Legal Status

International scholars on J-1 visas are required by United States law to abide by immigration regulations throughout their stay in the US. Generally, J-1 scholars are admitted to the U.S. for the sole purpose of conducting research or teaching at the host institution. Participation by scholars in any other activity is considered to be a privilege and is only allowable in accordance with strict Department of State (DOS) and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) rules. Penalties for violations of immigration law are potentially severe and may include deportation and 10-year bars from reentry to the U.S., therefore, scholars must understand their responsibilities.

Documents Required



  • Must  be valid for 6 months into the future upon your entry into the US, to work in the US and should remain valid at all times during your stay.
  • If you have been issued a Travel Document in Lieu of a Passport by the government of the country of which you are a resident, the information above, regarding passports, applies to Travel Documents.


DS-2019 - "Certificate of Eligibility”

  • To enter the US and each time you travel abroad and return, you must present your DS-2019 to the immigration officials.
  • You should keep these and any other immigration documents for your records even if you get new ones in the future.

NOTE: If any of the information on these documents changes, you MUST come to GEO immediately to apply for a new document.  Once again, the expiration date on the DS-2019 is just an estimate. As a J-1 scholar, your permission to stay ends within 30 days of completion of your employment. If you fail to follow all the rules of legal scholar status, your stay expires on the day the violation of status occurs.


I-94 Departure Record

  • This is the document that authorizes you to be in the US as a scholar for a specified period of time, for a specified program, at the institution specified on the DS-2019.
  • Formerly the I-94 was given to you at the Port of Entry to the US.
  • In addition to your class of admission (J-1), the paper I-94 contains the date of entrance into the US and the date of expiration of your permission to stay.
  • For J-1 visa holders, the expiration date should be written as D/S (duration of status), which implies the date of program completion.
  • The I-94 must be presented when applying for a Social Security Number and a driver’s license or state ID. Each time you re-enter the US, you should print a new I-94. Click here to download and print your I-94.

NOTE: Once again, if you fail to follow all the rules of legal student status, your stay expires on the day the violation occurs, even if your I-94 and I-20 or DS-2019 are still valid.


Entry visa

  • Only Canadian citizens do not need a visa to enter the US.
  • You must present a valid SEVIS form I-20 or DS-2019 from the school you will attend to the US Consular officer to obtain your entry visa.
  • The visa may expire while you are in the US; you cannot and need not renew it while you are here; however, a new entry visa will be required if the original expires and you travel out of the US and then wish to re-enter.
  • You may be able to travel to and return from Canada, Mexico, and adjacent islands (except Cuba) without a valid visa if you will be staying less than 30 days (check with an advisor for current regulations).

NOTE: The visa does not indicate how long you are permitted to stay in the US. Your permission to stay ends once you complete your appointment (plus grace period of 30 days) or when you fail to “maintain legal status.”


Rules for Status


  • Conduct research/teaching only at the institution at which you are authorized to work by the Department of State (DOS) - Usually the institution that issues the DS-2019 form.

  • Provide GEO with an updated local address within 10 days of any change.

  • Maintain adequate health insurance for yourself and all of your dependents throughout your stay in the US.

  • Inform GEO of a correct email for your dependents and report if your dependents permanently leave the US during your stay.

  • Keep your DS-2019 form correct and valid at all times and ask your department to apply for extensions of stay at least one month before the document expires if you plan to stay beyond the original end date; see an advisor for a new DS-2019 if any information changes.

  • Maintain a valid passport throughout your stay in the US; your passport must be valid for six months into the future. If you obtain a new passport during your program, you must bring the updated passport to GEO to be copied for our records.

  • Complete necessary "immigration transfer procedures" when changing from one institution to another in the US (you must meet with the international advisor before you can transfer to a new institution).

  • If you will not be extending your program, inform GEO of the completion of your appointment. Within 30 days of completion you must:

    1. Leave the US,

    2. Get a new DS-2019 form from a new institution and complete transfer procedures, or

    3. Apply for a change to another immigration status with the USCIS.



  • Work for an institution other than the one listed on your DS-2019 unless you have received the required written authorization from a GEO international advisor in advance (consult the international advisor for details).

  • Terminate your program early or take a leave of absence of more than 5 months without informing GEO; scholars who terminate their program more than two weeks before the end date on their DS-2019 must inform GEO and then depart the US within 30 days.

Other Legal Requirements

  • Once you have completed or terminated your program, or have failed to “maintain legal student status,” you can no longer legally enter the U.S. with your DS-2019 form and GEO advisors can no longer sign your form (this means that you should NOT plan to travel out of and return to the U.S. with your current DS-2019 after you have finished your program).

  • All international scholars are required to complete and submit U.S. tax forms to the federal government for every year that they were present in the U.S., regardless of whether or not they earned any income.

  • All scholars are required to have health insurance that covers them (any their dependents, if applicable) during their stay. See your welcome letter, the health insurance section of this website, or speak to an advisor for details. 

Extending Documents

Keep your "certificate of eligibility" (DS-2019 form) correct and valid at all times and apply for extensions of stay at least one month before the document expires.

  • Current international scholars who wish to extend their J-1 program at UNM ( or affiliates) need to contact the J-1 scholar coordinator in their department in order to have their DS-2019 document extended.

  • The J-1 scholar coordinator will submit necessary forms regarding your extension request to GEO. Upon receiving the forms, GEO will process the extension request and issue a new DS-2019 document if the scholar is eligible for an extension of his/her J-1 program.

  • Once the new DS-2019 is issued, the scholar's J-1 program will be extended until the new date specified in the document.

  • The scholar will not need to leave the U.S. and re-enter or apply with USCIS in order to extend his/her J-1 program. However, if the scholar wishes to leave the U.S. and his/her J-1 visa has expired, he/she will need to obtain a new J-1 visa in order to re-enter in J-1 status. Please refer to the Travel and Visa Information link regarding specific requirements.

REMEMBER! Keep all DS-2019s given to you during your stay.
You may need them if you apply for any future immigration benefits!