J-1 Student Visa Information

Maintaining student status

Always consult with a Western Michigan University immigration advisor in regards to immigration regulations; carefully read any correspondence from Immigration Compliance.

An international student must be aware of, comply with, and maintain all of the information listed on the Maintaining International Student Status/Enrollment form. The Maintaining International Student Status/Enrollment form is accessible on the Forms page.

212(e) two-year home-country physical presence requirement

Exchange visitors may be subject to a two-year home-country physical presence requirement after completing their program. This rule requires the student to return to their home country for at least two years upon completion of their program. This requirement is also known as the 212(e) rule.

An exchange visitor may be subject to the requirement:

  • If the exchange visitor was financed by a foreign government (i.e. government scholarship program).
  • If the skills of the exchange visitor fall under the U.S. Department of State's Exchange Visitor's Skills List.

If a J-1 Exchange Visitor is subject to the 212(e) rule, so are any J-2 Dependents.

The 212(e) rule does not prevent an exchange visitor from applying for a tourist visa or other student category.

J-2 visa

The J-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa issued for spouses and dependents (unmarried children under the age of 21) of J-1 Exchange Visitors. The J-2 DS-2019 can be issued before or after the arrival of the J-1 visa holder. J-2 visa holders may study full or part time while the J-1 is maintaining legal immigration status. J-2 visa holders can apply with the government to obtain an Employment Authorization Document to allow them to work off campus without restriction. Any restrictions placed on the J-1 visa holder will also be placed on the J-2 visa holder. For example, if the J-1 visa holder is subject to the 212(e) exchange visitor two-year home-country physical presence requirement, so is the J-2 visa holder.

To add a dependent to an existing J-1 SEVIS record, submit a Dependent Request form to Immigration Compliance. The Dependent Request form is accessible on the Forms page.

For questions regarding J-2 employment, see the J-2 employment section

Higher Committee of Education Development in Iraq

The Iraq Education Initiative grants students scholarships from the Higher Committee of Education Development in Iraq.

Higher Committee of Education Development students who have family members are required to submit a Higher Committee of Education Development Dependent Verification form at the beginning of each semester. To expedite the process, students should monitor their WMU email for notice of walk-in advising times to have this form completed. Students should bring all dependents to Immigration Services for the advising session along with their DS-2019s, passports, and arrival/departure records (I-94) for everyone.

In addition, students with Higher Committee of Education Development scholarships may wish to receive Michigan identification cards or driver's licenses for themselves or their dependents. Higher Committee of Education Development students will need to request a letter from Immigration Services stating that the J-1 and J-2 visa holders are in lawful immigration status. Please contact your immigration advisor to request this letter.

For more information regarding Michigan identification cards and driver's licenses, visit the State of Michigan website.

Students with program sponsors other than WMU

Some students are sponsored by organizations other than WMU for their immigration document, such as Fulbright, the Institute of International Education, or Brazil's Science without Borders program. These students must seek guidance from their program sponsor with regard to employment, extensions, academic training, or questions regarding maintaining their visa status. WMU immigration advisors in Immigration Compliance may provide general information only, but students will need to obtain immigration advice from their program sponsor.

Change of address requirement

J visa holders must be aware of the Department of Homeland Security's regulations on address change notification requirements.

All non-U.S. citizens are required to notify Department of Homeland Security of changes of address within 10 days of moving. J visa holders should comply with this requirement by submitting the change of address form to Immigration Services within 10 days of the change. 

The change of address will not be communicated to Department of Homeland Security service centers or district offices. If applying for an immigration benefit, written notice of the address change must be sent to the relevant Department of Homeland Security office processing the request. Please see an immigration advisor for assistance in this matter.

Failure to comply with the address change notification requirements may affect the ability to remain in the U.S. and the ability to reenter the U.S. after travel abroad. J visa holders who fail to submit a change of current U.S. address as required are considered to be in violation of the SEVIS program regulations. This may result in termination of immigration status. This termination is not eligible for reinstatement.

