J-1 Visa General Information

The J visas category is used for exchange students, interns and scholars. The J-1 visa program monitored by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through an electronic database called Student and Exchange Visitor Information System or SEVIS. For more information about the SEVIS, also referred to as the SEVP (Student Exchange Visitor Program) click  here. Each student/intern/scholar has a unique SEVIS ID number assigned to him/her and noted on the immigration form DS-2019. The DS-2019 is used to apply for an J-1 visa at a US Consulate or Embassy abroad. The DS-2019 is also proof of eligibility to obtain J-1 status for the purpose of coming to the U.S. The J-1 Status is granted upon entering the U.S. or upon receiving change of status approval through an application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.

The J-1 section of the ISSS page has been designed to facilitate reporting and collection of information J-1 visa holders to help them maintain legalJ-1 status during their stay in the U.S. It also provides a wealth of information to help J-1 visa holders weave through the maze of immigration rules that they need to follow.

J-1 Immigration Responsibilities

As an J-1 student, you are subject to many rules and regulations related to your immigration status. Advisors at ISSS are available to assist you and answer your questions about your immigration status, but it is your responsibility to know and abide by the law in order to maintain valid legal status.

  • Possess a passport that is valid at all times. It is recommended that you keep your passport valid at least six months into the future.

  • Attend the school/institution you were authorized to attend.

  • Be registered full-time for each academic semester as defined by USCIS. For undergraduate students, this means registration for, and completion of, at least 12 credits per academic semester (fall and spring semesters), and for graduate students, this means registration for, and completion of, at least 9  graduate-level  credits per academic semester.

  • Register for no more than three (3) fully on-line credits as part of your required full time enrollment. Undergraduate students may enroll for no more than 3 of their required 12 credits each term. Graduate students may enroll for no more than 3 of their required 9 credits each term.

  • Maintain good academic and make normal progress towards completing your degree (which includes completion of at least 12 credits each fall or spring semester for undergraduate students and at least 9 credits for graduate students).
    File for a Program Extension prior to the expiration date of your DS-2019 if you need additional time to complete your program. You must receive from OIP and your home school to be eligible for DS-2019 extension.

  • Check your documents to be sure they are in order before leaving the U.S., even for a brief trip, and be sure to have the proper documents to re-enter the U.S.

  • Engage in employment only with proper authorization. Working without proper authorization constitutes illegal employment, which is a serious violation of your immigration status.
    Notify ISSS if you change your address name, program of study, source of funding, or any other information listed on your form DS-2019.

For further clarifications about any of the above, or if you wish to make sure you are maintaining legal status in accordance with your visa classification, make an appointment to see an ISSS advisor. At the appointment, make sure to bring your passport, I-94 and DS-2019 with you.

J-1 Visa vs J-1 Status

There is often confusion over the difference between visa and status. In many countries, a visa is directly tied to the immigration status. In the U.S., the visa simply allows a foreign national to apply for admission in the U.S. at a U.S. Port of Entry. The U.S. Port of Entry grants the legal status through endorsing the I-94 arrival/departure document.

This endorsement and granting of status is done each time an individual enters the U.S. Thus it is essential that each time you travel and re-enter the U.S. you are prepared to document your legal J-1 status. You should also carefully review the I-94 card for accuracy at the Port of Entry (be certain the Port grants the current legal status), and that you provide the ISSS office with updated copies of the I-94 card each time you travel.

For J-1 students, the Port of Entry will mark J-1 as the visa status and D/S for duration of status. This D/S indication allows the educational institution to extend or transfer your legal immigration status without any additional applications to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and beyond the expiration date of the J-1 visa stamp.

Extensions or changes of status to J-1 provide valid immigration status in the U.S., but the J-1 visa can only be obtained or renewed at a U.S. Consulate abroad (preferably in the student’s home country). A valid visa stamp must be presented upon re-entering the United States. Note: Do not enter the U.S. using a B-1/B-2 tourist visa or using the Visa Waiver Program. Doing so will not allow for study or any other benefits related to the J-1 status.