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J-1 vs F-1


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Hi,

 

I'm trying to figure out what the difference between these statuses are and which is better. The International Student Office is asking me which status I want.

 

I'm a Canadian citizen and I will start my PhD late September in California. From what I understand, a J-1 will prevent me from getting post-docs or jobs in the US after I graduate for 2 years if I receive US government funding (Canada is not on that "skills list"). All I know right now is that I'm receiving department funding for my first year while I rotate, and I wont know which advisor (I'm further narrowing down my rotation list in the summer) I pick until June next year (so that leaves further funding in the air). I'm probably also going to apply for NSERC during my first or second year, and I think that counts as "home government" funding. I'm not sure what disadvantages an F1 has, so it'd be great if someone can shred light on that.

 

I will probably be going back to Canada around 2-3 times a year around major holidays for a couple of weeks (I think with J-1, Canadians get unlimited multiple entry/exits, not sure about F-1).

 

I'm not sure about the whole employment thing. I will probably do a TAship later in the program (not during first year). And I'm entirely not sure about "out of institution" employment.

 

I had a J1 visa before, but that was for a "trainee/internship" rather than a PhD program.

 

My ultimate question is: Which status is better? what are some of the advantages/disadvantages of each?

 

Thanks,

StackUnderflow

Edited by StackUnderflow
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I am a Canadian on J-1 status. Most students are on F-1 status. There are a few differences, but ultimately, it really boils down to this:

 

If you have a spouse who will move with you to the US and your spouse wants to be able to work, get the J-1 status. Otherwise, get F-1.

 

That is really the only reason to get J-1. 

 

There is no difference in the number of entries you get with J-1 vs. F-1. As a Canadian, we do not need a F-1/J-1 visa (i.e. a page in our passport) to enter the US, we can enter as often as we want. However, we do need to maintain F-1/J-1 status (Form I-20 or DS-2019) in order to remain in the US for studying. 

 

Other than the spouse working issue, the second biggest difference is the 2-year home residency requirement. If you get an NSERC (home government funding) then you will be subject to this requirement. I have a NSERC PGS-D right now and my DS-2019 has the "home government funding" box ticked off. The requirement means that you must live in Canada for 2 years before you can immigrate to the US. You don't have to go back to Canada right away, just before you immigrate to the US. You also don't have to leave the US. J-1 students can undergo 2-3 years of "Academic Training" (AT) right after their PhD if they get work in their field of study (e.g. a postdoc). This is an extension of your J-1 status. Note: F-1 students have the same benefit, it's just called OPT.

 

Finally, the last difference that I can think of is that J-1 students must maintain a minimum level of health insurance in the US for themselves and their dependents. You must explicitly get insurance that will repatriate your remains to Canada if anything happens to you. Gruesome, but legally required!

 

Overall, as you might notice, there are far more disadvantages/requirements for J-1 than F-1. However, the one advantage for J-1, that your spouse can work, is a huge one and for most people, more than makes up for the disadvantages. This is why I say that the only reason to choose J-1 is if you have a spouse that wants to work in the US (and your spouse cannot get their own work authorization).

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I am a Canadian on J-1 status. Most students are on F-1 status. There are a few differences, but ultimately, it really boils down to this:

 

If you have a spouse who will move with you to the US and your spouse wants to be able to work, get the J-1 status. Otherwise, get F-1.

 

That is really the only reason to get J-1. 

 

There is no difference in the number of entries you get with J-1 vs. F-1. As a Canadian, we do not need a F-1/J-1 visa (i.e. a page in our passport) to enter the US, we can enter as often as we want. However, we do need to maintain F-1/J-1 status (Form I-20 or DS-2019) in order to remain in the US for studying. 

 

Other than the spouse working issue, the second biggest difference is the 2-year home residency requirement. If you get an NSERC (home government funding) then you will be subject to this requirement. I have a NSERC PGS-D right now and my DS-2019 has the "home government funding" box ticked off. The requirement means that you must live in Canada for 2 years before you can immigrate to the US. You don't have to go back to Canada right away, just before you immigrate to the US. You also don't have to leave the US. J-1 students can undergo 2-3 years of "Academic Training" (AT) right after their PhD if they get work in their field of study (e.g. a postdoc). This is an extension of your J-1 status. Note: F-1 students have the same benefit, it's just called OPT.

 

Finally, the last difference that I can think of is that J-1 students must maintain a minimum level of health insurance in the US for themselves and their dependents. You must explicitly get insurance that will repatriate your remains to Canada if anything happens to you. Gruesome, but legally required!

