Understanding Your DS-2019
The DS-2019 is a multi-purpose document issued by a U.S. government-approved institution (or organization) certifying that your admission into a program has been accepted and that you have demonstrated sufficient financial resources to stay in the U.S. for the length of the DS-2019 form. The DS-2019 is officially titled the "Certificate of Eligibility" because with it, you are "eligible" to apply for a J-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Your spouse or children will also each need their own DS-2019 to obtain J-2 dependent status, if desired.
Getting the DS-2019 from a U.S. school is not enough to become a legal J-1 visitor; you must also be allowed legal entry to the U.S. as J-1, or be approved for a change of status from another type of nonimmigrant visa.
How the DS-2019 is created
Once your admission into a program has been accepted, your name and other biographic information are entered into a U.S. government database called SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). The SEVIS database processes the information and produces a "PDF" file of the DS-2019 that is sent back to the school via the internet. The school official (either a Responsible Officer or Alternate Responsible Officer) prints and signs the DS-2019 and then it is prepared for delivery to you. If an update or change needs to be made on the DS-2019, the school official makes these requests through SEVIS and a new document is produced.
How the DS-2019 is used outside the U.S.
The DS-2019 form is used by the prospective visitor to apply for a J-1 visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. The visa is the document needed to be allowed entry into the U.S. The DS-2019 must be presented along with the J-1 visa to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent upon arrival at a U.S. port-of-entry.
How the DS-2019 is used inside the U.S.
Once you have arrived in the U.S. and passed through the border inspections process, the DS-2019 is used for identification purposes and proof of your legal status. If you get a job on or off-campus, you will be required to show the DS-2019 to your employer during the hiring process.
Transfer of Programs
The DS-2019 is also needed for a transfer of programs. If you are transferring from one J-1 program to another, you must obtain a DS-2019 from the new school or program before your current DS 2019 has expired. See the Responsible Officer at your program to get more information about the transfer process.
Traveling with the DS-2019
If you will be traveling abroad and then returning to the U.S. to resume your J-1 program, you must take your DS-2019 with you. The DS-2019 is required to apply for a new visa, if you need one, and for re-entering the U.S. Before your departure from the U.S., make sure that you have an unexpired "travel validation" from an advisor at Berkeley International Office on the DS-2019 (bottom right corner). This signature is valid for one year for multiple visits outside the U.S. or until the DS-2019 expires, whichever is first. In most cases, a travel validation can be done quickly and easily at Berkeley International Office; however, be sure to plan ahead and get it done several weeks before you depart the U.S. to avoid the holiday rush (see also Travel and Re-entry to the U.S.)
Important Information on the DS-2019
Some immigration regulations governing the J-1 status are listed on page 2 of the document. It is important that J-1 visitors read this page to understand the rules that apply to their stay in the U.S.
The DS-2019 End Date
An "end date" was entered into item #3 on page 1 of your DS-2019 based on your particular program. If you are not able to finish your program on that date, you must request an extension from your program sponsor BEFORE the DS-2019 expires. In all cases, proof of sufficient funds will be required to extend your stay in the U.S. For some, this documentation may take time to acquire and advance planning is highly encouraged. Please consult with an Adviser at Berkeley International Office if you have any questions about your stay in the U.S. For procedures on Extension of Program, see the links below:
J-1 students who are interested in working in the U.S. following their program completion must apply for Academic Training work authorization before their actual program completion date.
The 30-day Grace Period
After completing your program, you are allowed a 30-day grace period to depart the U.S. During the grace period, you may not re-enter the US from abroad in J status.
Maintaining Your Records
The J-1 visitor is responsible for maintaining copies of all DS-2019s that he or she receives during their program. It is important that you save the copies in a secure location as you may be asked to present them when applying for future immigration benefits, a waiver of the two-year home residence requirement, or other applications. Berkeley International Office does not maintain signed copies of the DS-2019.