Maintaining J-1 Status
In order to remain lawfully in the United States during your studies in J-1 status, you must obey the regulations that govern J-1 students. The following links will provide you with guidance for maintaining lawful J-1 status. Although ISSS endeavors to provide the most up-to-date information, the Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) considers it the responsibility of the J-1 student to be sure they do not do anything that violates terms of his/her status.
Full Course of Study (J-1 Students)
You are required by law to register for and complete a “full course of study” each Fall and Spring semester at Florida International University , in accordance with the following:
Although you may register for as many classes as University policy allows, you must register for and complete at least 12 credit hours each Fall and Spring semester. Withdrawing below 12 credits without prior authorization by ISSS can be considered a violation of your J-1 status.
Although you may register for as many classes as University policy allows, you must register for at least 9 graduate credit hours each Fall and Spring semester.
Graduate Students Who Have Completed All Required Course Work
If a thesis or dissertation is required of your program of study and you have completed all required course work, you need only register for the number of hours of thesis or dissertation research determined by the Graduate School. In addition, your department must certify you “full-time” each academic term.
If the program objective in section 4 of your DS-2019 is not an academic degree from Florida International University , you must be engaged in a “prescribed course of study” as defined and approved by ISSS. Non-degree exchange students are limited to an academic year as a J-1 Non-degree student. You are limited to a maximum of twenty-four months as a non-degree J-1 student.
You do not have to register for classes during the summer unless:
- You will begin a new program of study or return to study after a leave of absence during the summer term.Degree and Non-Degree Student If your DS-2019 was issued to begin in the summer term, you must register for at least 12 credits over the entire Summer Term. If your DS-2019 was issued to begin in late June or early July for summer B, you must register for at least 6 credits. Graduate students must register for 6 credit or 3 credit hours depending on the program start date.
- You will complete your program during the Summer Term.Final Semester of Program Degree students are permitted to register for less than a full course of study in the Fall or Spring only if they will complete their program by the end of that semester.Non-Degree students must register full time each fall and spring term.Auditing Courses Audited (“AU”) courses do not count towards the credit requirements for a full course of study.Incomplete Courses Incomplete (“I”) courses are permissible, so long as you are eligible to continue in your program and remain enrolled for a full course of study while you make up incomplete work.Please be advised: You must complete all work and receive a final grade for any incomplete courses by the end of your final semester of study in order to stay in status.
Reduced Course Load
Only the circumstances listed below allow the possibility to engage in less than a full course of study. However, you must request authorization in advance from an ISSS advisor in order to maintain
J-1 status. You must resume a full course of study in the semester that immediately follows your authorized period of reduced course load.
- Bona fide academic reason
- Illness or other medical condition(Complete withdrawal from courses is also permitted in this case, if necessary.)
Immigration Regulations: Changes to Information on Your DS-2019
Whenever information on your DS-2019 changes, ISSS must issue you an updated DS-2019 to reflect the new information and notify the U.S. Department of State. The following instructions are for J-1 students whose DS-2019 was issued by Florida International University . If another J program sponsor issued your DS-2019 (as indicated in section 2 of your document), you must contact the Responsible Officer of your J program regarding changes to your DS-2019.
Changes to Your Name, Citizenship, Country of Permanent Residence, Major Field of Study or Source of Financial Sponsorship
NOTE: If you have been admitted to a new degree program, you cannot receive a new DS-2019 as outlined in this section. Please refer to the instructions in the section that follows below entitled “Change of Education Level or Program at Florida International University ”
Requesting to Change Your DS-2019
Please bring the following with you to ISSS:
- Your current DS-2019, passport and I-94 card
- Evidence of the changed information (only if applicable):
- Change of legal name: (USCIS must be notified within 10 days) Passport, or any other such document, which proves a legal change to your name.
- Change of citizenship: Passport.
- Change of country of permanent residence: Immigration document of the issuing country.
- Change in source of funding: Award letter, or sponsor support letter and bank statement. Documents must be in English with amounts in U.S. dollars.
- Change of major: ISSS must be able to verify changes of major in the University computer before a new DS-2019 can be issued. In cases of students sponsored by their home government, approval of major change by the appropriate government agency may need to be confirmed.Important:Your DS-2019 states a specific field code for which you were admitted to study as an exchange visitor. Significant changes to the program objective for which a J-1 student was initially admitted to the U.S. (e.g. Engineering to Political Science) may not be permitted by U.S. Department of State regulations.
Once your request is submitted, it will take approximately 5 business days to issue your new DS-2019.
Change of Education Level or Program at Florida International University
This section is for current Florida International University students who are in J-1 status and are changing from one education level to another (e.g. Master’s in Electrical Engineering to Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering), or from one program to another (e.g. Master’s in Accounting to Master’s in Business Administration). It will describe the steps you need to take to comply with regulations of the U.S. Department of State.
Important: Your DS-2019 states a specific field code for which you were admitted to study as an exchange visitor.
Significant changes to the program objective for which a J-1 student was initially admitted to the U.S. (e.g. Engineering to Political Science) might not be permitted by U.S. Department of State regulations.
