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Current J-1 Students

Maintaining J-1 Status

The J-Exchange Visitor Program is administered by the U.S. Department of State. Students participating in an exchange program must follow J immigration regulations as developed by the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security.

In order to maintain J-1 status students are expected to do the following:

  • Have a valid DS-2019 and passport that is valid for at least 6 months into the future
  • Engage in employment only with work authorization from the Center for International Education
  • Carry Health Insurance that meets the minimum Department of State Requirements:
    • Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness
    • Repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000
    • Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of the exchange visitor to his or her home country in the amount of $50,000
    • A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.
    • The mandatory international student health insurance provided by the College of Charleston meets all of these requirements.
  • Remain in the U.S. no more than 30 days after the completion of the program or the expiration date on their DS-2019, whichever is earlier
  • Update any changes of address or phone number via MyCharleston within 10 days of the change
  • Request all other changes such as program extension, change of degree level, or any updates with the Center for International Education
  • Maintain full time enrollment by enrolling in at least 12 credit hours per semester

Health Insurance

The College of Charleston has its own international student health insurance plan that all international students will enroll in and pay for, which will provide coverage for the duration of studies at the College of Charleston. If you have an existing medical policy that has no maximum limit on injury and sickness coverage, which was issued to you individually, you can request to be waived out of the College’s international student health care plan. We highly recommend using the College’s plan as it is compliant with the requirements mandated by the U.S. Department of State for exchange students. In many cases, travel insurance policies issued from countries outside of the U.S. do not meet these requirements and offer significantly less coverage that the College’s international student plan. Students who purchased those types of plans are therefore required to also purchase the College’s plan. Healthcare in the United States is very expensive and having sufficient medical coverage is essential.

  • Please note that unless you have an unlimited medical policy issued to you individually, you will be required to purchase the CofC plan.
  • J-1 students may also be subject to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

Some highlights of the plan include:

  • Provide similar benefits found in the Affordable Care Act (ACA or sometimes known as Obama care) including no cost for preventative care.
  • If you use a preapproved doctor or care facility ("in-network") the deductible is $100/policy year. After that, the plan will cover 80% of the preferred allowance and the out of pocket maximum will $6,350.
  • The fee for your health insurance, that will cover you for the entire calendar year, from August, 2016 to August, 2017, will be due when you enroll in the plan and payable to the insurance company. Associated costs and how to enroll can be found on the PGH website and in the policy brochure. Please note if you are a student athlete, your brochure can be found here and if you are enrolled in the English Language Institute, click here to view your brochure.
  • If you have an existing medical policy that has no maximum limit on injury and sickness coverage which was issued to you individually, you can request to be waived out of this health care plan. Refer to the PGH website and select Waive Your School Insurance option for more details.

As of May 15, 2015, the requirements of the J-1 visas are:

  • Medical Benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness
  • Repatriation of Remains in the amount of $25,000
  • Expenses associated with any medical evacuation to the home country in the amount of $50,000
  • A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness
  • J-1 students may also be subject to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act

Additional highlights of the CofC plan:

  • Provide similar benefits found in the Affordable Care Act (ACA or sometimes known as Obama care) including no cost for preventative care.
  • If you use a preapproved doctor or care facility ("in-network") the deductible is $100/policy year. After that, the plan will cover 80% of the preferred allowance and the out of pocket maximum will $6,350.
  • The fee for your health insurance, that will cover you for the entire length of your program of study, will be due when you enroll in the plan and payable to the insurance company. Associated costs and how to enroll can be found on the PGH website  and in the policy brochure.
  • If you have an existing Health Insurance plan that you feel has similar or better coverage, you can request to be waived out of this health care plan. Refer to the PGH website and select Waive Your School Insurance for more details. You will need your current health insurance policy to complete your waiver request.

