Entering the United States (DS-2019 and J-1 Visa)

As a J-1 exchange visitor, you will need a DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitors and a valid J-1 visa (the visa stamp in a passport) issued by the U.S. embassy or consulate abroad to enter the United States. Canadian citizens need a DS-2019 but do not need a U.S. visa. You must also carry the receipt of your paying the SEVIS fee. Please be advised that you may not enter the U.S. more than 30 days prior to the begin date on your DS-2019 and not later than 30 days after the begin date. When you enter the U.S., you will have an electronic I-94 Arrival/Departure Record marked with ā€œJ-1ā€ and ā€œD/Sā€ (duration of status).

Maintaining Legal Status

As a J-1 Exchange Visitor, you must meet certain obligations in order to maintain legal immigration status. Maintaining status is necessary in order to receive the benefits of J-1 status such as employment or a program extension. Failure to maintain your non-immigrant status can result in serious problems with immigration and could lead to deportation from the U.S. Due to the complexity of U.S. immigration regulations, we recommend that you consult with an Immigration Specialist in the Office of International Services anytime you have questions or concerns related to your J-1 status.

To maintain legal J-1 status, a J-1 scholar or professor must:

  • Check-in with the Office of International Services within 30 days of the start date of your program.
  • Have a valid passport. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months into the future on the day you return from your trip abroad, unless your country is a part of the “6-month club”
  • Have a valid DS-2019 which must be accurate at all times.
  • Have a valid I-94 record
  • Have a valid U.S. visa stamp in order to re-enter the country
  • A valid travel signature is required for re-entry into the U.S. and the signature is valid for one year.
  • Update your address information within 10 days of moving
  • Conduct employment only as indicated on the DS-2019. NOTE: Departments must contact the Office of International Services if they would like the exchange visitor to engage in collaborative work outside of University of Pittsburgh or if the exchange visitor wishes to participate in occasional lectures at another institution.
  • File timely and appropriate transfer and extension notification to the Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) through the sponsoring agency. This must be done before the end date of your current DS-2019.
  • Maintain required health insurance coverage.
  • Complete a departure notification if you leave more than 30 days before your program end date.

Employment Options for J-1 Scholars

In addition to employment at the University of Pittsburgh, J-1 visiting scholars and professors are only eligible to be authorized for incidental employment, such as providing occasional lectures or consulting. Incidental employment must be approved by the University of Pittsburgh prior to the activity. For more information, refer to Incidental Employment for J-1 Visiting Scholars and Professors.


Dependents are defined as a spouse and minor children (under age 21) of the J-1 exchange visitor. Dependent spouses and children enter the U.S. on J-2 dependent visas. Each dependent is required to have an individual DS-2019 to obtain a J-2 visa stamp from a U.S. embassy or consulate and to enter the U.S. (Canadians are exempt from the visa requirement).

For more information refer to the OIS J-2 Dependents webpage.

Grace Period

When a J-1 exchange visitor completed his or her program, a 30-day grace period begins. During these 30 days he/she may remain in the U.S. and prepare to leave. It is not permissible to work during the grace period. Nor may one exit the U.S. and reenter as a J-1 during the grace period.


All J-1 exchange visitors must file federal tax forms every year that they are in the U.S. The deadlines to file the forms are April 15, if U.S. money is earned, and June 15, if no U.S. money is earned. For more information, refer to the OIS Taxes webpage.