J Student Visa
For students in specific educational exchange programs such as the Fulbright, LASPAU, DAAD, AmidEast, etc. Can also be used for degree programs.
On August 9, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) instituted a revised policy directed at F, J and M visa holders who violate their visa status. According to this policy, USCIS will begin counting and tracking unlawful presence for any individual on one of these visas who does something, intentionally or unintentionally, to violate the terms and conditions of their visa status. It is now more important than ever for all nonimmigrants (individuals on U.S. visas) to maintain valid visa status at all times. Penalties of unlawful presence could result in individuals being barred from returning to the U.S. for three years, ten years, or even permanently. You can read more here.
What is unlawful presence?
You will accrue unlawful presence if you violate the terms of your visa status (see below). It is your responsibility to maintain your J status. The HIO and your host department are here to help you understand often complex immigration regulations and provide resources to keep you up to date with immigration regulations. In order to avoid accruing unlawful presence you must:
• Report a new residential address to the HIO within ten days of moving to a new address
• Maintain your health insurance required by the Exchange Visitor Program
• Enroll full-time while school is in session
• Not work more than 20 hours per week while school is in session
• Obtain authorization from the HIO for both on-campus and off-campus employment prior to the start of the employment
• Apply for an extension of your status before your current DS-2019 expires
• Depart the U.S., transfer to another J program, or change to another visa status within the 30-day grace period at the end of your J program
• Check your I-94 record each time you enter and reenter the U.S.
• Never accept any public benefits or assistance from federal, state or local government such as MassHealth, free school lunches, food stamps, etc.
Unlawful presence can have serious, negative effects on your U.S. immigration status and future U.S. immigration options. We do not want anything to interfere with your purpose for coming to Harvard – whether it be studying, teaching, or doing research. Please read all emails from the HIO and contact your HIO advisor if you have any questions.
The J-1 visa is generally used for students in specific educational exchange programs such as the Fulbright, LASPAU, DAAD, AmidEast, etc. Educational institutions, such as Harvard University, may also sponsor J-1 visas for students in their degree programs. The purpose of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program is to provide foreign nationals with opportunities to participate in educational and cultural programs in the United States and return home to share their experiences.
The J-1 visa program is managed by a shared database called SEVIS. To be eligible for a J-1 visa sponsored by Harvard, one must first meet one of following criteria:
- At least 50% of the cost of tuition and fees comes from sources other than personal funds, such as a government agency, official scholarship agency or employer; (student personal loans, e.g. HELP loans do not qualify)
- The student's government funding requires the use of the J-1 visa based on receiving a government scholarship.
The J-1 visa and the J-2 visa (for dependents) are obtained by presenting to a U.S. embassy or consulate a Form DS-2019 issued by the Exchange Visitor sponsor.
It is critical that J-1 students maintain legal status by complying with applicable federal government regulations. The following is a summary of what Harvard sponsored J-1 students must do to remain lawfully in the United States. Students sponsored by other institutions such as Fulbright, LASPAU, USAID, or AMIDEAST should contact the relevant student advisor of that organization for additional information.
Initial Registration Requirements
All new J-1 students must report to the HIO within 30 days of the start date on their Forms DS-2019. A returning student with a new Form DS-2019 must also re-register with the HIO.
Full Course of Study
International students must maintain full-time registration every fall and spring semester. Prior written authorization from an HIO advisor is required in order to take a reduced course load unless it is a student's final semester at Harvard. If students have to interrupt their studies for any reason they must contact their HIO advisors immediately.
Conditions and Restrictions on Student Employment
J-1 students in good standing are eligible for on-campus employment. Employment is limited to 20 hours per week when school is in session, and can increase to full time during official holidays and vacations. A student must obtain prior written authorization from the HIO for other types of employment. If a J-1 student is sponsored by an institution other than Harvard, the student must obtain prior written authorization from that organization for all types of employment.
Maintain Required Health Insurance
J-1 students and their J-2 dependents must maintain required health insurance (including basic Medical Health Insurance, Medical Evacuation and Repatriation insurance) throughout their stay in the United States.
Change of Residential Address
Immigration regulations require that all non-citizens report their residential addresses within 10 days of entry to the United States and subsequently report any changes of address within 10 days to the Immigration authorities. Harvard sponsored J-1 students may report their address changes in the Change of Address section of this website.
Students sponsored by other institutions should contact their program sponsors directly.
J-1 students are required to maintain the validity of their Forms DS-2019 throughout the duration of their exchange programs in the United States. They must apply to their program sponsors for an extension of their J-1 status before their current Forms DS-2019 expire.
