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Immigration Information for J-1 Students

While studying in the United States all J-1 students must follow immigration regulations as outlined by the U.S. Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security in order maintain their legal immigration status. Your status relates to the purpose of your visit to the United States: to study. You should not take any actions that detract you from that purpose.

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 (i.e., failure to maintain a full-time credit load or unauthorized employment) could jeopardize your J-1 status and legal stay in the U.S.

Learn more about the Exchange Visitor Program.

What is the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program?
What is "J-1 Status?"
What is a "Responsible Officer?"
Health Insurance Requirements
Period of Authorized Stay
Two-year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement


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 and you should carry photocopies. However, if you are traveling out of the state or country 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.

J-1 Visa
DS-2019: Certificate of Eligibility
I-94 Arrival and Departure Record

When to Update your DS-2019

The Department of Homeland Security requires J-1 students to update a RO when certain changes take place throughout your stay in the United States.

Change of personal information:

Any time there is a change to your personal information (e.g., legal name, physical or mailing address, email, or phone number), you must notify a RO to reflect the change in your DS-2019. You must report these changes within 10 days as mandated by the Department of Homeland Security.

You can update this information by emailing your RO at

Full-time Registration Requirements

As a Foreign Exchange student you are required to be registered for a full course of study during the Fall and/or Spring semesters.

  • Undergraduate Students - 12 Credit Hours
  • Graduate Students - 9 Credit Hours

Online Courses: Only 3 credit hours (or one online course) per semester are applicable towards your full-time enrollment.


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.

Completion of your Program

The end of your exchange 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..
  • Transfer your SEVIS record to another SEVP-Certified Institution.
  • Apply for a change of status to another visa category. ROs cannot assist with change of status applications. If you need additional assistance, we recommend you contact an immigration attorney.

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:
This e-mail address is to communicate non-emergency issues, questions, and concerns.