Failure to give notice may be criminally punishable as a misdemeanor with a fine up to $200, imprisonment of up to 30 days, or both.

The Change of Address Notification form is accessible on the Forms page.

Obtaining a Social Security number

Social Security numbers are issued by the U.S. Social Security Administration to report an individual's wages to the government for tax purposes.

Social Security numbers will be issued only to those students in lawful status who have been offered jobs on campus or who are authorized for certain off-campus employment as permitted under Department of Homeland Security regulations.

Nonimmigrants may obtain many services without a Social Security number. A Social Security number is not needed to apply for a driver's license, state ID, register for school, or to obtain private health insurance.

The Obtaining a Social Security Number document is accessible on the Forms page.

On-campus employment

J-1 Students must obtain written authorization from their program sponsor before beginning any type of employment.

On-campus employment rules

  1. The applicant must be in good academic standing.
  2. The applicant must show the J-1 Student Work Authorization Letter to their employer to complete the on-campus hiring process.
  3. J-1 on-campus employment authorizations may not exceed 20 hours per week during the semester.
  4. The J-1 on-campus employment authorization is invalid if the student graduates, fails to maintain J-1 status, or transfers out of WMU.
  5. Pursuant to federal regulations, the J-1 on-campus employment authorization is granted for a maximum of 12 months at a time.
  6. To renew a J-1 on-campus employment authorization or report changes, the student will need to resubmit the employment authorization request form.

J-1 work authorization is employer-specific. If a student changes jobs, he/she must obtain new authorization before working. Changes include position, hiring unit, and multiple on-campus jobs. Prior written authorization by an Alternate/Responsible Officer in Immigration Services is required.

The J-1 On-Campus Employment Authorization Request form is accessible on the Forms page.

Academic Training

Academic Training is a type of employment/training for J-1 Students that is directly related to the academic program and helps students gain knowledge in their field of study.

For students

Academic Training is flexible in its format and offers a variety of U.S. employment situations to supplement a student's academic program. It is available before or after completion of the program of study. Students in non-degree programs are also eligible. Prior written authorization by an immigration advisor is required.


  • The applicant's primary purpose in the U.S. must be to study rather than Academic Training.
  • The applicant must be in good academic standing.
  • Throughout Academic Training, the applicant must maintain lawful status in the U.S. as a J-1 status holder and apply for extensions if necessary.
  • The applicant must maintain health insurance coverage meeting U.S. Department of State requirements for themselves and any dependents throughout Academic Training.
  • The applicant must demonstrate adequate financial support for his or her Academic Training period.


  • Employment may be authorized for the length of time necessary to complete the goals and objectives of the training, and must be approved by both academic and immigration advisors. It may not exceed the period of full course of study or 18 months, whichever is shorter. If receiving a Ph.D., post-doctoral training may last up to 36 months. Additional Academic Training beyond the 18- or 36-month limit is allowed only if it is required for the degree. 
  • Part-time employment for Academic Training counts as full-time employment.
  • Earning more than one degree does not increase the amount of time for Academic Training.
  • WMU may not authorize Academic Training in the first session or semester.

After completion of program

  • Academic Training following a completion of program must involve paid employment, unless the applicant can verify adequate financial support during the terms of Academic Training.
  • The applicant must obtain a written offer of appropriate employment and present a copy to an immigration advisor prior to the program completion date (or before the DS-2019 end date, whichever is earlier) or the applicant will lose eligibility for Academic Training after completion of study. Do not let the DS-2019 expire.
  • If the applicant plans to leave the U.S. after completion of the program of study and re-enter the country for J-1 Academic Training, employment authorization must be obtained before leaving.

Application procedure

Obtain a letter of offer from the prospective employer that indicates:

  • Job title
  • A brief description of the goals and objectives of the proposed training program
  • The dates and location of the employment
  • The number of hours per week
  • The name and address of the training supervisor

Give a copy of the letter to the academic advisor to help aid in the completion of the academic advisor's section on the Academic Training form.

