F-1 or J-1: Which Status is Right For You?

F-1 Status

F-1 is the most common visa status used by students in the U.S. and best fits a student's situation. Most international students at UC Berkeley have F-1 status. See F-1 Immigration Regulations to find out more about the benefits and restrictions of the F-1 status.

J-1 Status

J-1 visa status is generally used for students in specific educational exchange programs such as the UC Education Abroad Program (EAP), Fulbright, LASPAU, DAAD, AmidEast, or others. It may also be used by the University for students in degree programs. To be eligible for a J-1, students must receive a majority of their financial support from sources other than personal funds. See J-1 Immigration Matters to learn more about the benefits and restrictions of the J-1 student status. To be eligible for J-1 status, students must meet the following criteria:

  • Have adequate financial support for all of your school and living expenses, including additional financial support for any accompanying family members, for the duration of your degree program as determined by normative time AND
  • 51% of your total financial support comes from an institutional or government sponsor in the form of a scholarship, fellowship, assistantship, stipend, tuition waiver, or other direct support provided specifically for the educational program.  Personal or family funds and loans or support from individuals do not qualify.

    OR
  • You are participating in a specific educational exchange program (see above).

Comparison Between the J-1 and F-1 Status

J-1F-1
Must have substantial (51%) institutional financial support provided specifically for the educational program to obtain the initial document and to request any extensions of the DS-2019.

Must show financial support for the entire length of program when requesting the initial document.

Any source of financial support is acceptable.

Must show financial support for the first year of the program when requesting the initial document.

Any employment on- or off-campus requires a work permit from the program sponsor.On-campus employment does not require a work permit.

Off-campus employment requires a work permit from Berkeley International Office and/or the Immigration Service.
Post-degree Academic Training (employment) is available for up to 18 months, but you must have a job offer prior to the end of end of studies. An extension for up to 18 months is possible for post-doctoral research.  Off-campus work during the degree program reduces the total period of Academic Training available after program completion.
Post-degree Optional Practical Traninng employment permission is available for a 12-month period. An extension for 17 months is possible for certain STEM majors. A job offer is not required.
J-2 dependent (spouse, child) work permission is available.F-2 dependents (spouse, child) are not eligible for any work permit.
J-1 and J-2 dependents may be subject to the Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence RequirementNo Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement.
J-2 dependents are eligible to study part-time or full-time in the U.S.F-2 spouses are not eligible to study full-time in the U.S. F-2 spouses may engage in study that is merely avocational or recreational in nature. F-2 children in primary and secondary schools may be eligible to study part-time or full-time in the U.S.

Other Nonimmigrant Classifications

New students may already be in the U.S. with another type of nonimmigrant status. Some of these classifications allow you to attend school and some do not. Students in F-2 and B1/B2 status are not allowed to study full-time at Berkeley and must speak to a Berkeley International Office Advisor about changing status.  See more information under Other Visa Classifications.

Questions About Your Status

Contact an advisor at Berkeley International Office if you have any questions about your current or future immigration status. If you think you may need to change status, talk to a Berkeley International Office Advisor before you complete the NIF.

For more information about various types of nonimmigrant status, visit the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Service (USCIS) web site.