J-1 Scholars

Pre-Arrival Information

Obtaining J-1 Status

All non-immigrant visitors are required to have a valid visa upon arrival at a U.S. Port of Entry.

Review the U.S. embassy website where you will apply for your visa for location specific instructions. Generally, the Exchange Visitor must:

  1. Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee ($180): Print the SEVIS receipt and bring a copy to your visa interview. The SEVIS fee must be paid in addition to visa fees.  The SEVIS fee does not need to be paid for J-2 dependents, nor does the SEVIS fee need to be paid for visa renewals.
  2. Complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Application
  3. Pay the Nonimmigrant Visa Application Fee ($160)
  4. Pay the Reciprocity Fee (if applicable). Only a limited number of countries are required to pay a reciprocity fee. For a list of reciprocity fees, please refer to the U.S. Department of State website.
  5. Make An Appointment to Interview for the J-visa at the nearest U.S. Consulate or embassy.  Please review the Department of State website for tips on preparing for the visa interview.

Canadian Citizens do not need to apply for a visa. However, Canadians must still present a SEVIS fee receipt (paid for at least three business days prior to entry to US) and a valid passport, as well as their DS-2019 form to enter the U.S. with J-1 status.

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Health Insurance Requirements

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) mandates that J-1 scholars AND each J-2 dependent carry primary medical coverage and medical evacuation and repatriation insurance for the duration of the exchange visitor program.

Scholars are required to submit proof of insurance for both themselves and J-2 dependents at their Mandatory J-1 Scholar Orientation upon arrival to the U.S. Please review DOS Insurance Requirements and Options.

Garnett-Powers is the mandatory health insurance provider for our visiting scholars. Please visit the Garnett-Powers website and enroll in the insurance program or apply for a waiver, if you will provide your own insurance. To be eligible for a waiver, the insurance evidence you provide must meet the above J-1 requirements.  This evidence is evaluated by Garnett-Powers.

You will need to provide evidence of enrollment in this plan or an approved waiver form by Garnett-Powers to successfully check-in at orientation with our office.  

 Options that Meet Medical Evacuation & Repatriation Requirements Only

If your insurance is covered by UCSC benefits but does not cover repatriation and medical evacuation requirement , you are required to purchase this supplemental insurance.  Below is a suggested list of insurance providers:

  1. The Harbour Group: This plan is for visiting scholars and their J-2 dependents. Please submit a copy of your application to ISSS prior to applying online, or mailing application to the broker.
  2. A-G Administrators, Inc. Medical Evacuation & Repatriation Insurance Plan. The application form and brochure must be mailed to the broker. Complete the appropriate application. Make a COPY and send it to your international advisor. MAIL the application with check or money order payable to A-G Administrators, Inc., P.O. Box 979, Valley Forge, PA 19482.
  3. Compass Benefits Group, Liaison Traveler: This plan is for visiting scholars and their families who will be in the US for at least 3 months, and as long as one year. Please submit a copy of your application to ISSS prior to applying online, or mailing application to the broker.
  4. IMG Sky Rescue: This plan is for visiting scholars and their J-2 dependents. Please submit a copy of your application to ISSS prior to applying online, or mailing application to the broker.

Failure to maintain DOS insurance requirements for both J-1 scholars and J-2 dependents will result in termination of J-1 and J-2 records. If your program is terminated, the J-1 scholar and her/his J-2 dependents must return to their home country immediately. Please know that program terminations have an adverse effect on J-1 and J-2 records. Terminated EV records are ineligible for reinstatement, extension of stay, change of category, or any other exchange visitor benefits.

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Expenses, Housing and Transportation


Due to the high cost of living in the Santa Cruz area, ISSS requires that Exchange Visitors be able to demonstrate proof of funding in the amount of at least $1800 per month for themselves for basic expenses. If the scholar would like to bring J-2 family members to join them in the United States, the J-1 scholar must be able to demonstrate an additional $1000 per month for her/his spouse, and $500 per month for each child. Therefore, if the scholar will bring a J-2 spouse and two J-2 children, he/she must be able to demonstrate proof of funding in the amount of at least $3800 per month.

Santa Cruz living expenses may fluctuate for a variety of reasons. Be prepared for your actual expenses to vary considerably from the minimum expenses estimated. ISSS strongly recommends that Exchange Visitors provide additional funds for their stay, including funds for unexpected expenses, such as emergency trips home.

Finally, ISSS understands that insurance is a very large expense for Exchange Visitors, especially because it must be purchased for the primary J-1 and each J-2 dependent for the entire exchange visitor program.  Please plan accordingly.


