Maintaining J-1 Visa Status
Once awarded J-1 status, the exchange visitor must comply with the regulations concerning J-1 visa-holders. J-1 exchange visitors are at all times expected to maintain a valid DS-2019, a valid passport and an I-94 marked "D/S," which stands for duration of status. "Duration of status" refers to the specified program period listed at item 3 on the Form DS-2019, plus a 30-day grace period for the purpose of travel.
The J-1 exchange visitor is expected to engage only in appropriate activities defined by his or her program category. That is, the student must carry a full-time course of study; a professor is here to perform research or teach; and a short-term scholar is here to lecture, research or observe in a capacity related to his or her expertise. An exchange visitor's participation in unauthorized employment would be a violation of visa status.
Other J-1 visa requirements include:
- Carrying health insurance that meets the minimum requirements specified at 22 C.F.R. § 62.14. This insurance must be maintained throughout the program participation period.
- Report changes of address within 10 days of the address change.
The J-1 student or scholar should maintain regular contact with OISSS in order to insure he or she communicates any change of address, change in course registration, travel plans, academic training periods and other such issues. There could be valid reasons to request a reduced courseload, such as compelling medical or academic circumstances. The J-1 student must contact OISSS for authorization, and the Responsible Officer will decide if the circumstances are valid.
If a J-1 student falls out of status, he or she may be eligible for reinstatement to J-1 status. The student must make an application to the Department of State (DOS) for reinstatement, and abide by the adjudication result. Reinstatements must be done within nine months of falling out of status, and the student must explain the reason(s) for letting his or her status lapse. The DOS can take one of two actions upon adjudicating the application:
- Approval. The exchange visitor is reinstated to J-1 status. The RO or ARO will print out a new DS-2019.
- Denial. SEVIS record is terminated and the entry visa is cancelled. The exchange visitor will be charged with a status violation, and he or she begins to accrue days of unlawful presence. A status violation and the accumulation of unlawful presence will affect any future benefits requested and may create bars to future admittance to the U.S.
If the J-1 exchange visitor travels outside the U.S., he or she will need a valid passport, valid visa and DS-2019 to re-enter the U.S. If the J-1 visa sticker has expired, the exchange visitor must visit the U.S. consulate in their home country to renew the visa. As long as the J-1 student or scholar has maintained status while in the U.S., and his/her program period has not ended, he or she should have no trouble renewing the visa.
In some cases the J-1 program period can be extended, depending on the program category, but the exchange visitor must contact OISSS to discuss whether this is an option or not. The same applies to transfers from one exchange program to another. In the case of students transferring from one SEVIS school to another, this might be possible as long as the student continues full-time enrollment toward an academic degree.
J-1 exchange visitors are required to report a change of address to the Department of State within ten days. They can do this by contacting OISSS, and the RO or ARO will report the address change through SEVIS, or they can fill out an AR-11 form on-line with the Department of Homeland Security.
Failure to report an address change is taken very seriously by the Department of State and can result in the termination of the J-1 visa as well as ineligibility for reinstatement.