Maintaining Lawful J-1 Status

General Information

All international students present in the United States in J-1 status are required to follow specific rules established by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State (DOS) in order to maintain legal U.S. immigration status. J-1 students are issued a Form DS-2019 by their J-1 program sponsor. By signing the DS-2019 form and entering the U.S., students agree to adhere to these rules. It is the responsibility of the individual student to know and comply with these rules and to request assistance or additional information from the program sponsor when they have questions about maintaining immigration status. For students who carry DS-2019 forms issued by the University of Notre Dame, their J-1 program sponsor is the University of Notre Dame and their program Responsible Officers are the advisors in International Student and Scholar Affairs (ISSA). The Notre Dame ISSA is the only office on campus that may advise these students on maintaining their J-1 status. If an academic advisor, host, or director of graduate studies has any questions about what the scholar can and cannot do as an international student/scholar, please direct them to contact ISSA. You may also request for an International Advisor to contact your department directly if you have any problems or concerns. Again, ISSA is the only office on campus that can advise you on your immigration status.        

Please note that this information is for Notre Dame-sponsored J-1 students only. If your DS-2019 was issued by another organization that serves as your program sponsor, such as Fulbright, IIE, AMIDEAST, LASPAU, CIEE or another sponsoring organization, you must contact that organization with any immigration-related questions or for information or advice.

Immigration Status

Every individual who uses a visa to enter the United States is granted an immigration status by DHS upon admission to the country. An individual’s immigration status may be defined as the purpose and duration of the individual’s presence in the United States. The status a person is granted by the DHS official upon entry normally reflects the same purpose as the visa that the person presents at that time. For example, an individual who presents a J-1 visa when entering the U.S. would be granted J-1 status. Different rules and regulations have been established by DHS that are specific to each immigration status. For example, to maintain legal immigration status, J-1 students must enroll in a full course of study, must maintain valid documents, must not engage in unauthorized employment and must abide by the other rules established by DHS and outlined in the materials provided by ISSA. An individual who is granted a particular status must abide by these rules in order to maintain that legal status. Failure to follow these rules may result in the violation or loss of that legal status.

If an individual does violate or lose immigration status, the individual is no longer legally present in the United States and is no longer eligible for the benefits of that immigration status, which include employment and travel in and out of the United States. To regain legal status in the U.S., an individual may either request reinstatement of that status by filing an application with DHS or by departing the United States and re-entering the country, at which time the individual may be granted a new legal status.

Documents that Affect Immigration Status

DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status

The DS-2019 is a document issued to students by the J-1 program sponsor that certifies that a student/scholar has been admitted to participate in an educational program as an exchange visitor at the institution indicated on the form. The DS-2019 also provides information about the exchange visitor’s category, field of study, educational level, program length and financial support. The DS-2019 form is required to obtain a J-1 visa, to enter the United States in J-1 status, to transfer to a new school or program, and to identify the individual as an exchange visitor while in the United States. For this reason it is extremely important that students/scholars request a new or updated DS-2019 form from ISSA if any of the information on the form is incorrect or if the information changes. Students who begin study at a new level (i.e. bachelor’s to master’s), change their field of study, or who must continue to study beyond the program end date shown on the current DS-2019 must request a new DS-2019 from ISSA. Exchange visitors must keep their DS-2019 form and those of any J-2 dependents valid and must not allow them to expire. If necessary, exchange students must request a program extension from ISSA via at least 14 days in advance of the DS-2019 expiration date.  Scholars should see your department and ISSA regarding reappointments well before your existing program end date.

The DS-2019 serves as a permanent printed record of an individual’s exchange visitor activity in the United States. For this reason, you should retain all DS-2019 forms ever issued to them and keep them in a safe place; never throw away a DS-2019 form, even if it is no longer accurate or valid. Exchange visitors should carry all DS-2019’s when travelling outside the United States. The current—most recent—DS-2019 must be signed in the Travel Validation section by a Responsible Officer within 12 months before your return to the United States.


A passport is the primary identity document issued by your government and constitutes permission granted by your government to travel outside your home country. The United States government requires you to keep your passport valid at all times as a condition of your immigration status. The U.S. government requires your passport to be valid for six months into the future to approve your application for a visa or allow you to enter the U.S. If your passport will expire prior to your departure from the U.S., you should request an extension or renewal through your country’s embassy here in the U.S. Only the government that issued your passport may renew it. Your embassy or its web site may provide you with information about the forms, fees, procedures, and the amount of time necessary to extend or renew your passport. This processing time may take as long as six months depending on the country that issued the passport. If any visas are still valid in your old passport, you should request the return of the old/expired passport from your embassy. A valid visa in an expired passport may still be used in conjunction with a new/valid passport.


