What is the difference between F-1 and J-1 Student Status?

The chief academic difference is that the J-1 provides for certain nondegree or nonenrolled educational programs not easily available to the F-1 category.

The chief administrative and sponsorship difference is that most students who are totally funded by personal or family funds are not eligible for the J-1, while no such restriction exists for the F-1.

Both employ the concept of "duration of status," which permits minimal administrative interruption in the academic program.

Both provide for employment 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. F-1 optional practical training (OPT) is limited to 12 months, but curricular practical training (CPT) offers additional opportunities for pre-completion employment related to the curriculum and no job offer is required for the awarding of post-completion OPT.

In general, F-1 procedures are more complex and involve applications to the USCIS.

The J regulations require all exchange visitors and their dependents to carry health insurance; the F regulations do not specifically require F nonimmigrants to carry health insurance.

J-2 dependents can apply for work authorization, F-2 dependents cannot.

The J category may subject the participant to a two-year home country physical presence requirement. The F-1 does not.

What are my options on housing?

Whether you want to live in a residence hall, a house, an apartment, or a town home, it is important to reserve housing prior to your arrival in the United States.

As an undergraduate student, you must live on campus. Under rare situations, you may receive permission to live off-campus. As part of your pre-arrival checklist, you should review the types of student residences available, look at them from a student’s perspective, and then apply for housing. We strongly urge you live on-campus, since the dormitories (hostel, residence halls) provide the convenience of walking to everything you need and being within minutes of classrooms, dining rooms, the library, etc.

As a graduate student or visiting scholar you may wish to live off-campus. Louisville is a beautiful city, with Bellarmine University located in one of the safest neighborhoods, called the Highlands. Use your search engine to find “homes and apartments in the highlands near Bellarmine."

What is the meaning of “Substantial” when determining the source of funding for J-1 students?

Substantial in this instance means at least 51% of the funding for J-1 students must come from other than personal and family funds.

What do I do if I am going to finish my program earlier than the date reflected on my DS-2019/I-20?

As you continue to pursue your studies, you may find you will finish all the requirements for your program earlier than expected. In this instance, you need to contact International Services and advise them so your I-20/DS-2019 can be updated and amended to reflect the actual date end of your program. There are several reasons you will want to conform to this rule (e.g. travel problems, issues regarding OPT work, etc.), so please schedule an appointment to ensure you remain in status for your visa.

I need more time. How do I extend my I-20?

You should become familiar with the “expiration” date, or program end date, of your I-20. If you will not complete your program before the program end date listed on your I-20, then you should request an I-20 extension. To do this, you must turn in the Extension of I-20 form appropriate for your level of study ON OR BEFORE the program end date on the I-20. You may request an extension several months or even a semester before your program end date. In fact, it is especially important for graduate students to apply early for an extension, as it can take several weeks to obtain the required signatures.

If you turn in the request form any time after this, you are out of status. In this case, your SEVIS record will be terminated and you must resume your student immigration status with a new SEVIS record / new I-20 and pay the SEVIS I-901 fee again.

Your academic or thesis advisor must fill out the bottom part of the form for you. The advisor needs to state the reason for the extension. Then you will submit the form to the Designated School Official in the International Student & Scholar Services.

Unfortunately, not all students qualify for an I-20 extension. The federal government says that our office can only give you an I-20 extension if something happened which was out of your control. We cannot give an extension if you are not making academic progress in your degree, or if you made poor decisions.

Here are some common examples of times when we may be able to give an I-20 extension:

  • You changed your major
  • You added a second major
  • You were not given enough time to complete the program on the first I-20
  • You did one semester of full-time CPT
  • You are working on a thesis, dissertation, or final project and something happened to delay the completion of the work  
  • You took fewer or no classes due to a medical reason with approval from OIP
  • You were outside the U.S. for one semester and are behind in your classes

This list does not include every student’s situation. Each student’s extension request will be given careful consideration.

I want to travel outside the United States. What do I need to know?

If you are thinking of leaving the U.S., even for a few hours, there are some things you should know.

Before you leave the country, make sure you have a valid travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019. It is always a good idea to check-in with International Student & Scholar Services before you intend to travel to see if there is anything new with regard to travel regulations.

Make sure your I-20 or DS-2019 reflects your current status and will not expire while you are out of the country.

If you are traveling to a country other than your home country, you may need a visitor’s or transit visa. To find out, visit the State Department's site for Contact Information for Foreign Embassies and search for the consular section nearest you.

F-1 students are generally given visas that have either multiple entries, or a limited number of entries (usually 1 or 2, in this case). The visas also have a specific period of validity. The difference between these can be confusing, especially to the visa holders. The number of entries refers to how often the visa may be used to enter the U.S. The period of validity refers to the length of time the visa is usable for entry to the U.S.

When an F visa holder is admitted to the U.S., it is almost always as D/S (duration of status), which can be seen on the I-94 and I-20, when they are stamped. Under very specific conditions, visa holders with D/S are allowed to use their F-1 visa even after it has expired, to re-enter the U.S. This provision is known as automatic visa revalidation, and it has no official limit of duration.