The College of Charleston offers professionally staffed Student Health Services to provide treatment for basic medical conditions for current students. They do not, however, provide major surgery, major illness or overnight care. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Twenty-four hour care is available at several nearby hospitals. For life-threatening emergencies dial 911 on any telephone.

Enrollment Requirements

All J-1 students are required to be enrolled full-time during Fall and Spring semesters. International students are normally not required to take classes during the summer.  Undergraduate students must be enrolled for 12 credit hours.  Graduate students must be enrolled for 6 credit hours.  For exceptions to being full time contact the Center for International Education.

Extending your DS-2019

If your DS-2019 will expire before the date when you expect to complete your program of study, then you should apply for an extension. The DS-2019 can only be extended before it expires.

You will need the following for a DS-2019 extension:

  • Have your academic advisor complete our Extension Request Form
  • Submit current financial documents that prove that you have sufficient funds to extend you studies

J-1 Employment Information

J-1 students are allowed to work, but all employment must be approved by the Center for International Education. Students are allowed to work on-campus ONLY and employment is limited to 20 hours per week during the school year.  During summer and vacation periods students may work on-campus full-time (40 hours per week).

Permission for off-campus employment may only be granted based on unanticipated economic necessity.  This authoriziation is given to students who find themselves in unforeseen economic hardship.  You must see the Responsible Officer in the CIE in order to get prior authorization for off-campus employment.  Remember, off-campus employment without prior authorization is grounds for termination of your J-1 status.

Academic Training

Academic Training is available in a student’s field of study before completion of a program as well as after completion of studies. Every month in J-1 status makes a J-1 student eligible for a month of Academic Training up to a total of 18 months.

For more information and to apply for Academic Training, please download the Academic Training handout.

J-1 Two -year Home Residence Requirement

The J-1 visa carries with it an, often inescapable, condition that requires you to return to your home country for two years upon completion of your studies (and academic training) before you are eligible for certain other visas in the U.S., including H-1B and permanent resident status.

This "two-year residence" requirement applies to you if you receive any funding (including nominal travel grants) from your home government or a U.S. government agency. It also applies to you, if trained personnel in short supply and your field has consequently been included on the U.S. government's "Exchange Visitor's Skills List."

If you do not know whether your country and/or field appears on the "Exchange Visitor's Skills List," ask a U.S. Consular officer or check the Department of State website before requesting J-1 status. Once you have acquired J-1 status and are subject to the two-year residence requirement, it may be impossible to change to another non-immigrant status or to permanent residence status.

J-1 Waiver Information

An exchange visitor may request that the 2-year home country physical presence requirement be waived. For further information on the waiver process check Department of State website.

Extension of Stay

If you do not complete your studies in the time noted on your DS-2019 form you must request an extension of your J-1 student status. This request must be supported by a letter from your advisor outlining the reason for the extension, the expected date of graduation and the amount and source of the funding available for the period of time requested. CIE will prepare a new DS-2019 reflecting the extended period. Your request for an extension must be completed before the end date as noted on your DS-2019 form.

Transfer of J-1 Program

An Exchange Visitor may transfer from one designated program to another designated program. CIE will verify your immigration status and program eligibility, prepare an DS-2019 form and secure the written release of the current sponsor in Section 8 of the new Form DS-2019. The transfer procedures must be completed prior to the end date as noted on the form DS-2019.

Change of Category

The Exchange Visitor Program may, at its discretion, allow an Exchange Visitor to change category or exchange participation, eg. from student to scholar. Any change in category must be consistent with and closely related to the participants original exchange objective. It will be necessary to prove that the requested change is due to unusual or exceptional circumstances. Requests for category changes, along with supporting justification, must be submitted to the Exchange Visitor staff at the Department of State by the participant's sponsor.

Grace Period

If you are a J-1 student and have completed your program objective, you have 30 days to leave the United States or change to another visa status.

After your J-1 Academic Training expires, you have 30 days to leave the United States or apply for a change of status.

If you withdraw from class without previous authorization, you have no grace period and must depart the U.S. immediately.