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J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa for Students, Regulations & Guidelines

Eligibility and Categories

Students are expected to enter the University on the F-1 Student Visa. Only students in the following designated categories are eligible for the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa:

  • Official University of Utah Exchange Programs.
  • Students participating in the University's Sponsored Student Program.
  • Students from Educational Agencies with U.S. Government funding such as the Fulbright Program.
  • Students funded by their home government (Maybe part of the Sponsored Student Program).
  • Student Internships.

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Check In at Our Office

NOTE: It is your responsibility to know the law and comply with all federal, state, and local laws and regulations, as well as university policies

All new international students must check in at the International Student and Scholar Services office during the first two weeks of the semester. You may check in before the beginning of the semester, but you must have everything completed by the end of the first fifteen days of the semester. We are located in room 410 of the Union Building. If you fail to check in at our office during this time period, you will be reported as out of status with the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). You must attend the school whose DS-2019 you used to enter the U.S. or whose DS-2019 was submitted to the SEVP for a transfer.

In order to be considered to have checked in with our office the following items must be completed within the first fifteen days of the start of the semester:

  • Be physically present at our office.
  • Present a valid DS-2019 showing a legal entry stamp into the U.S., or pick up your transfer DS-2019.
  • Present a valid I-94 card showing a legal entry stamp into the U.S., or valid change of visa classification document with attached I-94.
  • Present a valid passport.
  • Present a valid J-1 visa in passport, or change of visa classification document to J-1.
  • Update your address and other contact information with our office.
  • Attend the mandatory immigration regulations workshop at Orientation.

If one or more of the previous items has not been completed within the first 15 days of the semester, you will be reported as out of lawful J-1 status with the SEVP and a hold will be placed on your University of Utah records.

Transfer students arriving at the University of Utah will be issued a new, “transfer completed” DS-2019 shortly after check in. You must pick up your new DS-2019 at the International Student and Scholar Services office (410 Union) when you receive an e-mail indicating that your DS-2019 is ready for pick-up.

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It is the University of Utah policy that all new and transfer international students attend a mandatory Orientation within the first 15 days of their first semester. Failure to do so will result on a hold on your records and you will not be able to further register for classes. In addition, students who do not attend the Orientation may be viewed as not completing their check in and may be reported to SEVP as being out of status.

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Undergraduate students must take a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester.

Graduate students must take a minimum of 9 credit hours per semester or, after the applicable residency requirement has been met, be registered for 3 credit hours of courses, of which at least one credit hour must be in the range of 6970 – 6989, 7970 – 7989, or Pharmacology and Toxicology, 7920. J-1 students must take the minimum credits except during your vacation semesters and final semester.

Your lawful J-1 status will be terminated if:

  • Your course load falls below 12 undergraduate or 9 graduate credit hours (3 hours including courses 6970-6989, 7970-7989).
  • You do not register for all sessions during the first registration period.
  • You do not attend a class for which you registered and receive an EU grade.
  • You completely withdraw from a semester.

Registering and paying tuition for classes that you withdraw, do not attend, or receive an EU grade does not satisfy the registration requirement. Audited classes and correspondence courses do not count towards full-time status. You will need to take 12 undergraduate or 9 graduate credit hours in addition to these classes to be considered a full-time student for immigration purposes.

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Maintaining Status

Students on the J-1 visa should be aware of the following items that pertain to their status:

  • Change of Address
  • Withdrawing from class
  • Change of Educational Level or Major
  • Length of Stay
  • Extended Leave of Absence
  • Extension of Program
  • Returning to Lawful J-1 Status
  • Final Semester

Visit the Immigration and Maintaining Status page for more information on the above topics.

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Students on the J-1 visa are allowed employment opportunities such as: On-Campus Employment, Academic Training, Off-Campus Employment based on Economic Hardship. Visit the Employment for J-1 Students page for more information on the above topics.

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How to get a UCard

J-1 students accepted and enrolled by the U of U:

  1. Students must be registered for classes before they can receive their UCard.
  2. J-1 Students go to the UCard office and receive their UCard as any other student.

