Overview for Scholars

Scholar Immigration Definitions

Scholar Obtaining Your Visa (J-1)

Scholar Obtaining Your Visa (H-1B and O-1)

Scholar Transfer of Visa Supervision

Scholar Change of Status

Message for Canadian Scholars

Potential Delays in Visa Issuance

Scholar Tax Information

Health Insurance Overview for J-1 Scholars

Employment for J-1 Scholars

Employment Authorization for J-2

Employment for H-1B or O-1 Scholars

Scholar Maintaining Immigration Status (J-1)

Scholar Maintaining Immigration Status (H-1B and O-1)

J-1 Scholar Travel Information

H-1B Scholar Travel Information

O-1 Scholar Travel Information

Scholar Departure Information

Home Country Residency Requirement

Address Change Form

How to Maintain Legal J-1 Scholar Status in the United States

It is your responsibility to maintain your status with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). That is, you are responsible for finding out, knowing, and following pertinent regulations. If you take time early on to familiarize yourself with your obligations to the DHS, you should find it easy to maintain your legal status. If, however, you allow yourself to become “out of status,” you may be subject to serious repercussions that may impede your ability to return to the United States in future years.

If you have any questions you should consult the staff of the ISSO or the IAO. Every effort has been made to provide reliable and accurate information on rules that govern scholar immigration classifications. When regulations change—as is frequently the case—the ISSO or the IAO will have up-to-date information. Come in and ask questions anytime. As your visa sponsor, Columbia University has legal obligations that are met by the ISSO or the IAO.

The guidelines listed below apply to individuals in J-1 status in the category of Research Scholar or Professor. If you follow them, you should have few problems maintaining your immigration status.

1. Keep your passport valid. Refer again to “Immigration Definitions”.

2. Never stay in the United States beyond the permissible time. In J-1 status there is a “grace period” of thirty days in which to prepare for departure beyond the completion date on the form DS-2019. However, if you complete your purpose for being in J status earlier than the indicated date, you must leave the United States earlier. It may also be possible to apply for a change of status to another immigration status within the appropriate time allowed, if eligible.

3. Accept no employment of any kind, either on or off campus, without written permission from the International Students and Scholars Office or the International Affairs Office. Working without proper authorization is considered to be the most serious violation of non-immigrant status. If you refer to the back of your I-94 card you will see the statement “Warning—a nonimmigrant who accepts unauthorized employment is subject to deportation.” It is most important, therefore, that you consult with the ISSO or the IAO before you accept an offer of employment or begin to work. Refer to Employment for J-1 Scholars. We will advise you whether it is possible for you to work and assist you with the appropriate documents. Please bear in mind that it is illegal to begin to work in anticipation of being granted permission to do so; you must have permission first.

4. Have medical insurance at all times. Regulations require those in J status to have very comprehensive medical insurance covering the scholar and all dependents. Refer to Health Insurance for J-1 Scholars for more information about complying with these requirements.

5. Notify the appropriate office if there is any change in address. If you are in J-1 status, complete the on-line address change form in order for the ISSO to notify SEVIS, the DHS database. If you are under the sponsorship of an Exchange Visitor Program other than Columbia, such as CIES, you must notify them directly of any address change.

6. Obtain extensions, as needed, of your permission to stay in the United States . Those in J-1 immigration status are admitted to the United States for “duration of status”, or D/S. The completion date in section 3 on the DS-2019 represents the period of time for which you are employed at Columbia or for which you have been designated a Scholar. If you require and are eligible for additional time, you will need to apply for an extension with your visa sponsor (the ISSO or the IAO for Columbia-sponsored scholars—IIE, Amideast, Laspau, etc. for others). Your department should request the extension from the ISSO or the IAO at least thirty days before the completion date on your DS-2019. If eligible, we will update your SEVIS record and issue a new DS-2019 form. This MUST be done BEFORE the current form expires.

7. Inform the ISSO or the IAO of the intention to transfer your J-1 sponsorship to another institution in a timely manner. As a J-1 Exchange Visitor in the Research Scholar or Professor category, you are allowed to stay in the United States for a maximum of five consecutive years and six months for those in the Short-Term Scholar category. During this period you may transfer from one program sponsor to another within the same category, consistent with the original objectives in coming to the U.S. as a J-1 Exchange Visitor. The “responsible officer” of the program from which you are transferring needs to assign a “transfer out” date in the SEVIS database on which the next school will gain access to your record to issue a new DS-2019 for transfer. It is essential that the transfer of visa sponsorship be concluded BEFORE the authorized period of stay from your first program sponsor has expired.

8. If there are any changes contemplated to your employment or program, e.g. salary, title or rank, completion date, funding, department, or immigration status, you must notify the ISSO or the IAO immediately.

Additionally, if you are leaving Columbia earlier than the completion date on your DS-2019 form, you must inform the ISSO or IAO.

Last Reviewed: 22 February 2011 Last modified: 22 February 2011
International Students and Scholars Office
Columbia University