International Student Services
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 the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program?
- Two-year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement
- Health Insurance Requirements
- What is J-1 “Status”?
- J-1 Document Overview
- Events That Require You to Update Your DS-2019
- Full-Time Registration Requirements and Exceptions
- Travel: Returning to the U.S. After a Temporary Absence
- Dependents (Spouse and Children)
- Change of Address
- Graduation or Completion of Your Exchange Program
- Contacting the U.S. Department of State
What is the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program?
The purpose of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program is to increase mutual understanding between people of the U.S. and people of other countries through educational and cultural exchanges, thereby strengthening the ties between the nations. There are fifteen different categories under the J-1 visa program: you are here in a “student” category. The J-1 visa accommodates your travel to the U.S. to study full-time, explore, and be a “citizen ambassador.” Please see the Department of State’s Welcome Brochure.
Two-year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement
Exchange Visitors subject to the 212(e) two-year home country physical presence requirement must return to their home countries and be physically present there for an aggregate of two years before being eligible to return to the U.S. in H, L, or immigrant (permanent resident/green card) status. When you apply for your J-1 visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy, the U.S. consular officer will check a box on your DS-2019 to indicate whether or not this requirement applies to you.
Health Insurance Requirements
You are required by U.S. law to have health insurance coverage during your entire stay in the U.S; the health insurance coverage must meet minimum requrements. If you bring family members in J-2 status, they must also have health insurance coverage that meets these minimum requirements.
Statement of Compliance
You must submit an J-1 Insurance Requirement Statement of Compliance when you report to campus. For instructions about when and where to submit copies of your immigration documents and J-1 Insurance Statement of Compliance, review our New Student Post-Arrival Checklist.
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 unique to 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:
- Time between intial entry and the start of studies (you can enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before the start date on your DS-2019)
- Study period when you are a full-time registered student making normal progress in your degree or exchange program studies
- Optional period of academic training following completion of studies
- 30-day “grace period” after completion of studies, to prepare to depart the U.S. or change to another status.
J-1 Document Overview
Federal law requires you to carry “registration” documents at all times: DS-2019, passport, and I-94 record. Below is an overview of the documents related to your J-1 status. For day-to-day purposes, we suggest you keep these documents in a secure location such as a bank safe deposit box, and you should carry photocopies. However, if you travel outside the Seattle area you should carry the original documents with you. If you travel by air, train, bus or ship, you may be required to produce these documents before boarding. Keep photocopies and digital copies of all your documents in a separate location in the event your documents are lost or stolen.
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.
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
U.S. entry and exits are recorded electronically by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) through the I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. This important record lists your entry date, port of entry, and admission status (like “J-1”). The I-94 record may be required as proof of status for J-1 benefits applications, employment verification, and other official purposes. When you enter the U.S. by airplane or ship you will be issued an online I-94 automatically. For entry crossing a land border, you will be issued a white paper 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 https://i94.cbp.dhs.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.
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.
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.
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
In general, J-1 students must be registered for a “full course of study.” Online classes do not count towards full-time enrollment. “Full-time” is defined as at least:
- 12 credits each quarter for undergraduate students
- 10 credits each quarter for graduate students
See the General Graduate Student Policies set by the Graduate School for more information and exceptions.
Exceptions to the Full-Time Enrollment Requirement
The J-1 regulations allow for some exceptions to the full-time rule. Most of the exceptions require advance permission from your ISS advisor. 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. These are the exceptions to the full-time enrollment requirement.
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.
Valid Academic Reasons
To apply for part-time enrollment permission for an academic reason, provide a support letter from your academic advisor or course instructor to your ISS advisor.
To apply for part-time enrollment permission for a medical condition, provide a support letter from a medical professional recommending the reduced course of study.
Final Quarter (Meaning Graduation Quarter or Last Quarter of Exchange)
You must register for at least one credit at UW in your final quarter. Here are the instructions to request permission for part-time enrolllment:
- Degree Students: email your ISS advisor
- Exchange Students: Review the “Required Course Load” information on the UW Study Abroad office website (scroll to the middle of the page). If you meet the requirements to enroll part-time in the final quarter of your exchange, submit the “Part-Time Enrollment Request Form” at the link above.
Graduate students registered for thesis or dissertation credit may register for fewer than 10 credits and be considered full-time for immigration purposes.
J-1 status allows limited employment, such as on-campus or Academic Training. You must always receive employment authorization in advance by notifying your primary ISS adviser of your job offer. Carefully review your J-1 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 (with some exceptions)
- Evidence of finances
- Copy of your transcript and current course schedule
- 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.
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 the U.S. 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.
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.
Contacting the U.S. Department of State
The Exchange Visitor Program is administered under the oversight of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).
Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
U.S. Department of State
State Annex SA-5, Fifth Floor
Washington, DC 20522-0505
Report Abuse or Exploitation – If you are mistreated and/or your rights are violated, and your sponsor is not providing the help you need, contact the Department of State for assistance:
J-1 Visa Emergency Hotline: 1-866-283-9090.
This line is for use by exchange visitors and third parties in the case of urgent situations. A Department of State representative is available 24 hours a day.
Regular Communications or questions: email@example.com.
This e-mail address is to communicate non-emergency issues, questions, and concerns.
Rights and Protections for Temporary Workers and Students
The U.S. government is committed to fighting human trafficking and labor abuses. You have rights and protections in the U.S., and there are resources if you need help. Learn about your rights and protections, and review the Wilberforce pamphlet, created at the prompting of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (Public Law 110-457).