J-1 Student Regulations

Students in J-1 status are considered participants of the Exchange Visitor Program, which is managed by the US Department of State.

Your J-1 sponsor may be a university, educational institution or organization that has brought you to the US to fulfill a specific educational objective. Sponsorship by a university may or may not signify financial support. Sponsorship by an organization, on the other hand, is commonly connected with some level of financial support.

In most cases, a program sponsor issues the initial DS-2019 (needed to enter the US) and subsequent DS-2019s. The program sponsor also has the authority to approve or deny on-campus employment, school transfers, and Academic Training. The program sponsor is listed on section #2 of the DS-2019 form.

Maintaining Legal Status: Basic Guidelines

Students should be aware of the federal regulations governing their immigration status during and after completion of the study program. Violation of any of these regulations may result in the loss of immigration status. If you "fall out of status" for any reason, you will no longer be eligible for permission to study, work or other benefits afforded by the J-1 status. In some cases, you may be required to return to your home country.

Effective August 9, 2018, USCIS updated policy(link is external) regarding Unlawful Presence(link is external), which increases potential consequences for F-1/J-1 students who violate their status. The best way to avoid these consequences is to make sure you properly maintain your F-1/J-1 status while you are a student  and during any F-1/J-1 post-completion training periods. Unlawful presence days begin accruing from the day you violated status and can impact your ability to return to the US in the future, including 3 or 10 year bars on re-entry (dependent on number of days accrued).

Listed below are guidelines J-1 international students should follow to make sure their J-1 visa status remains valid. Although other situations not mentioned here may lead to the loss of status, following these guidelines will help you to avoid unnecessary problems. Consult with an advisor in Berkeley International Office if you have questions about your visa status.

  • Keep your passport valid at all times.
    Contact your home country's embassy in the U.S. for information about renewing your passport.
  • Maintain full-time enrollment.
    You must be enrolled in full-time units each semester. For immigration purposes, in most cases, students must complete a minimum of 12 units per semester. Check your college (UG) or dept (Grads) for minimum unit requirements.
  • Get approval from Berkeley International Office before withdrawal from your program.
    If for some reason you must reduce your enrollment below full-time units or withdraw from your program, you are required to have approval from BIO before doing so.
  • Keep your DS-2019 valid at all times and understand your completion date.
    Your DS-2019 is only valid as long as you are a continuing, full-time student in your degree program, or on your approved post-completion training. If you graduate early, your  DS-2019 will be shortened to the last day of your final semester of enrollment. If your final semester is Summer you MUST be enrolled in Summer! You must notify BIO of your early completion in order to avoid overstaying. If you need more time to complete your program, apply for an Extension of Program BEFORE the current completion date on your I-20 or DS-2019.
  • Keep your local address updated.
    Keep your local residential address current in Cal Central. It must be updated within 10 days every time you move. (Students on post-completion employment authorizations will use the BIO SSU Hub to update address and employment information.)
  • Get on-campus employment permission.
    Request work permission from your program sponsor before starting any on campus employment. For UC Berkeley-sponsored students, employment on campus is limited to part time (20 hours per week) during the academic year, but can be full time during vacation periods (winter and summer breaks).
  • Get off-campus employment permission.
    Request Academic Training from your program sponsor before starting any off- campus employment. Be aware of employment authorization application procedures, eligibility, deadlines and rules for maintaining status during Academic Training
  • Understand your grace period after completion
    J-1/J-2s have a 30 day grace period following the end of their program of study or Post-Completion Academic Training.  J-1s may ONLY use the grace period for departure. Any Transfer or post-completion Academic Training request must be submitted BEFORE the end of the program of study or DS-2019 expiration. 
  • Buy the required amount of health insurance coverage.You, and your J-2 dependents, must maintain health insurance coverage that meets J-1 federal guidelines for the entire length of your program, including post-completion Academic Training. The UC Berkeley Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) meets these requirements.
  • Get a travel endorsement for travel out of the U.S. and re-entry.
    Before any international travel, review the necessary travel documents and obtain a travel signature from BIO. Travel endorsements are valid for one year during the program of study, but BIO recommends to obtain a new signature every 10 months. 
  • Request program or school transfer from your sponsor.
    If you wish to move from one university to another, you will need permission from your current program sponsor. If you wish to change universities, contact that organization as early as possible to receive authorization and further instructions.
  • Discuss a change of major or degree objective with your sponsor.
    Any such changes should be discussed fully with your program sponsor before making the change. A change of major or degree objective may violate your J-1 visa status if not approved.

Understanding J-1/J-2 Status: Additional Information

J-1 Dependent Employment & Study

J-2 dependents are eligible to study part-time or full-time in the U.S. J-2 dependents may apply for employment authorization, but should be advised that employment may not begin until the J-2 has received the work permit. J-2 dependent work permission is not guaranteed. Income from the dependent's employment may be used to support the family's customary recreational and cultural activities and related travel, among other things. Employment will not be authorized if this income is needed to support the J-1 primary status holder. 

Special J-1/J-2 Rules- Two Year Home Physical Presence Requirement & 12-Month Bar

J-1s and their J-2 dependents may be subject to the Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement. J-2 and their J-2 dependents may also be subject to the 12-Month Bar, depending on the length of the J program. Please note that the Two Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement and the 12-Month Bar are separate and distinct rules. For more information, see Berkeley International Office workshops covering these issues.