Change of Major or Degree
J-1 students should discuss a change of major or degree objective with their advisors. Any such changes should be discussed fully with an HIO advisor prior to making changes with a school or academic department.
If for some reason a J-1 student is not able to complete an academic program, s/he must notify an HIO advisor and receive approval before withdrawing from his/her academic program at Harvard.
Required Travel Documents
J-2 Status Defined
A J-1 student's spouse and unmarried children aged of 21 or younger are eligible for J-2 status. The J-2 Form DS-2019 can be issued once evidence of sufficient funding for their expected living expenses and required health insurance is provided. Each J-2 dependent will have his or her own Form DS-2019 with a SEVIS number. J-2 visa holders do not have to pay the SEVIS fee. J-2 visa holders must sign their own Forms DS-2019 unless s/he is younger than 14 years of age in which case the J-1 visa holder must sign the Form DS-2019 as a parent or guardian. Each J-2 dependent may accompany or follow to join the J-1 student in the United States and remain here while the J-1 student maintains status here. All J-2 dependents are required to comply with applicable federal regulatory requirements, such as maintaining required health insurance. J-2 visa holders may study in the United States.
To request a Form DS-2019 for accompanying dependent(s), please fill out a Dependent Data Sheet and submit it along with a Document Request Form to the registrar's or admissions office at your school. You may need to show additional funding for dependent expenses.
Maintaining J-2 Status
J-2 dependents may study part time or full time in the United States while the J-1 student maintains status here.
J-2 visa holders may apply for work permission with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) once they arrive in the U.S. To apply for work permission, please refer to applying for employment authorization.
For information on J-2 travel please refer to the Travel section below.
The following information provides an introduction to how employment is defined by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Employment options are:
Employment is defined as any type of work performed or services provided in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, food, or any other compensation. Therefore, USCIS has restrictive employment regulations for on-campus employment and particularly for off-campus employment. Be sure to check with the HIO before accepting any employment offers.
Harvard Sponsored J-1 Student Work Permission
The HIO advisors may authorize work permission to those whose J-1 visa is sponsored by Harvard University.
Other J-1 Student Sponsored Work Permission
Students on J-1 visa sponsored by Fulbright, LASPAU, etc, must contact a representative of that organization and inquire about their eligibility for work authorization.
Note: J-1 students should not assume they are automatically eligible to work in the United States. The USCIS considers unauthorized employment to be the most serious violation of J-1 status.
Social Security Numbers
As a J-1 student whose DS-2019 is issued by Harvard University, you are eligible to apply for a social security number (SSN) with a letter of employment from the HIO. You will need to present the letter along with your passport and DS-2019 to an official at the SSA to apply for an SSN. If your J-1 visa is not sponsored by Harvard, please get the work authorization from your J program sponsor and then follow these same instructions.
What to take to apply for a Social Security Number
For a J-1 student under Harvard's J-1 program sponsorship: take your passport, Form DS-2019, your Form I-94, the HIO employment letter, and a letter confirming your enrollment from the Registrar's Office at your school to the Social Security Administration office at 10 Fawcett Street, 1st Floor, in Cambridge.
If your J-1 visa is not sponsored by Harvard, please get the work authorization from your J program sponsor and follow the above instructions.
At the Social Security Administration office, you must complete the SSN application form. You will receive notification of your Social Security Number in the mail. The process usually takes four to eight weeks. If you have not heard within this time period, please contact the HIO. For more information, check the Social Security website or call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213. Once you have obtained a U.S. Social Security Number, it is not necessary to apply for a new one if your employment changes. If you lose your SSN Card and need to apply for a replacement card, you must prove once again that you are employed in the United States at the time of your application.
When to apply
If you are a new student, you must have been in the United States for at least ten days and must have already registered with the HIO. This waiting period assures that your record will have been updated in the Government's database. In addition, you cannot apply before the effective start date of your Form DS-2019.
The following is general information regarding taxation of international students. To review detailed tax information (including tax return filing during tax season) please visit the tax section of this website.
International students should be aware that taxes may be deducted from salaries, stipends, and scholarships if funds are from U.S. sources. The available income after taxes may be less than anticipated as scholars may be subject to federal, state, and/or Social Security taxes which can range from 14-30% of one's total income. The amount of taxes students may pay depends on the type of income they receive and their tax status in the United States. In addition, there are many tax treaties between the United States and other countries which may exempt certain earnings and scholarship stipends from taxes. Those who receive funding from Harvard will receive information from the University Financial Services office.
All international students and their dependents with U.S source income such as scholarship or fellowship are required to report their annual income by completing tax forms between January 1 and April 15 of the following year. Most international students at Harvard are on F-1 or J-1 visas and are considered non-residents for tax purposes. Accompanying dependents on F-2 or J-2 visas must complete at least one tax form as well.
