Immigration Information for J-1 Students

It is your responsibility to understand and comply with the terms of your immigration status during your stay in the United States. A violation of the immigration regulations (for example, unauthorized employment or failure to maintain a full-time credit load) could jeopardize your student J-1 status and legal stay in the U.S. Please review this information carefully and contact your adviser in International Student Services (ISS) if you have questions.

What is J-1 "Status"?

“Status” is your nonresident category officially granted by an immigration official. To be in J-1 “status” means that you are legally in the U.S. and have benefits and restrictions specified in the immigration regulations for the J-1 visa category. You gain status either by entering the U.S. with J-1 documents (described below) or, for people already in the U.S. in a different status, by applying to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for a change of status.

Period of Authorized Stay

Your admission to the U.S. is for "duration of status," that is, for the length of your J-1 status. J-1 status covers the period when you are a full-time registered student making normal progress toward your degree (or exchange program), plus an optional period of academic training following completion of studies, plus a 30-days "grace period" to prepare to depart the U.S. or change to another status.

Documents

Federal law requires you to carry "registration" documents at all times, including your DS-2019 and passport with I-94 card attached or J-1 admission stamp (depending on what you received upon your last entry to the U.S.) I-94 card. Below is an overview of the documents related to your J-1 status. For day-to-day purposes, we suggest that these documents be kept in a secure location such as a bank safe deposit box, and you should carry photocopies. However, if you are traveling outside the Seattle area you should carry the original documents with you. If you are traveling by air, train, bus or ship, you may be required to produce these documents before boarding. Keep photocopies of all your documents in a separate location in the event your documents are lost or stolen.

Passport

Your passport must be valid at all times. Keep your passport and other important documents in a safe place, such as a bank safe-deposit box. Report a lost or stolen passport to the police because your government may require a police report before issuing a new passport. To renew or replace your passport, contact your country's consulate in the U.S.

Visa

The visa is the stamp that the U.S. consular officer placed on a page in your passport. The visa permitted you to apply for admission into the U.S. as a J-1 student, and need not remain valid while you are in the U.S. (Canadian citizens are not required to have a visa.) If your visa expires while you are in the U.S., the next time you travel abroad you must obtain a new J-1 visa before returning to the U.S. Exceptions to this rule exist for short trips to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands. Visas can only be obtained outside of the U.S. at a U.S. consulate. For more information, visit our “Travel and Visas” section.

DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility

Issued by UW, this document allows you to apply for a J-1 visa if you are outside the U.S, apply for J-1 status within the U.S., enter and reenter the U.S. in J-1 status, and prove your eligibility for various J-1 benefits.The DS-2019 indicates the institution in which you are permitted to study, your program of study, and the dates of eligibility. The Ds-2019 must remain valid at all times. Request a DS-2019 extension prior to its expiration date. Allowing the DS-2019 to expire before you complete your academic program is a violation of J-1 status.

The DS-2019 is a printout from your SEVIS (Student Exchange Visitor Information System) record. SEVIS is an internet-based database that allows schools and federal immigration agencies to exchange data on the status of international students. Information is transmitted electronically throughout a J-1 student's academic career in the U.S. Each student has a unique SEVIS ID number, which is printed on your DS-2019 in the top right corner.

I-94 Departure Record

When you enter the U.S. you are issued either an admission stamp in your passport or Form I-94, a small white card usually stapled to the passport opposite the visa stamp. In summer of 2013, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) transitioned to electronic arrival/departure records for air and sea ports of entry. For most travelers arriving by air or sea, a paper I-94 card will not be issued. Instead, the CBP official will issue an admission stamp in the passport. Travelers at land borders will continue to receive paper I-94 cards.

You might receive either a paper I-94 card or an J-1 admission stamp in your passport (no card), depending on  where you arrive. The admission stamp or I-94 card records the date and place you entered the U.S., your immigration status (for example, J-1 or J-2), and authorized period of stay (indicated by "D/S", meaning "duration of status"). Be sure to check the stamp to make sure it is correct. If you receive a paper I-94 card, keep it stapled in your passport. A $330 fee is required to replace a lost, stolen or damaged paper I-94 card. Consult your ISS adviser if you lose your I-94 card.

You might need a printout of your I-94 information to apply for various benefits such as a Washington State ID card or a Social Security Number. You can obtain a printout of your I-94 record at CPB.gov/I94

Events That Require You to Update Your DS-2019

Many kinds of updates must be reported to the Department of Homeland Security through SEVIS and must be changed on your DS-2019. Notify ISS of the following changes and request an updated DS-2019. Keep every DS-2019 for your permanent record, even after you graduate. Do not discard the old ones, even from previous schools. ISS files are archived and destroyed after several years, so it is your responsibility to keep your DS-2019s in case you need them to apply for future immigration benefits.

Program Extension

If you are unable to complete your course of study before the completion date noted on your DS-2019, you must request an extended DS-2019 before your current DS-2019 expires. For more information and instructions, see Program Extension.

Changing Schools

You must register full-time at the UW since UW is the school listed on your DS-2019. If you decide to transfer to another school, contact ISS prior to completing your final quarter at UW. For information about transferring your SEVIS record to the new school, visit School Transfer.

Change of Level

If you will complete your current program of study and plan to continue at the University of Washington in another program (for example, change from a Master’s degree program to a PhD program), your DS-2019 must be updated. For more information, see Change of Level.

