Maintaining your status as an international student is easy if you remember these three simple rules (explained in more detail below):

  1. Stay enrolled full-time
  2. Be sure you have permission before beginning work
  3. Respect your program end date

Our office provides information, advice and assistance regarding your immigration service status. However, it is your responsibility to stay in compliance with these rules. If you have questions, ask us!

1) Register for a Full-Time Course Load

You are required to be a full-time registered student during each of the academic terms (Fall, Winter, Spring quarters).

  • Undergraduate students must enroll in a minimum of 12 units per quarter and
  • Graduate students must enroll in a minimum of 8 units per quarter. Some departments may require that a graduate student register for more than 8 units.)

You are not required to enroll in Summer classes to maintain your student status during the summer break.

If for some reason you are unable to register for a full-time course load, or will be dropping classes that would bring you below the minimum units required, contact an OISS advisor as soon as possible to discuss your situation.

Graduating? If you need less than the minimum units in order to graduate, there is an exception for you. You are not required to register for more units than needed for graduation. For example, if you need only 4 units to graduate, you can register for 4 units and still be considered maintaining your legal status during your final quarter. However, if you decide to take less than the minimum units in your last quarter, you MUST contact OISS so the exception can be noted and your SEVIS record can be updated.

2) Observe Rules Regarding Employment (Do Not Work Illegally)

Generally speaking, if you are in valid F-1 status and are a full-time continuing student, you are eligible to be employed on the UCSB campus without any special authorization. J-1 students MUST received authorization from OISS before working on or off campus.
F-1 or J-1, all off-campus employment requires documented authorization.
Authorization is issued by either the OISS or UC Immigration service and Customs Enforcement (US ICE), depending on the nature of the employment. Employment (both on and off campus combined) is restricted to half time (20 hours per week or less) while school is in session, but can be full-time during the break periods. Information on off-campus employment authorization can be obtained at OISS. (See also section on F-1 Student Employment or J-1 Student Employment)

Type of Student Visa On-campus Employment  Off-campus Employment
 F-1 OK to work without OISS authorization  OISS authorization required
 J-1  OISS authorization required  OISS authorization required

3) Do Not Exceed Your Authorized Period of Stay

You were admitted to the US as an F-1 or J-1 student for what is termed Duration of Status (D/S). This means you are authorized for a limited stay in the US for the duration of the study program indicated on your I-20 form (F-1 students) or DS-2019 (J-1 students).

There are two issues to be aware of regarding this requirement:

  1. You need to be sure that your I-20 or DS-2019 is current. The date on item #5 of the I-20 form, or item #3 of the DS-2019 , indicates the period of time you are allowed to pursue your educational objective. OISS can extend this date can be extended if necessary. An extension will most probably be necessary for J-1 students since the initial DS-2019 is typically issued for one-year.

    You MUST extend your I-20 or DS-2019 BEFORE it expires.
    Please contact OISS at least two months before the expiration of your I-20 or DS-2019 in order to process an extension.
  2. Your authorized period of stay ends when you complete your program of study or otherwise stop being a full-time continuing student, even if your I-20 or DS-2019 has not expired. When you complete your program of study you are allowed to remain legally in the US for an additional period of time - 60 days for F-1 students and 30 days for J-1 students.

What happens if you fail to maintain status?

If you fail to maintain your immigration status and fall out of status, you would be in the U.S. illegally, without permission. While unlikely, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (US ICE) could require you leave the United States. More likely, being out of status (violating your immigration service status) will limit your options for employment or making changes in your plans (e.g., applying to change your immigration service status or transferring schools). Being out of status creates a major inconvenience that is not easy to fix. 

Once out of status, you can only be re-instated to legal status through an US ICE Office or the State Department (for J-1 status holders). It is MUCH, MUCH easier to protect your status than to risk falling out of status.

Staying in Status