Maintaining J-1 Status

U.S. federal government regulations require all international students and scholars to maintain J-1 status. It is your responsibility to be aware of the factors that impact your legal status and make sure you remain compliant. Non-compliance is a very serious matter with severe consequences. While the responsibility for maintaining compliance is yours, IPGE is here to help you navigate the complexities of U.S. government regulations and procedures. This section will assist you in providing key information for maintaining your J-1 status.



J-1 students must maintain full-time enrollment each academic term (except during designated vacation periods) and make normal progress toward the completion of your program of study. Full-time enrollment is as follows:

  • Undergraduate students: 12 units during the spring and fall semesters 
  • Graduate students: 9 units during the spring and fall semesters

All J-1 visa holders must update IPGE and your MySacState within 10 days of any change. To update IPGE, complete an address update form at the IPGE front desk.

J-1 students are limited to 3 units of online courses that count towards your full-time requirement. In other words, undergraduates must have at least 9 units in-person and graduates must have at least 6 units in-person. "Hybrid" courses that have meetings both in-person and online are considered in-person courses.

Examples of Students in Status:

  • Undergrad with 3 units online and 9 units in-person
  • Undergrad with 6 units online and 9 units in-person
  • Graduate with 3 units online and 6 units in-person

Examples of students out of Status:

  • Undergrad with 6 units online and 6 units in-person
  • Graduate with 6 units online and 3 units in-person

J-1 students must normally enroll in and maintain a full-time course load as explained in the "Full Time Enrollment" section above. However, there are certain limited circumstances where you may reduce your course load temporarily. These circumstances fall under several categories, Medical Condition, Academic Difficulty, Final Term, or a graduate student working on thesis, project, or comprehensive exam. In each case, you must seek approval from a Responsible Officer of Alternate Responsible Offer (International Student Advisor) prior to the reduction in course load. Each type of authorization has specific eligibility criteria, required documentation, and time restrictions. For more on eligibility and how to request a drop below full course of study, please see the Authorization for Drop Below Full Course of Study Form.

The Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement [212(e)] applies to some J-1 visa holders. After completion of a J-1 program, the scholar may be required to reside in the home country for a minimum of two years. If the J-1 is subject to this requirement, the J-2 is as well. This requirement limits the ability of some Exchange Visitors to change their status or obtain certain kinds of entry visas after participation in the program.

You may be subject to the Two-Year Home Country Residence Requirement if:

  • You receive any funding from your home country government (including travel grants etc.).
  • Your field is on the U.S. government‘s Exchange Visitor’s "Skills List.”

During the course of or after the completion of your J program you may find it necessary to apply for a waiver of the requirement. Keep in mind that once you have submitted the waiver application, Stanford cannot extend your stay as a J-1 scholar.

The completion date on your DS-2019 is an estimate. If you are unable to complete your program by that date, you must request an extension of your program through IPGE at least 30 days before the end date on your DS-2019. However, we recommend you apply for an extension up to three months before expiration. Once your DS-2019 expires, it is not possible to complete an extension and you are considered out of status. To complete the extension, please submit the Program Extension form to IPGE. As part of the form, you will be required to receive a recommendation from your academic advisor (students).

Research Scholars should discuss with their ISSS Advisor if they are considering an extension of their program. Short-Term Scholars are not permitted to extend their program beyond 6 months.

International Students who have been approved for on or off campus employment will be required to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) before they may begin work. SSNs are generally assigned to J-1 students who are authorized to work in the United States and are used to report their wages to the IRS. Please be aware that a SSN is not a work authorization.