A visa is a travel document stamped into your passport by a U.S. consulate that allows you to enter the United States. It contains your photo, birth and citizenship information and the purpose of your visit to the U.S. The purpose of your visit to the U.S. is indicated by the visa type found in the upper right corner of the visa. The visa also contains validity dates, which are the first and last dates that a visa may be used to enter the U.S. The visa also indicates for how many entries it may be used; “multiple entry” visas may be used an unlimited number of times until the date they expire while “single entry” visas are valid for one use only. Visas may also be valid for smaller, finite numbers of entries, which is indicated on the visa itself. A visa may be valid for the duration of your program while others are valid for a much shorter period of time. This depends primarily on the reciprocity agreement between your country and the U.S.

A valid visa is not required to remain legally in the United States after a lawful entry. A valid visa is only required if you are outside the U.S. and wish to enter the country. For this reason, a visa cannot be replaced or renewed within the United States. A visa may only be obtained from a U.S. consulate outside the country. Please note that citizens of Canada and Bermuda do not require a visa to enter the U.S. in J-1 status.

It is important that you check your J-1 visa to determine if you are subject to a rule called 212(e), or the Two Year Home Residency Requirement. Certain J-1 visitors and their dependents will be required to leave the US for a minimum of two years before being allowed to change to most other visa types.  If you find that you are subject, please review complete details about the rule on the State Department website. 

I-94 Arrival/Departure Record

This record gives details regarding your most recent entry into the United States.  It is intended to provide students/scholars with the ability to present evidence of immigration status and legal entry into the United States to employers and benefit-granting agencies such the Social Security Administration and Bureau of Motor Vehicles. You may provide evidence of lawful entry and legal immigration status when completing the I-9 form by providing one of the following documents:

Online I-94 Information: Someone who entered the United States through an air or sea port may access his or her I-94 record online at: A paper copy of your most current U.S. entry can be printed from this site.  DHS advises that it may take up to three days from the date of an individual’s entry into the United States for I-94 information to become available through the web interface.  If your I-94 record cannot be found, contact ISSA for steps to retrieve it.

Traditional I-94 Card: Someone who entered the United States through a land port or who last entered the United States prior to April 20, 2013 will likely still have a paper I-94 card given to them at the border. If you apply for and are granted a change of nonimmigrant status within the United States you are also still issued a traditional paper United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Approval Notice, the bottom third of which serves as your I-94 document. 

Additional information about the I-94 may be found on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website at:

Activities that Affect Immigration Status

Check-In with International Student and Scholar Affairs (ISSA)

All J-1 students/scholars must check in with the Notre Dame ISSA office to validate your immigration status within 30 days of the start date listed in item 3 on Form DS-2019 or within one week of your arrival at Notre Dame, whichever comes first. You must present your passport so that ISSA can confirm you entered in the correct status.  ISSA will then notify the U.S. government that you are here and have begun your program.  This check-in is critical so as not to put your immigration status at risk.

Health Insurance

All J-1 exchange visitors must maintain the required amounts of health insurance for themselves and all J-2 dependents. Health insurance requirements are listed in section (f) on page 2 of the DS-2019 Form.

Full Course of Study

J-1 students must enroll in a full course of study each semester for the duration of the academic program. A full course of study is defined as twelve (12) credit hours for undergraduates and nine (9) credit hours for graduate students in degree programs. Non-degree students and those enrolled in accordance with exchange programs must enroll for the number of credits consistent with the “prescribed course of study” that is defined in the linkage agreement between Notre Dame and their home university. Withdrawing, being suspended or dismissed from the university, or enrolling for less than a full course of study prior to obtaining written authorization from ISSA is a violation of J-1 status. To request to drop below full time studies, you must fill out the Reduced Course Load Request in ISSAlink.

Change of Address

You must report a change in address to the University within ten days of the change. If your U.S. address changes at the beginning of the term, you may report the change during the Roll Call process. If your address changes at any other time during the year, you should report the address change by emailing the new address to the Office of the Registrar at ISSA will then be notified of this change. 

Location of Activity

J-1 students may study only at the institution authorized on their form DS-2019. J-1 scholars may be employed only at the institution authorized on their form DS-2019. Educational activities that take place off-campus, such as temporary study, research, lectures or presentations at off-campus locations, at other institutions or abroad require the student/scholar to obtain authorization.  This authorization is granted by ISSA through the addition of an additional site of activity in the student’s/scholar’s SEVIS record. This authorization must be granted prior to the event, and must occur whether or not you receive any payment or remuneration of expenses.


USCIS has defined employment as the rendering of services for compensation. This includes financial as well as other types of compensation that include but are not limited to meals, housing, books or any type of reimbursement for transportation, lodging, etc. Employment is a benefit available to J-1 exchange visitors but one to which numerous rules and restrictions apply. Students may violate these rules and lose their immigration status by working without the required authorization, working for more hours than permitted or engaging in self-employment or other types of prohibited employment. Working or accepting employment in the United States without proper authorization is considered a serious violation of immigration. Students considering any type of employment in the United States should consult with ISSA prior to beginning any work.