 

Overall, as you might notice, there are far more disadvantages/requirements for J-1 than F-1. However, the one advantage for J-1, that your spouse can work, is a huge one and for most people, more than makes up for the disadvantages. This is why I say that the only reason to choose J-1 is if you have a spouse that wants to work in the US (and your spouse cannot get their own work authorization).

 

I'm an international student with a spouse and was considering the J-1 visa however I thought that this visa was only for exchange students? 

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Oh -- I forgot to add: Another disadvantage/difference with J-1 is that the financial support requirements are different.

F-1: You need to show enough funds to cover yourself and your dependents for 1 year (funds can come from any source--personal, TA, RA, fellowship, family, government etc.).

J-1: You need to show enough funds to cover yourself and your dependents for entire length of degree. Also, the "majority" of the funds must not come from personal sources (i.e. not out of your savings or your family savings, but from the University or fellowships or government). No clear definition on what "majority" means though--some schools interpret it as 50%. It's up to the school to decide whether or not they will sponsor you.

 

since we're discussing this...

is it possible to transfer from F-1 to J-1 status after, say, a year?

 

Yes, it is theoretically possible to change status from F-1 to J-1. However, it is not allowed for J-1s with the 2-year home residency requirement to change to any other status unless a waiver on that requirement has been granted. 

 

That said, I get the impression that it is very difficult to make this change and you will have to have a good reason for US Immigration as to why you didn't start with J-1 in the first place. Specifically, one school's website says that US Immigration will reject your request if they think that the primary reason for the change is so that your dependents can attain permission to work in the US. Website: http://internationalcenter.umich.edu/immig/jvisa/j_chngstatus.html

 

Since having dependents work in the US is really the only reason I think most people need J-1, I don't see an advantage to starting as F-1 and then switching to J-1. The only possible thing I can think of is that you don't have funding for all years yet but this will still make the J-1 transfer very difficult. 

 

Thank you guys for the detailed reply. As I'm single with no dependents, I think I'll get an F1.

 

You're welcome :) Good luck!!

 

I'm an international student with a spouse and was considering the J-1 visa however I thought that this visa was only for exchange students? 

 

That's a common misconception! J-1 PhD students are rare but we exist (usually exchange students or postdocs are on J-1). It's confusing because there are about a dozen different types of J-1 statuses, such as high school exchange student, au-pair, camp counselor, postdocs, visiting scholars, and PhD students!

 

However, it's each school's prerogative to decide whether or not to sponsor you for J-1 status (i.e. by issuing the DS-2019). Schools are not required to sponsor you on J-1 status even if you meet all of the J-1 requirements set by the Department of State. So at some schools, they might tell you that J-1 is only for their exchange students or postdocs because they do not want to sponsor PhD students on J-1. I encountered this at the University of Arizona and that played a big role in my final decision. 

 

If you are interested in J-1, you should talk to the schools' international offices as you are making your final decision. My current school also helped students with spouses complete the paperwork necessary to obtain employment authorization for our spouses (it takes about 3-4 months to process).

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"J-1: You need to show enough funds to cover yourself and your dependents for entire length of degree"

Well, that settles it then.

Thanks a lot for the detailed reply!

 

Just to clarify, this is not your own funds (in fact, as I wrote above, it cannot be mostly your own funds!). In my field, most PhD programs come with funding conditionally guaranteed (i.e. "satisfactory progress") for the entire length of degree, and this is good enough (at this school anyways) to issue a DS-2019. This is because the only way you would not get future funding is that if they kick you out, which would end your J-1 status anyways. 

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A link to a relevant discussion (with more links):

Thanks fuzzy for the link! After reviewing it I have decided to apply for a F-1 though my second half will be jobless just learning something informally...

I don't have funds available to cover the entire costs... Still F-1 has some freedom e.g. choosing health insurance and staying longer when needed etc

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Just want to add that as far as I read, the J-1 home residency does not apply to the TN visas that Canadians can get.  So if you are in an elegible field, the home residency requirement is bascially non-existent, as TNs are infinitely-renewable. 

 

Too bad my school doesn't sponsor J-1 PhDs...

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Just want to add that as far as I read, the J-1 home residency does not apply to the TN visas that Canadians can get.  So if you are in an elegible field, the home residency requirement is bascially non-existent, as TNs are infinitely-renewable. 

 

Too bad my school doesn't sponsor J-1 PhDs...

 

The home residency requirement is often stated as a requirement that must be fulfilled before the student can apply for an immigration class visa to the US.

 

I can never find definite clear wording on this, but to me, this sounds like as long as you do not get a visa that is on track for immigration/permanent residency (e.g. the TN visas, additional J visas, or some H1-B visas) you don't have to fulfill the 2 year requirement. However, in fuzzy's link, there is also a "12 month bar" which requires you to be outside of the US for 12 months before getting the J visa needed for research scholars and professors.

