Getting Approval to Work
Whatever type of employment you are considering, you must first obtain approval in writing from your J-1 Responsible Officer, who represents your J-1 sponsor and issues your Forms DS-2019. Before approval, your J-1 Responsible Officer is required by regulation to evaluate the proposed employment in the context of your program and your personal circumstances, and then decide whether it would be appropriate or not.
Student Employment Opportunities
Employment required by a scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship. This kind of work usually occurs on campus, with the school as the employer. In certain circumstances, however, the work can be done elsewhere, for a different employer. You might work in a government or private research laboratory, for example, if a professor in your major department had a joint appointment there and would be supervising you in work that counted toward your degree.
On-Campus Jobs Unrelated to Study. The regulations, in allowing for jobs on campus that are unrelated to study, stipulate only that the work be done "on the premises" of the school. That means that the school does not have to be the employer, and that you could work for a commercial company, such as a food service, in its operations on your campus.
Off-Campus Jobs to Meet Urgent, Unforeseen Need. Your J-1 Responsible Officer can authorize you to work off-campus in the "Student Employment" category only if you have serious and urgent financial need that you did not foresee when you became a J-1 student, or when you enrolled at your current school. Under certain circumstances off-campus work may also be available as Academic Training, a separate category of study-related employment.
Conditions of Employment
You are eligible for "Student Employment" provided you
- Hold valid J-1 status in the student sub-category
- Are registered and studying full-time
- Are in good academic standing at the school that your J-1 sponsor has authorized you to attend
- Your J-1 Responsible Officer has approved the specific employment in advance, in writing.
Limitations of Employment. If authorized, you may work a total of 20 hours per week while school is in session. You may work full-time during official school breaks and vacation periods, including summer vacations, provided you are eligible and intend to register for the next school term. The 20-hour-per-week work limit while school is in session applies to and includes all types of "Student Employment." A 20-hour-per-week assistantship, for example, would exhaust your academic-year on-campus and off-campus work eligibility.
How to Apply for Work Permission
First you should talk to the International Student Advisor about why you want or need to work, whether it is advisable, and what type of job would suit you best. If you have unforeseen need, you will probably need a letter explaining the circumstances. If the advisor agrees that it would be appropriate for you to work, the next step is to obtain a job offer. With the name of your employer, your J-1 Responsible Officer will be able to approve your job in writing, and you will be free to start.
Social Security Taxes
In general, as a J-1 student you will be exempt from Social Security (FICA) taxes for your first five years in the United States, as long as you continue to declare non-resident status for tax purposes (see Internal Revenue Service Publication 519, "U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens" available in IES)
Federal, State and Local Taxes
Unless you qualify under a tax treaty between the United States and your home government, your earnings as a J-1 student will be subject to applicable federal, state and local taxes, and employers are required by law to withhold those taxes from your paychecks. By April 15 of each year, you must file a federal income tax return and a "Required Statement" covering the prior calendar year to determine whether you owe more taxes or have a refund coming.
A Note of Caution
As a J-1 student you are eligible for a variety of work opportunities in the United States, but employment without proper authorization is a serious violation of your status. Remember that before you start any kind of employment, you must first consult your J-1 Responsible Officer, whose written approval is necessary in advance.
Travel within the United States does not require a travel signature or any special documents. The information below relates to travel outside the U.S.
Before you leave:
Make sure your DS-2019 is with you and has been signed for travel by an advisor from OMA within the last year. Also, make sure the program end date on your DS-2019 will not expire by the time you plan to return to the U.S. Dependents in J-2 status must also have their DS-2019s signed for travel.
The visa stamp in your passport will need to be valid for reentry on the date you return to the U.S. (unless you are a citizen of Canada or the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda and do not need a U.S. entry visa). Your passport will also need to be valid when you plan to return.
To enter the U.S., the following documents are required:
- Valid passport
- Valid U.S. visa
- Valid DS-2019 signed for travel
Other Information that may be beneficial during this process:
- Previous DS-2019s
- Current proof of financial support
- Proof of your current enrollment or your transcript
If you'll need to obtain or renew your visa at a U.S. consulate abroad before you return, make sure that the consulate where you plan to apply will be open and able to issue your visa in the time you have available. You can obtain advance information about schedules and processing procedures at many U.S. consulates via the State Department Web site. You can obtain the State Department's estimate of visa wait times at most posts. Visa issuance can be delayed by security checks. Most security checks now take less than 30 days.
Special Travel Situations
Automatic Visa Revalidations
Special rules for travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean (except Cuba). If you are planning a trip to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean ONLY (Applicable Caribbean islands are listed below), and your trip will last LESS THAN 30 days, then you can re-enter the U.S. using an expired J-1 visa stamp if you meet the following criteria:
- You are in valid J-1 status
- You have a valid passport (for at least 6 months beyond day of re-entry to U.S.)
- You have an I-94 marked "Admitted J-1 until D/S"
- You have a recent travel signature (within 12 months) on your DS-2019. Please note, the Canadian government prefers to see a more recent travel signature (within 2 months) before they issue a Canadian tourist visa stamp.
- You have an expired J-1 U.S. visa stamp in your passport. It cannot be stamped "cancelled." If you applied for a new visa and it has not been issued or has been denied, you will not be able to re-enter the U.S. on your expired visa.
- You are NOT from one of the following countries: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, or Syria.
*NOTE: Visitors who have changed status to J-1 in the U.S. and who are traveling out of the U.S. for the first time are NOT eligible for automatic visa revalidation.
Please check with the appropriate embassies to see whether or not you will need to apply for a visa before you enter Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean islands.
Caribbean Islands where automatic visa revalidation is applicable:
Saint Pierre, Miquelon, The Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, The Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea.
A Note about Special Registration
If you have been subjected to "Special Registration" by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), please be sure to exit from the United States by reporting in person to a DHS officer at one of the designated ports of entry listed in the handout you were given when you were special registered.