J-1 Exchange Students


Prospective students: Learn more about the USD Undergraduate Exchange Program.

To ensure that your exchange program is a fruitful and rewarding one, please carefully review the following rules & policies regarding your J-1 status. 

Essential documents for the J-1 student/scholar:

  • Passport
  • J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa
  • Form DS-2019 - Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (J Nonimmigrant)
  • I-94 Electronic Arrival Record


You must maintain a valid passport at all times. Your passport must be valid at least 6 months into the future.

Unless you decide to apply for a California Driver’s License or a California Identification Card, your passport will serve as your primary form of identification in most institutions outside of USD.  

What to do if your passport gets lost or stolen:

  1. File a police report
  2. Contact your nearest embassy to inquire about passport replacement, or obtaining a travel document, within the United States
  3. Report the incident to OISS

J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa

Your J-1 visa is typically valid for the duration of your exchange program at USD.  Should you decide to extend your program, you have the option of applying for a renewal of your J-1 visa either in your home country or at the US Consulate in Tijuana, Mexico.  However, a visa renewal is
not required if you do not plan on traveling  outside of the US for the remainder of your exchange visit.  Please consult with your USD exchange adviser if you have questions regarding future travel and the possibility of applying for a visa renewal.

What is the 212(e) printed on my J-1 visa page? 

212(e) is a two-year home residency requirement to allow you to return to your home country and share what you have learned and experiences during your exchange semester(s) in the U.S. However, if you want to apply for working visas or permanent residency within this two-year period, you will need to file a 212(e) waiver. For more information, please check <https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/study-exchange/student/residency-waiver.html.html>

Form DS-2019 - Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (J Nonimmigrant)

Your Form DS-2019 - Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status is your main status document.  It contains vital information about your exchange visit, including the reason and duration of your visit, as well as your host institution.  If traveling outside the U.S. while your J-1 program is still active, please carry your Form DS-2019 with you as it will be required for re-entry.  Also, make sure that the travel signature on your DS-2019 is still valid.

Note on program duration:

If your Form DS-2019 is expiring and you would like to extend your exchange visit for another academic term, please consult with OISS about the process of program extension.  For program extension to be authorized, the J-1 student must obtain the permission of his/her home institution and must provide a few additional requirements. For procedures and deadlines relating to program extension, please consult with your OISS adviser.

If you lose your Form DS-2019, please let your OISS adviser know so we can provide you with a replacement as soon as possible.

I-94 Electronic Arrival Record

The I-94 is the admission record maintained by the US Department of Homeland Security pertaining to your most current arrival in the United States.  It contains information on your date of arrival, status upon admission, and your allowable duration of stay (which is generally based on your status of admission).  The I-94 is a critical document in processes related to the application of status-related benefits, such as applying for a driver’s license and a Social Security Number (if work-eligible), among others.

Retrieve your most recent I-94 here.  Please note that a new I-94 must be obtained every time you travel overseas and re-enter as a J-1 visitor.

You must report any change of local (U.S.) address to OISS within 10 days of your move.

You must report any changes to your contact information (phone number, email) to OISS within 10 days of the change.

You must report any incident that constitutes a major medical emergency for yourself or any of your dependents. This will include hospitalization from any accident or prolonged illnesses. You are also required to report critical incidents such as arrest by law enforcement or the violation of local/state/federal laws to OISS.

OISS is required to report such incidents to the Department of State’s J-1 Program Administration. Any situation that prevents you from carrying out your activities, duties, and obligations as a visiting student must be reported.

Travel Reminders

Always carry your valid passport with J-1 visa, your valid DS-2019, and your most up-to-date I-94 document with you when you travel, particularly if you are traveling across the border to Mexico or Canada.  You will not be issued a new I-94 upon your re-entry from a brief visit to Mexico or Canada, so make sure to present your I-94 printout with your DS-2019 and passport at the border.

Always enter the U.S. as an exchange student by showing your J-1 visa. Never enter the U.S as a tourist during your academic program at USD, even if you have a B1/B2 tourist visa.

Ending Your J-1 Program

As a J-1 student/scholar, you are allowed a 30-day grace period to remain in the U.S. after the completion of your J-1 program. If you wish to travel to another country after the end of your academic program - even to neighboring countries such as Mexico and Canada - please be aware that you may not use your J-1 visa to re-enter the United States during the grace period, even if the intent is simply to collect your belongings and make final arrangements before leaving for your home country. Your grace period will immediately come to an end if you leave the U.S. 

If you have a B-1/B-2 tourist visa or if you're a citizen of a visa-waiver country and you wish to stay in the U.S. past your 30-day grace period, you must first exit the U.S. before the end of your grace period and then re-enter as a tourist. Citizens of visa-waiver countries must register for an ESTA to re-enter the U.S. for up to 90 days following J-1 program completion.

