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Maintaining J-1 Status

Student Responsibilities in Maintaining J-1 Immigration Status
Welcome to the U.S.! All international students are required by U.S. law to abide by the immigration regulations throughout their stay in the U.S. Failure to take appropriate measures to abide by the conditions of your non-immigrant status could result in penalties for violations of the law, such as deportation and five and ten-year bars from reentry to the U.S. It is your responsibility to understand the laws and rules given by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the University. The staff at the Office of International Students and Visiting Scholars (OISVS) is available to advise you on immigration issues related to your J-1 Exchange Visitor status. However, it is the student and not the university who is ultimately responsible for remaining aware of and abiding by the regulations and maintaining legal student status.

Listed below are a number of important things for you to do after you arrive as a J-1 student in the U.S. You will be asked to sign this document once you arrive.

Check-In with the Office of International Students and Visiting Scholars (OISVS) at ACU
All new international J-1 students must be physically present in the OISVS within the first 5 days of arriving at ACU. The OISVS is located in room 124 of the Hardin Administration Building. You will need to bring the following items with you:

  • Valid DS-2019 from ACU
  • Valid I-94 card with a legal entry stamp into the U.S.
  • Valid passport
  • Valid J-1 visa
  • Your Abilene address, phone number and ACU email address

The OISVS Responsible Officer (RO) or Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO) is required to report your arrival and current immigration information in SEVIS. You will be out of status if you have not brought the information mentioned above to our office.

You are required to attend ACU’s International Student Orientation. This program is designed to introduce you to the essential information you will need for your studies in the U.S. You will learn more about the immigration regulations, health insurance, US culture, ACU requirements and meet other international students. For the current dates, contact  Veronica Whitt at

Important Documents

Passport: The passport is the legal document issued by your country of citizenship. It must be kept valid at all times during your stay in the U.S., and must be valid at least 6 months into the future to re-enter the U.S. or to apply for a U.S. visa. Your passport can usually be renewed through your country’s Embassy or one of its consulates in the U.S.

Form DS-2019: This is the document issued for J-1 students by the institution you will be attending. You must present it to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad to obtain a visa and at the port of entry for admission to the U.S. It must be signed for travel on page 3 within 6 months of your reentry date in order for you to be readmitted to the U.S. after an absence of 5 months or less.

I-94 card: The I-94 card is the white card which you complete before entering the U.S. This document authorizes your presence in the U.S. as a student for a specified period of time. Be sure the name on your I-94 card matches your passport, and is marked J-1, D/S by the official at the port of entry.

Visa: The U.S. entry visa is a “foil” placed in your passport and grants the bearer the right to request permission to enter the U.S. Actual permission to enter into the U.S. is still determined the Customs and Border Patrol agent at the port of entry. While you are in the U.S., your visa may expire. You will not be able to renew it in the U.S. A new visa may be required to re-enter the US after an absence.

Maintaining your immigration status allows you the right to immigration benefits during and after your program at the university. The date on your visa or DS-2019 does not guarantee that you are able to stay in the U.S. for the amount of time noted on your document. This right may be lost if your status is not maintained.

To maintain your status, you must:

Maintain continuous insurance coverage for yourself and any dependents. Principal J-1 students are billed through the university each Fall and Spring semester. Speak with the OISVS for options for dependent coverage. Failure to maintain health insurance will cause a student to lose his/her J status and not be eligible for a reinstatement.

Register for and complete a full load of courses every semester. (12 undergraduate credit hours or 9 graduate credit hours). No hours are required during summer break if the student intends to register for the following term. There are some special circumstances in which students may receive permission to enroll in less than a full course of study for one semester. Make an appointment at the OISVS to discuss your situation BEFORE you drop below full time enrollment.

Maintain a valid DS-2019, I-94, and passport at all times.

Check your personal ACU email account often. The OISVS will send important information and messages through ACU email only.

