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Central Washington University
Office of International Studies and Programs
Hebeler Hall 102
400 E. University Way
Ellensburg, WA 98926-7408

J-1 Visa & Immigration

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In order to enter the US and participate in the exchange, students must obtain a J-1 Exchange Visitor visa from the appropriate US consular mission in their home country. This page contains information on related processes and regulations.

Important Immigration Documents


Students will need to have a valid passport in order to apply for the J-1 visa and, eventually, enter the United States. Generally, even to apply for the visa, your passport must be valid for a minimum of 6 months after the end of your program, as indicated on your DS-2019.

Unless you opt to obtain a Washington State Identification Card, your passport also will be your best form of identification off-campus, if needed for any reason. Few, if any, local Ellensburg businesses will recognize a non-US national ID or driver’s license.


The Form DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (J-Nonimmigrant) [“DS-2019” for short] is the document generated by CWU confirming your affiliation with us and certain details about your program. It is required in order to apply for the visa.

Once you are in the United States, the DS-2019 governs your legal status and becomes more important and the J-1 visa stamp. As long as the DS-2019 remains valid, you maintain status, regardless of whether the visa stamp has expired.

CWU will send your DS-2019 in your welcome packet.

Visa Stamp:

After a successful interview, a J-1 visa stamp will be affixed inside your passport and allow you to seek entrance to the US at any port of entry. Once in the US, the visa stamp takes secondary importance to the DS-2019. While it is unlikely that your visa stamp will expire during your time at CWU, the visa stamp may do so without causing you to lose legal status as long as the DS-2019 remains valid.

I-94 Arrival-Departure Record:

The Form I-94 is the official record of your arrival to and departure from the US. You will first complete it upon arrival to the country, but will also have a new form with any successive entries. Since 2013, this form has become largely electronic, and visitors do not receive a hard copy at the port of entry unless crossing by land from Canada or Mexico. However, the form may be downloaded and printed from this website:

Should you wish to seek employment, you will need to include a copy of your I-94 in the Social Security Number application materials.

SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System)

SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) is the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) web-based system that maintains accurate and current information on international students and exchange visitors. SEVIS enables schools and program sponsors like CWU to transmit mandatory information and notifications to DHS and the Department of State (DOS). Schools must report students' status throughout their stay in the United States.

I-901 Fee

The non-refundable I-901 fee is required of most international students and exchange visitors, and goes toward supporting the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and SEVIS. Currently USD 220 for J-1 students, the fee is separate from and in addition to any visa application fees. Before making payment, you will need your DS-2019, as some information from it is required for the payment process.

Dual Nationality and the J-1 Visa

US law requires US nationals, including dual nationals, to enter and exit the country using their US passport. As a consequence, students with dual nationality are ineligible for a J-1 visa, and CWU may not issue a DS-2019 for them. Furthermore, as individuals born in the US generally are considered citizens and an Exchange Visitor’s city and country of birth are both required in order to issue the DS-2019, CWU is required to verify students who were born in the United States either are in some way ineligible for or have formally relinquished US citizenship before issuing them a DS-2019. Such students, therefore, must supply this verification with their CWU application materials if they do not plan to participate as a US citizen.

Visa Application

Many item-specific links are provided below. However, has been set up as a global home for comprehensive visa application information, as well. It appears that most US consular missions will direct applicants here to make the interview appointment, for example.

Required Documents:

Application Process:

Once you have received your welcome packet and DS-2019:


  1. Read Page 2 of your DS-2019 and sign at the bottom of Page 1. Include the date (format: MM/DD/YYYY) and your location (e.g., Edinburgh, Tokyo, etc.) at the time of signing.
  2. Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee (USD 220): Print the receipt and keep it with your DS-2019.
    1. You will need your SEVIS ID number, which can be found in the top-right of the DS-2019 and starts with an “N” followed by 10 digits.
    2. You will need CWU’s Program Number, which can be found in Item 2 of the DS-2019 and begins with a “P”.
  3. Complete the electronic DS-160 application for a non-immigrant visa, and print the barcode page:
    1. You will need to enter a US address. If you know it, the physical address of your residence while at CWU is the best one to use.
    2. If you do not have or know your residential address at CWU, you may use our office address:
      400 E. University Way
      Ellensburg, WA 98926-7407
  4. Schedule an appointment for a visa interview at the appropriate US consular mission or through You must be proactive; the visa application system does not do it for you. Please take note of any limitations regarding rescheduling appointments.

NB: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its knock-on effects, the US Department of State has authorized consular officials abroad to waive at their discretion the requirement to appear in-person for individuals who meet certain criteria. Please consult the appropriate US embassy or consulate in your home country to determine whether this option is available to you.


  1. Collect all of the documents needed for the interview, including the I-901 receipt and a passport photo (2 in. x 2 in.).
  2. Consult again the website for the appropriate US consular mission to verify any mission-specific requirements.


  1. Attend the interview, remembering to bring all required materials.
  2. If denied, inform the exchange coordinator at CWU of the result and the reason given for denial (if any).

Mandatory Insurance

Exchange visitor visa regulations mandate J-1 visa holders (and any J-2 dependents) carry medical and emergency insurance for the duration of their programs. The regulations also mandate CWU, as the sponsor, verify this is done. CWU has enacted its own policy mandating all international students have such insurance and expanded coverage requirements beyond the minimums mandated by the visa regulations. More information about CWU minimum coverage requirements and compliance procedures may be found here: International Student Insurance.