For students who have an I-94 card (non-digital copy) and will be traveling home across the Mexican border by car or by foot: You will need to visit the I-94/Permisos office on the U.S. side outside of the “El Chaparral” border crossing and adjacent to the Las Americas Outlet mall (see map photo below). We suggest parking at Las Americas and walking there. Let the officer outside the office know that you need to hand in your paper I-94 card and say you are ending your stay as a J-1 student and wish to turn in your I-94 card to document that you are exiting the U.S. Once this is done, you can walk or drive across the border. 

Full-Time Enrollment Requirement

J-1 students must enroll in a full course of study every Fall and Spring Semester. 

What constitutes full-time enrollment for J-1 students?

12 credits minimum for undergraduate exchange and degree-seeking students

9 credits minimum for graduate exchange students, including degree-seeking J-1 scholarship-based graduate students (please note that your graduate program may require a higher minimum loading per semester)

Summer/Intersession enrollment is not permitted for exchange students as it’s not part of the exchange agreement.

If I am not doing well academically in a particular class, can I drop that class to save my GPA?

It depends on how many courses you are registered for. If you have at least 15 credits, it would be possible to drop a 3-unit class as you would still be left with the minimum number of credits required by your visa status. However, if you are already at the minimum 12 credits, you will not be allowed to drop, even at the expense of your GPA. An unauthorized drop below 12 credits (or 9 for graduate students) constitutes a violation against your visa status.

There are two types of employment available to J-1 students: 1) On-campus Employment, and 2) Academic Training.

On-Campus Employment

During the academic program, J-1 students are permitted to work on campus only, and only with their J-1 advisor’s prior authorization. Written authorization is required from your J-1 advisor at OISS prior to the start of the employment/training regardless of whether you have a Social Security Number already or not.

Academic Training

"Academic Training" (AT) is the name of the provision that allows J-1 students to engage in short-term internship or employment opportunities (paid or unpaid) in areas relevant to their field of study. You are permitted to pursue AT if the internship or short-term employment meets certain guidelines and you have prior authorization from a J-1 advisor at OISS. You will need to meet with a J-1 advisor at OISS to discuss the process and procedure at least 8 weeks before your DS-2019 expiration date.

You are eligible to apply for Academic Training if:

  1. Your DS-2019 has NOT expired.
  2. You have been maintaining good academic standing.
  3. You have received an offer of employment or internship in an area related to your field of studies.
  4. You are able to demonstrate sufficient finances to cover your expenses during the period of Academic Training. (Salary or remuneration from AT employment may cover this requirement.)
  5. You are able to demonstrate proof of insurance (that meets USD's insurance requirements) valid for the period of Academic Training.


Process for application:

  1. You may use this e-form to submit a clear scan of your offer letter, proof of funds, and proof of insurance.
  2. Once we receive a statement of recommendation from your academic adviser (whose contact information you will be required to provide), we will proceed to processing your AT request.
  3. Upon approval of your Academic Training, you will receive the following documents: 
  • A letter of Academic Training authorization, meant for your employer or internship provider
  • A new Form DS-2019, with new a new program end date and indicating the newly-authorized Academic Training


Processing Time

Approximately 5 business days


Offer Letter Criteria

Please make sure your offer letter observes the following criteria, in order to meet AT requirements:

  • Must be formally written on company letterhead
  • Must include the following information:
  • A brief description of your responsibilities during the internship
  • Name of your supervisor
  • Location of employment (physical address only; no P.O. box)
  • Number of required hours per week
  • Dates of actual training/employment

Time Limitations

Exchange students - Maximum AT may not exceed actual time earned as a full-time enrollee.  For instance, a semester exchange student may spend up to 4 months of full-time Academic Training period, post completion.

Degree-seeking students - AT may be granted up to a maximum of 18 months, or the period of the full course of study, whichever is shorter. For instance, a student who is in the LL.M. program, which only runs for 10 months, may only do AT for 10 months.


AT Start Date

For AT after completion of studies, regulations state the AT must begin no later than 30 days after coursework has been completed.


Visa Renewal During Academic Training

It is possible for a J-1 student with an approved Academic Training request to apply for a new J-1 visa, if overseas travel is anticipated within the period of Academic Training.  As is standard practice with visa applications, the J-1 student must already have the DS-2019 with the extended program dates, as well as all supporting documents pertinent to the Academic Training request, such as the offer of internship/employment, letter of support from the academic department, and, if necessary, recently-issued financial documents.

If the student is not expecting to travel overseas during the Academic Training period, then renewing one’s J-1 visa will not be necessary to maintain J-1 status in the U.S.

Academic Training and Social Security Numbers

A J-1 student on authorized Academic Training will be eligible to apply for a Social Security Number ( assuming the student has not worked on campus prior to pursuing AT).  An endorsement letter (referred to as “sponsor letter”) will have to be issued by the student’s J-1 adviser, and will have to be presented when applying for the Social Security Number.