Maintenance of J-1 Student Status

Requirements to Maintain Your Status (please be advised that this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Report your address
  • Keep your documents valid
  • Enroll full-time every fall and spring
  • Maintain health insurance that meets the minimum J-1 compliant requirements
  • Work only with permission

Frequently Asked Questions

How and where do I report my address?

In order to maintain your J-1 student status and to not accrue unlawful presence, J-1s are required to report any change of address to their school within 10 days of such a change. To report a change of address to WashU, students should update the “Local Address” field of WebSTAC.

Details and instructions may be found on our Reporting a Change of Address page.

What if I lose my DS-2019?

In order to maintain your J-1 student status, you must have valid immigration documents. If your DS-2019 has been lost or stolen, notify the OISS to obtain a replacement form as soon as possible.

What if my DS-2019 is going to expire but I’m not ready to graduate?

The period of the exchange program is given in section three of the DS-2019 form. To avoid a lapse in status and to avoid accruing unlawful presence, the student should request an extension from their sponsor prior to the ending date given in that section.

What if I lose my I-94 or the information online is incorrect?

In order to maintain your J-1 student status and not to not accrue unlawful presence, you must have a valid I-94 document. If your I-94 has been lost, stolen, or the information entered into the electronic I-94 system is incorrect, notify your international adviser as soon as possible.  If there is a mistake on your I-94, and even if it is not due to your own fault, it is your responsibility to address the situation as soon as possible in order to maintain your J-1 status and not accrue unlawful presence.

What if I lose my passport or it is about to expire?

It is extremely important that a student who has lost his or her passport make a report to the police immediately. The police report is required when the student applies for a replacement from the home government. Obtaining a new passport is done directly with the embassy or consulate and does not require any documentation from OISS. Each country has a different procedure. Some require that the application be requested in person, while others handle the request by mail. The student should consult the website of the home country’s embassy for more details on the procedures.

Similarly, it is the responsibility of the student to maintain a valid passport at all times while studying in the U.S. in order to maintain student or exchange visitor visa status and to avoid accruing unlawful presence. Contacting the home government regarding the renewal of the passport well in advance of its expiration is crucial.  Each country has different procedures and processing times for extending a passport. The website of the home country’s embassy should have instructions regarding passport renewal.

What is full-time?

A J-1 student must be enrolled full time in order to maintain their J-1 status and not accrue unlawful presence. This is defined as 12 credit hours for undergraduate students; for graduate students, full time enrollment is generally defined as 9 credit hours, but varies in the graduate and professional divisions. Students should check with the Dean’s office of their school for more information.

There are a few exceptions to the full time course load requirement for J-1 student listed below. Please keep in mind that if you believe that you qualify for one of these exceptions, you must get pre-approval from the OISS in order to maintain your J-1 student status and not accrue unlawful presence:

    1. Vacation A J-1 student is considered to be maintaining status during vacation periods if the student is eligible and intends to enroll for the next semester.
    2. Medical conditions Students who must drop below full time are considered to maintaining status if the need to drop the courses is documented by a statement from the Habif Health and Wellness Center.
    3. Academic reasons A J-1 student can drop courses below a full time load provided that the academic advisor or dean provides a written statement recommending the student reduce his or her academic load for valid academic reasons.
    4. Last semester of studies A student who is in the last semester of the degree program is allowed to carry less than a full course load if the student needs less than a full course load to complete the degree requirements in that semester.

What if I’m not enrolled full time or I drop a class after the semester starts?

Eligibility for RCL

Under certain circumstances (listed below), a student not enrolled for a full-time course load may still be considered to be maintaining J-1 status if the student receives preauthorization from the OISS. Eligibility for RCL authorization is determined by the international advisor/OISS. The student will fall out of J-1 status if RCL authorization has not been secured from the international advisor before dropping below full-time enrollment status, and thus accrue unlawful presence.

