To take part in one of the J-1 Visa programs you must have a designated sponsor, in this case, Western Carolina University would be your designated sponsor. The designated sponsors supervise the application process and are the main point of contact throughout the exchange program process. Students must possess sufficient proficiency in the English language to participate in a program.
Required Activities For Maintaining Status
It is the responsibility of each international visitor to the United States to maintain proper immigration status, to refrain from unauthorized work, and to file for an extension of stay in a timely manner.
All J-1 and J-2 immigration classification holders are required to carry health insurance that meets specifications outlined in the J regulations in order to maintain their immigration status. If you have questions concerning this requirement, please refer to the document:
J-1 Students must pursue the course of study required by their WCU programs or schools and must make satisfactory progress toward a specific educational objective.
J-1 Scholars at WCU usually hold one of the following J-1 categories: researcher, professor, or short-term scholar. In this document, we will use the term “scholar” to refer to that entire group unless otherwise indicated. If you are uncertain of the J-1 category you hold, refer to Item #4 on your DS-2019 to see which category is marked. All J-1 scholars, regardless of category, must engage only in the approved activities for which the DS-2019 was issued (e.g., teach, conduct research, train). These activities must take place either at WCU or at another location specified and authorized in writing by the J-1 immigration sponsor prior to the commencement of those activities. J-1 scholars are permitted to take courses to supplement or enhance their research, but they may not enroll in a full-time degree program, as this will change their objective from “teaching and research” to “study.” Note that if your activities, your supervisor, or the location of your activities will change, you must contact the SEVIS Coordinator prior to these changes so that we ensure that the new circumstances are consistent with your immigration status.
J-1 Students may stay for the time needed to complete the educational program they are pursuing but must keep the ending date on the DS-2019 valid into the future at all times.
J-1 Professors and Researcher Scholars have a 5-year time limit on their stays in this immigration class. US Dept. of State (DOS) does not permit extensions beyond 5 years.
J-1 Short-term Scholars have a 6-month time limit on their stays in this immigration class. DOS does not permit extensions beyond 6 months.
J-2 dependent extensions are generally filed at the same time as the J-1 extension.
NOTE: If your activities, supervisor, or the location of your activities will change, contact the IPS Office prior to these changes so that we can assist you in obtaining the proper visa documentation.
J-2 dependent spouse or child is in status only while the J-1 is in status. A J-2 dependent who works without USCIS authorization is out of status even though the J-1 still may be in status.
J-1 students and scholars are admitted either until the ending date on their DS-2019 or until their program ends, whichever comes first. They then are permitted to remain in the U.S. 30 days to pack and travel, but no work is permitted during this 30-day grace period. For example, if the DS-2019 ends September 30th, then the authorized stay will end 30 days later on October 30th. An extension is filed by completing a request through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) before the ending date listed on the current DS-2019. You should contact the IPS Office at least 2 months before your current DS-2019 expires if you wish to apply for an extension. J-1 students may stay for the time needed to complete the educational program they are pursuing. If they need to stay beyond the ending date listed on their DS-2019, they must contact the International Office.
J-1 professors and researchers have a 5-year time limit on their stays in this visa class with a possible 6-month extension. Only under exceptional and unusual circumstances will the Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) grant an additional 6-month extension.
J-1 short-term scholars have a 6-month time limit on their stays in this visa class. No extensions are possible.
J-1 specialists have a 12-month time limit on their stays in this visa class. No extensions are possible.
J-1 alien physicians sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) have a maximum 7-year time limit on their stays in this visa class. Only under exceptional and unusual circumstances will the EVP grant an additional 12-month extension.
J-2 dependents’ extensions are filed at the same time as the J-1s.
J-1 students under WCU’s J-1 sponsorship (i.e., J-1 students whose DS-2019 forms were issued by WCU), are permitted to work on campus only if the employment is part of a scholarship, fellowship, etc. connected to the course of study. No other work is permitted unless specifically authorized in writing by the IPS Office. Students sponsored by other agencies (refer to Item #2 on the DS-2019 to identify your sponsor), must obtain permission in writing from their J-1 visa sponsors prior to working on campus. On-campus employment is limited to 20 hours a week when school is in session and to 40 hours a week during holidays and school vacations. Other J-1 students can obtain authorization to work off campus for the purpose of academic training.
