Top 10 Ways to Maintain Your F/J Student Status

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Effective August 9, 2018, USCIS updated policy regarding Unlawful Presence, which increases potential consequences for F-1/J-1 students who violate their status. The best way to avoid these consequences is to make sure you properly maintain your F-1/J-1 status while you are a student and during any F-1/J-1 post-completion training periods. Unlawful presence days begin accruing from the day you violated status and can impact your ability to return to the US in the future, including 3 or 10 year bars on re-entry (dependent on number of days accrued).

  • 3 year bar: You accrue more than 180 unlawful presence days but less than 1 year of unlawful presence during a single stay and before the commencement of any removal proceedings.
  • 10 year bar: You accrue one year or more of unlawful presence during a single stay, regardless of whether you leave before, during, or after removal proceedings.

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1. Keep your local U.S. address up-to-date.

Keep your local residential address current in Cal Central. It must be updated within 10 days every time you move. (Students on post-completion employment authorizations will use the BIO SSU Hub to update address and employment information.)

2. Maintain full-time enrollment.

You must be enrolled in full-time units each semester. For immigration purposes, in most cases, students must complete a minimum of 12 units per semester. Check your college (UG) or dept (Grads) for minimum unit requirements.

3. Get BIO approval before a reduction in course load or withdrawal.

If for some reason you must reduce your enrollment below full-time units or withdraw from your program, you are required to have approval from BIO before doing so.

4. Avoid violating the UC Berkeley Code of Student Conduct or U.S. laws.

If you are found in violation of the Student Code of Conduct, or have been arrested or violated U.S. laws it’s important to contact BIO as soon as possible to understand what the impact may be on your F-1/J-1 status, as well as next steps and resources for support. Remember, any violation (suspension, dismissal, arrest) that impacts your ability to be an enrolled, full-time student or continue your post-completion employment will have a negative impact on your F-1/J-1 status.

5. Attend the school noted on your I-20 (F-1s) or DS-2019 (J-1s).

You must have a current, valid I-20/DS-2019 from the school you are attending full-time. If you transfer from another school to UC Berkeley, or from UC Berkeley to another school, make sure you follow the proper procedure to transfer.

6. Keep your I-20 or DS-2019 valid at all times and understand your completion date.

Your I-20 or DS-2019 is only valid as long as you are a continuing, full-time student in your degree program, or on your approved post-completion training. If you graduate early, your I-20 or DS-2019 will be shortened to the last day of your final semester of enrollment. If your final semester is Summer you MUST be enrolled in Summer! You must notify BIO of your early completion in order to avoid overstaying. If you need more time to complete your program, apply for an Extension of Program BEFORE the current completion date on your I-20 or DS-2019.

7. Get a travel endorsement and understand your travel documents.

Before any international travel, review the necessary travel documents and obtain a travel signature from BIO. Travel endorsements are valid for one year during the program of study, but BIO recommends to obtain a new signature every 10 months. Exception: Travel endorsements during F-1 post-completion OPT/STEM are only valid for 6 months.

8. Understand your grace period after completion.

  • F-1s have a 60 day grace period following the end of the program of study or authorized OPT Post-Completion Training. F-1’s may use the grace period to depart the U.S., continue studies via Change of Level or Transfer, or apply for Post-Completion OPT employment.
  • J-1s have a 30 day grace period following the end of their program of study or Post-Completion Academic Training.  J-1s may ONLY use the grace period for departure. Any Transfer or post-completion Academic Training request must be submitted BEFORE the end of the program of study or DS-2019 expiration.

9. Work ONLY with proper Employment Authorization.

F-1 and J-1 students have limited options for employment. Before beginning any employment, review and understand F-1 or J-1 student employment rules for on-campus work or off-campus work, including before degree completion (On-Campus Employment Authorization or Academic Training for J-1s ; CPT for F-1s) and after your degree completion (Academic Training for J-1s and OPT for F-1 students). Be aware of employment authorization application procedures, eligibility, deadlines and rules for maintaining status during post-completion employment (Academic Training for J-1s and OPT for F-1 students).

10. J-1 students & J-2 dependents must maintain proper health insurance.

You, and your J-2 dependents, must maintain health insurance coverage that meets J-1 federal guidelines for the entire length of your program, including post-completion Academic Training. The UC Berkeley Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) meets these requirements.