Rights and Responsibilities
Students in J-1 "Exchange Visitor" Status
The information on this page has been prepared by the International
Students & Scholars Office (ISSO) to summarize some of the important
rights and responsibilities you have as a J-1 exchange visitor in
relation to regulations of the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and
the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It also identifies
some of the situations for which you should seek assistance from
the International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO). It
will not, however, provide you with information on the procedures
required to take advantage of some of your benefits and fulfill
some of your responsibilities.
The ISSO staff will be pleased to
offer additional information as well as counseling and assistance
on all federal regulations and procedures related to your lawful
status. This "Rights and Responsibilities" addresses regulations
and procedures at the time of the writing of this document.
Please note, however, that regulations and procedures continue
to change. The ISSO will inform you of substantial changes
via electronic communication or on the ISSO web site.
We strongly advise you
to contact the ISSO any time you have a question or any time you
intend to travel and re-enter the United States.
SEVIS - Electronic Reporting System
The U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS),
Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border
Protection (CBP) utilize an electronic database and reporting system
called the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)
to "track" international students and exchange visitors. All U.S.
schools are required to use this system to report information on
J-1 students, scholars and their J-2 dependents through secure,
encrypted internet transmissions.
Boston University reports
to the government only the information required by federal law.
This includes all the information on your Form DS-2019 and
information on "reportable events" that affect your immigrant
status. These events include but are not limited to:
- U.S. residential address changes
- J-2 Dependent information
- Completion/termination of your studies/research/teaching/consulting
- Transfer to a new program sponsor (school)
Since SEVIS is an electronic
reporting system, it is very important that your information on
record at the ISSO and in the University Information System (UIS)
remain completely up-to-date. The ISSO will report information about
your status from the University's records to DHS through SEVIS.
Failure to maintain
accurate records with the University may result in technical violations
of your status.
If you fall out of status,
and your violation is reported to DHS, your J-1 status could
be immediately invalidated and you may lose all J-1 status benefits.
Program Sponsor. Your program sponsor
is the institution listed in item #2 of your Certificate of Eligibility
for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status (Form DS-2019). The program
sponsor has legal authorization to grant you certain benefits, assist
you in applying to the DOS or DHS for other benefits, and assist
you in fulfilling your responsibilities. Note:
The information on this web page is written with the assumption
that Boston University is your program sponsor. If Boston University
is not your program sponsor, you should substitute the name of your
program sponsor each time you read "ISSO" throughout this
page. Nonetheless, ISSO staff can advise, counsel, and assist you
to take advantage of your rights and fulfill your responsibilities.
Your J-1 program category appears in item #4 of your Form DS-2019 and should be marked as "student."
Code (also known as your Program Objective):
The subject/field code, found in item #4 of the DS-2019,
specifies the degree program and area in which you came to the U.S.
to study. It is also known as your program objective because
it indicates the primary purpose for which you came to the U.S.
The activities you engage in while in this country must be directly
related to your program objective.
You are not ordinarily
allowed to change your category or program objective once you have
entered the country in J-1 status. Such changes require significant
time and effort, are considered only under extraordinary circumstances,
and are rarely approved by DOS.
The following documents are very important and you must maintain
their validity at all times in order to maintain lawful J-1 status:
- Passport (should be valid for a minimum of
6 months into the future)
- Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility
for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status)
- Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record (a white
card usually stapled in your passport)
You should keep these
documents in a safe place. We strongly recommend that you make photocopies
of these documents and store them in a location separate from the
actual documents. If any of these documents is damaged, lost or
stolen, you must have it replaced as quickly as possible. Please
keep in mind that the J-1 visa stamp in your passport does not need
to be valid at all times; but it must be valid when you re-enter
the United States after traveling outside the country.
You should contact the ISSO if you have any questions about the
documents or if you need to have them replaced. Please bring the
above-mentioned documents with you each time you visit the
to Contact the ISSO
To ensure that you maintain lawful immigration status, you must
contact the ISSO:
- If there is a change to your legal name, U.S. address, country
of citizenship, immigration status, expected date of completion
of your J-1 activities, information on J-2 dependents, or source
- If you intend to travel outside the U.S. and need a travel
signature from an ISSO staff member on your Form DS-2019
or if you will apply for a new visa before re-entering the U.S.
- Any time you or your J-2 dependents obtain a new Form I-94
upon re-entering the U.S.
- If you receive a Form I-515A upon entry to the U.S.
