Understanding F-1 and J-1 Visas

When coming to the United States, there are a variety of immigration statuses available. F-1 and J-1 statuses are recognized as full-time students.

When applying for immigration sponsorship through UC Santa Cruz, you have the option of applying for F-1 or J-1 status. Both statuses allow you to study, as well as on-campus and some off-campus work.

Eligibility for F-1 and J-1 Status

  • F-1 Visa: You must be accepted into a full-time program of study, meet the English requirement, and be able to demonstrate proof of funds for at least the first year of study to be eligible for an I-20 and F-1 visa.
  • J-1 Visa: You may be eligible for the DS-2019 form and J-1 student visa if you have outside support (e.g., a scholarship, grant, government, or other), or if you are coming for short-term exchange programs.
    • Funding from outside sources should cover at least half of the cost of tuition.

Comparing F-1 and J-1

Enter 30 days before program start dateEnter 30 days before program start date
60-day grace period at end of program30-day grace period at end of program
Immediately eligible for up to 20 hours/week of on-campus work authorization; unlimited on-campus work authorization on breaks while remaining in F-1 status

F-1 students do not need written authorization for on-campus employment
Immediately eligible for up to 20 hours/week of on-campus work authorization; unlimited on-campus work authorization on breaks while remaining in J-1 status

J-1 students must have authorization from their J-1 program sponsor for on-campus employment
Spouses in F-2 status may study for recreational purposes (i.e. cooking classes, language classes, ect.) or part-time in a degree program but may not work.Spouses in J-2 status can study, and are also eligible for work authorization with application to immigration service
No home residency requirement.May be subject to 2 year home residency requirement
Main types of off-campus work authorization: 1) Optional Practical Training (OPT). Eligible after completion of one year of study for up to 12 months per educational level of full-time off-campus work authorization related to program of study. Can be used either during or after program of study. Requires application to immigration service; processing takes 3-4 months and requires a fee. Exchange students not eligible. Does not require a job offer, so you can use it after graduation to look for a job. 24-Month STEM Extension: Those who will complete a degree in USCIS-approved STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) field, may be eligible for the 24-month STEM extension, after completing 12 months of regular OPT.  2) Curricular Practical Training: CPT may be authorized when the employment/internship is required by the degree program or when the student receives course credit for the employment/internship.Main type of off-campus work authorization: Academic Training (AT). Eligible for off-campus work authorization related to program of study up to 18 months for bachelor’s and master’s students or length of academic program whichever is shorter, up to 3 years for doctoral students. Exchange students can be eligible for AT corresponding to the amount of time in program (i.e. 90 days study = 90 days AT eligibility). Authorized through OIA without application to immigration service or fee. Requires a job offer, so you must have a job lined up before graduation.

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Last modified: Jun 09, 2023