Thomas Jefferson University

J-1 Exchange Visitor Rules

All J Exchange Visitors must be aware of and comply with the following rules in order to successfully maintain J visa status in the United States.  Rules for J Students differ from J Scholars and can be found at the "J Student" page.

In order to obtain your I-94 number, please go to  Enter the required information and print out a copy for your records.  You will need the I-94 number if you wish to apply for a driver’s license, a state photo I.D., or social security number.

You must report any changes to your contact information to OIA and USCIS within 10 days of the change. This includes any changes to your address, telephone number and email address.

To report your change of contact information to OIA, simply email our office at, or stop by to complete an information update form.

To report your change of address to USCIS either by paper or online, go to:

First Read --> OIA Policy on changing from the J-1 to H-1B status

  1. Notify OIA of your desire to change status in the United States. 

    DO NOT OBTAIN A WAIVER of the 212e UNTIL you have consulted with OIA first.
    J-1 Extensions are NOT permitted
    by the Department of State after a waiver has been obtained
  2. Obtain appropriate immigration documents for the desired status (consult with OIA)
  3. Complete Form I-539 (PDF) and other USCIS forms required for the new status

A change of status can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months from the time of filing. Please plan ahead and consult with OIA before proceeding.

The State of Pennsylvania allows you to use your country's driver's license for up to one year to drive in Pennsylvania only.  If you live or drive in another state, you must abide by their driving regulations. 

If you apply for an international driver’s permit before you arrive in the U.S., you may use it in conjunction with your country’s driver license for one year in Pennsylvania.  The permit is helpful in case you encounter any traffic issues or violations.

A driver's license can also serve as a state photo I.D., but a state photo I.D. cannot be used as a license to drive.

If you decide to apply for a Pennsylvania driver’s license or state photo I.D., you will need a social security card (or rejection letter), proof of PA residency and other documents.

When you arrive at the port of entry, make sure that the immigration officer stamps your passport with the date of entry, “J-1” and “D/S” (Duration of Status).  D/S is the length of time for which you may stay in J status in the United States as long as you comply with all immigration regulations.  D/S is based on your program completion date, plus a 30-day grace period.  You may extend the D/S by applying for an extension.

You are only permitted to do the activity that is indicated on your DS-2019.  If you are interested in accepting other kinds of work or compensation during your stay, you must obtain permission from OIA before you receive payment from or provide services to a U.S. entity.  Do not accept any unauthorized employment

J-1 research scholars or professors have a total of up to 5 years in the J-1 program.  To extend your DS-2019, you must complete and submit the “DS-2019 Extension Request Form” about one month before the expiration of your current DS-2019.  This form is available at OIA or online at:

All J-1 Exchange Visitors and any family members accompanying in J-2 status must be covered by health insurance that meet the requirements of the U.S. Department of State.  Willful failure to comply with this requirement will result in the termination of your J-1 program.  Brochures for health insurance plans are available at OIA. Please go to the J-1 Health Insurance page for more information and options.

J-1 short-term scholars have total of up to 6 months in their program plus the 30-day grace period.  This status is not extendable after 6 months.

The Social Security Administration must see proof in their system that OIA has validated your immigration record with the Department of Homeland Security.  Therefore, you may apply for a Social Security Number AFTER you check-in with OIA.  Social Security applications and instructions will be provided during your check-in orientation.

If at any time you would like to transfer to another institution or even another laboratory at Thomas Jefferson University, you must visit OIA before you make any changes.

During your J-1 program, if you wish to travel outside of the United States, you must visit OIA with your DS-2019 BEFORE you leave so that we can provide a travel validation signature.  Your passport must also be valid.  You can renew your passport at your country’s embassy or consulate in the United States.  Here is a list of foreign embassies and consulates in the U.S.:

Your visa is the large photo stamp in your passport.  The visa expiration is the date up to which you are permitted to enter or re-enter the United States—it is NOT an indication of the length of permission to stay.

You only need to renew your visa if you are going to travel outside of the U.S. and then return to the U. S. after the expiration date on the visa page in your passport.  All visa renewals must be obtained at a U.S. embassy or consulate outside of the United States.

Your J-1 status and DS-2019 expires when you finish your research or teaching program, regardless of the end date listed on your current DS-2019.  

Once you finish your J-1 program, you have a 30-day grace period to prepare for departure or tour the U.S.  In the future, if you would like to repeat the J-1 research scholar/professor program, you must wait 2 years from the end date recorded in SEVIS.  You may apply for other visa statuses.

This 2-year bar does not apply to J-1 short-term scholars.

Before you end your program please inform our office (OIA).

The 2-year home country physical presence (foreign residence) requirement—or INA Section 212(e)—only applies to certain J-1 exchange visitors.  This rule is DIFFERENT from the 2-year bar above.  If you are subject to Section 212(e), and are thinking about applying for the H-1B or L-1 status, or a green card, you must first fulfill this requirement by living in your home country/foreign residence for 2 years, or can request a waiver from the government of your home country/foreign residence.