Attend the university and program you are authorized to attend. J students are only allowed to change their major with the permission of their sponsor. See the Immigration Specialist for more information

Contact the OISVS to report any change of your local physical address within 10 days of moving. The Department of State is very serious about this, and violations can cause a student to lose his/her J status and not be eligible for a reinstatement. Send an email with your new address to:

Contact the OISVS and get authorization before beginning any on campus employment. J students must request prior authorization from the Responsible Officer for on-campus employment. Students will be granted this authorization if they are in good immigration and academic status. Students are allowed to work on campus for 20 hours or less per week during the Fall and Spring semesters. This permission must be renewed each year. Work off-campus is prohibited except under certain circumstances. Be sure to consult the RO before engaging in any off-campus work. Unauthorized work of any kind will cause you to lose your immigration status without a reinstatement option.

Complete your course of study on or before the completion date on your DS-2019. If you need an extension, check with the OISVS to see if an extension is possible. Be sure to notify the OISVS if you complete your degree and the date you will leave the US.

Complete official immigration transfer with your RO/ARO before changing universities. See document on J-1 transfer.

Have the RO/ARO sign your DS-2019 before traveling outside the U.S. Re-entry to the U.S. could be denied if your DS-2019 is not signed. If you are given a form I-515 when entering the U.S., be sure to come to the OISVS as soon as possible to file the appropriate documents within the 30 day deadline, or your record could be terminated.

The regulations for J Exchange Visitors are different than the regulations for F-1 students. Please be sure you consult the Responsible Officer in the OISVS (Lucy Dawson) for questions regarding the immigration laws that apply to J Exchange Visitor Students. In addition to this, the application of these laws vary by university. Students are advised to consult the school that issued their DS-2019 for information concerning their particular situation.

To maintain your status, you must never:

  1. Work off campus unless you have the necessary work authorization.
  2. Work on campus more than 20 hours per week while school is in session. This is considered illegal work.
  3. Take a leave of absence, drop below full time course load, start an internship, or work without first receiving OISVS approval.
  4. Break the rules of ACU or the laws of the US. ACU student policies can be found here. Students who drive must obey all traffic rules; all other US laws also apply. Your wages and scholarships are subject to federal tax withholding, and you must fill out tax documents every year, even if you do not earn wages.

What happens if I become out of status?
If you become out of status, you may be able to apply for reinstatement to be put back into lawful status. It is a serious violation to be out of status and there is no guarantee that DHS will approve reinstating you back to active status. If you are denied reinstatement, you will be required to leave the U.S. immediately. Consult with the RO or ARO on this issue.

Reinstatement to Lawful Status

Grace Periods for Remaining in the U.S. – “Grace period” refers to the amount of time you are legally allowed to remain in the U.S. after completing your program of study. You are not allowed to work on or off-campus during the grace periods.

Immigration Status Academic Program Status Grace Period
J-1 Complete the Program 30 days after completion
J-1 Withdraw or cease to attend classes WITH prior permission from the OISVS 15 days
J-1 Withdraw or cease to attend WITHOUT prior permission from OISVS No Grace Period


What could cause my visa status to be terminated?

  • Not maintaining required health insurance.
  • Failing to enroll full time each Fall and Spring semester.
  • Academic or other suspension from the university.
  • Dropping classes during the semester and falling under the required number of class hours.
  • Failing to maintain current immigration documents.
  • Working off-campus without proper authorization.
  • Continuing courses past the completion date on your DS-2019.

The information provided to you in this document is a courtesy to you. The OISVS makes every attempt to provide accurate immigration advice for J-1 students. The information in this document is general and should not be taken as legal advice. Please contact an immigration attorney if legal advice is needed. It is your responsibility to understand and follow the rules given by DHS and the University.

The staff at the Office of International Students and Visiting Scholars are available to assist you. Contact:

Veronica Whitt, Assistant Director for International Student Services
( for questions related to housing, university procedures, the International Students’ Association, or medical and life issues.

Lucy Dawson, Associate Director, Office of International Students and Visiting Scholars
( for questions related to international student health insurance and immigration.