J-1 Interns not paid by the U of U:

  1. The department will need to write a letter on letterhead stating how long the person will be here, the reason they are here, why they need the card and what type of access they need.
  2. The department would then need to apply through Human Resources to get the visitor an ID number.
  3. From the Human Resources website click on “Forms”, then click on “U Affiliate/ Non Employee Form” *. Fax the form and the department letter to Human Resources.
  4. Human Resources will issue an ID number for the J-1 visitor which they can then present at the UCard office along with the department letter to get their U of U ID card.

* Please refer to the U affiliate/non-employee Form (PDF).

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J-2 Status – Bringing Dependents to the U.S.

J-2 holders (spouse or children of the primary J-1 student) are permitted to attend classes and seek employment. If they obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Card from USCIS, they can apply for the Social Security Number. To apply for the EAD card they would need to show the J-1 visa holder has enough funding to support himself/herself and a reason why the J-2 wants to work. To apply for work permission they need to fill out the I-765 form and provide the appropriate documentation to USCIS.

If you would like to bring dependents to the U.S., you need to show adequate financial resources for their support. Upon approval of your application, International Student and Scholar Services will issue new DS-2019’s for your dependents, which they can bring to an American Embassy or Consulate in your country to apply for a J-2 visa.

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Vacation Semester

During your vacation semester, you may register for less than full time credit hours and legally remain in the U.S. You must inform the International Student and Scholar Services office within the first 15 days of the semester that you are taking a summer vacation semester so we can verify you are eligible for a vacation semester and report it to the SEVP. Otherwise, you will be reported to the SEVP as being out of lawful status. Summer semester is not automatically a vacation semester. You must attend school full time for two consecutive semesters before you are eligible for a vacation semester. The only exception is if you entered the U.S. to attend Spring Semester as your first semester, then you may take the first Summer Semester as a vacation semester. You are required to return to school after your vacation semester.

Vacation For Undergraduate Students

If you take a vacation semester during Fall or Spring Semester, you will need to apply to the Registration office in the Student Service Building for a Leave of Absence for that semester or you will fall out of status. This must be approved by the Registration office and the International Student and Scholar Services office. This form must be submitted to Registration by the first day of classes.

Vacation For Graduate Students

Graduate students need special permission from the Graduate School and their department before they are allowed to take a vacation semester. Once permission has been obtained for the vacation semester, International Admissions will complete the processing. * Contact International Admissions for more detailed information for Graduate vacations.

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Transferring to Another School

If you are planning on transferring from the University of Utah to another school, you must have decided on one specific school that you will attend. International Student and Scholar Services can only transfer your SEVIS record to one school. International Student and Scholar Services would need to know the new school’s J-1 program number.

When you transfer to a new school, you must check in at the international student services office at your new school within the first 15 days of the beginning of the semester. Your transfer is not valid and complete until you meet the check-in requirements at the new school, and your new school submits your information to SEVIS. Your new school will be issuing you a new transfer completed DS-2019.

To complete the transfer, you must supply to the International Student and Scholar Services office with a Transfer Request form from the school you wish to attend. This form needs to contain the SEVIS code of the school you wish to attend. We also need to see proof of admission to the new school, such as an Acceptance Letter, to verify you will be attending the new school. If the school that you are transferring to doesn’t have a transfer request form, International Student and Scholar Services can complete the transfer with an acceptance letter and the school’s SEVIS program number. We will transfer you to the new school on the date you wish to start at your new school.

According to SEVP, "…the student must start attending classes within five months of the last day he or she attended classes or the next available session, whichever comes sooner." International Student and Scholar Services will only transfer your SEVIS record for the next available semester at your new school.

If you are traveling outside of the United States between your last semester at the U of U and your first semester at your new college, we strongly recommend you receive an Initial DS-2019 from your new school instead of transferring your SEVIS record to the new school.

If you travel on an Initial Attendance DS-2019 form, you would need to pay the SEVIS fee again.

You will have 15 days from the start of the new schools semester to complete your check it with your new school. Please note that once the transfer has gone through, the University of Utah will no longer have access to your SEVIS record and can no longer do any changes to your SEVIS record for you. Only your new school will have access to your SEVIS record.

