Can You Work in the US with a J-1 Visa?
Yes, you can! J-1 students are permitted to work while studying, as long as they obtain work authorization. There are certain restrictions, such as only working part time on campus for a maximum of 20 hours per week. Students are permitted to work full time during academic breaks.

What Is the Difference Between a J-1 and F-1 Student Visa?
While J-1 student visas and F-1 student visas seem similar, there are distinct differences you should be aware of when choosing the visa you want to apply for:

Point of contact—J-1 students are required to coordinate with a Responsible Officer from their program sponsor. Responsible Officers are required to check up on the health, safety, and welfare of J-1 visa students and make sure they are complying with all visa requirements. F-1 students have access to a Designated School Official (DSO) at their college or university, and DSOs are responsible for helping the student with all visa requirements and regulations throughout their time in the US.

Certificates of eligibility—When applying for a J-1 student visa, students are required to submit Form DS-2019. This form outlines program details and other important information, including a cost breakdown, start and end dates for your program, and options for financial support. F-1 students are required to submit an I-20 form, which contains the same information.

Post-graduation work and training—J-1 students are eligible for Academic Training (AT) in a field related to their program for up to 18 months after graduation. J-1 students who have earned a PhD can request an additional 18 months of AT in their related field. With a F-1 student visa, students can apply to work for up to 12 months in the US in a related field via Optional Practical Training (OPT) after graduation. For STEM degrees, F-1 students can request two additional years of work in their field.

Working restrictions—While J-1 visa students can only work on campus, F-1 students can work off campus after completing one academic year of study. Additionally, the dependents (spouses and children) of J-1 visa students are permitted to work and study in the US full time. The dependents of F-1 students cannot work, but can enroll in part-time study.

Funding source—J-1 students have programs funded by an accredited educational or nonprofit institution. F-1 students can be funded by friends and family, or even their own financial contributions.

Home residency requirements—J-1 visa students are required to return to their home countries within 30 days after their program’s end date (if they do not have any extensions) and live there for two years before returning to the US. F-1 students do not have this requirement attached to their visa conditions, but they must depart the United States within 60 days after their program has ended if they do not have any extensions.

Refer to the Exchange Visitor Program to learn more about the differences between F-1 vs J-1 visas and Shorelight’s F-1 visa guide for more information.

What Are the J-1 Visa Program Requirements?
Make sure you meet the following J-1 visa student requirements when submitting your application:

Maintain your funding source—At least 50% of the funding for your program must be provided by an accredited sponsor that is not a personal friend or family member.

Meet English language proficiency requirements—You must meet the required English language proficiency score of the university or college where you hope to enroll.

Maintain valid insurance—Both you and any dependents must have medical insurance which meets the minimum standards outlined by your host university.

Follow through with pre-arrival information and attend orientation—Your sponsor is required to provide you and any dependents with information about the selected program and conduct an orientation with information about the region where you will study.

Adhere to J-1 visa rules—You and your sponsor must ensure that you are following all J-1 visa requirements and are actively maintaining your status as a J-1 student. Your sponsor must also provide you with an emergency 24-hour contact.

Meet home residency requirements—Upon completion of your program, you must return to your home country and live there for at least two years.

Have a valid passport—You and any dependents must ensure that your passports are valid for US travel for at least six months ahead of your program completion date.

Maintain full-time enrollment during the academic year—While you can work full time during academic break periods, you must ensure that you are enrolled in full-time study when the academic year is in session.

Follow work restrictions—If you want to work while you study, ensure that you only work on campus part time for a maximum of 20 hours per week. You can work full time during academic breaks. However, working off campus is not permitted if you do not have authorization from your sponsor and university.

Make sure your address is updated—If you change your residence, you are required to update both your sponsor and your university of the address change within 10 days.

How Do You Submit a J-1 Visa Application?
To submit your application, ensure that you have read J-1 visa requirements and prepared all required documents:

DS-2019 form, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status

DS-7002 form, Training/Internship Placement Plan (only necessary for exchange visitor trainees or intern visa applicants)

DS-160 form, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application

Valid passport

One 2×2 photograph

You may also be asked to provide additional documents for the review process, so pay close attention to the instructions from the US embassy or consulate. After you submit your application, remember to get a payment receipt to present at your visa interview.