U.S. Student Immigration Categories

This page references visa categories that are relevant to our current and admitted students. Some of the information here is specific to MIT policy and therefore may not apply to students attending other schools. For a complete list of non-immigrant visa types, please refer to the DOS website.

Please see content below regarding the following student visa types and basic key information concerning each visa type (scroll down to section or click on link below):

F-1 visa:

Academic Student – You may be (but are not required to be) funded entirely on personal/family funds. After entering on and being in F-1 status for 9 months or an academic year, students are eligible to apply for off-campus work permission. If your academic program is at least 12 months long, you are generally eligible for at least 12 months total of Optional Practical Training throughout the duration of your program (most students prefer to save this time to use for working in the U.S. after receiving their degree). If you use any of this time before graduation, then it is deducted from the 12 month total. You may be able to get another type of work permission that will not deduct from this time, but that generally depends on your individual situation. Full-time study is required during the academic year.

If you have completed the course of studies as described on the Form I-20 and any authorized practical training, you are allowed an additional 60 days in the U.S. to prepare for departure from the U.S. or to transfer to another school.

F-2 visa:

Spouse and/or children under the age of 21 who wish to accompany or join the primary student (F) visa holder in the U.S. for the duration of his/her stay require student dependent visas. F-2 dependents are not eligible to study full-time or work under any circumstances.

J-1 visa:

Exchange Visitor (Student category) – The majority of your funding must come from non-personal, non-family funds. Depending on your country of legal permanent residence, whether you receive government funding, and whether your field of study is on a “skills list”, you may be subject to a 2-year physical home presence or home residency requirement, which generally means you are required to return home for 2 years after completing your studies and work on the student visa. J-1 visa holders may be eligible for on-campus or off-campus employment during or after their program of study. Full-time study is required during the academic year.

After the period of time specified on your Form DS-2019 has completed, you also have a period of 30 days for domestic travel and/or to prepare for and depart from the U.S.

Required Health Insurance – All J-1 visa holders in the U.S. must purchase sickness and accident insurance for themselves and their dependents (J-2 status) for the duration of their stay which meets U.S. federal requirements [22 CFR 62.14]. New coverage requirements go into effect for any J-1 visa holder present on or after May 15, 2015. The minimum requirements include:

(a) Medical benefits of at least US$100,000 per accident or illness;

(b) Repatriation of remains in the amount of US$25,000;

(c) Expenses for medical evacuation of the visitor to his/her home country in the amount of US$50,000;

(d) A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.

Coverage that includes costs associated with pregnancy are also strongly recommended.

Additional information about the J-1 visa (Exchange Visitor Program) is available on the U.S. Department of State website, including the Exchange Visitor Program Welcome Brochure.

J-2 visa:

Spouses and/or children under the age of 21 who wish to accompany or join the principal (or primary) exchange visitor (J) visa holder in the U.S. for the duration of his/her stay require exchange visitor visas.

Work – The spouse and/or children of an exchange visitor in the U.S. may not work in J-2 status, unless they have filed Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and has received approval of the application for permission to work [in the form of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card from USCIS].

Study – The spouse and/or children of an exchange visitor visa holder who are in the U.S. on an exchange visitor visa may study in the U.S.

J Exchange Visitor Two-Year Home Residence Requirement [Sec. 212(e) of INA]

Many J-1 visa holders, and their J-2 visa dependents, may be subject to the J Exchange Visitor Visa Two-Year Home Residence Requirement [Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act], where the individuals would need to return to their home country/country of legal permanent residence prior to coming to MIT in J visa status for two-years after completion of their J visa stay in the US before being eligible for certain immigration benefits in the US.

A J visa holder may be subject to the Two-Year Home Residence Requirement if:

  • received any Government funding (U.S. Government or foreign government) towards their stay in the U.S. in J status; or
  • their home country/country of legal permanent residence, and field of study/activity in the US appears on the Exchange Visitor Skills List; or
  • the purpose of the J visa stay in the US was to participate in a graduate medical training or education.

If the J visa holder is subject to the Two-Year Home Residence Requirement, it prevents the individual from the following unless they have returned to their country of permanent residence for at least two years following completion of their J visa stay in the US or obtained a Waiver of the requirement from the U.S. Department of State:

  • Change visa status in the US  except to A (diplomatic/foreign government officials), G (representatives to international organizations), or U (victims of certain crimes) visa statuses; or
  • Obtain H (temporary specialty worker), L (intracompany transferee), or K (fiancé/spouse of U.S. citizens) visa status; or
  • Obtain U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident (Green Card) status.

The U.S. Department of State makes the determination at time of visa issuance at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate, and as such a notification is made on both the J entry visa obtained from the U.S. Embassy/Consulate and on the Form DS-2019.

If you have specific questions about your J status and the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement, and MIT is your J-1 Exchange Visitor Program sponsor (issued your Form DS-2019), please feel free to contact your ISO Advisor. If your J Exchange Visitor Program sponsor is not MIT, please contact your Sponsor directly (as listed in Box #7 of the Form DS-2019) with any questions about the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement as it relates to your J status.

For more details on the J Exchange Visitor Two-Year Home Residency Requirement, please consult the following resources: