Santa Clara University


F-1 or J-1: Which status is right for you?

What is an F-1 student?

An F-1 student is a nonimmigrant who is pursuing a "full course of study" to achieve a specific educational or professional objective, at an academic institution in the United States that has been designated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to offer courses of study to such students, and has been enrolled in SEVIS (the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). Once the educational or professional objectives have been attained, the F-1 student is expected by the U.S. government to return to his or her residence abroad. F-1 is the most common visa status used by students in the U.S. and best fits a student's situation. Most international students at Santa Clara University have F-1 status.


What is a J-1 student?

The J-1 visa is generally used for students in specific educational exchange programs.  It may also be used by the University for students in degree programs. Describing the purpose of the Exchange Visitor Program, Department of State regulations state that, "The purpose of the Program is to provide foreign nationals with opportunities to participate in educational and cultural programs in the United States and return home to share their experiences, and to encourage Americans to participate in educational and cultural programs in other countries." To be eligible for a J-1 visa, students must receive a majority of their financial support from sources other than personal funds. 


Comparison between F-1 and J-1:

  •  The chief academic difference is that the J-1 provides for certain non-degree or non-enrolled educational programs not easily available to the F-1 category.
  • The chief administrative difference is that most students who are totally funded by personal or family funds are not eligible for the J-1, while no such restrictions exist for the F-1.
  • Both use the concept of "duration of status" (D/S), which permits students to stay in the USA for the duration of their program dates listed on the DS-2019 or I-20.
  • Both provide employment opportunities for scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, on-campus work, employment required by or related to the curriculum, and academic training (J-1) or practical training (F-1). Academic training for a J-1 is limited to 18 months (36 months for postdoctoral training) and requires a job offer. The post-graduate F-1 limit is 12 months, but there are additional opportunities for pre-completion employment related to the curriculum and no job offer is required for the awarding of post-completion practical training.
  • The F-1 does not carry a health insurance requirement (though it is a SCU policy for all F-1 students to hold health insurance). J-1 programs have required minimum health insurance coverage.
  • J-2 dependents are eligible to apply for work permission in the United States. F-2 dependents are not.
  • The J category may subject the participant to a potential two-year home country residency requirement. The F-1 does not.