J-1 (Exchange) Student Information

All international students who currently hold a J-1 student visa must familiarize with the information presented on this page. Please note that information from the U.S. government agencies changes frequently, and therefore, students are responsible for observing the regulations of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Department of State (DOS), and U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

If you have any questions, please contact the International Student Advisor.

Immigration Documents

DS-2019: Also called the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor status or J-1 status.  The J-1 visa may be issued for a number of categories, including students, scholars, professors, specialists, etc.  Radford University is authorized by the U.S. Department of State to issue the Form DS-2019 for the following categories of J-1: Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist and Student (college/university).

Passports: Your passport should be updated before you depart for the U.S. and must be kept valid at least six months into the future at all times. Your passport can be renewed through your country’s consulate or embassy in the U.S., or in your own country during a vacation abroad.

Visas: When you go to the American embassy or consulate in your country and present your DS-2019, the Consular Officer will place a visa stamp (usually in the form of a sticker) on a page inside your passport. The visa: (1) gives you permission to apply for entry to the U.S.; (2) indicates the type of visa you have been given for your stay in the U.S (student visa); (3) when the visa expires; and (4) how many times you can enter the U.S. using that visa (e.g. single, multiple, etc.). 

I-94: This form is your entry record into the United States. Noted on it will be your admission/departure number, your immigration status (J-1), date of entry, port of entry, and the length of time that your immigration status is valid. A notation of “D/S” means that your status is valid for “duration of status”, or in other words, until you complete your degree. The I-94 record will be updated every time you leave the U.S., and a new I-94 will be issued upon your re-entry to the U.S.

Course Enrollment Requirements

Full-Time Status: All J-1 students must be enrolled full-time during the Fall and Spring semesters. Full-time status for undergraduates is 12 credits per semester and full-time status for graduate students is 3 credits per semester.

Online Courses While in the U.S.: J-1 students are ineligible to take any online, distance or independent-study classes.

Summer Enrollment: If an J-1 student starts their program of study in the summer semester, or if the student will complete their final classes in the summer semester, the regular full-time enrollment requirements as stated above must be followed. Continuing students (those who will not graduate in the summer and intend to come back for the Fall semester) are not required to take any summer courses. However, if the student chooses to take any summer courses, he/she does not need to be enrolled full-time and may take all courses online if desired.

Reduced Course Load (RCL): A student with J-1 student status may not reduce his or her course load below full-time without prior permission from their International Student Advisor. In cases where an RCL this is allowed, a Reduced Course Load Form [PDF] must be completed and submitted to the International Student Advisor prior to dropping any courses in order to properly document the reduction in the student’s immigration file.

Per immigration regulations, a reduced course load may be taken only for the following reasons and typically only for one semester during each education level:

  • Difficulties with the English language.
  • Improper course level placement.
  • Lack of familiarity with U.S. teaching methods or difficulty with reading requirements.
  • A serious medical condition documented in writing by a licensed doctor (Medical leaves of absence can only be approved for a maximum of 12 months aggregate).
  • During the last semester of study if fewer credits are required for completion of the academic program.
  • During the last semester for a graduate student who is preparing for comprehensive exams or completing a thesis.

Documentation supporting your request must be submitted to the International Student Advisor and approved prior to dropping any courses. Failure to submit this documentation on time will be considered a violation of your immigration status and will be reported to the Department of Homeland Security.

On-Campus Employment

On-campus employment refers to: (1) any employment that is paid by Radford University with the physical work site located on the campus the J-1 student is authorized to attend, or (2) for a company that holds a contract with Radford University to offer services directly to Radford University students on the Radford University campus the J-1 student is authorized to attend (for example, Chartwells, RU Bookstore, etc.). J-1 students should meet with the International Student Advisor before beginning any work to verify whether the position will be considered on-campus.

J-1 students can work up to 20 hours per week during the fall and spring semesters. During the summer semester and other university breaks, J-1 students can work up to 20 hours per week provided they will enroll in the upcoming fall semester.

J-1 students who are employed are required to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN). To get a SSN, the student must first receive a job offer. Once the student receives a job offer, the student should request a Social Security Letter [PDF] (and attach a copy of the job offer letter) from the International Student Advisor. Once the student has gathered all of the necessary documents (verified by the International Student Advisor), the student must go to the Social Security Administration office in person and apply for a SSN.

Students enrolled in the Intensive English Program (IEP) are discouraged from seeking employment on campus.

Travel Outside the U.S.

Students with an J-1 visa should have the following documents prior to travling outisde of the U.S.:

  • A valid passport with an expiration date that is at least six months in the future.
  • A valid Form DS-2019 with a signature for travel (it is recommended to have a new signature every six months).
  • A valid J-1 visa in your passport (if you are a Canadian or Bermudian citizen, you do not need the visa in your passport).
  • If you need to renew your J-1 visa while abroad, please contact the International Student Advisor.

Program Extension

If an J-1 student is unable to complete his or her studies at Radford University by the completion date listed in the Form DS-2019, he or she must file for a program extension before the current DS-2019 expires. To apply for a program extension students collect the following documents: (1) a written approval from the home institution; (2) new financial documentation; and (3) the Program Extension Form [PDF]. Once ready, please submit the documents to the International Student Advisor (preferably at least 1 month before the DS-2019 expires).