Definition of Education Level
“Education level” refers to the level of an academic program of study. Your educational level should be described in section 4 of your DS-2019. As a Florida International University student, your program of study is on one of the following levels:
- Graduate Certificate
New DS-2019 for Change of Education Level or Program
If you have been admitted to a new academic program at Florida International University, you must be issued a new DS-2019 by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions or Graduate Admissions.
When you receive your new DS-2019, please read all the information on it carefully. If any information is incorrect, contact the office that issued the DS-2019. If all information is correct, read and sign it and bring it to ISSS to update your file and validate your record in SEVIS.
If you have dependents (spouse and/or children under the age of 21) that are in the U.S. in J-2 status, they must each receive their own updated dependent DS-2019. If they are not in the U.S. , but plan to obtain J-2 visas and enter the country to join you, they must each receive an updated dependent DS-2019 to apply for their visas and enter the U.S.
(See section on J-2 Dependents for more information.)
As a J-1 student, you have been admitted into the United States for “duration of status,” which is noted on your I-94 Departure Record (the little white card in your passport) as “J-1, D/S.” This means that as long as you maintain a full course of study or are authorized by ISSS for Academic Training following successful completion of your program, you may continue to remain lawfully in the U.S. in J-1 status.
However, you have been given a limited amount of time at Florida International University to complete your studies. This time limit can be found in Section 3 of your Form DS-2019, where it states the beginning and ending dates of your exchange program. Please pay attention to this program end date.
If you know that you will be unable to complete your program within the time provided, you should contact ISSS at least one month prior to your current DS-2019 program end date to request a new DS-2019 for Program Extension.
If you fail to process a new DS-2019 for Program Extension before your current DS-2019 expires, or you are otherwise determined to be ineligible, then you will be considered out of status and may have to file for J-1 Reinstatement with the U.S. Department of State.
To determine if you are eligible for a Program Extension, an ISSS advisor will evaluate the following:
- You are currently in J-1 status.
- You are allowed by your academic department to continue full-time in your program of study.
- You possess sufficient funding to meet the tuition, fees and cost-of-living expenses for the Program Extension period you are requesting.
Requesting a New DS-2019 for Program Extension
If you will need more time to complete your program of study than is permitted by the program end date in section 3 of your current Form DS-2019, please follow these steps:
- Print out the form titled “Academic Certification” and have it completed by your academic advisor. This form can also be picked up at the ISSS.
- Assemble proof that you have sufficient funds to cover the expenses for tuition, fees and cost-of-living for the Program Extension period you are requesting.If the funding is your own, you need only submit a bank letter or statement verifying funds. If you are sponsored (e.g. by your parents), your sponsor will need to provide their bank documentation, plus a letter of financial support that verifies they will provide funding for your tuition/fees and living expenses while you are at FIU.Delays in obtaining financial documentation from abroad do not justify allowing your DS-2019 to expire without a timely Program Extension. You are strongly advised to request letters verifying continued financial support well in advance of the expiration of your current DS-2019, especially if you rely on sponsorship from an international agency or your home government.All financial documents must be originals, signed and dated, written in English, and currency amounts listed in US dollars.
- Come to the ISSS with the above documentation. Ask to fill out a document request form and request a DS-2019 Program Extension. It normally takes 5 business days to complete this request.
- Once the new DS-2019 is issued, the extension will be processed.
Reinstatement for Failure to Maintain J-1 Status
A J-1 student who has failed in any way to maintain J-1 status is considered “out of status.” If you think you are out of status, please contact ISSS immediately. Your situation will be properly evaluated to determine whether or not a violation has occurred that requires an application for reinstatement with the U.S. Department of State. A J-1 student who is determined by the ISSS to be out of status will not be eligible for a travel signature, change of status, or any employment benefits.
NOTE: If an Exchange Visitor Program sponsor other than Florida International University issued your DS-2019 (as indicated in section 2 of your document), you will be advised to contact the Responsible Officer of your program.
Reinstatement is not allowed when a J-1 Exchange Visitor student has:
- Knowingly or willfully failed to obtain or maintain the required health insurance at all times while in the United States;
- Engaged in unauthorized employment that is not normally approvable for J-1 students;
- Been suspended or terminated from the most recent exchange visitor program;
- Failed to maintain valid program status for more than 270 calendar days;
- Received a favorable recommendation from the Department of State on an application for a waiver of the 2-year home country physical presence requirement.
If you cannot be reinstated, you cannot be allowed to continue in the Exchange Visitor Program at Florida International University.
Completion of Studies (J-1 Students)
U.S. Immigration regulations state that your lawful J-1 status automatically ends thirty (30) days after you complete your program* unless you take some action to remain lawfully in the U.S. Therefore, it is very important you are aware of the official date of completion for your program. *Important: The thirty-day grace period described above is not available to students who do not complete their program of study (e.g. are suspended, withdrawn, or otherwise do not complete their program objective as stated on their DS-2019.