Make an appointment with an immigration advisor. Bring the letter and recommendation form from the academic advisor to the appointment.

Upon approval, the immigration advisor will issue an employment authorization letter and a new DS-2019. To authorize post-doctoral Academic Training, the immigration advisor will issue a new DS-2019 (for no more than 18 months at a time).

The J-1 Academic Training form is accessible on the Forms page.

Tips for traveling

While participating in Academic Training, travel within or outside of the U.S. may be permitted. Academic Training is the primary objective and the reason the participant is maintaining legal status. Travel plans should not interfere with this objective. Failure to participate in Academic Training, as designated on the DS-2019, may result in termination of the student's SEVIS record.

  • If an employer approves travel, a letter should be written by the employer indicating the approval of travel and that the Academic Training participant will be returning to finish training requirements. This letter should be carried with the participant when traveling and a copy submitted to Immigration Compliance.
  • Immigration Compliance needs to be notified of the location that the student is residing at all times, even if temporary.
  • Always consult with an advisor prior to traveling outside the U.S. for verification of status and travel endorsement on the DS-2019.

For employers

J-1 Students may be allowed to participate in Academic Training with prior authorization from Immigration Compliance. Students must have a job offer, proof of insurance, proof of funding, and a completed Academic Training form submitted. Academic Training must be approved prior to beginning employment. While on Academic Training, a student remains on the DS-2019 issued by WMU. The student will receive an official authorization letter from Immigration Compliance in addition to having an Academic Training endorsement on the DS-2019. WMU is still considered the program sponsor for the student while on Academic Training.

Authorization for Academic Training may not exceed the period of full course of study or 18 months, whichever is shorter. If the student has received a Ph.D., post-doctoral training may last up to 36 months. The exact amount of time the student has been authorized for is listed under item number five on the DS-2019.

According to the U.S. Department of State, "Academic Training: Students may participate in Academic Training with or without wages or other remuneration during their studies with the approval of the academic dean or adviser and the responsible officer at their sponsor organization." Academic Training can be approved to take place during or after graduation. Final approval is given by Immigration Compliance.

For questions about I-9 requirements, please see the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website regarding Employment Eligibility Verification. Specific information regarding accepting the Form DS-2019 with an Academic Training endorsement as proof of employment authorization, please see M-274, Handbook for Employers, Guidance for Completing Form I-9.

Prior to completion of Academic Training, you are required to submit a brief summary of your experiences as a student on Academic Training to Immigration Compliance.

Contact Immigration Compliance with further questions.

J-2 Dependent employment

J-2 employment may be authorized by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The Employment Authorization Document may be issued for up to a 12-month period and may be renewed yearly. It may not exceed the program length of the J-1.

J-2 Dependents are eligible to apply for permission to work from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services through a Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization. The J-2 Dependent may begin employment only after having received the approved Employment Authorization Document from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The regulation states that employment may not be granted when the earnings are to be used to support the J-1 visa holder. Rather, the earnings must be used for the "Family's customary recreational and cultural activities and those related to travel" (Source: 8 CFR 214.2(j)(1)(v)(A)).

Required documents

  • Form I-765—mark (c)(5) on section 16 and make sure the form is signed clearly and not dated until mailed to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance.
  • I-765 application fee—check the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website for the latest version of the form and application fee.
  • Two photos meeting passport photo requirements as listed on the U.S. Department of State website—student's name and SEVIS number should be listed on the back of each photo and the photos should be placed in a small envelope and stapled to the Form I-765.
  • Photocopy of the passport identification page and photo page of the J-1 and J-2 visa holder.
  • Photocopy of the visa of the J-1 and J-2 visa holder.
  • Arrival/departure record (I-94) of the J-1 and J-2 visa holder.
  • Photocopy of the DS-2019 of the J-1 and J-2 visa holder.
  • Proof of relationship, such as a marriage or birth certificate (officially translated in English).
  • A written statement explaining that the J-2 employment is not necessary to support the J-1, but will be used for the needs of the J-2. We recommend that the statement include the following sentence: "The income derived from the desired employment will be used to support myself in cultural and recreational activities and not my J-1 spouse."

