Maintaining Student Visa Status

Main Visa Responsibilities

Below are the basic requirements for maintaining F or J Student Visa Status.  Please be aware that a violation of status may lead to falling out-of-status which carries some serious consequences.

  • ENROLLMENT: Be enrolled full-time during standard academic semesters (fall and spring semesters).  Full-time status is being enrolled in a minimum of twelve (12) credit hours per semester for undergraduate students and a minimum of nine (9) credit hours per semester for graduate students.  For F-1 students, only one 3-credit hour online class can count toward the minimum enrollment requirement. For J-1 Student, no online class can count toward the minimum enrollment requirement.  If the summer is your first semester of study in the U.S. on an F-1 or J-1 student visa, you must enroll full-time through the summer.


  • ADDRESS UPDATES WITHIN 10 DAYS: All non-U.S. citizens residing in the U.S. are required to update their address within 10 days of any change of address (U.S. or Permanent Home Country Address).  F and J visa holders should update their address in myBama, and ISSS will report the change to the Department of Homeland Security in SEVIS.  All other visa holders should update their address both in myBama and with US Citizenship and Immigration Services by submitting the Form AR-11 online at this website:


  • TRAVEL: Please contact our office before you travel outside the U.S.  A valid travel signature is required on your I-20/DS-2019 for you to return to the United States.


  • MONITOR DOCUMENT EXPIRATION: Know your program end date on your I-20/DS-2019.  This is the date by which you should complete your studies.  Please contact our office before this date if you need more time to finish your degree.  We must extend your documents before they expire in order for you to be able to remain in the U.S.



  • INSURANCE: Maintain active health insurance at all times for yourself and all F-2/J-2 dependents – University of Alabama policy mandates that all international students and scholars are required to maintain medical insurance coverage of at least:
    • US $250,000 per injury/illness;
    • US $50,000 coverage for repatriation of mortal remains;
    • US $25,000 coverage for emergency medical evacuation; and
    • A deductible that does not exceed $250 per person per policy year for in-network care and does not exceed $500 per person per policy year for out-of-network care.


  • OTHER UPDATES: Notify International Student and Scholar Services within 10 days of any change to your information listed below:
    • Dependents (addition of new dependents, change of name, or citizenship)
    • Financial Information (when your financial information changes you must both inform ISSS, and bring to ISSS proof of finances for your studies)

You must request & receive permission from ISSS prior to acting on these Events

  • Dropping below Full-time Study (below 9 credits for graduates, and 12 credits for undergraduates)
  • Early completion of program (if you complete your program of study earlier than the end-date in the Program of Study section on page 1 of your I-20 or Item #3 of your DS-2019)
  • Termination of studies (if you are withdrawing from UA, taking a Leave of Absence, stopping your studies, or if you have been suspended)

Your Immigration Documents

Important Documents
Keep your documents in a safe place. You should make copies/scans of all of your documents and keep them separate from the originals.

Your important documents include:
Passport. Do not allow the validity of your passport to expire. In general your passport must be valid at least 6 months into the future.  Without a valid passport, you may not be allowed to re-enter the United States after travel abroad, even if all other immigration documents are still valid. Read about what to do regarding lost or stolen passports.

Visa Stamp. This stamp is entered into your passport at the US Consulate or Embassy where you applied for it. It does not govern your stay in the United States. It governs the time period during which you may apply for entry into the U.S., meaning that it must be valid for entry to the U.S. but once inside the United States, it is your I-20 or DS-2019 which governs your ability to stay. Read: About Visas- The Basics.

I-94 Record (Arrival/Departure record). Make sure you have a copy of your most recent I-94 Record. You will now go to a website and print the electronic record of your I-94 after arrival at More information can be found at: This form should indicate your arrival date, your visa status, and the length of your stay, usually marked D/S (duration of status) for both F-1 and J-1 students. It will also include an 11-digit Admission/Departure Number; this number is your I-94 number and is the identification number with DHS.

I-20 or DS-2019. This is the document that proves your eligibility for F-1 or J-1 status. You must make sure that it is accurate and up-to-date at all times. (SEE UNDERSTANDING MY I-20 & DS-2019 FOR MORE DETAILS)

In addition to the above documents, the Department of Homeland Security has also identified the following as important items to carry especially when you travel internationally (Please see our travel page for more information:
Student Travel Requirements):

Transcript. It is highly recommended that F-1 and J-1 students who will need to renew their U.S. visa stamp during travel abroad carry copies of their University of Alabama transcripts with them to show the consular officials that you have been making satisfactory progress towards your degree. An increasing number of consulates ask for transcripts when students come to renew F-1 and J-1 visas. Official transcripts can be obtained at the Registrar’s Office; unofficial transcripts are available through MyBama.