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Two-year Home Residency Requirement

If you are funded directly or indirectly by your government or the United States government or if you have a skill that your country has listed on the Exchange Visitor Skills List, you will have a two-year home residency requirement. This means that after you have completed your stay here on your J-1 visa, you will have to return to your home country for two years before you can apply to return to the United States on a H visa, L visa or permanent residency. You may return to the United States on other visas before you have resided in your home country for two years.

You may also apply to the Department of State to have the two-year home residency requirement waived if you wish to apply for an H or L visa or permanent residency before you have completed your two-year home residency requirement. There are four ways to apply for a waiver.

  1. Have the ambassador from your country send an official letter to the Department of State saying he/she has no objection to the two-year home stay being waived.
  2. If you have an American spouse or child and could prove an exceptional hardship on them to return to your country.
  3. If you are sponsored by or of interest to an agency of the United States Government, the agency may apply for a waiver for you. They must show it would be in the public interest and detrimental to a program or activity of interest to that agency if you were required to fulfill your two-year home residency requirement.
  4. Prove you would be persecuted if you returned home on the basis of your race, religion or political action.

For more information on the two-year home residency requirement and waiver check the Department of State’s Travel Information page.

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If you are planning on traveling outside the United States, you must have a valid signature on the section of your DS-2019 form that says, “travel validation by responsible officer.” This signature is valid for only six months (your DS-2019 form states that the signature is valid for one year, but customs officers enforce a six-month policy).

What are the basic requirements for a J-1 to re-enter the United States?

  • A current DS-2019 form endorsed for travel by the University of Utah.
  • You have been out of the United States for less than 5 months.
  • A current passport (see below).
  • A valid, current visa (see below).

What if I have an expired passport or one that will expire in less than 6 months?

In most cases of traveling, to enter the U.S., you must have a passport that is valid for at least six months after the date you enter or re-enter. However, some countries have an agreement with the U.S. that allows you to enter on a current passport up to the actual date of expiration. A list of the countries that have this agreement with the U.S. can be found at the bottom of this page.

What if my J-1 visa has expired?

Check the visa in your passport to make sure that it is still valid. You can stay in the U.S. on an expired J-1 visa as long as you maintain your status. If it has expired and you wish to travel, you will need to take your passport and DS-2019 form to an American Embassy or Consulate outside the United States to apply for a new visa before you can re-enter the U.S. Anytime you travel, you do so at your own risk. Be sure to plan ahead for unforeseen difficulties or inconveniences.

If your visa has expired, you can still re-enter the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean (except Cuba) if you return in less than 30 days. You may still need visas to enter Canada or Mexico, etc. You can check if you will need a visa, or any additional information, on Canada Online. There is a Mexican Consulate in Salt Lake City at 155 South 300 West, Suite 300. Their phone number is 801-521-8502.

While you may apply for a new J-1 visa in Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean, it is not recommended. The Department of State recommends that you apply for a visa in your country of citizenship. If you apply for a new visa in Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean, you can’t re-enter the U.S. until the visa application is approved. There is no guarantee that your application will be approved. You may not re-enter with your old visa.

Do J-2 dependents have to travel with the J-1 person?

J-2 dependents may travel without the primary J-1, provided that the J-1 has been admitted and maintains good status. If the J-1 travels, J-2 dependents may remain in the U.S. for a short period of time while the primary J-1 visa holder is outside the country.

The countries that have an agreement with the United States allowing entry with a passport up until the date of expiration are:

  • Algeria
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Bahamas
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belgium
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Columbia
  • Costa Rica
  • Cote D’Ivoire
  • Cuba
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • El Salvador
  • Ethiopia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Guinea
  • Guyana
  • Hong Kong *
  • Hungary
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Jordan
  • Korea
  • Kuwait
  • Laos
  • Latvia
  • Lebanon
  • Liechtenstein
  • Luxembourg
  • Madagascar
  • Malaysia
  • Malta
  • Mauritius
  • Mexico
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Nicaragua
  • Nigeria
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Qatar
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Senegal
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Singapore
  • Slovak Republic
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Suriname
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Syria
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Togo
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela
  • Zimbabwe

* certificates of identity and passports

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Last Updated: 8/15/17