Submitting the I-765 application packet to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

The application must be mailed to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Service Center or lockbox with jurisdiction over the J-2 applicant's place of residence. Refer to Filing Addresses for Form I-765 for addresses.

Within four weeks, the applicant should receive a notice confirming that the application has been received. The applicant will receive a case number, which may be used to check updated information on the status of the application on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

After the application has been processed, the applicant will receive the Employment Authorization Document, which is a plastic picture ID. The card can be taken to the Social Security Administration Office to apply for a Social Security number.

The Employment Authorization Document will be valid up to the expiration date on the card. It can be extended further, provided the DS-2019 for the J-1 and J-2 have not expired and the J-1 program is continuing. To extend the employment authorization, the applicant will need to resubmit all of the above-mentioned documents to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

For assistance with this process, please make an appointment with an immigration advisor.

The J-2 Employment Request Checklist is accessible on the Forms page.

Reduced course load request

International students in J-1 status are required to maintain full-time enrollment during the academic year. If a student cannot or will not meet this requirement, the student must request a reduced course load from Immigration Compliance.

Federal immigration regulations limit a student's ability to enroll less than full time, but it may be allowed in some circumstances. If the student drops below full-time enrollment without authorization, Immigration Services is federally mandated to report this to SEVIS and the student will violate their J-1 status.

According to immigration regulations governing international students, the Alternate/Responsible Officer (not an academic advisor) may authorize a J-1 Student to engage in less than a full course of study.

A student who wishes to drop below full-time enrollment must obtain the authorization from an Alternate/Responsible Officer in advance, regardless of the reason. A student who drops below a full course of study without appropriate prior authorization will be considered in violation of status. Please be advised, according to immigration regulations, that lack of financial support does not constitute a valid reason to reduce the student's course load.

Definition of full time

Undergraduate students must register for and complete at least 12 credit hours per semester. Graduate students must register for and complete at least six credit hours per semester.

Courses taken for audit do not count toward the full-time enrollment requirement.

University policy limits the number of online or Web-based courses that count toward the full-time enrollment requirement. Only a single three-credit online course per semester will count toward full-time enrollment for immigration status.

Reasons for reduced course load

  • Academic difficulties
  • Master's and Ph.D. students on thesis or dissertation track
  • Medical conditions
  • Completion of course of study

Reduced Course Load Request forms must be submitted no later than the second week of each semester the student expects to be underenrolled.

The Reduced Course Load Request form is accessible on the Forms page.

Grace period

Following completion of program, the period defined on the DS-2019, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services allows participants a 30-day travel period commonly referred to as a grace period. During this grace period, students are no longer in J visa status and are under the jurisdiction of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. USCIS grants this period to allow students to settle their affairs and to prepare to return to their home countries. Students may no longer continue or complete exchange activities nor are they allowed to work during this time.

Although students may travel within the U.S., it is recommended that they do not travel outside the U.S, as they may not be permitted re-entry. It is also recommended that student's maintain their health insurance for the duration of their time in the U.S.

DS-2019 extension request

Sometimes students cannot complete their degree programs within the allotted time frame given on the DS-2019.

A student may request an extension of the DS-2019 by completing an extension request form. The form will also need to be filled out by the student's academic advisor, and must be submitted and approved prior to the end date on the student's DS-2019. It is recommended that it be submitted at least one month in advance.

Scholarships may be limited to the number of semesters that will be covered. If a student is receiving a scholarship from their government, they should make an appointment with an immigration advisor in advance to discuss the extension.

Study Abroad at WMU students who were initially here for one or two semester and wish to extend may do so with additional documentation. In addition to the extension request form, a letter of support from the director of Study Abroad at WMU, proof of finances, and a list of proposed classes for the upcoming semester is required. A non-degree student's program cannot exceed 24 months.

The I-20/DS-2019 Extension Request form is accessible on the Forms page.

