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Hi guys,

As you've been super helpful in the past, I figured I'd put this Q to you as well. I have read the official websites, but am still not 100% clear what the main differences are. I believe I might qualify for both statuses, so which one should I choose? I do not have any dependents who would want to find work, and my financial package includes money from my home country, fellowship money from the US, as well as a TAship, with the possibility of RAships in addition.

Thanks in advance,

IRToni

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Here are some other threads about this question, to get you started. One question you should figure out is whether or not you'd be subject to the two-year rule in case you choose the J-1 (this requires students who were on the J-1 visa to return to their home countries for two years after their visa expires). This depends on the source of your funding, and although it's hard to plan it could limit your career choices in ways that it may be better to avoid. Other than that, there are some minor differences but for unmarried students I'm not sure I know of any major differences. FWIW I chose the F-1 and haven't had any issues with it.

 

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The main advantage of J-1 status is that your dependent can find work, which you say is not the case. There is really no other advantage to be on J-1 and as fuzzy pointed out, potentially even disadvantages too. Usually receiving money from the government will subject you to the 2 year home residency requirement if you are on J-1 (but not if you receive the same money on F-1).
 
The 2 year home residency requirement is a negative for sure--why subject yourself to it when you don't have to? However, I don't think it's that bad--in many cases, the advantages of having a dependent work is far better than having to go home for 2 years before immigrating to the US (I would say it is only bad if both 1) you want to work in the US forever and 2) you will have zero opportunities at home)

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However, I don't think it's that bad--in many cases, the advantages of having a dependent work is far better than having to go home for 2 years before immigrating to the US (I would say it is only bad if both 1) you want to work in the US forever and 2) you will have zero opportunities at home)

 

Well it really kind of depends where 'home' is and what the job opportunities are like there. 

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Well it really kind of depends where 'home' is and what the job opportunities are like there. 

 

Right, which was why I tried to qualify my statement with both of those conditions! The two-year home residency requirement is not that the student must return home for 2 years after their PhD (and OPT) is complete. The requirement is that the graduate must physically reside in their home country for a total period of 2 years before they can get an immigration class visa/status for the US.

 

So, as long as I never plan to immigrate to the US, I do not have to return to Canada at all if I don't want to. In STEM fields, OPT after your PhD on J-1 can last up to 3 years so you can still do your first postdoc in the US. The way I understand the 2 year requirement (but no experience with this yet) is that postdocs on J-1 status are not on immigration class visas so you can do multiple postdocs in the US anyways. And finally, there are ways to apply for a waiver for this requirement. 

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Right, which was why I tried to qualify my statement with both of those conditions! The two-year home residency requirement is not that the student must return home for 2 years after their PhD (and OPT) is complete. The requirement is that the graduate must physically reside in their home country for a total period of 2 years before they can get an immigration class visa/status for the US.

 

So, as long as I never plan to immigrate to the US, I do not have to return to Canada at all if I don't want to. In STEM fields, OPT after your PhD on J-1 can last up to 3 years so you can still do your first postdoc in the US. The way I understand the 2 year requirement (but no experience with this yet) is that postdocs on J-1 status are not on immigration class visas so you can do multiple postdocs in the US anyways. And finally, there are ways to apply for a waiver for this requirement. 

 

Yes, it's also my understanding that you can continue to be on a J-1 visa for several years after you graduate with your PhD, either on OPT or as a postdoc. What you can't do is switch to an immigration class visa and/or apply for a green card. I know there is a waiver you can apply for, but I've heard it's very hard to get (at least for some forms of funding). If you know you want to return to your home country or get a job in a third country after your PhD, there is no problem. But for anyone who wants to have the option of obtaining a TT (or other permanent) job in the US after their PhD/postdoc, this is something to keep in mind.

 

As someone who didn't really know for sure at the time, the F seemed safer than the J because it didn't have this potential complication and since I didn't have a spouse it wasn't a problem. If I had had a spouse, I would have probably chosen the J because my SO's happiness for the duration of my 5-6 year degree is more important than a potential job much later down the line. In this case the OP doesn't have a spouse, so I think the F is safer. However, even after 5 years in the US I'm still not sure what the differences between the F and J are (for single people) so there may be other reasons I'm not aware of to prefer the J over the F.

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Yes, it's also my understanding that you can continue to be on a J-1 visa for several years after you graduate with your PhD, either on OPT or as a postdoc. What you can't do is switch to an immigration class visa and/or apply for a green card. I know there is a waiver you can apply for, but I've heard it's very hard to get (at least for some forms of funding). If you know you want to return to your home country or get a job in a third country after your PhD, there is no problem. But for anyone who wants to have the option of obtaining a TT (or other permanent) job in the US after their PhD/postdoc, this is something to keep in mind.

 

As someone who didn't really know for sure at the time, the F seemed safer than the J because it didn't have this potential complication and since I didn't have a spouse it wasn't a problem. If I had had a spouse, I would have probably chosen the J because my SO's happiness for the duration of my 5-6 year degree is more important than a potential job much later down the line. In this case the OP doesn't have a spouse, so I think the F is safer. However, even after 5 years in the US I'm still not sure what the differences between the F and J are (for single people) so there may be other reasons I'm not aware of to prefer the J over the F.

 

Yep, we are basically saying the same thing :) I chose the J (i.e. made sure the university would be willing to sponsor me on the J) for exactly the reason you state here! Here is what I have noticed about my experience on J-1 that is not related to being married:

 

1. The SEVIS fee for J-1 status is slightly different in some way but I don't remember. It's a tiny difference though.

2. Our International Student Program office told us that F-1 status was administered by US Immigration while J-1 status is administered by the Department of State. But I have not seen this translate to any real life day to day difference.

3. J-1 status is more rare, particularly for students (most postdocs are on J-1 though). So, I have encountered extra wait times from offices like the DMV or Social Security or the bank etc. getting confused when I hand them my DS-2019 and tell them I'm on J-1 status but they only know how to handle F-1 and I-20s. Usually they get a manager and the procedure is the same on my end (but it seems like the manager will tell them to key it in a little differently). The only time this became an actual annoyance was at the DMV where they didn't take my DS-2019 because they didn't know what to do with and then asked me to mail them a copy a few weeks later.

 

Things that I know for sure are not affected by J-1 status (compared to F-1):

1. OPT is the same duration for both statuses

2. Taxes are the same -- all the IRS documents I read treat F-1 and J-1 the same way.

 

But also, since these things vary a ton case-by-case I am in no way claiming this is an exhaustive list!

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Really depends on your home country. For me, J1 was a better choice because I get the option to stay longer after graduating if I find work (3 years on J1 vs 1 year on F1) without being subject to a home residency requirement. It also keeps the option of having a financially stable dependent open. I'm not married right now, but who knows what might happen by the time I graduate. Can you contact the international office at your university for guidance?

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If you are single choose the F visa if you have spouse choose the J visa... 

 

If you have spouse validate that the university can provide you J visa - not all universities have the paper-work to give J visa for students....

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I just came across this convenient side-by-side comparison of the J and F visas on the Berkeley International Office. It mostly just confirms what we've already said here, but it's nice to have it from a more official source.

 

http://internationaloffice.berkeley.edu/students/new/fj_compared

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