J-1 scholars (i.e., researchers, professors, short-term scholars, specialists, alien physicians, trainees) are authorized only for the employment associated with the activities described in the addendum to the cover letter accompanying the DS-2019, with the activities ending on the date listed in Item #3. NO outside employment is permitted unless the IPS Office specifically authorizes it in advance and in writing.
J-2 dependents must apply to the US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) for work authorization by filing Form I-765 with the appropriate fee and supporting documents. If work authorization is granted, then any work is permitted until the employment termination date indicated on the I-765, Employment Authorization card (EAD), as long as the J-1 principal remains in status. If the J-1 violates status, changes from J-1 to some other nonimmigrant class, or leaves the J program altogether, the work authorization for the J-2 dependent ceases to be valid.
Extending Employment Authorization
J-1 students authorized for academic training can extend their work authorization through the IPS Office. The maximum time allowed varies based upon the previous study and the kind of work.
J-1 scholars automatically extend their work authorization when they extend their stays. It is important to note that a J-1 scholar is authorized to work only to the date on the DS-2019 unless a timely application for an extension has been filed.
J-2 dependents may extend their work authorizations after their stays have been extended with the J-1 principal’s extension. The J-1 must follow the same filing procedures as before by submitting a Form I-765 to USCIS with the appropriate fee and supporting documentation.
"Academic Training" is the name used by the Department of State for certain types of study-related employment. This applies only to J-1 students. Certain conditions must be met in order to qualify for "Academic Training," and the steps to apply follow.
"Academic Training" is flexible in its format and offers a variety of employment opportunities to supplement a J-1 student's academic program in the United States. It is available both before and after the completion of an academic program of study. As long as students stay within the stipulated time limits, "Academic Training" allows them to work part-time while classes are in session and full-time during vacation periods; and, under certain circumstances, a student may interrupt study to work full-time, for example, while writing a thesis. J-1 students in non-degree programs also are eligible for "Academic Training."
Your J-1 Responsible Officer
To qualify for "Academic Training," students first must obtain approval in writing from their J-1 Responsible Officer, an individual who represents their J-1 sponsor and who issues their Form DS-2019. S/he must evaluate the proposed employment in terms of a student's program of study and individual circumstances and then decide whether the employment is appropriate or not. For WCU-sponsored J-1 students, they may contact their Responsible Officer by contacting International Programs & Services (227-3455/3433). For students sponsored by other agencies (e.g. ISEP) they must contact the agencies directly, for only their representatives can approve "Academic Training."
Limitations - general
After completion of a student's program of study
All elements must be present in order for the employer's letter to be acceptable.
The academic advisor also must approve "Academic Training" "for the length of time necessary to complete the goals and objectives of the training."
A Social Security Number
To put you on the payroll, an employer must have your Social Security number, which you can obtain by applying for a Social Security card. If you do not already have a Social Security Number, take your passport (if you are Canadian, you may use another form of photo-bearing identification), your I-94 Departure Record card, the DS-2019, and the J-1 Responsible Officer's written work authorization to an office of the Social Security Administration. Your Social Security card may be stamped "Valid Employment only with U.S. government approval." In the case of J-1 "Academic Training," this stamp means that the Social Security card is valid for working only if accompanied by a properly completed DS-2019 and a valid I-94 Departure Record card.
Form I-9, "Employment Eligibility Verification"
When you begin work, you and your employer must complete Form I-9 which requires you to document your identity and work authorization according to directions on the back of the form. Of the various items acceptable as documentation, you may find that the most convenient combination is your passport (or other photo-bearing identification if you are Canadian), I-94 Departure Record card, the DS-2019, and the J-1 Responsible Officer's written work authorization. Your employer, who keeps the Form I-9 on file, may make copies of the documents you submit and should return your original documents to you. Form I-9 is date specific and must be updated any time that you receive a renewal of your permission for "Academic Training."