  • The travel may take place only to Mexico, Canada and the neighboring Caribbean islands (except Cuba)
  • The passport must still be valid (in some cases, for at least 6 months after your date of reentry)
  • The I-20 and status must still be valid
  • The visa holder must retain the I-94 card upon departure, so it can be presented upon return
  • The time spent outside the U.S. must not exceed 30 days

Currently, citizens of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation.

REMEMBER: The automatic revalidation does NOT work for travel to countries other than the ones mentioned above. If you have an expired student visa and attempt to board a flight to the U.S. from a country other than those mentioned above, you will not be allowed to board the flight & therefore be put in a difficult situation.

What are my employment options while I am in the United States?

Firstly, you must receive authorization from Bellarmine International Student and Scholar Services for ANY employment while in the United States.

Can I volunteer my time while I am in the United States?

Yes. Volunteering refers to donating your time to a group or organization whose primary purpose is charitable or humanitarian in nature AND you do this without expectation of being paid.

To be considered a volunteer, the work performed by the individual must meet the following criteria:

  • No expectation of compensation
  • You are not replacing a paid employee or are volunteering with the expectation of employment
  • Services are performed for a non-profit organization for public service, religious or humanitarian objective

Work for a for-profit entity (e.g. a company) is generally considered employment.

If you wish to volunteer and have questions about it, stop by Bellarmine International Student and Scholar Services and we will be happy to help.

Will CPT affect my OPT eligibility on graduation?

You may use an unlimited amount of part-time CPT and it will not affect your OPT. However, if you use 12 months or more of full-time CPT you will lose your right to OPT.

Can I stay in the United States if my F-1 student visa has expired?

Yes, as long as you are maintaining your status, you may legally remain. However, if you leave the United States, you must renew your student visa in order to return.

Can I travel outside the United States while my OPT request is pending?

At this time, the regulations are unclear on this issue, therefore, until further clarification is made, Bellarmine strongly recommends you do not travel outside the United States while your request is pending and you have not yet received your EAD. Once you have received your EAD, you may leave and reenter the United States.

What is the Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement for J-1 visa holders or INA 212(e)?

INA 212(e) makes certain J visa participants ineligible for an H, L, or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status until they have returned to and been physically present in their last country of citizenship or permanent residence for a minimum of two years after completion of their J exchange programs. This means that a person in either J-1 or J-2 (dependent) status subject to 212(e) cannot reenter the U.S. in H, L, or immigrant ("green card") status until the two-year requirement has been fulfilled. Furthermore these persons cannot change to another visa class while in the U.S., other than A or G, without first fulfilling this requirement. INA 212(e) does not affect eligibility for other visa classes such as a B tourist, an F student, or an O outstanding scholar. Nor does it prevent a person from entering again in J status. It only prohibits H, L, or LPR. For example, a person subject to 212(e) may leave the U.S. and return in F status to pursue a course of study. However, the F-1 remains subject to 212(e) and remains ineligible for an H, L, or LPR visa.

Can I get a Kentucky Driver’s License?

In the United States, the state governments issue the licenses to drive a vehicle. These state licenses are valid throughout all the states and in many countries for a period of time. Both F-1 and J-1 student visa holders are permitted to apply for and receive a Kentucky Driver’s License.

If you have an International Permit or a full, valid driver’s license from your home country you may use this license for up to one year from the date of admission to the U.S. provided your country is part of the Foreign License Reciprocity Agreement. If your license is from a country other than one that is part of that agreement, you will need to get a Kentucky license. Additionally if the license from your home country is not in English, then you need to get it translated and have this translation notarized.

If you have never driven before, or have little experience driving, then I would highly suggest that you contact a driving school to get instructions and a great deal of practice. There are numerous driving schools in the area.

For all other students who want to get a Kentucky driver’s license you must present all of your immigration documents to a Division of Driver Licensing office as well as supporting documents. These documents include:

  • Passport
  • I-94
  • I-20 or DS-2019
  • Employment Authorization Card (EAD) if you have approved OPT
  • Social Security Card, tax ID number or ineligibility letter from the Social Security Administration (601 W. Broadway, Louisville, KY 40202 or 1-866-716-9671)
  • Proof of address, such as a recent bill that shows your address
  • A completed INS School Compliance Form
  • A completed Non-US Citizen Application

Applications can be processed at the Buechel Station Shopping Center at 4109 Bardstown Road, Unit 105, Louisville, KY 40218 from 8:15 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Their phone number is 502-493-1477.

If this is your first time applying for a Kentucky driver’s license you will need to take a written and driving test. To study for the test download the Kentucky drivers manual here. This also includes contact numbers to schedule a driving test.

For more information please go to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet website.

Don’t forget that it is required by law that you have car insurance before driving or purchasing a vehicle.

How do I get a Social Security Number so I can work?

