Know Your Visa

Understand your VISA

Individuals who are not U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents in the United States for the purpose of study should be in F-1 or J-1 status. In general, most students are given the I-20. Those students who are government sponsored or who are on exchange programs are given the DS-2019.

F-1 Visa

  • To enter the U.S. in F-1 status, ODIA must provide the student with an I-20 (Certificate of Non-Immigrant Eligibility) that is used to obtain the F -1 visa. ODIA is required to determine if students have enough financial resources to attend school and pay for their living expenses while attending school without resorting to illegal employment or relying on public funds. The F-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa and therefore the student must prove to the visa office that he/she has ties to the home country and will not remain in the United States.
  • F-1 students must register full time each fall and spring semester. There are specific situations that permit a student to under enroll but must be approved by an international student adviser.
  • Dependents (spouse and children) can also obtain an I-20 for F-2 status. F-2 dependents may not work under any circumstances. F-2 children may attend school through secondary education. After secondary education, F-2 dependents (both spouse and children) may not attend higher education without changing to F-1 status. They may, however, take avocational or recreational classes on a part-time basis.

J-1 Visa

  • Another visa category that is for study is the J-1 (student category). The Certificate of Non-Immigrant Eligibility for J status is the DS-2019. This is also a non-immigrant visa status. The rules for the J-1 are similar to the F-1. However, there are two important differences.
  • Those in J-1 status may be subject to what is referred to as the "two-year home residency requirement" or subject to 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The two-year home residency requirement means that those individuals must return home for two years before applying for the H, L, or permanent residency visas. In addition, those subject to the two-year home residency requirement cannot change status to another within the U.S. A J-1 becomes subject to 212(e) by coming from a country and studying a field on the skills list, being sponsored by the U.S. government or the home country government, or studying in a program for graduate medical education.
  • The other difference is that dependents may apply for work permission.

Other Visa Types

  • B-1, B-2, F-2, WB, WT

    • May not begin studies until change of status to student is approved. There is currently conflicting information on whether an F-2 may begin study after change of status application is submitted or after change of status is approved.
  • Principal holders of A-1, A-2, E-1, E-2, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, I, L-1 and Those in H-1B, H-1C, H-2A, H-2B, H-3, J-1 (Professor), J-1 (Researcher), J-1 (Specialist), J-1 (Trainee), J-1 (Physician), J-1 Au Pair, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-2, P-3, R-1, TN

    • May engage in incidental study while continuing to maintain valid status (in other words, continuing to do what the immigration status requires).
  • Those in A3, H-4, J-2, L-2, M-2, NATO-1-7, O-3, P-4, R-2, TD and Dependents of A-1, A-2, E-1, D-2, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, I, L-1 Q-1, Q-2, and Q-3

    • May engage in part- or full-time study

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