Current J-1 Students

It is your responsibility to understand and comply with the terms of your immigration status during your stay in the United States. A violation of the immigration regulations (for example, unauthorized employment or failure to maintain a full-time credit load) could jeopardize your student J-1 status and legal stay in the US. Please review this information carefully and contact your advisor in International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) if you have questions.

What is J-1 "Status"?

“Status” is your nonresident category officially granted by an immigration official. To be in J-1 “status” means that you are legally in the US and have benefits and restrictions specified in the immigration regulations for the J-1 visa category. You gain status either by entering the US with J-1 documents (described below) or, for people already in the US in a different status, by applying to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)for a change of status.

Period of Authorized Stay

Your admission to the US is for "duration of status," that is, for the length of your J-1 status. J-1 status covers the period when you are a full-time registered student making normal progress toward your degree (or exchange program), plus an optional period of academic training following completion of studies, plus a 30-day "grace period" to prepare to depart the US or change to another status.


Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is a US government database that allows schools and federal immigration agencies to exchange data on the status of international students. Information is transmitted electronically throughout an F-1 or J-1 student's academic career in the US.

An electronic record is created in SEVIS for you after you are admitted and confirm enrollment at WWU. This allows WWU to issue an I-20 or DS-2019, which you need to gain F-1 or J-1 status. When you apply for a student visa and arrive at a US port of entry, the consular officer or immigration official may consult SEVIS in addition to your supporting documents to verify eligibility for F-1 or J-1 status.

International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) will continue to provide electronic reports throughout your academic career, noting information such as registration, address changes, academic program changes, degree completion, and immigration status violations.

It is important to understand the F-1 and J-1 student immigration regulations in order to maintain status while you are in the US. For more information, please contact ISSS.

Important Documents

Federal law requires you to carry "registration" documents at all times, including your DS-2019 and passport with I-94 card attached or J-1 admission stamp (depending on what you received upon your last entry to the US) I-94 card. Please see this overview of documents related to your J-1 status. For day-to-day purposes, we suggest that these documents be kept in a secure location such as a bank safe deposit box, and you carry photocopies. However, if you are traveling outside the Bellingham area you should carry the original documents with you. If you are traveling by air, train, bus, or ship, you may be required to produce these documents before boarding. Keep photocopies of all your documents in a separate location in the event your documents are lost or stolen.

Events That Require You to Update Your DS-2019

Many types of updates must be reported to the Department of Homeland Security through SEVIS and must be changed on your DS-2019. Notify ISSS of any of these changes and request an updated DS-2019. Keep every DS-2019 for your permanent record, even after you graduate. Do not discard the old ones, even from previous schools. ISSS files are archived and destroyed after several years, so it is your responsibility to keep your DS-2019s in case you need them to apply for future immigration benefits.

Full-Time Registration Requirements and Exceptions

A "full course of study" is 12 or more credits per quarter for exchange students. Your ISSS adviser may allow exceptions to the full-time requirement, as listed below:

  • You may take fewer credits if so advised by your ISSS advisor for valid academic reasons.
  • You may reduce or interrupt a full course of study because of a documented medical condition.

Do not register for fewer than the required number of credits or withdraw from a course without first receiving permission from ISSS. Part-time studies could jeopardize your stay in the US and make you ineligible for J-1 benefits.

Dependents (Spouse and Children)

Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 may be eligible for J-2 dependent status. Contact your ISSS advisor or your program sponsor for procedures to invite a dependent to join you in the US. J-2 dependents may apply to USCIS for employment authorization.

Please see our Spouses and Children page for resources for dependents.

Change of Address

Any change of address must be reported to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) within 10 days. Update your local address through your Web4U account and ISSS will update the address in the SEVIS record. If you are on Academic Training, email your ISSS advisor with your new local address. Please note that your local US address must be your physical address, not a PO Box. To update your permanent foreign address, which must be a non-U.S. address, e-mail ISSS.

Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement

The two-year home country physical presence requirement is one of the most important characteristics of Exchange Visitor status.

Completion of Your Exchange Program and Departing WWU

The end of your academic program affects your J-1 status. After you graduate or complete your exchange you have a 30-day grace period. Within this 30-day period you have the following options:

  • Depart the US. Once you leave the US (including trips to Canada and Mexico) after completing your studies you are not eligible to reenter with your current DS-2019. The grace period is meant for travel within the States and preparation to depart the US.
  • Transfer your SEVIS record if you are continuing your exchange at a new school.
  • Apply to change status to another visa category. ISSS advisors cannot assist with change of status applications. If you need additional assistance, we recommend you contact an immigration attorney.

If you do not complete your exchange (for example, if you withdraw from your program), you are not eligible for the 30-day grace period. Contact your ISSS advisor in this situation.

Housing check-out

Exchange students who are living on campus will need to officially check out of housing. Typically the last day for check-out is the last day of the quarter.

Pay all charges on student account

Exchange students must be sure to pay any outstanding charges that are on your student account and change your mailing and billing addresses to your permanent address back home. If you don't settle your account before you leave, it may prevent you from receiving a transcript from WWU and/or put a hold on your housing security deposit refund. You can do both of these tasks through your online student account in myWestern.

Official WWU transcript

The ISSS advisor will send transcript requests to the Registrar and they will print out official WWU transcripts for each exchange student after grades are posted. Transcripts for ISEP students will be sent to ISEP in Washington, DC, and ISEP will then forward the transcripts on to your home university. For Direct Exchange students the transcript will be sent directly from the Registrar to your home university international office. After grades are posted, please allow at least 4-6 weeks for transcripts to reach your home university. For ISEP, sometimes it can take longer for ISEP to process these.

There is no fee for the first transcript as it is covered as part of your exchange. If you want to order your own official transcript, you can do so by filling out another request form and submit it to the Registrar. You will be billed for any extra transcript requests. These will be automatically charged to your student account, so be sure to balance your account after any transcript requests are made. Students can always print out unofficial transcripts from their online accounts as well.

Page Updated 11.22.2017