F-1/J-1 Guidelines

Whether you are an undergraduate or graduate student, or here on exchange, you have unique responsibilities as an F-1 or J-1 student to maintain your legal status in the U.S. Follow these guidelines to avoid many unnecessary problems.

Basic Guidelines

Always keep your passport valid at least 6 months into the future.
Contact your country of citizenship's consulate here in the United States if you need to renew your passport. Many countries have consulates located nearby in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Keep your local address updated.
Enter your local address in MyUCSC and mark it as a residential address so ISSS can receive the information.

Maintain full-time enrollment.
You must be full-time enrolled each quarter. Please visit the Enrollment Changes page for information on how many units you are required to take each term.

Get ISSS approval before a withdrawal.
If you need to withdraw from UCSC or drop below full-time units, you must have permission from us before doing so. Please visit the Enrollment Changes page for how to request part-time status or a withdrawal.

Attend the school listed on your I-20 or DS-2019.
You must have a valid I-20 or DS-2019 from the school you are attending. The only exception is for sponsored J-1 students. If you are transferring from another school to UCSC, the transfer process must be started before you begin at UCSC. Please visit the Transfer to UCSC page if you have questions about the transfer process.

Always keep your I-20 or DS-2019 valid.
Please visit the Extend or Complete Program page if you need to request an extension. Your I-20 or DS-2019 end date can be found on page one of your documents. You must also request a new I-20 or DS-2019 if you are changing degree levels, e.g. changing from a PhD to a Masters.

Get a travel signature.
Before you leave the U.S., make sure you have received a travel signature from an advisor. If you are an F-1 student, your travel signature is on the 2nd page of your I-20 and is valid for one year, or 6 months if on OPT. If you are a J-1 student, the signature is in the bottom-right corner of your DS-2019 and valid for one year or until the end date of your DS-2019, whichever is first.

Be aware of your grace periods.
The grace period ends when you depart the U.S., or no later than 60 days after the end date on your I-20 or EAD, whichever comes first (F-1 students), or no later than 30 days after the end date on your DS-2019 (J-1 students). For more information visit the Extend or Complete Program page.

Get proper employment permission.
Visit the Employment section for detailed information on what approvals are necessary before beginning to work in the U.S.

Public Charge Considerations

An individual who is likely at any time to become a public charge is generally inadmissable to the United States and ineligible to become a lawful permanent resident.  A public charge is defined as an alien who has received one or more means-tester public benefits, including but not limited to SNAP, Public Benefit, or Meidcaid.  Please consult an attorney prior to applying for or accepting any such benefit.  For more information please see the USCIS Public Charge Fact Sheet.