 

My personal plan, if I stay in academia, is to use J-1 AT (36 months) for my first postdoc if I want to do that postdoc in the US. If I do stay in the US for my first postdoc, then doing a second postdoc in Canada would fulfill both the 12 month bar and the 2 year home residency requirement. If I end up in Canada for my first postdoc, then everything is fulfilled even earlier. In any case, I'm not worried about the home residency requirement because the earliest I have to deal with it would be 3 years after my graduation, which is a long enough way away that so many things can change by then.

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I was offered a F-1 visa and for the very reason of having a spouse that needs to work (or go mad, otherwise) we are requesting the J-1 visa. I held a J-1 visa in the past, with a Fulbright Scholarship and my country does not offer a "no objection waiver" to their scholars. So I had to come back. Even getting an F-1 visa was not allowed during the 2 years (or so we were told).

Not being able to obtain work authorization for your other half is a serious disadvantage in most cases. Yet, there are "ways out" of the 2 year rule, but there no guarantee that anybody will actually be able to get it.

I did not know that AT for J-1s are 36 months long!!!! With my MS I only had 1 year. This is great news!!! (postdoc right away!!! YAY!!!)

 

About the fundings for my spouse. The school only asked for at least $5000 to start the paperwork for my DS-2019. I assume this is just for one year. Now I am concerned....

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I was offered a F-1 visa and for the very reason of having a spouse that needs to work (or go mad, otherwise) we are requesting the J-1 visa. I held a J-1 visa in the past, with a Fulbright Scholarship and my country does not offer a "no objection waiver" to their scholars. So I had to come back. Even getting an F-1 visa was not allowed during the 2 years (or so we were told).

Not being able to obtain work authorization for your other half is a serious disadvantage in most cases. Yet, there are "ways out" of the 2 year rule, but there no guarantee that anybody will actually be able to get it.

I did not know that AT for J-1s are 36 months long!!!! With my MS I only had 1 year. This is great news!!! (postdoc right away!!! YAY!!!)

 

About the fundings for my spouse. The school only asked for at least $5000 to start the paperwork for my DS-2019. I assume this is just for one year. Now I am concerned....

 

Are you getting funding from the school as well? Maybe the cost for you+spouse is $5000 more than what the school's financial package is already offering, so they just need to see the difference.

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Funding comes entirely from the school (different sources, like TA or fellowships, but still is from the school until I get a mentor). I hope that what you mentioned is the case, and that I won't get an email sauing "oops!! sorry, we meant $24k" :S

 

Thanks for all the information you are providing, TakeruK!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just wanted to let you know that you may face much problem transferring your J-1 to something else if you wanna stay longer after your studies.

 

You can't "transfer" your J-1 to anything else. You also cannot "transfer" your F-1. However, for both F-1 and J-1, there are options for you to stay in the US after you get your degree and work in a job related to the field you studied for. For F-1, it's called OPT (optional practical training) and for J-1 it's called AT (Academic Training). If you are in a STEM field, you get up to 3 years on these statuses. One intended use of OPT and AT is to complete your first postdoc position in the United States.

 

After that, it is true that if you are on J-1 and subject to rules that require you to leave the country (e.g the 2 year home residency requirement), then it will be harder for you to keep a permanent job in the US because you will have to leave to fulfill this requirement (or you will have to ask to get it waived). However, neither F-1 nor J-1 statuses are designed for you to stay in America after you complete your studies. Both statuses intend for you to come here, get your training, and return home.

 

Note: Another piece of advice I often give is that you have to weigh your long term vs. short term goals. For example, in the case of my spouse and I, we had the choice of F-1 or J-1. We decided to choose J-1 for my spouse to be able to work because the 2 year home residency requirement is a problem we would not have to face for another ~8 years (5 years PhD + 3 years AT). A lot can change in 8 years, such as whether we even want to stay in the US, or even the immigration laws themselves. It was far better for us to have the short term gain of spousal employment for the next 5-8 years than to worry about whether or not we can stay in the US 8 years from now. But each person will have their own short vs. long term goals to balance.

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It's true, but if J-1 has a two year home residency and one completes a master's degree and wants to continue for a PHD then there is no way to adjust then getting "no objection" from a sponsoring side which rarely happens...

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It's true, but if J-1 has a two year home residency and one completes a master's degree and wants to continue for a PHD then there is no way to adjust then getting "no objection" from a sponsoring side which rarely happens...

 

Yes, you are right--everything I wrote above mainly applies to students in fully funded PhD programs. I don't have any experience in US masters programs, sorry if I led you astray!!

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