To help guide individuals through the tax filing process, the HIO purchases Windstar, a web based tax return preparation software designed exclusively for international students, scholars, and their dependents who are nonresidents for tax purposes. It is available to anyone with a valid Harvard ID and PIN. Users will need their HUID and PIN to access the software.
Due to legal restrictions, the HIO staff is not able to answer questions regarding individual tax situations. For additional information regarding U.S. income tax issues, visit the tax section of this website.
For travel outside the U. S. the following documents are required for re-entry to the U.S.
- Valid Form DS-2019 signed once a year in the "travel validation" section by a Responsible Officer of your Exchange Visitor Program*
- Valid J visa stamp in the passport (except for Canadians)
- Valid passport
- Evidence of the financial support listed on section #5 of the DS-2019
* If the HIO issued your Form DS-2019 it must be signed in the 'travel validation' section by an advisor in the HIO. If your form was issued by another Exchange Visitor Program (Fulbright, LASPAU, AID) you should contact that organization directly to obtain travel signatures.
For information regarding traveling after graduation while on Post-Completion Academic Training (AT), please see here.
- Valid Form DS-2019 signed once a year in the "travel validation" section by a Responsible Officer of your spouse's Exchange Visitor Program
- Valid J visa stamp in the passport (except for Canadians)
- Valid passport
A J-1 student must apply to the J-1 program sponsor for an extension before the expiration date listed on item #3 of his or her Form DS-2019 if more time is needed to complete all degree program requirements. Please follow the instructions below on how to request an extension of the Form DS-2019.
A J-1 student should obtain documentation from his or her school/department indicating a new estimated completion date together with the source and amount of financial support for the remainder of the program. If a J-1 student is using personal funds, please obtain a recent bank statement.
- Fill out a Document Request form
- Take all materials to his or her school's Registrar.* The required information will then be forwarded to an HIO advisor, who processes the extension and issues a new Form DS-2019.
* unless indicated otherwise in the list below
Graduate School of Design - Student Services
Graduate School of Education - Financial Aid Office
Harvard Business School - Admissions Office
Harvard Law School - Graduate Program Office
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health - Admissions Office
Kennedy School of Government - Admissions and Financial Aid Office
Transfers & Leaving Harvard
A J-1 student in good standing may request to transfer from one educational institution to another as long as the transfer is to complete the same educational objective for which he or she was admitted to as a J-1 student. A transfer is processed through updates to the J-1 student's SEVIS record performed by both the current school and the new school. A J-1 student who intends to transfer from one educational institution to another should discuss his or her plans with the Responsible Officer (RO)/Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO) of both schools, provide official evidence of academic admission at the new school, and decide on a specific date of transfer. Since J-1 students are admitted for "duration of status" (D/S), which is defined as the period indicated in item #3 of Form DS-2019, plus a 30-day grace period following the program end date, all transfer requests should be made no later than the end of the 30 day grace period.
A J-1 student who has completed a course of study including any authorized Academic Training following completion of studies is given an additional 30-day grace period for departing the United States, applying to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to change J-1 status to another status if he or she is not subject to the two-year home country residence requirement, or transferring to another educational institution.
Transfer out of Harvard
Harvard sponsored J-1 students who plan to transfer to another J-1 educational institution should contact their HIO advisors immediately after being admitted into a full-time degree program of study at another higher education institution in the United States.
Update Contact Information
J-1 students who are leaving Harvard or plan to transfer to another J-1 educational institution should also update their contact information with the HIO, their Harvard schools/departments and Student Payroll Office before leaving Harvard.
Transfer to Harvard
Students admitted to a full-time degree program of study at Harvard, who are currently in the United States at another academic institution in J-1 status, should complete Part I of the Transfer In to Harvard form, and request an International Student Advisor at their current school to complete Part II of the form and fax it to the Admissions Office contact at the Harvard school to which the students have been admitted. They must also speak with the international student advisor at their current schools and request that their SEVIS records be electronically released from their current schools to Harvard. Once the SEVIS record is released and all other admissions materials have been submitted, the new Form DS-2019 from Harvard will be processed and sent to the student by the admissions office.
Two-Year Home Residence Requirement
In some cases, the J-1 visa carries with it a two-year home residence requirement which obliges visa holders and their J-2 dependents to return to their home countries for two years before being eligible to apply for an immigrant visa or a non-immigrant H or L visa. The requirement also makes J-1 visa holders and their J-2 dependents ineligible to change to any other visa status within the United States if they are subject to it.