Both F-1 and J-1 student visa holders are eligible to receive a Social Security Number (SSN) to work in the U.S. This card is provided by the Federal Government’s Social Security Administration. Once you arrive on campus, we will help you obtain your SSN. For a preview of the process, go to the Forms section and download the SSN Letter for your visa category.

It is important to note, your Social Security Number is valid for your lifetime. Keep it in a safe place and do not carry it around with you. In the United States, this is the number used for credit and identity checks. For that reason, you should be very cautious about giving this number out to anyone without a good reason. Clear instances when you will be required to provide your SSN would be to your new employer and when filing your tax return with the IRS. In other situations, it is not impolite to ask why your social security number is required and what protections will be used to keep it safe. For more information, click here.

How do I open a Bank Account in the United States?

A bank account is a good idea in order to safeguard your valuables and facilitate transfer of money since exchange rate charges can be expensive. Banks in the United States offer checking and savings accounts, which you can access with a debit card they will issue to you. Normally, it will act as a MasterCard or Visa credit card when you shop (the exception is you have to have the money in your account for the card to work). The banks also offer the best rates for currency exchange and have safe-deposit boxes for rent.

Each bank has slightly different rules, policies, and benefits. Make sure you understand the charges, fees, and other costs associated with the account. Normally, to open a bank account you will need:

  1. Your passport
  2. Your I-20 or DS-2019
  3. I-94 or Social Security Card (if available)
  4. Student ID

Nearby Banks
All banks offer similar services with minor differences in such areas as interest earned, types of accounts, and fees charged for services. You may wish to investigate these differences before selecting a bank.

PNC Bank
2901Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40205
(502) 212-6100

Fifth Third Bank (ATMs are available on-campus)
A Fifth Third Bank ATM is located on the ground floor of the Campus Center in Horrigan Hall outside the Bookstore. Another ATM is available in the foyer outside the UDH (University Dining Hall) entrance.

2000 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40205
(502) 456-5669

Transportation options: how do I get around?

Bellarmine University has a shuttle bus service for international students that is available on the weekends to take you to the local department and grocery stores. In addition, there is city bus and taxi service convenient to the campus. Uber and Lyft are also options available in Louisville.

If you feel energetic, Bellarmine has created a Rent-a-bike program that is free to all students. All you need is to provide your Student ID and you are good to go. Lastly, Bellarmine is located near Bardstown Road, which is a gathering place for the Louisville community, with many restaurants, cafes, and shops in walking distance from the campus. Google Bellarmine and look how close it is to Bardstown Road; then execute a street view to see the eclectic collection of stores and shops from that perspective.

What are the grace periods for an F-1 and J-1 visa?

Both the F-1 and J-1 visas allow you to enter the United States up to 30 days prior to the initial start of your program, as indicated on your I-20/DS-2019. At the end of your program (as indicated on your form), J-1 visa holders have 30 days to depart the United States. F-1 visa holders have 60 days to depart. Both F-1 and J-1 visa holders must leave the country within 15 days if they are approved for early withdrawal from their program of studies.

Many students use this grace period to travel in the United States prior to leaving. Please be careful and do not attempt to take a day trip and cross the border into Mexico or Canada during this time frame. You will not be allowed back into the United States since your I-20/DS-2019 will indicate your program has ended. In addition, please be careful about overstaying your time in the United States. It may affect your ability to obtain a visa in the future.

What documents do I need for my visa interview at the U.S. consulate?

  • I-20 or DS-2019 (Issued by Bellarmine University)
  • Evidence of financial ability to meet expenses  
  • Evidence of English ability sufficient for course of study  
  • Evidence of intent to depart the U.S. after completion of studies (remember, both F and J visas are considered “non-immigrant visas”)
  • Passport valid for at least 6 months  
  • Photograph (check with embassy for specific dimensions)
  • SEVIS Fee payment proof - Current SEVIS Fee Information

I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
Upon your arrival at Bellarmine, you will check-in with the International Office and supply a copy of your I-94 and visa. The I-94 can be electronically created and downloaded from here.

What documents do I need to have in my hands at the port of entry into the United States?

When making your travel plans, please be aware that F-1 and J-1 visa holders entering the U.S. for a new program may not enter the U.S. earlier than 30 days before the start date of the I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1) document.

Students or visiting researchers/faculty who are either continuing an on-going program or transferring from another U.S. school to Bellarmine are not subject to the 30-day arrival limit.

When traveling, carry documents in carry-on luggage with you. Passport Control occurs prior to luggage claim and Customs Control. You will not have access to your checked luggage.

Required Documents
Be prepared to present the following documents:

  • Passport (valid for at least 6 months into the future)
  • Valid nonimmigrant visa (F-1 or J-1)
  • Original form I-20 or DS-2019
  • Evidence of financial resources (the same documents you had for your interview)
  • Proof of Bellarmine University admission (new students) or enrollment (current students)

I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
Upon your arrival at Bellarmine, you will check-in with the International Office. At that time you will supply a copy of your I-94. In the past, this document was stapled into your passport near the visa. Now, it is electronically created and can be downloaded from here.