The J-1 visa program was created in 1961 by the US State Department as a way to foster greater understanding and scholarship between the US and other nations. Be proud that you are a part of this great tradition! The State Department has developed a helpful website on its J-1 visa programs, which can answer many of your questions.
As a student or scholar on an J-1 visa in the US, you are primarily resopnsible for ensuring that you follow the rules of your visa status. Key points to remember are:
- Only engage in activity specific to your exchange visitor program: If you are a student, study full-time (Undergraduates minimum of 12 credit hours each semester and graduates minimum 9 credit hours, unless you are enrolled in MBA classes, in which the minimum is 6 credit hours per 8-week term). If you are a professor or scholar, you teach and undertake research under the terms of your invitation.
- Know the regulations on working in the US: You are able to work for up to 20 hours per week on campus during the academic term, but you must obtain permission from International Student Services before you can begin working. You may also be able to work for a limited time in a job off-campus related to your field of study through Academic Training, which we discuss further at orientation. This also requires prior authorization. Working off-campus without authorization is a serious violation of your visa status and puts you at risk for deportation.
- Maintain health insurance as mandated by federal regulations for the duration of your program: Federal law provides specific guidance on the amount and type of health insurance required for J visa holders. Visit our page on health insurance for further information.
- Obtain travel authorization signatures before leaving the US: If you plan to leave the US during your time here, the RO (in the International Student Services Office) must sign the DS-2019 to authorize re-entry to the US. A new travel signature is recommended every 6 months and is required every 12 months.
- Report any address or legal name change to International Student Services: Federal law requires reporting any name or address change within 10 days of the change.
- Keep a valid DS-2019: Know your program end date in box #3. As your DS-2019 expiration date approaches, speak to International Student Services about your options after the completion of your program. Failure to extend your DS-2019 or change to another visa type after your program ends means you are out of status with immigration.
- After the program end date, do not stay in the US for more than 30 days: You need a new status or your program extended to stay more than 30 days beyond the end date listed in box #3 on your DS-2019.
- Keep a valid passport: Be aware of your passport expiration date. Request a renewal six months before its expiration by contacting your country's embassy. If your valid visa is in your old passport, travel with both passports or have your visa transferred.
If International Student Services gets constructive knowledge that you are working illegally or not maintaining your status, federal law requires that we report that to the US government in SEVIS.
Keys to Success
Friends, family, and faculty advisors have good intentions and sometimes try to advise students, but they are not always dependable sources of information about immigration rules. Following wrong advice could have very severe consequences for your legal status.
If you have questions about your visa status, talk to us! Immigration laws are complex and are under constant revision. School policies and environment also factor into maintaining federal compliance. What is appropriate in one school may not be appropriate in another.