employment is limited to the following options:

  • Work on university premises, employed by the I-20 issuing institution (UCF). Teaching and research assistants, work in the libraries, cafeteria and administrative offices are examples of on-campus employment.
  • Work on university premises, employed by an on-campus commercial company. This type of job must be directly related to student services, such as the private bookstore, restaurants or coffee shops.
  • Work done at off-campus locations, but considered as on campus. This includes work at an off-campus location that is educationally associated with the school. The student must be employed by UCF.

Important Points to Remember:

  • Students must maintain F-1 status in order to be eligible for on-campus employment.
  • On-campus employment is not allowed after completion of program.
  • Students starting an academic program during the summer semester are only allowed part-time employment.
  • Students employed on-campus by UCF are required to visit IAGS to meet with an Employment and Taxation Coordinator to complete hiring paperwork.
  • Students are subject to federal and state taxes and exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes. After students spend more than five years in the U.S., they become subject to paying Social Security and Medicare taxes in addition to federal and state taxes. For more information on taxes, IAGS will schedule tax workshops during the spring semester.

Note for J-1 students: Students with this visa are required to report on-campus employer information to their IAGS Immigration Advisor.

 

Employment Based on Economic Hardship

Employment based on economic hardship may be granted for monetary difficulties faced by the student that are unforeseen and out of the student’s control. These may include loss of financial aid or termination of on-campus employment, significant devaluation of the student’s home country currency and other changes in the financial condition of the student’s sponsor(s).

Economic hardship employment is designed to allow the student to work off-campus for 20 hours per week while school is in session and full-time during vacation periods. Employment does not need to be related to the student’s course of study and no offer of employment is needed to grant this type of employment. Employment is granted for periods of 1 year at a time and authorization ends if the student transfers to another institution. To apply for Economic Hardship employment, students must make an appointment with an IAGS advisor. Requests will then be submitted to USCIS for adjudication.

The following items are required when applying for employment authorization under the economic hardship category:

  • Students must have maintained F-1 or J-1 status for at least one academic year.
  • Documentation regarding the circumstance causing the economic need.
  • Letter explaining why other employment options are unavailable or insufficient.
  • Completed Form I-765.
  • Money order for $380.00 USD payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  • Copy of I-20 / DS-2019 with an immigration adviser recommendation for economic hardship employment.
  • Two pictures that meet USCIS color photograph specifications.
  • Copies of passport, visa, I-94 arrival record and previous EAD cards (if applicable).

 

F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a temporary employment authorization benefit extended to F-1 students in degree-granting programs to gain practical experience that is directly related to their field of study. CPT is defined in 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i) as an “alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school” and may be authorized for training that is an “integral part of an established curriculum.” Eligibility for CPT must first be determined by a UCF Global immigration advisor and then authorized prior to students beginning employment.

Eligibility Requirements for CPT include the following:

  • Must be in valid F-1 status to apply for CPT.
  • Must have been enrolled full-time for at least one academic year in a degree-granting program immediately preceding the CPT. An academic year is defined as both a fall and a spring semester. Summer semester does not count toward the academic year requirement.
  • Semesters of enrollment with an approved Reduced Course Load count toward the academic year requirement.
  • Continuous enrollment in another visa status or in another degree program may also count toward this requirement upon review by a UCF Global Immigration Advisor.
  • Students must be in a degree-granting program. English Language Institute and Global Achievement Academy programs are not eligible.
  • CPT employment must be off-campus and not considered on-campus employment. (Exceptions may be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.)
  • Employment must be an integral part of the student’s curriculum and directly related to the student’s primary field of study.

For detailed guidelines and the application process, please review the CPT application packet and make an appointment with a UCF immigration advisor. Students may only engage in CPT within the authorized employment dates listed on the student’s I-20. Any CPT (including unpaid employment/internships/practicums) not authorized is considered an F-1 status violation.