Change of Funding

If there is a substantial change in the source or amount of your funding, report this change to ISS and a new DS-2019 will be issued to you. For example, if you receive a Research or Teaching Assistantship through your department, but your DS-2019 indicates that you have only a government scholarship, you should request a new DS-2019.  For more information, see Change of Funding.

Name Change

The name on your DS-2019 should match the name on your passport. If you change any part of your legal name—first/given name, middle name, or last/family name—on your passport, this change should be reflected on your DS-2019. Conversely, if you want a different name on your DS-2019, ISS will wait for you to change your passport first, before updating the DS-2019. Note that SEVIS is a separate database from the UW database. For instructions on changing your name in the UW database, visit: http://www.washington.edu/students/reg/name_change.html

Full-Time Registration Requirements and Exceptions

Full-Time Requirements

A "full course of study" is 12 or more credits per quarter for undergraduate students, and 10 or more credits per quarter for graduate students. Your ISS adviser may allow exceptions to the full-time requirement, as listed below:

  • You may take fewer credits if so advised by your ISS adviser for valid academic reasons.
  • Graduate students registered for thesis or dissertation credit may register for fewer than 10 credits and be considered full-time for immigration purposes.
  • You may reduce or interrupt a full course of study because of a documented medical condition.
  • In your final quarter, you may take as few credits as required to complete your degree. You must take at least one credit.

Do not register for fewer than the required number of credits or withdraw from a course without first receiving permission from ISS. Part-time studies could jeopardize your stay in the U.S. and make you ineligible for J-1 benefits.

Annual Vacation Quarter

You may take a "vacation quarter" and remain in the U.S. if you have completed three full-time consecutive quarters and are eligible and intend to register for the quarter following the vacation. A student who arrives in the U.S. for the first time to begin study winter or spring quarter may take the first summer as a vacation quarter. Please contact your ISS adviser if you will be taking a quarter other than summer as your vacation.

Employment

"Employment" is any work performed or services provided (including self-employment) in exchange for money or other benefit or compensation (for example, free room and board in exchange for babysitting).  J-1 status allows limited employment, such as on-campus or Academic Training. You must receive employment authorization in advance by notifying your primary ISS adviser of your job offer. If your program sponsor is not the UW, but an outside agency, you will need to obtain employment authorization from that agency. Carefully review your employment options and authorization application instructions.

Travel: Returning to the U.S. After a Temporary Absence

At the port-of-entry you must present:

  • An unexpired DS-2019 endorsed for travel within the last year by an ISS adviser (or responsible officer of your program sponsor). The travel signature is located in the lower right hand corner of the form.
  • Valid J-1 visa.
  • Passport.
  • Evidence of finances.
  • Copy of your transcript and current course schedule.
  • If returning from Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands (except Cuba) after a visit of less than 30 days solely in those countries, your visa need not be valid; however, you will be required to show your previously issued I-94 in addition to the other documents listed above.
  • Students outside the U.S. for more than one quarter and those on Academic Training may have additional requirements.
  • Go to Travel & Visas for more information.  

Dependents (Spouse and Children)

Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 may be eligible for J-2 dependent status. Contact your ISS adviser or your program sponsor for procedures to invite a dependent to join you in the U.S. J-2 dependents may apply to USCIS for employment authorization.

Change of Address

Any change of address must be reported to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) within 10 days. Update your local address through your MyUW account, and DHS will automatically be notified of the change. Please note that your local US address must be your physical address, not a P. O. Box. To update your permanent foreign address, which must be a non-U.S. address, email your primary ISS adviser.

Health Insurance Requirements

You and your family are required by federal law to have specific amounts of sickness and accident insurance for the duration of your program. Minimum coverage must provide medical benefits ($50,000 per accident or illness), a deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness, expenses associated with the medical evacuation to the home country ($10,000), and repatriation of remains ($7,500). 

If you plan to purchase the UW Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP), it meets most of the minimum requirements above except for evacuation and repatriation coverage. You must purchase medical evacuation and repatriation coverage separately.

If you are eligible and plan to waive the UW SHIP coverage, you must ensure that your alternate health insurance plan meets all minimum requirements above.

International SOS offers a policy that provides medical evacuation and repatriation benefits only.

Statement of Compliance

You must submit a Statement of Compliance with the Insurance Requirements of the Exchange Visitor Program when you report to campus and submit photocopies of your immigration documents. For instructions about when and where to submit copies of your immigration documents and Statement of Compliance, review our New Student Post-Arrival Checklist.

Graduation or Completion of Your Exchange Program

The end of your academic program affects your J-1 status. After you graduate or complete your exchange you have a 30-day grace period. Within this 30-day period you have the following options:

  • Depart the U.S. Once you leave the U.S. (including trips to Canada and Mexico) after completing your studies you are not eligible to reenter with your current DS-2019. The grace period is meant for travel within the states and preparation to depart the U.S.
  • Request a new DS-2019 if you will continue at the UW in a new degree program. If you are an undergraduate and will begin graduate studies, your new DS-2019 will be issued by Graduate Enrollment Management Services.
  • If you are moving from a Master's to a PhD program, request a Change of Level DS-2019 from ISS.
  • Transfer your SEVIS record to a new school.
  • Apply to change status to another visa category. ISS advisers cannot assist with change of status applications. If you need additional assistance, we recommend you contact an immigration attorney.

Review the ISS Final Quarter Checklist for more information, including eligibility for work authorization, travel, commencement, inviting family members to visit the U.S., and other related issues. 

If you do not complete your educational objective (for example, if you withdraw from your program), you are not eligible for the 30-day grace period. Contact your ISS adviser in this situation.