Maintaining J-1 Status
Exchange visitors maintain their J-1 status by engaging only in activities permitted under their program and category, filing timely and appropriate transfer and extension notifications, refraining from unauthorized employment, and maintaining required health insurance coverage. Each category will have additional specific requirements.
Exchange visitors are at all times expected to maintain a:
- Valid DS-2019
- Valid Passport
- I-94 marked D/S
D/S stands for “duration of status” and refers to the program period listed as item 3 on Form DS 2019. The definition of J-1 “duration of status” is the period specified on Form DS-2019 “plus a period of 30 days for the purpose of travel…”
Each category has a definition and expectations for the activities of the exchange visitor, which must be met. For example, a student is expected to carry a full-time course of study, a researcher or professor is here to perform research or teach.
Unauthorized employment is a violation of program status. An exchange visitor’s participation is subject to termination when he or she engages in unauthorized employment.
Every exchange visitor (both J-1 and J-2) is required to obtain health insurance which meets the minimum requirements. This insurance must be maintained throughout the entire period of program participation.
All exchange visitors (both J-1 principals and J-2 dependents) are required to have sickness and accident insurance and medical evacuation and repatriation insurance in effect for the duration of their exchange visitor status.
A willful failure to carry insurance is considered to be a violation of the Exchange Visitor Program regulations. DOS treats willful failure to carry insurance as a serious infraction for which neither correction of the record nor reinstatement are available as remedies.
Health insurance in the US is primarily a private industry with a variety of options for coverage and cost. DOS has established minimum requirements for insurance that are designed to protect the exchange visitor and his or her family. Sponsors should be aware that the stated figures are indeed the minimum amounts with no provisions for automatic updating. Exchange visitors may wish to obtain, or sponsors may insist upon coverage that exceeds the minimum requirements by the regulations:
Sponsors shall require each exchange visitor to have insurance in effect which covers the exchange visitor for sickness or accident during the period that an exchange visitor participates in the sponsor’s exchange visitor program.
Minimum coverage shall provide:
- Medical benefits of at least $50,000 per accident or illness
- Repatriation of remains in the amount of $7500.
- Expenses associated with medical evacuation of the exchange visitor to his or her home country in the amount of $10,000
- A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness
Students may engage in two kinds of employment: (1) academic training related to the course of study, and (2) other employment related to academic funding, on-campus work, or economic necessity. Each kind of employment has its own limits and criteria.
A J-1 college or university student may engage in part-time employment other than academic training when the employment meets certain criteria, and the student meets certain conditions. Sponsors will usually want to assist the student in using these kinds of employment so as to preserve as much academic training as possible for use after completion of studies.
Employment can authorized by the RO/ARO for the following types of employment:
- Employment pursuant to the terms of scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship
- Employment that occurs on the premises of the post-secondary accredited educational institution the visitor is authorized to attend; or
- Employment that occurs off-campus, which is necessary because of serious, urgent, and unforeseen economic circumstances that have arisen since acquiring exchange visitor status.
Employment must be authorized in writing by the RO/ARO before the employment begins, but SEVIS does not currently have a reporting function for employment. In the meantime, RO/AROs should follow the instructions in the regulations, and approve specific employment in advance, in writing.
Employment authorization is subject to the following regulatory conditions:
- Student is in good academic standing at the post-secondary accredited educational institution
- Student continues to engage in a full course of study, except for official school breaks and the student’s annual vacation
- Employment totals no more than 20 hours per week, except during official school breaks and the student’s annual vacation, when it may be full time
- The responsible officer has approved the specific employment in advance and in writing. Such approval may be valid up to 12 months, but is automatically withdrawn if the student’s program is terminated.
What is it?
Academic training is work, training, or experience related to a student’s field of study. Appropriate activities vary over disciplines. Postdoctoral training in biochemistry may consist of paid research at one location with one faculty adviser. Academic training in music may involve a number of paid or unpaid teaching or performance opportunities. Academic training may involve sequential or simultaneous activities, either paid or unpaid, with several employers, US or foreign, providing the application and approval procedures are followed for each employer and activity, and the time limits are not exceeded.
A student may participate in academic training programs during his or her studies, without wages or other remuneration, with the approval of the academic dean or advisor and the Responsible Officer. A student may be authorized to participate in academic training programs for wages or other remuneration during his or her studies or commencing not later than thirty days after completion of his or her studies.
Eligibility requirements for academic training
- The student must be in the US primarily to study rather than engage in academic training. This is meant to eliminate situations in which the student studies for a short period and undertakes academic training for a longer period.
- Academic training must be done with a specific employer or training site, and be directly related to the major field of study listed on the Form DS-2019. A specific description of the training opportunity is required.
- The student must be in good academic standing.
- The student must receive written approval in advance from the RO/ARO for the duration and type of academic training.
Academic training is permitted at any stage of a student’s program, while the student is enrolled in school or after completion of the program.