Maintaining Your Visa Status

As an international student at Stanford University in F-1 or J-1 status, you must be aware of, and abide by, the U.S. immigration regulations that govern your stay here.

Be sure to read the Instructions to Students on page 2 of your I-20 if you are in F-1 status, or on page 2 of your DS-2019 if you are in J-1 status.

By following those instructions and the information below, you will maintain legal student F-1 or J-1 status in the US and be able to take full advantage of student status benefits such as work and travel.


1. Visa documents:

  • Maintain a valid passport and an unexpired I-20/DS-2019  at all times when in the U.S.
  • Transfer your F-1/J-1 if you are changing schools.
    • F-1 students transferring from other U.S. schools will be issued a new I-20 marked "transfer completed" after enrollment, and once the local residence address has been entered in Axess as the SEVIS (US) address. You will be contacted by the I-Center when this new I-20 is ready for you to pick up.
    • J-1 students transferring from other U.S. schools will be issued a new DS-2019 from Stanford. Generally this document will be mailed to you by the I-Center

    2. Academic:

    3. Employment:

    • Do not accept off-campus employment without receiving prior authorization.
    • Do not work more than 20 hours a week on or off campus while school is in session. Note that your department can have additional limitations on the number of hours you can work, so check with your department if you are unsure.
    • See our Employment page for more information.

    4. Personal information changes:

    5. Leaving and re-entering the U.S.:

    • In order to re-enter the U.S. after a trip abroad, you will need a valid passport, a valid visa stamp, and a valid I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1 Exchange Visitors) with a recent I-Center signature.
    • If you have been absent from the U.S. for a period of five months or more and plan to re-enter the U.S. to continue your program, you must request a new I-20/DS-2019 from the I-Center at least 2-3 months before your re-entry. Your current I-20/DS-2019 becomes invalid for entry if you are out of the U.S. for more than 5 months.
    • See our Travel and Re-entry page for more information.

    6. Dependents:

    • F-2 dependents may not work.
    • F-2 spouses may only enroll in a vocational or recreational course of study.
    • F-2 dependent children may be enrolled in elementary and secondary school.
    • J-2 dependents may apply for work authorization.
    • J-2 dependents have no restrictions on attending school.
    • Report to an International Student Advisor any change in F-2 or J-2 dependent’s status/personal information within 10 days after change occurs.
    • Report J-2 dependent early departure

    7. Insurance requirement:

    • All J-1 Exchange Visitors are required by law to maintain medical insurance for themselves and dependents(s).
    • While no Federal regulatory requirements exist for F-1 visa holder or their F-2 dependents, Stanford policy mandates that all students be enrolled in a medical insurance plan.

    8. Change of Visa Status if needed:

    • All students changing their visa category from one type of non-immigrant visa to another must do so through the I-Center and USCIS.  If you have received an I-20 or DS 2019 from the I-Center, please be sure to complete the change of status process through USCIS (  Once it is completed, verify you are in the correct status by providing a photocopy of your approval notice (Notice of Action) and your I-20/DS 2019 with the change of status notations to the I-Center.  If you have returned from international travel, please also confirm your I-94 record at to ensure you entered the US in the correct status.  

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