Letter of Registration/Confirmation of Enrollment. The letter of registration/confirmation of enrollment is an official document which confirms your status as an active UA student and can be obtained from the Registrar’s Office or through MyBama.

Financial Documentation. It is a good idea to carry financial documentation when re-entering the U.S. to prove your continuing ability to pay for studies. You must have updated financial documentation with you when applying for a new visa at a US Consulate abroad.

Additional Proof of Identity. Carry your UA Action Card with you and any old passports which you may still have.

In the event of an emergency, contact:
International Student & Scholar Services
Phone: 205-348-5402

If International Student & Scholar Services is closed, contact UA Police Department:
Phone: 205-348-5454
UAPD will contact a ISSS Advisor to assist you.

Understanding Your I-20 Document

Click on the image of the I-20 to look at a sample F-1 I-20 and to better understand each section, including the Personal and Biographical Information, School Information, Program of Study, Financials, and Attestations.

Note: Form I-20 is updated with minor revisions periodically. Your actual I-20 may differ slightly from the sample included, but the main sections should be the same.

Understanding Your DS-2019 Document

Click on the image of the DS-2019 to look at a sample J-1 DS-2019 and to better understand each section.

Note: Form DS-2019 is updated with minor revisions periodically. Your actual DS-2019 may differ slightly from the sample included, but the main sections should be the same.

Your Visa Status

Your Status – The difference between visa status and a visa stamp.
Everyone who enters the U.S. is given an immigration status at the U.S. Port of Entry. For most students this is an F-1 or J-1 visa status. This status is noted at the U.S. Port of Entry on the Form I-94.

Please be aware that immigration status is different than the visa stamp in your passport – your visa stamp is not proof of visa status or legal status.  Visa stamps are used to enter the U.S.

Read: About Visas- The Basics.

Benefits of Your F-1 or J-1 Student Status could include the ability to:

• Change to another immigration status from within the United States;
• Change degree level;
• Change program of study;
• Transfer to another College or University;
• Extend your status, if more time is needed to complete your degree;
• Sponsor your dependent spouse or child(ren) to join or accompany you;
• Obtain employment (under restricted conditions & only with specific approval);
• Travel outside the U.S. and reenter to continue study (with a valid VISA).

If you wish to discuss any of these benefits you should make an appointment with an Advisor at International Student & Scholar Services.


Duration (Length of Stay): You may remain legally in the U.S. as long as you are maintaining your F-1 or J-1 student visa status and engaged in a valid, full course of academic study (those who have completed their degree may remain in the U.S. legally during authorized periods of post-graduate practical or academic training).

When you have completed your degree or post-graduation training you must take one of the following actions (F-1 students have 60 days and J-1 students have 30 days to complete these actions):

• Change to another immigration status;
• Change degree level;
• Change program of study;
• Transfer to another University;
• Return to your home country.

Violations – Falling Out-of-Status and Accruing Unlawful Presence: If you do not comply with all of the F-1 or J-1 student regulations, you will fall out-of-status.  When you fall out-of-status, all of the benefits of your F or J visa status are cancelled, such as the ability to work on-campus or seek off-campus work authorization.

Additionally, USCIS regulations introduced on August 9, 2018 mean that you will begin to accrue unlawful presence and may face a potential bar from the U.S. The enforcement of the rule is currently under injunction as of February 6, 2020.

Despite the injunction, students who have fallen out of status may need to consult with an experienced immigration attorney regarding the accrual of unlawful presence. A list of recognized immigration attorneys can be found online at

Additional information about the Unlawful Presence Policy can be found on the NAFSA Website.

Resolution of your violation will depend on your specific situation. Contact International Student and Scholar Services for an appointment with an Advisor, who will consult with you about your options, including reinstatement.

Your Legal Rights

Know Your Rights: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has published a card, “What To Do If You Are Stopped By The Police, Immigration Agents, or the FBI.” It contains a list of do’s and don’ts in several situations:

• If police, FBI, or immigration comes to your home
• If you are stopped for questioning
• If you are stopped in your car
• If you are arrested and taken to a police station or into ICE custody
• If you are questioned about your immigration status

The ACLU rights website:

The ACLU website in Spanish:

The printable rights card is available in PDF format and also in Spanish as a PDF.