Maintaining J-1 Student Status

Learn more about J-1 student status and how to maintain it.

What does it mean to be in J-1 Student status?

  • You entered the U.S. with a J-1 visa (under the Student category) (or, if Canadian, used a DS-2019 to enter the U.S.)

                        OR

  • You entered the U.S. with a different visa, and subsequently applied for and were granted a change-of-status to J-1 by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).

THEREFORE, your primary purpose for being in the U.S. is to study. 

How do I remain in lawful J-1 Student status?

To maintain your J-1 Student status, you must comply with ALL of the following requirements:

  • Keep your passport valid at all times.  While you are in the U.S., you must always have a valid passport. 
  • Maintain a valid and accurate DS-2019.
    • Check section 3 of your DS-2019.  The date of expected completion of studies must not have passed.  If the expiration date is approaching and you have not finished your program, you must apply for an “Extension of Stay” before the expiration date.
    • To re-enter the U.S., you must have a valid travel signature in the Travel Validation section of your DS-2019.  The travel signature should be renewed every year.  Note:  Only (Alternate) Responsible Officers (A/RO’s) can sign your DS-2019.
  • Attend the school you are authorized to attend.  This means that you must report to the school whose DS-2019 you used to enter the U.S. or to which your last school transfer was authorized.
  • Study full-time and make normal progress towards your degree.  Note: Online and Distance Education courses cannot be used to satisfy the full course of study requirement.
    • Register for 12 credit hours of classroom study each semester (except during summer and winter break). 
    • Register for 9 credit hours of classroom study each semester if you are a graduate student who holds an assistantship. 
    • Register for 1 or more credit hours each semester if you have Certification of Full-time Status from the Graduate School (Capen Hall 409, North Campus) while working on your thesis or dissertation.
    • Do not drop or resign courses so that you are no longer registered for a full course load.
    • Note:  If you were admitted to start a degree program during a summer session, you are required to register for a minimum of 6 credit hours during the first summer session in which you were admitted.
  • Notify UB of any change of address, telephone number, or email address through the HUB Student Center within 10 days of the change.  ISS will then notify the Department of Homeland Security.  If you are on Academic Training, you must report any changes in address, telephone number, email address, or employment details to ISS by emailing isss@buffalo.edu.
  • Maintain adequate health insurance for yourself and your dependents for the duration of your J-1 Exchange Visitor Program.  Proof of proper health insurance must be submitted to ISS, Talbert Hall 210, North Campus.  For more information, read ”J-1 Exchange Visitor Health Insurance Requirements”Note:  J-1 and J-2 Exchange Visitors are not permitted to accept U.S. Federal or State Government benefits, such as Medicaid.
  • Request appropriate work authorization before accepting any employment.  Never work without proper employment authorization.
    • J-1 students are required to have written authorization from an Alternate Responsible Officer before they are permitted to work on-campus.  Prior to your employment start date, submit a letter from your employer confirming your employment details (start date, end date, location, number of hours per week, supervisor’s name and contact information).  ISS will review the letter and, if it is acceptable, enter your on-campus employment authorization in SEVIS.
    • Any off-campus employment must meet the requirements for Academic Training and you must obtain Academic Training authorization prior to starting employment.
    • Employment authorization due to unforeseen economic circumstances is possible only in certain “serious, urgent and unforeseen” situations.  Request an appointment with an International Student Advisor in ISS, Talbert Hall 210, North Campus to discuss your situation.
  • Provide ISS with the e-mail address(es) of any J-2 dependent(s).
  • Notify ISS if your J-2 dependents depart the U.S. permanently prior to your departure. 
Important Reminder

If you apply for a waiver of the Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement (INA 212e), and your waiver is recommended in writing by the U.S. Department of State (“No Objection Statement”) or you receive Form I-612 from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, you are no longer eligible for any J-1 benefits (DS-2019 Extension, Academic Training, SEVIS Transfer, etc.). Therefore, please consult with ISS, Talbert Hall 210, North Campus before applying for the waiver. Since 212(e) waiver applications can be complex, we also recommend that you seek assistance from an experienced immigration attorney.

Are there any exceptions to the full-time course registration requirement?

There are some exceptions to the full-time course registration requirement:

  • During summer or winter break (ONLY for continuing students who intend to register for the next term)
    • Note:  Students who have initial DS-2019’s to start a degree program in the summer or winter must be enrolled in the summer or winter term. 
  • During your final semester if you need fewer than 12 credit hours to finish your degree
    • Note: You must obtain written authorization from an Alternate Responsible Officer prior to reducing your course load.  ISS requires a written recommendation / confirmation from your advisor / professor.
  • Bona Fide Academic Reasons.  If you need to pursue less than a full course of study for one semester and your academic dean or advisor provides a written statement recommending a reduced course load for academic reasons, you are not required to register for a full course load.
    • Note:  You must obtain written authorization from an Alternate Responsible Officer prior to reducing your course load. 
  • Medical Problem.  If you need to reduce or interrupt your studies due to an illness or medical condition and have a written recommendation from a licensed medical professional (e.g. physician), you are not required to register for a full course load.
    • Note:  The medical recommendation must include the reason for the recommendation, the number of courses you may take and the length of time such a reduction is necessary.
    • Note:  You must obtain written authorization from an Alternate Responsible Officer prior to reducing your course load. 

PLEASE NOTE:  A Medical Leave of Absence is different from a Leave of Absence.  If you take a Leave of Absence from the University, you must depart the U.S., whereas a Medical Leave of Absence (when approved by an Alternate Responsible Officer) allows you to remain in the U.S. and maintain your J-1 status.  If you cannot register for any classes due to a medical condition, you should apply for a Medical Leave of Absence from UB.  To apply for it, you will need to meet with your Academic Advisor as well as an International Student Advisor.

Failure to comply with these requirements is a violation of your J-1 status, which may result in serious consequences, including the termination of your SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) record, your inability to re-enter the U.S., and your detention and deportation from the U.S.  Please direct all questions regarding your J-1 student status to ISS, Talbert Hall 210, North Campus.

Page Updated 5/18