Academic Reasons for RCL

The following circumstances constitute valid academic reasons for authorized RCL status. Please keep in mind that if you believe that you qualify under one of these circumstances, you must get pre-approval from the OISS in order to maintain your J-1 student status and not accrue unlawful presence:

  • Initial difficulties with the English language
  • Initial difficulties with reading requirements
  • Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
  • Improper course level placement
  • Completion of the course of study

A student is eligible for RCL authorization for academic reasons during only one semester of each degree program / educational level. To be authorized for academic RCL, the student must provide the international adviser with approval of the part-time enrollment status from his/her dean, registrar or academic adviser. Students should refer to the signatures required on the RCL form to find the faculty or staff member best suited to document the situation. To maintain J-1 status, the student must resume full-time enrollment status in the semester immediately following the RCL semester.

Medical Reasons for RCL

A student may be authorized for RCL status, or a complete withdrawal from coursework, due to an illness or medical condition. A student may be authorized for RCL status more than once during each educational level / degree program, but the total number of months in RCL (medical) status may not exceed 12 per degree program / educational level. To be authorized for medical RCL and avoid accruing unlawful presence, the student must provide the international advisor with approval of the part-time or non-enrollment status from the Habif Health and Wellness Center Counseling Services or a private physician. The international advisor must authorize the RCL status each semester of its duration in order for the student to maintain their status and avoid accruing unlawful presence.

Alternative to RCL: Withdrawal from Program

Please contact your international student advisor prior to making the decision to withdraw from your program in order to avoid a violation of status and accrual of unlawful presence.

Application for Reduced Course Load (PDF)

What kind of work can I do and how many hours can I work?

Students on J-1 status may be employed in three situations:

  • As part of the terms of a scholarship, fellowship or assistantship
  • On the premises of the campus the student is authorized to attend
  • Off campus, by showing serious, urgent and unforeseen circumstances which arose since acquiring exchange visitor status

In order to maintain your J-1 student status and avoid unlawful presence, all J-1 employment must be authorized in writing and student must be in good academic standing and must continue full-time studies while working. The employment may not exceed 20 hours per week while school is in session.

What if I want to transfer schools?

To transfer schools, the J-1 must notify the current J-1 sponsor of the intent to transfer. If the program sponsor is Washington University in St. Louis and the transfer is recommended, the program can be updated to reflect the intent to transfer out of the program. The new sponsor will be able to issue the DS-2019 for the new program after the date when the student is released to the new school.

What if I want to stay in the U.S. after my status has expired?

The Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 imposes certain penalties on those who overstay their status in the United States, and those who are “unlawfully” present for certain periods of time. The law provides penalties for those who stay beyond the period authorized and those who are unlawfully present.

The visa of an individual who stays beyond the period authorized is automatically considered void (although it may appear to be valid), and all subsequent nonimmigrant visa applications must be made in the country of nationality unless the circumstances have been defined as “extraordinary” by the Department of State. If an individual has been unlawfully present in the United States for more than 180 days and less than one year, the individual is not eligible to be admitted to the U.S. for three years from departure from the US. Those who have been unlawfully present for more than one year are not eligible to be admitted to the U.S. for 10 years from departure from the U.S.

Immigration authorities have stated that an overstay and unlawful presence occurs when the date on the I-94 has expired, for the various reasons listed above, or an immigration judge or immigration officer determines that a status violation has occurred. Students are advised to pay close attention to the date on the I-94; sometimes students are admitted on an I-515 with a specific ending date (usually 30 days). Failure of the student to take action immediately in the case of an I-515 will be deemed a violation of status and unlawful presence.

What if I fall out of status?

Please contact the OISS immediately.  If you are not maintain your status, it is considered a violation of your status and you would be accruing unlawful presence.





Two-Year Home Residence Requirement

Many J-1 exchange visitors are required to return to their home country for two years at the completion of the J-1 program. This requirement is imposed for one of four reasons:

  • The country and field are listed on the Exchange Visitors Skills list (a list of skills needed in the home country).
  • The exchange visitor has been funded by the U.S. government.
  • The exchange visitor has been funded by the home country government.
  • The exchange visitor has participated in a medical education training program sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates.