Undergraduate Students and Graduate Students (in programs notrequiring thesis or dissertation or equivalent)
You officially complete your studies when you complete all program requirements. Generally it is the last day of the term or the last day of exams for the term in which you complete your studies regardless of when you will receive your diploma or participate in graduation ceremonies.
Completing work during Summer Term: J-1 students who do not intend to enroll for the Fall semester, but will complete their program of study during the summer, must be registered during the Summer Term in order to maintain their lawful J-1 status.
Graduate Students in Thesis or Dissertation Programs (or equivalent)
You officially complete your studies when you submit the final version of your thesis or dissertation and Florida International University certifies that you have successfully completed all degree requirements, regardless of when you will receive your diploma or participate in graduation ceremonies.
Finishing research during the Summer Term: All graduate students who will not enroll for the Fall semester, but will submit their thesis/dissertation during the summer in order to complete their program, must be registered for academic credit during the Summer Term session for which their work is submitted.
Because the academic objectives of non-degree students do not include the attainment of a degree, your completion date is the last day of exams for the term in which you finish your non-degree studies.
All Students: Options for After Completion of Studies
Please consult with ISSS at least one semester before you complete your studies to discuss your options. Upon completion of your program, you will have 30 days to choose one of the following:
- Begin a new program of study at Florida international University or at another college or university.
- Begin Academic Training (if eligible).
- Apply for a change to a different immigration status.
- Depart the United States.
Immigration Regulations:Leave of Absence/Suspension/Withdrawal
NOTE: The following information is only applicable to J-1 students whose DS-2019) has been issued by Florida International University. If an Exchange Visitor Program sponsor other than Florida International University issued your DS-2019 (as indicated in section 2 of your document), you will be advised to contact the Responsible Officer of your program.
While in the United States in J-1 student status, you must remain continuously enrolled for a full course of study at Florida International University until you have completed your academic program. Depending on your case, your DS-2019 could become invalid if you discontinue your studies at Florida International University without prior authorization from ISSS, and you will not be eligible to remain in the United States in J-1 status.
IMPORTANT: If you are currently working on- or off-campus, you must cease employment immediately upon discontinuing your studies.
Please contact ISSS before you interrupt your studies for any of the follow reasons:
1. You are planning to request an official leave of absence (LOA) from the University during the Fall or Spring semester.
2. You are being suspended/dismissed (or are under review for suspension/dismissal).
3. You are planning to withdraw from all of your classes at any point during the Fall or Spring semester (or Summer Term if it is your initial semester of study).
Exception: Authorization for Medical Leave of Absence
In the event you are suffering from an illness or other medical condition that compels you to interrupt your studies at Florida International University, you can request authorization from ISSS that will enable you to maintain valid J-1 status during the time you are not enrolled.
(NOTE : If you only need to reduce your course load below full-time for medical reasons, you must complete the Reduced Course Load form.)
Other Legal Options
If you are not requesting a medical LOA, consult with an ISSS advisor about your eligibility options to remain in legal status or depart the United States in a timely manner:
Returning to Florida International University to Resume Studies
Unless you have been authorized for a medical LOA, you may be required to request a new DS-2019 from Florida International University from ISSS in order to resume studies in J-1 status.
A J-1 student who is maintaining status may transfer from one J-1 Exchange Visitor Program to another by following the procedures described below.
Transfer to FIU’s J-1 Program
J-1 students whose Form DS-2019 was issued by a J program sponsor other than Florida International University (as indicated in section 2 of their DS-2019), may transfer to FIU’s J program, as long as they are admitted to the University for full-time study, have sufficient funding, and have been released by their previous J program sponsor. Click here to retrieve Transfer in form.
Transfer from FIU’s J-1 Program
J-1 students who are in the U.S. on an FIU DS-2019, but wish to transfer to another J-1 program, must request authorization from ISSS, even if they will continue to study at FIU. J-1 students who wish to transfer to another J-1 program in order to continue study at another U.S. school must request authorization from ISSS before beginning study at the new school.
Replacing Your Lost, Stolen or Damaged DS-2019, Passport, I-94 or J-1 Visa
Contact ISSS immediately if anything should happen to your documents.
DS-2019, Passport and I-94
If these documents should become damaged, lost, or stolen you should arrange to replace them as soon as possible.
You must request a replacement DS-2019 from ISSS.
You must contact your embassy or consulate in the US to arrange for a new passport. Once your passport is replaced, come to the ISSO to make copies to update your file. Please keep in mind that it may take several months for your embassy to replace your passport.
I-94 Departure Record
(Also known as “the little white card” that is usually stapled in your passport.) Contact ISSS for assistance whenapplying to the USCIS for a replacement. Once your I-94 card is replaced, come to ISSS to make a copy to update your file.
You only need your J-1 visa for entering the U.S. If your J-1 visa becomes damaged or is lost or stolen with your passport while you are in the country, you do not need to replace it until the next time you travel out of the U.S. with the intention to return in J-1 status. While you are abroad, you must apply for a new J-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate before you will be allowed to reenter the country in J-1 status. Once your J-1 visa is replaced, come to ISSS after you return to the U.S. to make a copy to update your file.