Not all J-1 visa holders are subject to this requirement. The requirement applies to those individuals in one of the following situations:
- J-1 visa holders who are funded by the United States Government, their own governments, or international organizations during part or all of their stay in the United States are subject to the requirement.
- J-1 visa holders whose skills are needed in their home countries, as registered on the Exchange Visitor Skills List, are subject to the requirement.
- J-1 visa holders who are graduates of foreign medical schools participating in internships, residencies, or clinical training programs in the United States sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) are subject to the requirement.
Are you subject to 212(e)?
J-1 visa holders should check both their Forms DS-2019 and J-1 visas to see if they are subject to the two year home residence requirement, 212(e). Harvard sponsored J-1 s should contact the HIO with questions regarding whether or not they are subject to the requirement.
Advisory Opinion from the U.S. Department of State
In the case that there is a doubt in whether or not a J-1 visa holder is subject to the requirement, the individual may request an Advisory Opinion from the U.S. Department of State.
J-1 visa holders who are subject to the requirement based on the information noted above and who do not wish to fulfill the requirement by returning to their home countries for two years may apply for a Waiver of the two-year home residence requirement. Please note: Before requesting an Advisory Opinion or applying for a Waiver, J-1 visa holders are encouraged to contact their HIO advisors. Failure to inform an HIO advisor regarding this matter could jeopardize the visa holder's ability to secure an extension of the Form DS-2019, or the option to change into another non-immigrant status.
12-24 Month Bar
The 12-Month Bar
Individuals who have been in the United States for more than six months in the previous year (12 months) in J visa status are not eligible to enter the United States as a J-1 Research Scholar or Professor for a 12-month period. Time spent in the J-1 Short-term Scholar category does not count towards the 12-month bar. The 12-month bar applies to both the J-1 principal and any J-2 dependents. The 12-month bar does not prevent individuals from returning to the United States in any other visa status.
The 24-Month Bar
Any individual who participates in an Exchange Visitor program in the Researcher Scholar or Professor category on or after 11/18/06 is subject to a 24-month bar on "repeat participation" in those categories. Scholars subject to the 24-month bar may not return to the United States as a J-1 scholar in the Research Scholar or Professor category for the 24-month period. This bar also applies to J-2 dependents. The 24-month bar is not the same as the Two Year Home Residence Requirement. The 24-month bar does not prevent individuals from returning to the United States in any other visa status.
Impact of the 24-Month Bar
When a scholar either concludes or leaves a J-1 program, whichever happens earlier, the scholar's record becomes inactive in SEVIS; thus making it impossible for the HIO to reactivate it. At that point, the 24-month bar time starts to accrue. Therefore, it is extremely important for the HIO to be informed of a scholar's departure from Harvard and his/her future plans, so that the scholar's SEVIS record can be properly maintained to facilitate his/her possible return to the United States.
Frequently Asked Questions about the 24-Month Bar for Research Scholars and Professors
Q: Can I change jobs and have a new J-1 Professor/ Research Scholar visa with a new employer within the 5 year limit?
A: Yes. If a J-1 professor/ research scholar leaves one employer and moves to a new job with another University (that also sponsors J-1 visas) s/he can transfer to the J-1 program of the new employer. These scholars may keep extending and changing employers via the J-1 transfer process for up to 5 years.
NOTE: There cannot be a gap of time between employers. Scholars need to communicate to both employers their intent to remain in the United States on a J visa.
Q: What if I need to leave the United States for a meeting or conference—will I have to wait 24 months before I can return?
A: No. As long as the J-1 professor/ research scholar continues with the original Harvard affiliation, short stays outside the United States are permitted, and do not constitute a completion of the J program.
Q: I have a J-1 Professor/ Research Scholar visa that is only valid for one year. I may stay longer if the grant is renewed for one more year. Will I have to go home for 24 months or can I extend my J visa for a second year?
A: J-1 professor/ research scholars may extend their stay for up to 5 years as long as there is no gap of time and the HIO receives the requests of extension before the expiration of their current Forms DS-2019.
Q: Are the two year home residence requirement and the 24-month bar the same thing?
A: No. As mentioned in #2 above, the 24-month bar affects only scholars who have had the J-1 visa status in the Professor/ Research Scholar category, and who wish to use the same category again. The two year home residence requirement can be an issue for any J visa holder - not just those who have been in the J-1 Professor/ Research Scholar category.
Q: During my 24 months outside the United States, may I return to the United States for short visits?
A: Yes. You may return to the United States on any kind of visa, including the J-1 Short-term Scholar visa category. You are only prevented from returning on the J-1 visa in the Research Scholar/Professor category.