Students must NOT pursue any off-campus employment without proper authorization. Authorization must be received BEFORE beginning any off-campus work, internship, or related employment activity. Pursuing off-campus employment activity without proper authorization could jeopardize the ability to complete your MIT academic program and any future US visas.
The US Department of State Exchange Visitor Program regulations allow J-1 student visa holders to apply for Academic Training (AT) before and/or after completion of their program of studies.
At MIT, only students pursuing a degree are allowed to apply for Academic Training. It is recommended that they pursue a period of academic training after they have been in lawful, full-time student status for one full academic year. An exception will be made for students whose RA work requires them to pursue an AT at a location off campus in order to fulfill their RA obligation.
The cumulative period of Academic Training is 18 months, unless the student is pursuing a program that requires fewer than 18 months, in which case the period of Academic Training is shortened accordingly. The period of Academic Training cannot be longer than the period of time the student takes to complete his/her program of studies. For example, a student who completes a Master’s degree in one academic year (10 months) is allowed only 10 months of Academic Training authorization.
Students who complete a Ph.D. program may be eligible for an additional 18 months of Academic Training authorization for post-doctoral training opportunities after completion of degree (for a total maximum of Academic Training based on the Ph.D. degree equal to 36 months).
Important Highlights about Academic Training
- Only students pursuing a full-time degree at MIT may apply for academic training. Students should have completed one full academic year before pursuing a period of AT.
- The total cumulative period of Academic Training is generally 18 months. (See exceptions listed above.) This includes the period of AT authorization both before and after completion of program.
- Ph.D. students may be eligible for an additional 18 months of AT authorization after completion of degree (for a total maximum of 36 months).
- An employment offer is required to apply for AT.
- The employment opportunity must be directly related to the student's major field of study.
- All AT authorizations require the support/approval of your academic program and/or academic/thesis advisor.
- Authorization requests take 2 weeks to process. Graduating students should generally apply before they finish their program, up to 15 days after completion.
Frequenty Asked Questions (FAQ)
Below are some common questions that students ask about J-1 Academic Training, followed by general answers to those questions. Following the FAQ is an explanation of how to apply for Academic Training. If you are a J-1 MIT student and would like further information about Academic Training, please come to the MIT International Students Office and make an appointment to speak with an International Student Advisor.
Q. Who qualifies for Academic Training?
A. Students who are degree candidates and in good academic standing can apply for Academic Training before completion of studies. Students who have completed all of their requirements, including thesis, are eligible to apply for post-completion Academic Training.
Q. How soon into an academic program are students eligible to obtain Academic Training authorization?
A. J-1 visa regulations do not specify how long in an academic program a student must be enrolled before being eligible to apply for J-1 Academic Training. Eligibility is dependent upon the student's academic program as to when the program will support a student pursuing an internship or other off-campus experience directly related to their program of study (whether that be a required experience for the academic program, or an elective experience desired by the student). Academic programs at MIT generally require a student complete at least one academic year (2 terms -- Fall and Spring) before being eligible for Academic Training authorization. Some programs that have required internships may allow for earlier pursuit of an off-campus experience. From a visa status perspective, the expectation is that a student must complete at least one academic term in their degree program, to have background in their field of study, before being eligible to apply for Academic Training. Please consult with your academic department administrator and your ISO Advisor if you have any questions about J-1 status and pursuing internship/experiential learning opportunities.
Q. How many hours can students work?
A. J-1 Academic Training can be authorized for Full-time employment during vacation periods (Summer Vacation), and up to 20 hours per week maximum when school is in session (Fall and Spring semesters). All authorizations require the support/approval of your academic program and must be directly related to your field of study and furthering your specific academic experience.
Q. Is the period of Academic Training used during the summer subtracted from the 18 months total?
A. Yes. Any period of pre-completion Academic Training is subtracted from the total of 18 months (or fewer, depending on the length of the program).
Q. Is there a deadline for applying for post-completion Academic Training?
A. Yes. Students have only 30 days after completion of their program of studies to begin their Academic Training. For post-degree completion Academic Training, the activity or internship experience start date must be within 30 days of the program completion date at MIT. Since applying and receiving authorization takes up to two weeks, it is recommended that you apply for AT well in advance of the 30 days.
Q. Is there any way to extend the deadline, if students are late with the application?
A. Unfortunately no, because the 30-day deadline is specified in federal regulations.
Q. Do students need to have a job offer before applying for Academic Training?
A. Yes. Students must have a specific job offer, so that their academic advisor is able to write a detailed letter of recommendation.
Q. How long does it take to receive authorization for Academic Training?
A. Academic Training authorization will be granted to students within two weeks of the date of their AT application submission to the ISO, provided the International Student Advisor has all the necessary information.
Please note: If MIT is not your J-1 program sponsor, the ISO cannot authorize Academic Training for you. You must contact your J-1 visa program sponsor (who issued your Form DS-2019) to confirm if you are eligible for Academic Training authorization and the procedures to complete with your sponsor to secure the Academic Training authorization.
How to Apply
Students should complete the checklist below and submit the entire application to the ISO to request authorization for academic training. Please note that processing time is approximately 10 business days or 2 calendar weeks.
- Complete the J-1 Academic Training Worksheet
- For post-completion academic training, prepare a check or money order for $150 payable to "MIT" for the initial period of up to 18 months, or $200 for a requested period over 18 months of post-doctoral academic training.
- Previous DS-2019 forms
- Copy of current Form I-94 arrival record
- Copy of passport identity pages (including full name, photo, date of birth, passport number, passport issue and expiration dates)
- Copy of current J-1 visa from passport issued by U.S. Consulate abroad (visa can be valid or expired)
- Previous academic training authorizations
- copy of official job/internship offer letter (not email) from host company/organization/institution for which the Academic Training authorization is being requested; be sure the letter includes details of position title, location/address of activity, dates of activity, outline of position duties, name/phone number/email of supervisor
- A detailed letter of recommendation from their academic advisor The letter, typed on departmental letterhead, MUST include the following five points:
- Student's Academic Standing:
(a) the student is in good academic standing (for prior to completion of degree) or the student's date of completion of program, including thesis (for after completion of degree), and
(b) that the Academic Training is directly related to his/her field of study.
- Specific goals and objectives of the Academic Training
- Description of the Academic Training, including the company or organization’s street address, name and address of the training supervisor, number of hours per week, and dates of employment
- Explanation of how the Academic Training relates to the student’s major field of study
- Why the Academic Training is an integral or critical part of the student’s academic program
- Student's Academic Standing:
- During the duration of your studies, as well as your Academic Training period, you are required to inform both the ISO and the US government of any address change — temporary or otherwise — within 10 days. You may inform the ISO by updating your address on WEBSIS. If you no longer have access to WEBSIS, send an email to ISO with your new address. Failure to report an address change in a timely manner could result in loss of your Academic Training authorization and, possibly, loss of your legal status in the United States.
- As an international student at MIT, you are responsible for maintaining your own legal status. This means you must ensure that you are registered full-time every semester, and that the validity of your immigration documents does not expire. Be certain to report any changes in your academic level, funding, and/or completion of studies date within a timely manner to the ISO. If you allow the date on your DS-2019 to expire, you will fall out of legal status and may suffer serious consequences.