Important Information

  • In general, extensions can be granted if the J-1 has not exceeded the normal time limits for a particular program
  • Please note that the DS-2019 can only be extended one semester at a time for a maximum of 24 months in total.
  • If your Form DS-2019 was issued by another sponsoring agency (such as ISEP, Fulbright, Rotary, USAID, AmidEast, Hariri Foundation, LASPAU, or the United Nations), you must contact them for information about a program extension. They must issue your new Form DS-2019 and may have additional requirements.

Academic Training (AT)

Academic Training (AT) is authorized to J-1 students for employment that is related to their field of study and is integral to their academic objective.  Academic training must be a direct application of coursework or research to a professional position in the student’s field of study. The academic advisor must evaluate an academic training request as connected to the student’s major field of study.  Academic training may be on- or off-campus employment.

Please note that the fact that the employment is in a related field is not sufficient for it to qualify as academic training. The work must be integral to the academic program and have a clear academic objective.

Academic Training may be pursued while studying (pre-completion) or immediately after completion of studies (post-completion).  Students on exchange programs may be eligible for AT after they have completed at least one semester of study at Radford University. Students must apply for post-completion academic training within 30 days of completing their studies or before your current DS-2019 expires, whichever comes first.  Students may work part- or full-time during post-completion academic training.

The length of time for which a student can be authorized for AT depends on the length of the J-1 status.  Students are eligible for AT equal to the length of the J-1 program, not to exceed 18 months.  Every month that a student is authorized is deducted as a month used, whether the permission is part-time, full-time, or unused.

Important Notes

  • AT is employer- and location-specific. This means that a J-1 student must receive a written employment offer before AT can be authorized.
  • Travel during this time can be complicated, especially if the J-1 visa has expired. Therefore, it is recommended the student does not engage in any travel outside of the U.S.
  • If your Form DS-2019 was issued by another sponsoring agency (such as ISEP, Fulbright, Rotary, USAID, AmidEast, Hariri Foundation, LASPAU, the United Nations, etc.), you must contact them for information about AT. They must issue your new Form DS-2019 and may have additional requirements.
To apply for AT, an F-1 student must complete the AT Application Packet [PDF], gather all additional necessary documentation, and make an appointment with the International Student Advisor. AT authorization must be received prior to the beginning any work.  

Health Insurance Requirement

All international students are required to have international health insurance and will be automatically enrolled into the Radford University International Student Health Insurance Plan administered by CISI. International students are not allowed to waive out of the insurance.


J-1 students may request that their spouse and/or children accompany them to the U.S. as dependents. These dependents will hold J-2 status. For each dependent, the J-1 student must demonstrate that sufficient funds are available to pay for the expenses incurred by the dependent. The total estimated expenses per dependent can be found in the Financial Requirements sheet [PDF].

J-2 dependents can study full- or part-time and are eligible for work authorization from USCIS.   

To request a DS-2019 for a dependent, complete the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form [PDF].

Social Security Number (SSN)

The Social Security Number (SSN) is a 9-digit number issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to those individuals who are eligible to work in the United States.  The SSN is required in order to be paid for any work you do in the U.S. whether it is on-campus or for practical training.  Though the SSN is only required to be paid by an employer, many other institutions in the U.S. ask for a SSN (for example,  banks, cell phone vendors, the Department of Drivers Licenses), and it is generally easier to obtain services from these institutions if you already have a SSN.  You are under no obligation to obtain a SSN; however, if you plan to work in the United States, you will need to obtain one.

Effective October 13, 2004, the SSA now requires that a student secure a job offer in order to qualify to apply for a SSN.  With this new regulation, you will need to obtain a letter offering you a position before you will be able to apply for the SSN. This may take some negotiating on your part with a prospective employer.

When you go to apply for your number, you will fill out an application form when you arrive.  You will then present the application and the following original documents for their review & copy:

  • Valid passport
  • J-1 visa (if available)
  • Form I-94 (https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94)
  • Form DS-2019
  • Birth Certificate – if available.  If you do not have it, be sure to state to the agent that you do not have it and it will take you longer than 2 weeks to get it.
  • If you have secured a job on campus: Letter from the Radford University department who hired you on school letterhead containing the following information:
  1. J-1 Student’s Name
  2. Department where employed
  3. Job description
  4. Employment start date
  5. Number of hours per week
  6. EIN
  7. Telephone number of student’s immediate supervisor
  8. Supervisor’s name
  9. Supervisor’s original signature
  10. Supervisor’s title
  11. Date of letter
  12. Signature from the International Student Advisor
  • If employment on campus is with an employer other than Radford University, such as an approved commercial corporation providing student services on campus (for example Chartwells and the RU Bookstore), the letter must be on their letterhead and a separate letter from the International Student Advisor must be requested and presented.

It takes approximately 3-4 weeks for the Social Security Administration to issue your SSN and card.  However, it sometimes takes much longer.  The SSA must verify your student status with the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) before issuing you a number. Once you have a SSN, you will use the same number throughout your stay in the United States.

Nearest Social Security Administration Office:

Roanoke Social Security Office
612 S Jefferson St #100,
Roanoke, VA 24011
(866) 701-8179