SSN Procedures for J-1 Students:

  1. Receive a Job Offer
  2. Obtain a SSN support letter from your employer’s Payroll office.
  3. Complete an IPGE letter request form for an IPGE SSN Support Letter. You must first be authorized to work (on-campus or Academic Training). Your letter will be available the next business day.
  4. Apply in person at the Social Security Administration Office. The closest office to Sac State is:
      Bring the following documents:
    • Valid Passport
    • Original DS-2019
    • I-94
    • SSN Support letter from Employer
    • SSN Support letter from IPGE

 5. Once you have your Social Security number, visit your payroll office to complete the hiring process.

 6. Complete the online “Glacier” process (campus employers).

Research Scholars and Short-Term Scholars can receive a SSN without receiving an offer of employment. If you wish to get a SSN, your advisor will issue a letter to assist you in securing a SSN during your orientation. Then, follow the instructions above with the exception of the employer letter and Glacier process.

Note: If you are a new student or scholar, please wait 10 days after the semester starts before you apply for an SSN.

On-Campus Employment
J-1 students may engage in part-time on-campus employment (full-time when school is not in session) if they have obtained approval from their program sponsor (a clearance must be issued by IPGE). Details can be found on the On-Campus Employment site.

Off-Campus Employment
Full-time J-1 students in good academic standing may engage in part-time (full-time when school is not in session) off-campus employment if they encounter financial difficulties due to unforeseen circumstances. In order to apply for permission to work off-campus it will be necessary that you meet with your IPGE advisor, and provide detailed information concerning the nature of your unforeseen financial difficulties. Employment permits will be issued when conditions warrant approval.

Academic Training
J-1 Estudents may engage in academic training during their studies without wages or other remuneration, or for wages with the approval of their international student advisor. Paid academic training can be authorized for a maximum of 18 months during or after their academic studies. Academic training after completion of studies must begin no later than thirty (30) days after completion of studies and cannot be approved for a period of time longer than the student’s academic program. Paid academic training can only be undertaken by students whose primary reason for being in the US is to study, not to engage in academic training. In order to begin paid academic training, J-1 students must:

  1. Be in good academic standing.
  2. Plan to engage in academic training that is clearly related to their major field of study.
  3. Receive written permission from their International Student Advisor.

Employment of J-2 Spouse of J-1 Exchange Visitor
The J-2 spouse of a J-1 exchange visitor may, under certain conditions, obtain permission from USCIS to accept employment. Permission to accept employment will only be granted if the J-2 spouse can demonstrate that the financial resources of the J-1 are inadequate to cover the essential costs of the J-2 dependents. The money earned by the J-2 spouse cannot be intended for the purpose of assisting the J-1 in meeting his/her costs.

J-1’s or their J-2 dependents interested in one of the off-campus employment opportunities described above should meet with their IPGE advisor to obtain exact application procedures.

All J-1 visa holders are advised to carefully follow the guidelines and advice regarding traveling outside of the United States.

Required Documents for travel outside of the US:

  • Passport valid at least 6 months into the future
  • Most recent DS-2019 with a travel signature less than one year old
  • Unexpired J-1 visa

To receive a travel signature, bring your most recent DS-2019 to IPGE and submit at the front desk along with a Letter Request Form. Please request travel signatures at least 7-10 days in advance of your travel. Signatures may not be available on a last minute basis.

If you have an expired J visa and are traveling for a short period of time to Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island, you may fall under the Automatic Revalidation provisions.

1) See an ISSS Advisor. If you and your next school believe you’re qualified for a SEVIS transfer, discuss your travel and/or employment plans with us before choosing a SEVIS transfer release date. Considerations include:

  • The start date of the new DS-2019 must be the day following the expiration of the current one.
  • If you are going to work on Academic Training in the summer before enrolling in the fall at the new school, your release date must be on or after the last date of work or you will lose the employment eligibility.
  • If you are currently on post-completion Academic Training, you need to choose a transfer release date on or after he last date of work. AT authorization will automatically end on the release date.

2) Gather your Documents

  • A letter of admission from your new school
  • Transfer in form from the new school

3) Submit your documents to your ISSS Advisor. Your advisor will review your documents for eligibility and transfer your record.

Once you complete your program, you have a "30-day grace period." During this grade period you are free to travel within the U.S. However once you leave the United States, your J-1 status will end. If you plan on re-entering the U.S. after departure, it would need to be on a new status.