Scholars are independently responsible for making housing arrangements for their J-1 Exchange Visitor Program.  J-1 scholars can search for housing at:

  • The Community Rentals Office (CRO): Scholars must have a United States email address in order to access the website, and can set up a temporary U.S. email address through Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc. The CRO offers information on U.S. renter's rights, and also offers information on how to avoid housing scams. In addition, the CRO monitors and screens the listings they post. If the CRO learns of a problem with a rental source, they prevent future postings from that source.
  • UCSC’s Staff and Faculty Housing
  • Santa Cruz Hotels:  If scholars are unable to make permanent arrangements prior to arrival, please make temporary housing arrangements at a local hotel. Many hotels offer discounts, so be sure to inquire about this potential option.


Staff bus passes, as well as staff vehicle parking permits may be purchased at the Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) office at UCSC.


What to Expect at U.S. Port of Entry

Arrival Notification and Department Check-In

Attend Mandatory ISSS Meeting

Apply for a Social Security Number

What to Expect at the U.S. Port of Entry (both land and airport arrivals)

At the U.S Port of Entry (POE), the Exchange Visitor must present the following documents to officials:

  • DS-2019 form
  • Passport (valid at least 6 months into the future)
  • Valid J-1 Visa

It is also recommended to carry the following documents:

  • UCSC Appointment Letter 
  • Financial Certification 
  • SEVIS Fee Receipt

Upon presenting these documents, POE officials will then:

  1. Stamp passport the official date of entry and mark with “J-1” (primary) or “J-2” (dependent) and with a “D/S” (Duration of Status)
  2. You will be issued an electronic I-94 document which can be downloaded by going to: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/. You will need to print and keep this document.

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Arrival Notification and Department Check-In

Scholars are required to check in with their Department or Divisional contact to complete appointment paperwork. You will complete your UCSC insurance paperwork with your Department or Divisional contact if you are eligible. Be sure to bring a copy of your insurance application to your mandatory International Scholar and Student Services orientation in order to validate your record as legal within SEVIS. 

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Attend Mandatory ISSS Orientation

Scholars (and their dependents in J-2 status) are required to attend their Orientation with ISSS. Orientations are offered bi-weekly on Wednesdays and you will be notified of the date you are required to attend. Scholars must check in at the Classroom Unit Building, Room 101 at 10:00AM. Scholars are required to submit COPIES of the following legal documents at their Orientation:

  • Passport
  • J-1 Visa 
  • I-94
  • DS-2019 form for J-1 (and any J-2 dependents)
  • Proof of insurance from Garnett-Powers or approved waiver from Garnett-Powers
  • Local address, phone number, email (required of J-2s as well)
  • UCSC Appointment Letter

*J-1 scholars must submit the aforementioned documents for each J-2 dependent at Orientation as well.

If scholars are unable to attend their scheduled Orientation, they must contact ISSS immediately. ISSS is required to confirm that J-1 scholars have attended Orientation and submitted all legal documents in order to validate their record as legal within SEVIS. J-1 records must be validated within 30 days of arrival into the U.S. or their exchange program will automatically terminate.

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Apply for a Social Security Number

All J-1 scholars are required to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) with the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office. A social security number is a nine-digit number issued by the SSA to maintain an accurate record of wages. Its primary purpose is to track individuals for taxation purposes.  A social security number is valid for life.

To be eligible to apply for your SSN, you must:

  • Attend the J-1 Scholar Orientation, and submit requested legal documents
  • Wait at least 48 hours from the date that you are validated in the SEVIS database, and
  • Be physically present within the United States at least 10 days

To apply for your SSN, bring the following documents to the local SSA Office:

  • Passport
  • I-94 record
  • DS-2019 form
  • Letter of invitation/offer of employment from your sponsoring UCSC Dean
  • Valid Local Address: Your SSN will be mailed to the address you list within the Social Security application. It is vital to include an address where you will be able to receive mail

The Social Security Offices are located at:
169 Walnut Avenue, Santa Cruz 800-593-8523
315 Main St. Suite A, Watsonville 800-521-3385

Once You Receive Your SSN:
Present your SSN to your Department/Division to complete your appointment paperwork.
Do not submit a copy of your card to ISSS.

Post-Arrival Information

Seasoned and new exchange visitors have found this section to be a helpful review of regulatory requirements to maintain status, and also a great review for scholars nearing the end of their appointment and considering an extension, transfer, or completion of their exchange visitor program. 

