While most international students at Pitt are in F-1 visa classification, there are some who are eligible for J-1 student visa classification.
A J-1 college or university student is a nonimmigrant who is admitted to a degree program at an accredited educational institution for a full course of study or is engaged full-time in a non-degree prescribed course of study. The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program is administered by the Office of Exchange Coordination and Designation, in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of United States Department of State. Our J-1 Program is overseen by the Academic and Government Division. The spouse and dependent children of a J-1 student are eligible for J-2 visa status. Those in J-2 status may study without restriction in the United States. In addition, they may apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for an employment authorization document that will allow them to work in the United States.
As a J-1 exchange visitor, you will need a DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitors and a valid J-1 visa (the visa stamp in a passport) issued by the U.S. embassy or consulate abroad to enter the U.S. Canadian citizens need a DS-2019 but do not need a U.S. visa. You must also carry the receipt of your paying the SEVIS fee. Please be advised that you may not enter the U.S. more than 30 days prior to the begin date on your DS-2019 and not later than 15 days after the begin date. When you enter the U.S., you will receive an I-94 Record marked “J-1” and “D/S” (duration of status).
As a J-1 student, you must meet certain obligations in order to maintain legal immigration status. Maintaining status is necessary in order to receive the benefits of J-1 status such as employment or a program extension. Failure to maintain your non-immigrant status can result in serious problems with immigration and could lead to deportation from the U.S. Due to the complexity of U.S. immigration regulations, we recommend that you consult with an Immigration Specialist in the Office of International Services anytime you have questions or concerns related to your J-1 status. To maintain legal status, a J-1 student must:
- Check-in with the Office of International Services.
- Attend the university you are authorized to attend (the university given on your Form DS-2019).
- Complete the immigration transfer procedure when necessary.
- Be in good academic standing and make progress towards an academic program.
- Extend your DS-2019 prior to its expiration date if you are unable to complete your academic program by original expiration date.
- In the event of change of academic program or level, update your DS-2019 in a timely fashion in accordance with immigration regulations.
- Maintain full-time enrollment during the academic year. Undergraduate students must enroll for 12 credits per semester while graduate students must enroll for 9 credits or full-time dissertation study each semester.
- Must be authorized for employment on-campus before it begins. Limit on-campus employment to 20 hours per week during academic year.
- Not accept unauthorized employment and not work off campus without authorization.
- Keep your passport valid at all times. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months into the future on the day you return to the U.S. from a trip abroad, unless your country is a part of the 6-month club.
- Maintain required health insurance coverage (see below).
- Complete a Departure Notification if you leave the program 30 days or more before the end date of DS-2019.
- Update your address information within 10 days of moving.
J-1 (primary) and J-2 (dependents) visa holders are required by their visa status to maintain medical health insurance coverage at all times during their exchange visit. The minimum basic coverage is:
- Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness;
- Repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000;
- Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of the exchange visitor to his or her home country in the amount of $50,000; and
- A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.
In some cases, your financial sponsor may arrange for medical insurance coverage, ensuring it meets with the regulatory guidance above. In all other cases, the J-1 primary visa holder is responsible to arrange for suitable medical insurance coverage for him-/herself and any J-2 dependents. While the University of Pittsburgh does not specifically endorse any other health plans, we have included several companies in our Resources listing on this website. Failure to maintain adequate medical health insurance coverage will lead to termination of J visa status and departure from the United States.
U.S. government regulations require J-1 students to be in the U.S. for the primary purpose of attending school. In general, employment in the U.S. is restricted. The following employment possibilities exist for J-1 students:
- On-campus employment: You must be authorized by your program sponsor before beginning employment. Limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session and available as full time during school vacation and holidays. On-campus employment is defined as work done on the premises of the school who issued DS-2019.
- Off-campus employment: Under certain conditions you may be eligible for off-campus employment either based on economic need or academic training. You may not begin the employment unless you have received official authorization from the Office of International Services.
- Academic Training: Academic Training may be authorized for off-campus employment related to a student's field of study if it meets certain criteria.
When a J-1 exchange visitor completed his or her program, a 30-day grace period begins. During these 30 days he/she may remain in the U.S. and prepare to leave. It is not permissible to work during the grace period. Nor may one exit the U.S. and reenter as a J-1 during the grace period.