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Maintaining J-1 Student Status

The J-1 Exchange Visitor nonimmigrant visa category is for individuals approved to participate in work-based or study-based exchange programs.  The Exchange Visitor Program promotes mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by educational and cultural exchanges.

J-1 students are nonimmigrants pursuing a full course of study for specific educational or professional objectives at academic institutions in the United States.  When you enter the United States as a J-1 student, you accept responsibility to abide by the conditions of the nonimmigrant status.  The information provided here should serve as your guide to keeping legal J-1 status throughout your stay in the United States.

Full Course of Study

Caltech degree-seeking students are required to enroll in a minimum of 36 credit hours per academic term. If you experience difficulties completing 36 credit hours, consult your international advisor. In limited cases, immigration regulations allow students to drop below a full course of study. Do not drop below a full course of study without first consulting your international advisor.

DS-2019 Validity Period

Make sure that your DS-2019 does not expire.  The expiration date is listed in Section 3 of the DS-2019. If your DS-2019 is about to expire and you need additional time to complete your degree program, contact your international advisor after you have submitted a formal extension request to the Office of Graduate Studies or to the Undergraduate Dean's Office.

I-94 and Status

Your I-94 needs to indicate "J-1" and "D/S". If your I-94 indicates a specific expiration date, contact your international advisor immediately.

Work Authorization

Immigration regulations allow students to work on-campus for up to 20 hours per week during the regular academic year. If you have an academic opportunity that requires work off-campus, you must consult your international advisor prior to beginning employment.

U.S. Home Address

Immigration requires that you update your local home address in access.caltech within 10 days of any move.  You must report your actual, physical location, NOT a Caltech Mail Code or P.O. Box.  If you live on campus, you should include your house name and room number.

Medical Insurance

You must obtain medical insurance coverage that complies with the U.S. Department of State requirements for individuals in J-1 status and their families. Willful disregard of these requirements will result in termination of your program and your J-1 status.

For students, Caltech offers medical insurance that meets the minimum requirements.  If you are not eligible for Caltech medical insurance, contact your international advisor for additional options for purchasing the required coverage.

J-1 and J-2 exchange visitors who are residents for tax purposes may be subject to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.  22 CFR 62.14(a)

Two Year Home Residence Requirement

Certain J-1 scholars are subject to the two-year home residence requirement.  You will be required to return to your home country for two years at the end of your exchange visitor program if any of the following conditions exist:  

Government funding.  Your program is financed, directly or indirectly, by the U.S. government or your home country's government, or the government of your country of last permanent residence.

Graduate medical education or training.  Your program is for graduate medical education or training.

Skills List.  You are a citizen or permanent resident of a country which has deemed your field of specialized knowledge or skill necessary to the development of the country, as shown on the Exchange Visitor Skills List.  

If you are subject to the two-year home residence requirement, you cannot change your nonimmigrant status inside the United States, you cannot apply for an H, L or K visa, and you cannot complete an application to become a permanent resident.   In order to fulfill the two-year home residence requirement, you must return to your home country for at least two years or obtain a waiver of that obligation.  If you are unsure if you require a waiver, you may take the  U.S. Department of State (DOS) survey.  The survey may recommend you request an Advisory Opinion, which is the final determination by DOS if you are subject to the requirement or not.

Grace Period

At the conclusion of any J program category, you are permitted to remain in the United States for up to 30 days.  This 30 day grace period is designed for domestic travel and to prepare for departure from the United States.  Your research program is no longer active during this 30 day period.   


If you wish to leave Caltech to continue your J program at another institution in the United States, you must request that your international advisor release your SEVIS record (the DS-2019) to the new institution.  Your international advisor will review the transfer request and confirm when it is complete.  The transfer request must be submitted prior to the expiration date listed in Section 3 of your DS-2019.

Document Retention

It is important that you retain all documentation pertaining to your immigration status related to your stay in the United States.  This may include current and expired passports, DS-2019s, and I-797s. These records are important in establishing your compliance with U.S. immigration laws.

Valid Passport

Ensure that your passport remains valid throughout your stay.  You can renew your passport through your home country's consulate or embassy while you are inside the United States.