Maintaining Legal Status

Limitations of Stay

Travel and U.S. Re-Entry


Transfer out of UCSC

Program Completion

 Maintaining Legal Status 

By signing page one of the DS-2019 form, scholars certify that they understand and will follow the legal requirements as outlined by the US Department of State code of federal regulations. The most important regulations are listed on page two of the DS-2019 form.

The following documents must be kept up to date:

  • Passport: Must be valid at least 6 months into the future at all times
  • Visa: Must be valid each time an Exchange Visitor enters the United States
  • I-94: Must verify that the Exchange Visitor legally entered and departed the United States in the appropriate legal status
  • DS-2019 Form: Must be valid for both the scholar and his/her J-2 dependents for the entire program duration. ISSS must be notified before any program changes take place.

Report any changes to your status or your program as soon as possible.  Such changes may include:

  • Address, Phone Number, Email (both J-1 and J-2)
  • Financial or Insurance changes (both J-1 and J-2)
  • Additional Site of Activity
  • Extensions/Shorten Program
  • Program Completion Abraod
  • Academic Title or Program Objective: if your UCSC academic title changes, ISSS must update your record.
  • 212(e) Waiver: if you have received a waiver, please bring approval to ISSS. You will no longer be eligible for extensions or transfers.
  • J-2 Dependents: any changes to J-2s need to be reported.

Authorization for Occasional Participation in Activities: As an Exchange Visitor, you must request SEVIS authorization for occasional participation in activities.  The DS-2019 is site specific, and only permits activities to take place as stated within your UCSC appointment letter (Parts 4 and 5 of the DS-2019 form.). Federal authorization is required if scholars will conduct activities that will be off campus, or if the scholar will participate in UCSC or non-UCSC affiliated activities that were not approved within the original J-1 visa request. The activity must be occasional in nature and incidental to the program objective. In order to receive SEVIS approval, the scholar must complete the Addendum to Site of Activity & Payment Authorization Form. Upon completion of the form, the scholar must request Department and Division approval before submitting the form to ISSS. ISSS must receive the form at least 10 business days before participation in the event. This form must be completed for each activity.

Pay Income Taxes: J-1 scholars and their J-2 dependents must file state and federal income tax forms each year regardless of whether they were employed or not. UCSC's financial affairs office will supply scholars with the required W-2 forms to complete their taxes, if they are receiving payment from UCSC. If scholars have not received their forms, they must contact their Department or Divisional representative. For additional inquiries, please refer to our website on tax resources. Unfortunately, ISSS is legally unable to provide tax advice beyond what is listed on our tax resource webpage.

Do Not Accept Public Assistance: Scholars cannot accept public benefits from federal, state, county or any other government agencies. This includes, but is not limited to, accepting benefits from programs such as Medicare/Medicaid (Medi-Cal), Supplemental Social Security Income, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, food stamps, subsidized housing, or other government benefits. Accepting such benefits may cause you to lose your legal status, may create a U.S. re-entry bar in the future, or can become grounds for denial of permanent resident status in the future.

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2. Limitations of Stay 

6 Month Limit for J-1 Short Term Scholars

A Short-Term Scholar may extend his or her stay up to the six-month maximum period, or transfer to another program within that period (as long as there is not a break in service). Extensions beyond 6 months are not permitted.

5 Year Limit for J-1 Research Scholars and Professors

A Research Scholar or Professor may participate in their program for the length of time necessary to complete their project, provided funding is available, an appointment is offered, scholars maintain legal status, and such time does not exceed five years.  The five-year period is used on a "use or lose" basis. As such, there cannot be a break in participation between J-programs (i.e. there cannot be a break between program transfers).

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3. Travel and U.S. Re-Entry 

When traveling to and from the U.S., make sure that you have the following up-to-date documents with you upon re-entry:

  • Passport (valid at least 6 months into the future)
  • Valid Visa
  • DS-2019 with valid travel signature. Travel signatures are good for one year, or until the end of the program, whichever date is earlier.
  • Printed I-94
  • SEVIS fee receipt
  • UCSC Appointment Letter (recommended)
  • Financial Certification (recommended)

Renewing J-1 Visa

If you need to renew your exchange visitor visa, please anticipate delays.  "Security checks" can delay visa issuance by several weeks or months. Review renewal requirements at the consulate's website where you will apply for your visa.  In addition, review the source of your financial support on your DS-2019. If it's from UCSC, you must obtain an updated letter of support from your department detailing the amount and source of funds. If the funding is from personal or family funds, you will need to obtain a current bank statement showing that you have enough funds to cover expenses listed on the DS-2019 Form. 

