Immigration Rules, Rights & Responsibilities for International Students in J-1 Exchange Visitor Classification
This information is for the use of Exchange Visitors in the J-1 student category at the University of New Hampshire. After reading this information, you should have a basic understanding of the important rights or benefits you have in relation to U.S. immigration regulations. You should also have an understanding of your responsibilities for maintaining your lawful immigration status as an Exchange Visitor. You will not, however, have an understanding of the actual procedures which must be followed in order to apply for certain benefits. Consultation with, and assistance from, your Program Sponsor and the OISS staff will be necessary in order for you to exercise many of your rights.
Your Program Objective, or the purpose for which you came to the U.S., is described in Item # 4 on your Form DS-2019. The activities you engage in while in this country must be related to your Program Objective.
Exchange Visitor Program Classifications (Categories)
Although the DOS has established numerous exchange visitor categories, the University of New Hampshire is only designated to sponsor visitors in the categories of student, professor, research scholar, specialist and short term scholar. The category of College and University Students includes those who have been officially admitted to a degree program at UNH, either as an undergraduate or a graduate student, have received an official letter of admission from the University and will be enrolled in a full course of study leading to, or culminating in, the award of a U.S. degree. Or, the individual might be engaged in full-time study in a non-degree prescribed course of study under an exchange agreement between their home institution and the University of New Hampshire. In either case, the primary purpose of being in the U.S. is to engage in full-time study and individuals will therefore be subject to all federal regulations governing the J-1 student category.
General: You must have written authorization from your Program Sponsor to be employed while pursuing your studies. A maximum of 20 hours per week is permitted while school is in session. During annual vacation periods you may work up to 40 hours per week. (NOTE: Graduate students who hold full-time appointments, such as teaching or research assistants, are not permitted to accept additional employment.)
On-Campus Employment: Employment on your school campus is possible provided that you are maintaining your status and the employment is authorized in writing, in advance, by your Program Sponsor. Employment may not begin until this written authorization has been given.
Off-Campus Employment: You may apply to your Program Sponsor for off-campus employment authorization provided you can demonstrate an urgent financial need to work. Employment may not begin until written authorization has been given.
Academic Training: During, or upon completion of, your studies you may apply to your Program Sponsor for permission to engage in up to eighteen (18) months of Academic Training. This is employment directly related to your major field of study and may occur anywhere in the U.S. Employment may not begin until written authorization has been given.
You are only permitted to receive compensation until the expiration date listed on Form DS-2019, Item # 3, or through completion of studies, whichever comes first. Do not begin employment, accept additional appointments or change employers without prior approval from your Program Sponsor.
Transfer to a Different School
You may be able to transfer from your present school to a different school, if you qualify and follow certain procedures. You must consult your current Program Sponsor to notify them that you are planning to transfer and to see if you qualify. If the transfer also involves a change in Program Sponsor, your new Program Sponsor must complete a new Form DS-2019 and send it to your current Program Sponsor in order to obtain a signature releasing you from sponsorship.
Registration, Attendance and Course Load
Registration and Attendance: You must register at and attend the school indicated on your Form DS-2019.
Course Load: You must register as a full-time student when school is in session. For undergraduate students, full-time is defined as a minimum of 12 credits. For graduate students the requirement is 9 credits (6 credits if on a full assistantship) or registration for Master's Thesis or Doctoral Research.
Reduction in Course Load: You may register for a lesser course load if a) you will complete your studies by the end of that school term and do not need a full course load in order to graduate; b) Your Program Sponsor approves, in advance, a reduction in course load due to special circumstances such as illness, academic difficulties, etc.; c) you are engaged in a prescribed course of study in a non-degree program; or d) you are participating in authorized Academic Training.
Within the U.S.: You have the right to travel freely within the U.S. provided you maintain your legal J-1 status and have your passport and immigration documents in your possession.
Outside the U.S. with Return Planned to the Same Program Sponsor: You must consult in advance with your Program Sponsor regarding travel authorization and the necessary documentation required to facilitate your reentry to the U.S.
Outside the U.S. with Return Planned to a Different Program Sponsor: You must consult in advance with your Program Sponsor regarding your proposed travel and change of program sponsor. If the change is permissible, you must obtain Form DS-2019 from your new Program Sponsor before you attempt to reenter the U.S.
Completion of Program
You are required to notify your Program Sponsor when you have completed your Program Objective. Upon completion of studies you may have the right to a) continue study at the same school or a different school for a higher academic degree, certificate or program of academic work, b) apply for Academic Training, or c) take up to 30 days to depart the U.S. If you complete your studies before the expiration date listed on your Form DS-2019 you will have 30 days to prepare for departure even if the date on your Form DS-2019 has not yet expired. If you choose to remain in the U.S. for more than 30 days following the end of your program (without entering a new program or Academic Training), you will be in violation of your immigration status and could be subject to deportation.