Notification of departure/early withdrawal/completion of program

If a student is unable to continue his or her studies at WMU due to certain circumstances or is completing his or her program, notification is to be submitted to Immigration Compliance.

This notification is for immigration reporting purposes only and does not replace the student's responsibility to comply with WMU's official drop/add policy. Before leaving WMU, the student should be sure to take care of any financial obligations to the University, drop classes, cancel health insurance, and notify the department and/or academic advisor of the departure. Any employment authorization ends with non-enrollment

After successful program completion, J-1 Students have a 30-day grace period to depart the U.S.

Prior to returning to the U.S., the student must check with a U.S. consulate to determine whether the student's visa is still valid. If not, the student might be denied entry into the U.S.

The Notification of Departure/Early Withdrawal/Completion of Program form is accessible on the Forms page.


Reinstatement of J-1 status may be necessary if certain violations of J-1 regulations occur. Reinstatement requires an application process and approval from the U.S. Department of State.

Examples of these violations include:

  • Failure to pursue a full course of study without prior authorization from an academic and immigration advisor.
  • Failure to seek a correction of the SEVIS record within 120 days of committing a minor infraction.

Some violations of regulations automatically lead to termination of J-1 status. Record correction or reinstatement is not available in these circumstances:

  • Failure to maintain adequate health insurance coverage that meets U.S. Department of State requirements for the J-1 Student and dependents, if any.
  • Unauthorized employment (i.e. employment that cannot be authorized under J-1 regulations).
  • Suspension, termination or expulsion from the academic program.

Important information

  • If the student is working on campus, they must notify their supervisor and stop working immediately. The student may resume on-campus employment only if the reinstatement application is approved.
  • The student must enroll full time while the reinstatement is pending.
  • Applying for reinstatement does not guarantee that it will be granted. Prepare the application thoroughly and completely.
  • If the student has previously been granted a reinstatement, it is less likely that the second reinstatement will be approved.
  • Remember, reinstatement is not the only option available. The student may choose to obtain a new DS-2019, apply for a new J-1 visa, and return to the U.S. to resume study. Please consult with an immigration advisor.
  • If the student leaves the U.S. while the reinstatement application is pending, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will consider it as abandonment of the reinstatement application. If the student decides to withdraw the application, he/she should see an immigration advisor for the withdrawal procedure.

Application procedure

It is important that the student does not delay applying for reinstatement. Make an appointment with an immigration advisor to review application procedures. The reinstatement process may require multiple appointments. The student should schedule their initial appointment as soon as they know they need to file for reinstatement.

Transferring to another U.S. institution

Students may wish to transfer from WMU to another U.S. institution to continue their program or to matriculate to a new degree level. The exchange visitor must remain in the same category (i.e. student). The transfer-in school must also participate in the J SEVIS program.

The transfer process for exchange visitors requires careful coordination between the student, an Alternate/Responsible Officer at WMU, and an Alternate/Responsible Officer from the transfer-in school. Immigration Compliance will not transfer the record without correspondence from the new school either by phone or by email. Once the record is transferred, it must be accepted by the transfer-in school the same day or the SEVIS record will expire. The transfer-in school will need to extend the student's end date, immediately after transfer, to the date determined by the transfer-in school's advisors.

Transferring schools must take place prior to the end date listed on the student's current DS-2019.

To transfer to a new school, the student must submit the Transfer-Out SEVIS Record Request form along with the required materials to Immigration Compliance at least 10 business days prior to the transfer date. The Transfer-Out SEVIS Record Request form is accessible on the Forms page. Once a date is determined, the DS-2019 program end date may be shortened to reflect the transfer out date if it is not the same as the completion of program date.

The transfer-in school will not be able to issue the student a new DS-2019 until the transfer release date. If the student decides to cancel the school transfer, they must notify an immigration advisor before the transfer release date. Once the transfer release date has been reached, WMU will no longer have access to the SEVIS record.

To schedule a transfer, please make an appointment with an immigration advisor.