- Whenever any of your immigration documents is lost or stolen
- If you intend to change your immigration status
- If you intend to transfer to another program sponsor
- If you want to have your dependent spouse and/or children join
you in J-2 status
- To apply for employment authorization for either on- or off-campus
employment, even if the employment is considered a requirement
of your academic program.
Length of Time
You May Remain in the United States
You may stay at Boston University until you complete your program
of study or until the end date in item #3 of your Form DS-2019,
whichever occurs first. If you need more time than allowed by your
Form DS-2019, you must contact the ISSO before the expiration
date in item #3 to request an extension of your Form DS-2019.
Extension request applications are available at the front desk at
the ISSO and on-line.
here for more information on extensions.
Attendance and Course of Study Requirements
Registration and Attendance. You must register
for classes and attend school each fall and spring semester. You
do not have to enroll during the summer unless summer is your first
term of enrollment or you are completing your program of study during
You must register for a full course load unless:
- You need less than a full course load to complete your studies
by the end of that school term.
- You have obtained approval by the ISSO staff (recorded in SEVIS)
in advance, a reduction in course load due to a medical condition
or academic difficulty.
- You are authorized for -- and working -- in a period of "Academic
Training" after completion of your program.
Students. While you have the right to register for as many
classes as Boston University policy allows, you must register for
at least 12 credit hours each fall and each spring semester.
While you have the right to register for as many classes as Boston
University policy allows, you must register for at least 12 credit
hours each fall and each spring semester. Exceptions
are made for graduate students receiving a graduate assistantship
or fellowship requiring 20 hours of work per week. In this case,
your academic department must officially certify you "full-time."
Failure to be certified full-time in a timely manner will jeopardize
your immigration status.
Who Have Completed All Required Course Work. If a thesis
or dissertation is required for your program of study and you
have completed all required course work, you may register for
the number of credit hours of thesis or dissertation research
as required by your academic department, provided you are officially
If the "program objective" in item #4 of your Form
DS-2019 is not an academic degree from Boston University, you must
be engaged in a "prescribed course of study" as defined
and approved by the ISSO. You are limited to a maximum of twenty-four
months as a non-degree exchange visitor student.
If you fail to register for or withdraw from a fall or spring semester,
you are no longer in lawful J-1 status and are not eligible to remain
in the United States. Applying for and obtaining an official "leave
of absence" from Boston University does not preserve your lawful
J-1 status. Please contact the ISSO immediately if you believe you
must interrupt your studies. The only interruptions which are permitted
by the Department of State regulations are those which are due to
a medical condition which prohibits continued study, and they must
be approved by the ISSO.
here for more information about a leave of absence and other
interruptions of study.
You are required to maintain health insurance which covers you (and
your spouse and children if they are in the U.S. in J-2 status)
for illnesses and accidents during the time you are at Boston University
or under its J-1 program sponsorship. Coverage must meet both Department
of State and Boston University requirements.
at Another School
Temporary Study at Another School. If you wish
to study temporarily at a different school, you should consult with
an advisor at the ISSO to determine if any special procedures must
be followed to authorize this study. Activities not specifically
noted on your Form DS-2019 usually require special written
Transfer to Another
School. If you wish to cease enrollment at Boston University
and transfer your program sponsorship to a different school, you
must obtain ISSO permission and follow proper immigration transfer
procedures before you begin studies at your new school.
here or more information about SEVIS transfers.
You may remain in the U.S. and will be considered to be maintaining
J-1 status during holidays and vacation periods observed by Boston
University, including summer, provided:
- You are eligible and intend to continue your studies for the
next school term, and
- The end date in item #3 of your Form DS-2019 will not
be reached before you resume your studies.
General. You must have written authorization in
order to be lawfully employed. If you have permission to work, you
may not be employed for more than 20 hours each week during fall
and spring semesters unless authorized for more under Academic Training.
During Boston University holidays and vacation periods, including
summer, you may be employed for more than 20 hours per week. Both
on- and off-campus employment will be authorized in SEVIS.
You have the right to be employed on the Boston University campus
provided (a) the employment is approved in SEVIS and (b) you complete
a Form I-9 (Certificate of Employment Eligibility) at the ISSO prior
to or within three days of the start of your employment.
here for more information about on-campus employment.
Off-Campus Employment Due
to Economic Necessity. You are eligible to apply to the
ISSO for off-campus employment authorization if you suffer from
an unforeseen economic hardship and have an urgent financial need
to work. You may not be employed off campus without first obtaining
written authorization from the ISSO.
Employment Authorization. "Academic Training"
authorization is given for work which is directly related to your
major field of study. It may occur either before or after completion
of your studies, may be either part-time or full-time, may be performed
anywhere in the U.S., and may occur for a maximum period of 18 months.
