maintaining and renewing your visa
F-1 and J-1 Rights and Responsibilities
All international students who are in an F-1 or J-1 visa status must follow a set of immigration regulations as outlined by the U.S. government in order to maintain a legal international student status. The following set of rules and regulations is a guide to assist you in maintaining your international student status at SFAI. While these guidelines pertain to J-1 Fulbright students as well, it is important that J-1 students consult directly with the Institute of International Education (IIE) for their specific immigration advising.
Full Course of Study
International students must be registered as full-time students during each fall and spring semester:
Undergraduate students – 12 units or more
Graduate students – 12 units or more (unless your degree program states a lower unit requirement is considered full-time)
Please note: International students are not required but may choose to enroll in courses during summer semesters.
Change of Local Address
If you change your local address, you must report the change to the Global Programs Office within 10 days of moving by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maintaining Valid Immigration Documents
I-20/DS-2019: You should be aware of the expiration date on your I-20/DS-2019. If it is not possible to complete your degree program by your expiration date, you must request a program extension <Form TK> before the expiration date on the I-20/DS-2019. Students who do not file a program extension in a timely manner will be considered out of status. Contact the Global Programs Office at email@example.com for extension requirements.
Passport:Your passport should be valid for at least six months into the future at all times. If your passport will expire soon, you must renew it through the embassy or consulate of your home country. Students whose expired passport has a valid visa are still able to use that visa if they have the old passport. Students must remember to carry and present the old passport along with the new passport when traveling.
Student Visa: You are legally able to stay in the U.S. with an expired F-1/J-1 visa as long as you are properly maintaining your status by carrying a valid I-20/DS-2019 and a valid I-94 card. However, if you are traveling outside of the U.S. and do not plan on using automatic revalidation to re-enter the U.S., you must have a valid F-1/J-1 visa.
Visas cannot be renewed inside the U.S. Once you know your travel dates, it is recommended that you make an appointment for a visa interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. It is important that you review the specific requirements of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate you plan to interview with to determine their visa renewal requirements. You should also check on the visa wait times for your specific U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the U.S. Department of State website and make your travel plans accordingly. You do not need to pay the SEVIS fee again if you are renewing your F-1 or J-1 visa.
The Department of State recommends that students apply for a visa in their home country. If you must apply for a visa in a third country remember the following:
- You cannot return to the U.S. until your F-1/J-1 visa has been issued.
- If a background check is required, you must wait until this is cleared, and the wait could be several weeks.
- If the visa application is denied for any reason, you will not be able to return to the U.S. and will be required to return to your home country.
- If the visa application is denied in Canada or Mexico, you are not able to able to take advantage of automatic revalidation.
Each international student has a set of grace period regulations that is specific to his or her visa status. F-1 students who complete a degree program or Optional Practical Training (OPT) have a 60-day grace period, while J-1 students who complete a degree program or Academic Training (AT) have a 30-day grace period. This means that you have either 60 or 30 days to remain in the U.S. once your program/OPT/AT is completed. Once you exit the U.S. during your grace period, your F-1 or J-1 student status will end.
F-1/J-1 students who have received prior authorization to withdraw from classes have 15 days to depart the U.S. after the withdrawal date. Students who withdraw from classes without prior authorization are not eligible for a grace period.