J-1 guidelines to maintaining lawful status

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You obtain an immigration status in the U.S. through admission at a port of entry or by approval of an application to USCIS. Your status is also referred to as “visa status” or “nonimmigrant status”. A visa is an entry document only. You can have more than one entry visa in your passport (Canadians are exempt from the visa requirement) but you can enter the U.S. in only one status.

The status in which you are admitted by an immigration officer is stamped in your passport and recorded electronically if entering by air. Land borders issue a paper I-94 record. If your status is approved by USCIS as a change from another status, your I-94 card will be part of the USCIS approval notice (I-797 Notice of Action form).

It is important not to violate any of the provisions of your visa status so you can keep your focus on the academic and professional objectives for which you came. These guidelines should help you be aware of what you need to do — and should not do — to maintain your legal status.

J-1 scholar guidelines

01 Report your arrival to your inviting department.

02 Attend the mandatory SEVIS Check-In/Orientation as soon as possible after your arrival.

03 Do not let your DS-2019 expire before you are finished with your program.

04 Keep an unexpired passport for at least six months into the future.

05 Maintain continuous health insurance for the duration of your time in the U.S.

06 Participate only in the activity for which the DS-2019 has been issued.

07 Notify ISSC if you are traveling outside the U.S. during your program.

08 Update your address within 10 days of moving every time you move.

09 Request authorization for any incidental employment approval before the activity takes place.

10 Always have the necessary up-to-date documents with you when you return from a trip abroad.

11 Notify ISSC of any J-2 dependent permanent departure.

12 Notify ISSC if you leave the U.S. earlier than the end date of your program on the DS-2019 or if you change to another immigration status in the U.S.

Keeping Documents Valid


Federal regulations require that your passport be valid at all times while you are in the United States. If your passport will expire while you are still in the U.S., you must contact the embassy or consulate of your home country to make arrangements to have your passport extended. You will not be permitted to re-enter the United States with an expired passport. The addresses and phone numbers of most foreign embassies and consulates in the U.S. are available online.

I-94 Card

Your I-94 card is a record of your arrival and departure. You may retrieve your electronic I-94 record at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home. This card lists your name, date and place of admission to the U.S, your visa classification and the date of expiration.

All J-1 exchange visitors should have the notation “D/S” on their I-94 cards instead of an actual date of expiration. The “D/S” stands for “duration of status” and means that you are permitted to legally remain in the U.S. as long as you have a Form DS-2019 with unexpired program dates and are maintaining your status/program objective. Your program dates can be found in section #3 of your DS-2019. Make sure that your program dates have not expired.

Some scholars may receive a paper I-94 card from Port of Entry or I-515 form. You must contact ASU ISSC immediately before the date indicated on your I-94 for further advisement. Failure to do so will jeopardize your immigration status.

U.S. Visa

In some cases, the date of expiration on your Form DS-2019 and the expiration date on your visa stamp may not coincide. Please look at the expiration date on your visa. If your visa expires while you are in the US, but your Form DS-2019 is still valid, and you are maintaining your program objective, you may remain in the United States and will be in legal immigration status. Your I-94 should be marked “D/S” which means it expires with the Form DS-2019. If your visa stamp has expired and you depart the United States, however, you must obtain a new visa before attempting to re-enter the United States. In other words, because a visa is purely an entry document, you need a valid visa to enter the United States but not to remain here legally.

Duration of Status

This means that you have permission to remain in the U.S. for the length of your exchange program as stated on line #3 of your DS-2019 form as long as you remain your exchange program.

Reasons for end of duration of status:

  • Ending program early

  • Failure to maintain status

  • Approval of change of status

Immigration regulations allow for a limited grace period in which you may remain in the U.S. The grace period is 30 days after completion of the J-1 exchange program.

Form document graphic

DS-2019 Form

If you travel outside the U.S. for any reason during your program, you must have your Form DS-2019 signed by your Alternate/Responsible Officer before you leave. You will be required to present this signed form to the immigration officer when you re-enter the U.S.