F-1 or J-1: Which Status is Right For You?
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 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. Also be aware that the U.S. Department of State requires specific health insurance coverage for J-1 students and accompanying J-2 dependents for the entirety of their stay in the U.S.
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.
- You are participating in a specific educational exchange program (see above).
Comparison Between the J-1 and F-1 Status
|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 Traning employment permission is available for a 12-month period. A job offer is not required for 12-Month OPT.
An OPT extension for an additional 24 months is possible for certain STEM majors.
|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 Requirement
J-1 and J-2 dependents may also be subject to the 12-Month Bar depending on the length of the J program.
Note that the Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement and 12-Month Bar are separate rules.
No 12-Month Bar .
|J-2 dependents are eligible to study part-time or full-time in the U.S.|
Effective May 29, 2015: F-2 spouses and children may enroll in academic programs for less than a full course of study at an SEVP-approved school . (Check with the school and their international office to be sure enrollment is less than full-time.)
F-2 spouses and children can participate in studies that are "avocational or recreational in nature" (i.e., non-academic hobbies and recreational studies) up to and including full-time. F-2 children may attend full-time elementary or secondary school (kindergarten-12th grade).
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.