 

F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)

The following information pertains to a 12-month OPT. If you are interested in learning about the OPT extension available for certain Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) degree holders, please refer to the OPT Extension section of this website.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a temporary employment benefit available for F-1 students who have been maintaining immigration status. Its purpose is to give students the opportunity to work off-campus and gain work experience in a field directly related to the student’s course of study. Employment is limited to a total of twelve months for each higher degree level and may be granted before or after completion of studies. Eligibility for OPT must first be determined by an IAGS immigration advisor. If eligible, OPT is then endorsed on the student’s Form I-20 and sent as part of an application packet to a designated US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office for adjudication.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Students must be in valid F-1 status at the time of the application.
  • Students must have been enrolled on a full-time basis for one academic year before making an application.
  • Students registered in thesis or dissertation hours may apply and engage in OPT prior to completion of studies.
  • Students are eligible for one year of OPT per higher level. This means you may apply for one year of OPT for the bachelor’s level, one year for the master’s level, and one year for the doctoral level.

Students may apply up to 90 days prior to graduation. The application must be received by USCIS no later than 60 days after graduation. To submit an application, please make an appointment with an IAGS advisor. For detailed guidelines and the application process, please review the OPT handout.

 

17-month Post-Completion OPT Extension

Certain graduates from Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) programs who are participating in a 12-month post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) may be eligible to apply for a one-time 17-month extension. This extension allows F-1 visa holders to engage in OPT for a maximum period of 29 months. Eligible students must contact an IAGS immigration adviser to apply for the extension prior to the end of their 12-month post-completion OPT.

Please read the 17-month Post-Completion OPT Extension Handout for detailed guidelines.

H-1B Visa Cap Gap Extension

Students with an H-1B petition whose post-completion OPT expires prior to the allowable employment start date of October 1st under the new H-1B status may be eligible for a cap-gap automatic extension. This regulation allows beneficiaries of a timely and properly filed H-1B petition to automatically extend their F-1 status and work authorization to September 30th, as long as the H-1B is ultimately approved. The extension automatically terminates upon the denial, revocation or rejection of the H-1B petition and the 60-day grace period for F-1 students begins. Please note that although Cap-Gap Extensions are automatic, students are required to contact an IAGS Advisor to determine if their SEVIS record needs to be updated. This should be done prior to obtaining a receipt notice for the H-1B petition listing students as beneficiaries.

For additional information, please see pages 25 to 30 of the SEVP Policy Guideline or consult with your attorney or employer.

 

J-1 Academic Training

Academic Training is a type of off-campus employment authorization available for J-1 students to gain work experience within their field of study. Academic training requests must be evaluated and authorized by an IAGS immigration advisor prior to students beginning employment.

There are two types of academic training students may choose from:

  • Pre-completion – Grants employment eligibility prior to completion of degree
  • Post-Completion – Grants employment eligibility after completion of degree

Employment Time Limitations:

  • Undergraduate and Master’s level students are eligible for a maximum period of 18 months.
  • Doctoral students are eligible for a maximum period of 36 months. Only 18 of the 36 months may be used as pre-completion academic training. Students may only apply for 18 months of academic training at a time. If doing 36 months of post-completion academic training, the last 18-months must be completed in a post-doc position.
  • Students pursuing academic programs that are shorter than 18 months may only be allowed employment up to the length of the program.
  • Completion of more than one degree program does not increase the academic training time period.
  • Part-time academic training counts toward the total allowable days of academic training.

For Academic Training eligibility and the application process, please consult with an IAGS immigration advisor.

Benefits and Restrictions of Visa

F-2 Visa Holders:

  • May travel in and out of the United States as long as the principle visa holder is maintaining immigration status.
  • May enroll in courses that are vocational or recreational with the approval of IAGS. F-2 visa holders cannot enroll in courses that would be applied toward a degree or certificate until a change in status to an F-1 visa is approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and on file with the IAGS. Please note that dependent children may participate in full-time elementary or secondary study (kindergarten to twelfth grade).
  • May not engage in any type of employment.

J-2 Visa Holders:

  • May travel in and out of the United States as long as the principle visa holder is maintaining immigration status.
  • May enroll in courses full-time or part-time as a degree seeking or non-degree seeking student.

Please note: J-2 dependents who choose to enroll in courses at UCF must purchase health insurance according to State of Florida regulations, which are currently higher than federal requirements. For more information on student health insurance, please refer to the Students section of the website, under Maintaining Visa Status.

  • May apply for work authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as long as employment is not to support the principle J-1 visa holder. Once authorization is obtained, dependents may work full-time or part-time. Please refer to the Employment Guidelines for J-2 Dependents for more information.
  • Must provide proof of health insurance throughout their stay in the United States.