Social Security taxes. In general, as a J-1 student, you will be exempt from Social Security (F.I.C.A.) taxes for your first five (5) years in the United States, as long as you continue to declare non-resident status for tax purposes (see Internal Revenue Service Publication 519, "U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.")
Federal, State, and local income taxes. Unless you qualify under a tax treaty between the United States and your home government, your earnings as a J-1 student will be subject to applicable federal, state and local income taxes, and employers are required by law to withhold those taxes from your paychecks. By April 15 of each year, you must file a federal income tax return and a "Required Statement" covering the prior calendar year to determine whether you owe more taxes or if you have a refund coming.
J-1 students are eligible for a variety of work opportunities in the United States, but employment without proper authorization is a serious violation of status. Remember that before starting any kind of employment, you first must consult your J-1 Responsible Officer, whose written approval is necessary in advance.
J-2 dependents may apply to DHS for work authorization by filing Form I-765 with the appropriate fee and supporting documents. If DHS grants work authorization, then any kind of work is permitted until the employment termination date indicated on the I-765, Employment Authorization card (EAD), provided the J-1 principal remains in status. If the J-1 violates status, changes from J-1 to some other nonimmigrant class, or leaves the J program altogether, the work authorization for the J-2 dependent terminates.
J-2 Visa Holder Employment Eligibility Requirements
How to Apply
Bring to the SEVIS Coordinator/Responsible Officer:
Authorization to Work
The USCIS Form I-9, "Employment Eligibility Verification." When you begin work, your employer will ask you to complete Form I-9, which requires you to document your work authorization. To put you on the payroll, your employer will need your Social Security Number (SSN).
The earnings of J-2 dependents are subject to applicable federal, state and local taxes, and Social Security and employers are required by law to withhold those taxes from paychecks. By April 15 you must file an income tax return, Form 1040NR, with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), covering the prior calendar year. The return determines whether you owe more taxes, or have a refund coming. See IRS Publication 519, "U.S. Tax Guide For Aliens."
Students in J-1 status who are visiting Canada, Mexico and islands next to the U.S., (excluding Cuba) for less than 30 days do not have to show a valid visa in order to re-enter the United States. To qualify for this exception, you must meet certain conditions in addition to maintaining the J-1 status:
Travel to "Adjacent Islands" includes the following locations: Saint Pierre, Miquelon, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French, and Netherlands territories or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea. Cuba does not qualify for this exception.
Depending on your country of origin, you may be required to obtain a visa for your travel destination. Be sure to check the websites of the embassies of the countries you plan to visit. For Citizens of Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, or Sudan, if you do not have a current unexpired multiple-entry visa, you will not be able to return to the US from Canada or Mexico. Consult with an IPS advisor if you have questions.
Entering Canada or Mexico
For visits of 30 days or less, students and scholars must show the following documents at the Canadian or Mexican border:
CANADIAN TOURIST VISAS MAY NOW TAKE MORE THAN 2 MONTHS TO RECEIVE. Please plan accordingly.
Applications for Mexican Tourist Visas are available at the Mexican Consulate in Chicago. The visa application must be submitted in person at 204 S Ashland, Chicago, IL 60607. MEXICAN TOURIST VISAS MAY TAKE 6-8 WEEKS TO GET.
NOTE: All the above documents must be valid beyond the date you expect to leave Canada or Mexico.
Re-entering the U.S.
To re-enter the U.S. after your visit to Canada or Mexico, you must have:
1. J-1 students/scholars: A valid I-20 or DS-2019 recently signed on the back by an International Student Advisor.
H-1B employees: Original I-797 Approval Notice plus a letter from your department verifying continued employment.
2.A valid passport (valid for at least 6 months beyond the date you re-enter the U.S.)
3.A valid I-94 card.
4.A nonimmigrant visa that is valid or was valid (can be of a different status than the status you now hold). Exception: If you applied for a visa to Canada or Mexico and were denied, your student or scholar visa must be valid.
Before traveling outside the United States, make sure that you have the necessary documents for your return. Following is a checklist of items to consider before traveling and information on applying for a visa abroad.
You may need any of the following documents
Short trips to Canada, Mexico, and some nearby islands may be possible with an expired U.S. visa, or a visa for a different immigration status.