(Postdoctoral students may have up to 36 months.) Before you can
begin work, you must apply to and receive written permission from
here for more information about off-campus employment.
Dependents in J-2 status may apply to the USCIS for employment authorization.
ISSO staff would be pleased to offer information, guidance and assistance
to dependents interested in this benefit.
Travel Within the U.S. You may freely travel within
the U.S. provided you maintain your lawful J-1 status and have
the following valid documents in your possession:
- Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility
for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status)
- Form I-94 (Departure Record)
the U.S. You may leave the U.S. at any time. If you leave,
you may be allowed to return if you have the proper, valid documents
including an unexpired J-1 visa in your passport. If you travel
to Canada, Mexico or certain islands adjacent to the U.S., you may
be eligible to re-enter the country even if the J-1 visa in your
passport has expired, provided your visit does not exceed 30 days.
You should consult with the ISSO before making any trips outside
Form I-515A issued at the Port of Entry upon entry to the U.S. – If a Customs and Border Protection Officer determines your documentation is incomplete when entering the U.S., you may be issued a Form I-515A and a date-specific I-94 card. These documents will grant you temporary admission to the U.S. (generally for 30 days). You must submit the required response and documents to the Form I-515A prior to the expiration date of your I-94 card to prove that you entered the U.S. lawfully. If you receive a Form I-515A, you must contact the ISSO immediately to ensure that proper procedures are followed in a timely manner. Failure to submit the proper original documentation prior to the expiration date of your I-94 card will result in termination of both your J-1 student status and your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record.
here for more information about applying for J-1 visas.
here for more information on traveling to Canada, Mexico and
the adjacent islands.
of Studies. Procedures for returning to Boston University
are distinct from those for returning to attend a different school,
- If you wish to return to Boston University, you should contact
the ISSO at least two weeks before you plan to travel and request
- If you wish to return to study at a different school, you must
notify the ISSO and you must obtain a Form DS-2019 from
your new school before you re-enter the U.S. Entering this country
using a Form DS-2019 from a school where you do not intend
to study can cause serious immigration problems.
of Studies. The date you officially complete your studies
(see "Completion of Studies" section below) is very important
to your ability to travel and re-enter the U.S. If you attempt to
return to the U.S. using your current Form DS-2019, you may be denied
the right to re-enter the country unless you have been authorized
to engage in "Academic Training" employment. Upon your
arrival back in the country, you must present to the CBP inspector
a valid Form DS-2019 which has been (1) issued to you by the ISSO
for the purpose of engaging in "Academic Training" and
(2) endorsed for travel by the ISSO.
We also recommend that
you travel with an offer letter from your employer and the Academic
Training authorization letter issued by the ISSO.
If you travel outside the country and return to Boston University,
please bring your passport, Form DS-2019 and Form I-94 to the ISSO
so that we may update your records. It is very important that we
maintain current copies of your documents.
and Other Family Members
If you are married, you may be eligible to have your spouse (husband
or wife) and/or children (under the age of 21) visit you or join
you for the duration of your studies. Please contact the ISSO for
Other members of your
family (parents, siblings, etc.) may also be able to visit you during
your studies. ISSO will be pleased to issue a Letter
of Invitation to assist with their visa application.
here for more information about adding dependents.
Department of State regulations state that your lawful J-1 status
automatically ends thirty days after you officially complete your
studies unless you take some action to remain lawfully in the U.S.
Students and Graduate Students Who are not in Thesis or Dissertation
Programs. You officially complete your studies on the day
of the graduation ceremony which is held at the end of your last
semester of enrollment.
in Thesis or Dissertation Programs. Your official date
of completion will be the the day of the graduation ceremony of
the semester in which you submit your thesis/dissertation. You
must be enrolled in that semester, as well.
Prior to the expiration
of your Form DS-2019, you must
- Apply, if eligible, for "Academic Training" employment
- Apply, if eligible, to move from one program to another at Boston
University or transfer to another institution
- If eligible, change to a different immigration status
After completing your
program of study, if you do not plan to remain in the United States
by following one of the procedures above, you must depart the U.S.
within 30 days of your DS-2019 program end date.
to Comply with Responsibilities
If you fail to comply with your responsibilities under Department
of State and DHS regulations, you may face severe penalties based
on the immigration laws of this country. You should work closely
with ISSO staff to make certain that you comply with all J-1 regulations.
The staff of the ISSO will be pleased to provide you with additional
information, counseling and assistance so that you may achieve your
educational goals while at Boston University.