This section provides the following detailed information for international students in J-1 nonimmigrant status.
- Important Information about the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program
- Entering the U.S. (DS-2019 and J-1 Visa)
- Maintaining Legal J-1 Status
- Travel Outside the U.S. and Reentry
- Employment Options
- Grace Period
- Two-Year Home Country Residence Requirement and Waiver
The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program is administered by the Office of Exchange Coordination and Designation, in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of United States Department of State. Our J-1 Program is overseen by the Academic and Government Division.
Office of Exchange Coordination and Designation
ECA/EC/AG – SA-44, Room 732
301 4th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20547
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 U.S. 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 15 days after the begin date. When you enter the U.S., you will receive an I-94 Arrival/Departure Record card marked “J-1” and “D/S” (duration of status).
As a J-1 student, 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 status, a J-1 student must:
- Check-in with the Office of International Services.
- Attend the university you are authorized to attend (the university given on your Form DS-2019).
- Complete the immigration transfer procedure when necessary.
- Be in good academic standing and make progress towards an academic program.
- Extend your DS-2019 prior to its expiration date if you are unable to complete your academic program by original expiration date.
- In the event of change of academic program or level, update your DS-2019 in a timely fashion in accordance with immigration regulations.
- Maintain full-time enrollment during the academic year. Undergraduate students must enroll for 12 credits per semester while graduate students must enroll for 9 credits or full-time dissertation study each semester.
- Must be authorized for employment on-campus before it begins. Limit on-campus employment to 20 hours per week during academic year.
- Not accept unauthorized employment and not work off campus without authorization.
- Keep your passport valid at all times. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months into the future on the day you return to the U.S. from a trip abroad, unless your country is a part of the 6-month club.
- Maintain required health insurance coverage.
- Complete a departure notification if you leave the program 30 days or more before the end date of DS-2019.
- Update your current and permanent address information in my.pitt.edu within 10 days of moving.
U.S. government regulations require J-1 students to be in the U.S. for the primary purpose of attending school. In general, employment in the U.S. is restricted. The following employment possibilities exist for J-1 students:
- On-campus employment: You must be authorized by your program sponsor before beginning employment. Limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session and available as full time during school vacation and holidays. On-campus employment is defined as work done on the premises of the school who issued DS-2019.
- Off-campus employment: Under certain conditions you may be eligible for off-campus employment either based on economic need or academic training. You may not begin the employment unless you have received official authorization from the Office of International Services.
- Academic Training: Academic Training may be authorized for off-campus employment related to a student’s field of study if it meets certain criteria.
For more information, refer to Employment Authorization for J-1 Students.
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).
Having J-2 status does not enable a J-2 dependent to work, but it gives the person the ability to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) (Form I-766) from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). See the J-2 Employment Authorization Instructions for details on the application process. The J-2 dependent does not have legal permission to work until the EAD is approved by USCIS.
For more information refer to J-2 Dependents.
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 Taxes.