It is not possible to renew your visa while in the United States. The J-1 visa is only needed when you are reentering the United States. Once you are in the United States, you do not need a valid J-1 visa to maintain legal status.

Automatic Visa Revalidation 

Under the automatic visa revalidation I-94 program, J-scholars holding expired visas may be admitted at a U.S. port of entry, if they meet certain requirements. General eligibility:

  • Travel can only be to Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island for less than 30 days
  • Previously issued valid I-94 cards must be in hand upon re-entry (valid cards are marked "J-1, D/S"). You can only participate in this program if you do NOT return your I-94 card to officials when you exit the United States. NOTE: Beginning mid-May 2013, U.S. Customs will be phasing out the issuance of I-94 cards at the port of entry. Scholars can access their I-94 printout here. Bring this printout when traveling.
  • Scholars cannot be a national of a country designated by the U.S. as a State Sponsor of Terrorism
  • Scholars cannot have applied for a visa which is pending issuance abroad
  • Scholars cannot have applied for a visa and have been denied while abroad
  • Scholars cannot have previous legal status issues

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4. Extensions 

J-1 scholars must work directly with their Department or Divisional Contact to initiate the extension request. It is best to begin this process with your Department or Divisional representative at least 2-3 months prior to your current program end date. ISSS must receive the extension request at least 1 month prior to your current program end date.


  • UCSC must be willing to offer an appointment
  • Extension period cannot extend beyond your EV limitation of stay
  • Original financial certification which meets minimum requirements ($1800/month for self, +$1000/month for spouse, +$500/month/child)
  • Passport valid at least 6 months into the future for self and each J-2 dependent
  • Insurance for extension period for self and each J-2 dependent (must be submitted to claim extension DS-2019 form)
  • Scholar cannot be approved for a Waiver of the 212(e) Home Residence Requirement

Extension Process:

Two to Three Months Before End Date  

  • At the request of your Departmental or Divisional contact, complete the DS-2019 Request
  • Your Division will initiate re-appointment paperwork upon receipt of the DS-2019 Request form
  • You must purchase extension insurance for yourself and your J-2 Dependents

1 Month Before End Date

  • ISSS receives extension request from Divisional Coordinator
  • ISSS processes extension request (10 Business Days)
  • ISSS emails scholar when extension DS-2019 is available and requests proof of insurance
  • Scholar submits insurance and is notified to pick-up DS-2019 in ISSS office
  • ISSS sends a copy of the extension DS-2019 form to the Division to continue your employment 

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5. Transfer out of UCSC 

J-1 scholars must contact the International Office of the prospective institution to learn about their transfer procedures. Please be mindful that the transfer DS-2019 form cannot be issued PRIOR to the effective transfer date; therefore, J-1 scholars will not receive their transfer DS-2019 until they check in at the new institution.

J-1 transfer out forms must be submitted to ISSS at least 30 days before the transfer date.


  • Must be in valid legal status
  • Must not have applied for, or previously received, a waiver of the 212(e)
  • Must be approved by the J-1 Scholar’s UCSC Department and Division  
  • Must submit written proof of sponsorship from the transferring institution  
  • Must be continuing with the same program objective
  • Must be continuing in the same J-1 category
  • The new institution must sponsor exchange visitors in your current category

Requesting Authorization

Submit the following documents to your UCSC J-1 Advisor

  1. Appointment letter from transferring institution
  2. J-1 Scholar Transfer Out Request Form with appropriate signatures

Travel While Transfer Pending

If the prospective scholar has plans to travel outside the United States before the transfer effective date, the International Scholar Advisor at the new institution should be contacted as soon as possible. There is a possibility that the transfer could be negatively affected if the scholar departs the U.S. before the transfer has been processed, resulting in difficulties for the scholar in re-entering the United States.

6. Program Completion 

J-1 scholars may depart the United States up to 30 days after the end date listed on their DS-2019 form. The grace period can only be used for domestic travel, and/or to prepare for and depart the United States. J-1 scholars cannot be employed during the grace period, nor can they depart the United States and return in J-status. If scholars depart the U.S. and return during their grace period, they must return in a different visa status (ie. visitor visa).

If scholars remain in the U.S. in J-status past their grace period, it is considered an immigration violation. 

Upon completion of the program and return to your home country, you may be subject to a 12-month bar, a 24-month bar or the 212(e) 2-year foreign residence requirement.  More information regarding these restrictions can be found here.

If you will be completing your program early, please contact the J-1 Scholar Advisor.

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