J-1 students may engage in two kinds of employment:

● Employment related to academic funding, on-campus work, or economic necessity.

● Employment for Academic Training related to the course of study.

Each kind of employment has its own criteria and limits and is permitted only with written authorization from ISSA.  

A J-2 spouse may obtain employment authorization by applying for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The EAD is a work permit that allows the J-2 spouse to work full-time or part-time in any field. J-2 spouses may not work without an EAD issued by USCIS.

Extension and Transfer Requests

J-1 students who wish to extend the current program length or change program sponsors (transfer) must have their records extended or transferred to the new program sponsor prior to the program end date on their form DS-2019. Students should file requests for program extensions and transfers in at least 14 days before that date.

Grace Period and Departure from the United States

J-1 exchange visitors may legally remain in the United States for up to 30 days following the normal completion of their program and any authorized Academic Training. Study and employment are not permitted during the grace period. Exchange visitors and their dependents must depart the United States within 30 days of the program end date shown on their form DS-2019.


J-1 students/scholars and any J-2 dependents may travel in and out of the United States during their program and during any authorized period of Academic Training with valid travel documents. These include a DS-2019 form signed by a J-1 program Responsible Officer within 12 months of the exchange visitor’s re-entry to the United States. A travel signature should be requested from ISSA at least one week prior to the intended date of departure from the U.S.

Form I-515A

If you attempt to enter the United States without your DS-2019, or without a valid travel signature on your DS-2019, you may be admitted to the U.S. conditionally and issued form I-515A. Whether or not you are allowed entrance to the U.S. is at the discretion of the DHS officer at the port of entry. If you are issued an I-515A, please contact ISSA immediately upon your return to campus. An I-515A must be submitted to DHS within 30 days of the date of issue in order to maintain your lawful immigration status. If you receive a form I-515A, please do not delay contacting ISSA and do not attempt to submit it to DHS yourself without first speaking with an ISSA staff member.

Notification of Permanent Departure from the United States

J-1 students are required to notify ISSA in writing of the date of their, or their dependents', permanent departure from the United States following the completion of their program or academic training. Notre Dame sponsored J-1 students may complete the "J-1 Notification of Student or Dependent Departure" eform in ISSAlink within 30 days of their permanent departure; scholars will complete the "Scholar or Dependent Departure" eform.

Notification of Change of Immigration Status

J-1 students who change to another immigration status are required to report that change to ISSA.


Traveling to a U.S. consulate in a third country to apply for a new visa—such as a citizen of India applying in Canada or Mexico—does not affect the applicability or likelihood of an extended security check. Students who apply for U.S. visas in third countries who are subject to an extended security check will need to make arrangements to remain in that country until the process is completed and a new visa is issued.

The University of Notre Dame recognizes the desire and the need students may have to travel during an academic program. This information is provided to enable students to assess the potential risks associated with travel in certain circumstances and to plan accordingly. The decision to travel or not to travel is in the hands of the individual student.


The dependent spouse and children of any J-1 exchange visitor in the United States may be present in the U.S. in J-2 status. The lawful immigration status of all J-2 dependents is connected to the lawful status of the primary J-1 visa holder. If a J-1 visa holder is granted a program extension/reappointment, all J-2 dependents are also granted it automatically. If the J-1 student/scholar falls out of status, all J-2 dependents are also out of status. J-2 dependents may generally travel in and out of the United States with proper documentation at any time during the primary J-1 visa holder’s program and during any period of authorized Academic Training.

A J-2 spouse may obtain employment authorization by applying for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The EAD is a work permit that allows the J-2 spouse to work full-time or part-time in any field. J-2 spouses may not work without an EAD issued by USCIS.

Other Important Notes

Weekly Email Messages & Monthly Newsletters

ISSA sends out weekly email messages during the academic year and monthly newsletters. These contain important information and updates on changes that may affect your immigration status. It is your responsibility to read and address any concerns regarding information in these notices with ISSA.

Immigration/Employment/Travel Related Questions

If you have any questions or uncertainties about your responsibilities for maintaining your lawful status or that of your dependents, the SEVIS reporting requirements, working in the U.S., travel outside the U.S., or if you think you may need to apply for a reinstatement to lawful status, please visit ISSA as soon as possible. No other office on campus can assist you with these questions.

Departmental Assistance

If your academic advisor or director of graduate studies has any questions about what you can and cannot do as an international student, please direct them to contact ISSA. You may also request an International Student Advisor contact your department directly if you have any problems or concerns. Remember, only ISSA can advise you on your immigration status.

Updated: 10/17/2016

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