The exchange visitor may not change to another status in the U.S. if he or she is subject to this home return requirement. In some circumstances a waiver is possible.

Health Insurance Requirement

J-1 Exchange Visitor Program regulations require that J-1 Exchange Visitors (both student and scholar) and their J-2 dependents carry health insurance meeting specific minimum standards (Code of Federal Regulations – 22 CFR 62.14). Failure to maintain required insurance coverage can result in termination of J status and it is deemed to be a violation of status and accrual of unlawful presence. Health care expenses in the United States can be costly, coverage in the amounts listed below may not be sufficient to cover all expenses for medical care, and higher levels of coverage may be considered.

J-1 health insurance must provide the following minimum coverage in order to be in compliance with the J-1 regulations:

  1. Medical benefits of at least $100,000 (US$) per accident or illness;
  2. Repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000 (US$);
  3. Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of the exchange visitor (or accompanying spouse or dependent children) to his or her home country in the amount of $50,000 (US$);
  4. A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.

An insurance policy secured to meet J-1 coverage requirements:

  1. May require a waiting period for pre-existing conditions, which is reasonable as determined by current industry standards;
  2. May include a provision for co-insurance under the terms which the exchange visitor may be required to pay up to 25% of the covered benefits per accident or illness;
  3. Shall not unreasonably exclude coverage for perils inherent to the activities of the exchange program in which the exchange visitor participates.

Any policy, plan or contract must, at minimum, be:

  1. Underwritten by an insurance corporation having an A.M. Best rating of “A−” or above; a McGraw Hill Financial/Standard & Poor’s Claims-paying Ability rating of “A−” or above; a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of “B+” or above; a Fitch Ratings, Inc. rating of “A−” or above; a Moody’s Investor Services rating of “A3” or above; or such other rating as the Department of State may from time to time specify; or
  2. Backed by the full faith and credit of the government of the exchange visitor’s home country; or
  3. Part of a health benefits program offered on a group basis to employees or enrolled students by a designated sponsor; or
  4. Offered through or underwritten by a federally qualified Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) or eligible Competitive Medical Plan (CMP) as determined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

All full-time J-1 students have mandatory health insurance coverage through WashU’s Habif Health and Wellness Center that does meet all of the above requirements. The fee for this coverage will be billed to the student’s WashU account each semester.

J-1 Incident Reporting Requirement

The Office of Private Sector Exchange Administration Academic and Government Programs (OPA-AG) monitors and enforces full compliance with department regulations and policies with a focus on exchange visitors’ health, safety and well-being; and responds to complaints and incidents.

Incidents are defined as situations that have or could endanger the health, safety or welfare of an exchange visitor or otherwise could be expected to bring the Department of State, the Exchange Visitor Program, or Washington University’s exchange visitor program into notoriety or disrepute. Examples of reportable incidents or allegations include, but are not limited to:

  • J-1 Death
  • J-1 is Missing
  • J-1 Suffers Serious Illness or Injury (e.g., brain injury, severe burn, major surgery, communicable disease, serious mental health incidents, any condition requiring hospitalization of 48 hours or more, etc.)
  • Litigation (related to a sponsor’s exchange visitor program, in which sponsor or an exchange visitor may be a named party)
  • Incident Involving the Criminal Justice System (e.g., arrest, charges, law enforcement, etc.)
  • Sexually-Related Incidents or Abuse (an incident or allegation involving sexual exploitation, harassment or abuse)
  • Negative Press involving Washington University or a Washington University department
  • Foreign Government Involvement (including embassy officials)
  • Other Situations Impacting J-1 Safety (e.g., natural disasters, civil unrest, outbreaks of violence)

J-1 Exchange Visitors can report these incidents to the OISS or contact OPA-AG directly.