Tips for Maintaining Your J Scholar Status

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Effective August 9, 2018, USCIS updated policy regarding Unlawful Presence, which increases potential consequences for J-1 Exchange Visitors who violate their status. The best way to avoid these consequences is to make sure you properly maintain your legal J-1 visa/immigration status. Unlawful presence days begin accruing from the day you violated status and can impact your ability to return to the U.S. in the future, including 3 or 10 year bars on re-entry (dependent on number of days accrued).

  • 3 year bar: You accrue more than 180 unlawful presence days but less than 1 year of unlawful presence during a single stay and before the commencement of any removal proceedings.
  • 10 year bar: You accrue one year or more of unlawful presence during a single stay, regardless of whether you leave before, during, or after removal proceedings.

What can you do? Below are BIO's tips on properly maintaining your J-1 Exchange Visitor status to keep your immigration record safe and secure:

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1. Report change of address, U.S. phone number & email

  • Report change of address, U.S. phone number, and email address to your department and Berkeley International Office ( within 10 days of change.
  • Report any changes to J-2 email addresses within 10 days of change to Berkeley International Office (

2. Maintain J program objective

  • Your legal J-1 visa/immigration status is only valid as long as you are maintaining your appointment with UC Berkeley and are engaging in research and/or teaching at UC Berkeley as noted on your Form DS-2019.

3. Do not accept any unauthorized employment

  • J-1 Exchange Visitors are only allowed to receive payment as specifically noted on the Form DS-2019 unless given prior written authorization from the J Exchange Visitor program sponsor.
  • For detailed information, see our Off-campus Payment Authorization page.

4. Keep documents valid and accurate

  • Extending Program: Contact your department 4 months prior to the end date on your Form DS-2019. Your department must submit a J extension request to the Berkeley International Office. Please note that you must receive your extended Form DS-2019 prior to the end date of your current DS-2019 to ensure a continuation of your legal visa/immigration status and to avoid accruing unlawful presence.
  • Keep your passport valid: Contact your home country embassy or consulate should your passport require renewal.

5. Get a travel endorsement and understand your travel documents

  • Before any international travel, ensure you will have the necessary travel documents for your return and obtain a travel signature from BIO if needed. BIO generally recommends that the signature be current within 10 months of your re-entry date.

6. Understand your grace period after completion

The Department of Homeland Security allows Exchange Visitors an additional period of 30 days following the end date of his or her Form DS-2019 to prepare for departure:

  • CANNOT extend J program during the 30-day grace period.
  • CANNOT conduct research/teach/work or get paid during the 30-day grace period.
  • CANNOT transfer during the 30-day grace period.

7. Report early departure

  • J-1 scholars must inform both the host department and Berkeley International Office ( if they will be ending their program more than 15 days before the end date of the Form DS-2019.
  • J-1 scholars must inform the Berkeley International Office ( if accompanying J-2 dependents’ final departure from the U.S. is prior to the scholars’ departure date.

8. Maintain health insurance

  • You, and your J-2 dependents, must maintain health insurance coverage that meets J-1 federal guidelines for the entire length of your program.
  • For resources and requirements, please see our Health Insurance page.