Maintaining Visa Status in the US

F-1 Status Responsiblities

It is very important for any F-1 student in the US to make sure that they are maintaining their student visa status at all times. Failure to maintain status puts a student in out-of-status which usually leads to deportation from the US.

An F-1 visa holder should always keep the following in mind in order to maintain status.

  • "Pursue a full course of study" at Holy Family University. This means never withdrawing below 12 credits (under graduate) or 6 credits (graduate) without written permission in advance from the International Affairs Office (permission is limited to instances defined by immigration laws and regulations).
  • For F-1 students enrolled in classes for credit or classroom hours, no more than the equivalent of one class or three credits per semester may be counted toward the full course of study requirement if the class is taken on-line or through distance education and does not require the student's physical attendance for classes, examination, or other purposes integral to completion of the class.
  • Make sure the I-20 is signed for travel prior to leaving the country so that re-entrance into the US is possible.
  • Apply well in advance for a visa if needed for study abroad.
  • Keep health insurance up to date. Renew coverage prior to the expiration date. All students at Holy Family University are required to have health insurance.
  • Maintain a valid passport.
  • Apply for program extensions 30 days before the completion date on the I-20.
  • Inform the International Affairs Office to update the SEVIS record whenever there is a change in schools, majors, and program levels no later than 15 days after the first day of classes in the program start date.
  • File US tax forms for each year you are present in the US (even if you have no US income).

If planning to remain in the US after graduation you must do one of the following before finishing your academic program:

  • Apply for Optional Practical Training, if eligible.
  • Gain admission to another academic program with the intent to enroll in the next available term.
  • Apply for a Change of Status to another nonimmigrant status using Form I-539
  • If authorized for Post Completion Practical Training and having received an EAD card, notify the International Affairs Office of place and date of employment, any change of residency, contact, information, or change of status within 10 days of the change.
  • Contact the International Affairs Office to verify all information related to the I-20.
  • If you change residency, notify the International Affairs Office within 10 days of your move-in-date.
  • Obey all US laws.
  • Carry a PA state issued photo ID card, or a copy of your passport and visa.

J-1 Status Responsibilities

Scholars and faculty in J-1 status are responsible for understanding and complying with US federal regulations in association with J-1 exchange scholar visa status. Failure to do so could result in serious consequences with regard to legal status in the US.

A J-1 visa holder should keep the following in mind in order to maintain status.

  • Maintain a valid passport at all times.
  • Maintain a valid physical address and report any change of address or name change within 10 days to the Responsible Officer (RO) associated with the International Affairs Office.
  • Purchase prior to arrival all required health and accident insurance for self and all dependents as stipulated by the Department of State. Minimum coverage (effective 05/15/2015) must include medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness, at least $25,000 for repatriation of remains, at least $50,000 for expenses associated with medical evacuation of the exchange visitor to his/her country, and a deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness. Exchange visitors may be subject to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act [22 CFR 62, 14 (a)].
  • Consult with the Responsible Officer associated with the International Affairs Office to request permission to undertake employment outside the program authorized on the DS-2019.
  • Maintain a full course of study (undergraduate 12 credits and graduate 6 credits). Authorization from the Responsible Officer is required to enroll for a reduced credit load and only for limited circumstances.
  • Upon arrival in the US report to the Responsible Officer associated with the International Affairs Office to have your J-1 status validated to active. Consult with your Responsible Officer prior to travel outside the United States. This will ensure that you have a valid signature for travel and, if necessary, a new DS-2019 will be issued for visa renewal.
  • Dependents may accompany J-1 exchange scholars during their stay in the US. The Responsible Officer associated with the International Affairs Office will prepare visa documents for any dependent of a J-1 scholar and report the required biographical information to SEVIS. Dependents are expected to reside with the J-1 holder.
  • Should a J-1 scholar need to end his/her program earlier than noted on the DS-2019, the Responsible Officer associated with the IAO must be notified about the plan to leave the University, as well as, the reason for this departure.
  • Scholars who plan to transfer to another J-1 program at another university must notify the RO associated with the IAO prior to the transfer. Holy Family University is required to review and process this transfer.
  • All J-1 exchange scholars planning to extend their stay at Holy Family University must apply for the extension before the DS-2019 expires. The scholar's program sponsor must request the extension.
  • Upon completion of the Exchange Program, all J-1 exchange scholars must depart the US within 30 days of the program end date noted on the DS-2019.

J-1 Length of Stay in the United States

Professor and Research Scholar
The maximum period of participation for J-1 professors and research is five years. This five year period is not aggregate but rather a continuous period. The length of stay on the Form DS 2019 can be from three weeks to five years.

Short Term Scholar
This category of scholar may remain in the US for up to six months. No exceptions are permitted beyond six months.

J-1 Student (Non-degree seeking)
The length of time that the Form DS 2019 is issued for J-1 students is dependent upon the academic program and objectives. Generally the maximum duration of a non-degree exchange visitor program is 24 months inclusive of academic training.

Exchange Visitor Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement

Certain exchange visitors (J-1) are subject to a two-year home-country physical presence requirement which requires you to return to your home country for at least two years at the end of your exchange visitor program. This is also known as the foreign residence requirement under US law, Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 212 (e). If you are unable to return to your home country to fulfill the two-year requirement, you must obtain a waiver approved by the Department of Homeland Security prior to changing status in the United States or being issued a visa in certain categories for travel to the United States.