While the above website includes links to a few insurance providers we know have plans that fit our requirements, students are not obligated to choose one of them. Should they find another provider, whether based in the United States or in their home country, that provides a policy satisfying our requirements, it should be sufficient. When looking for a plan, students should also keep in mind the following further requirements from J visa regulations.

If not backed by the “full faith and credit” of your home government, coverage must be “[u]nderwritten by an insurance corporation having:

  • an A.M. Best rating of “A−” or above;
  • a McGraw Hill Financial/Standard & Poor's Claims-paying Ability rating of “A−” or above;
  • a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of “B + ” or above;
  • a Fitch Ratings, Inc. rating of “A−” or above;
  • a Moody's Investor Services rating of “A3” or above;
  • or such other rating as the Department of State may from time to time specify”.

First Arrival to CWU

Date of Entry to the United States:

You may enter the US on your J visa no more than 30 days before the Program Start Date printed on your DS-2019, which generally is the first day of classes for your first quarter at CWU.

If you wish to arrive earlier for extended traveling, you must enter on a B-1/B-2 visa or with WT/WB status. However, before traveling to Ellensburg to begin the term, you must first exit the United States and re-enter on the J visa. You may not begin classes while in visitor status, and you will not be able to change status within the US. Each time you cross into the US, be explicit with the Customs and Border Protection official as to which visa you are using for entry.

Pre-Arrival Travel in Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean:

If you wish to travel to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean prior to the start of your program, we recommend you travel there directly from your home country and then enter the US after you have completed that travel. If for any reason you must travel to the US first, you should first enter as a visitor and then, upon returning from the third country, re-enter on the J visa. You may encounter difficulties re-entering the US if you enter on the J visa and cross the border again before ever arriving in Ellensburg.


Through a step known as Validation, CWU is required to confirm through SEVIS that Exchange Visitors have arrived and begun their programs. This must be done within 30 days after the program start date printed on the DS-2019, otherwise the Exchange Visitor automatically will be considered a no-show, which carries several unpleasant possible consequences. For exchange students, Validation is completed during the mandatory International Student Orientation shortly after arrival.

Maintaining Your Status

Ultimately, it is each student’s responsibility to ensure they maintain their immigration status. Falling out of status can have serious consequences, including one or more of these:

  • Paying high fees for official reinstatement in order to continue
  • Being sent home
  • Jeopardizing future visa applications

In order to maintain status and avoid these issues:

  • Ensure your passport and DS-2019 remain valid;
  • Maintain insurance coverage;
  • Maintain full-time enrollment each term, unless approved for reduced course load;
  • Attend class;
  • Maintain grades of at least a C;
  • Notify us of any changes;
  • Do not work without authorization.
    NB: Even unpaid work can be considered illegal employment


Within the United States:

Students do not need “travel authorization” to travel within the United States during their program or the post-completion 30-day grace period (see below). Nonetheless, they are advised to take their passport and DS-2019 for the purposes of identification and, if needed, proof of status.

Outside of the United States:

Before traveling outside of the United States during their program, students must ensure they have on their DS-2019 a valid Travel Authorization signature from the exchange coordinator or other authorized OISP staff member. This will appear in the bottom-right corner of the document. Travel Authorization indicates the student remains in good status and is approved for travel. It remains valid for one year from the date of signature or until the DS-2019 expires, whichever is earlier. Without this signature, the student could encounter problems at the border when trying to reenter the US. Please request Travel Authorization signatures at least 10 days before you depart for your travels.

If planning to travel outside of the United States after the program end date on their DS-2019, students should arrange to leave for home from the third country without having to return to the US. Once an Exchange Visitor exits the US after their program ends, the J status expires and they are subject to the same entry requirements as any other citizen of their home country.

Automatic Revalidation:

Automatic Revalidation refers to a process by which certain travelers may travel outside of the US after their visa stamp has expired and reenter without being required to renew the visa stamp. Most exchange students will not have a need to be concerned about this. Only those who have extended their programs will be in a position where automatic revalidation may become relevant.

In order for a student to qualify for automatic revalidation, the following must all be true:

  • Traveled only to Canada, Mexico or certain adjacent islands;
  • Outside of the US no more than 30 days;
  • Has a valid DS-2019;
  • Has a valid Form I-94;
  • Has a valid entry stamp in passport;
  • Not a citizen of a country designated as a state sponsor of terrorism.

If your I-94 was recorded electronically, Customs and Border Protection will verify its validity in their system. You do not necessarily need to have a printed copy with you. If you initially entered the US by land and were given a paper I-94, do not surrender it upon leaving the country. You may need to inform the CBP officer that you will need automatic revalidation when you reenter.

Third Country Visas:

Students are responsible for understanding the entry requirements for third countries, such as Canada and Mexico, to which they plan to travel. CWU and OISP cannot provide any guidance or assistance beyond certain supporting documentation pertaining to your status at CWU and/or in the United States.

Post-Completion Grace Period

Exchange Visitors who complete their programs in good standing have a grace period of up to 30 days after the program end date printed on the DS-2019, during which they may remain in the United States. This is intended to allow Exchange Visitors time to prepare for departure, but it does also mean they have time for travel if they wish. Exiting the US during this period automatically ends both the grace period and J status, regardless of how much or how little has been used.

Exchange visitors should not attempt to depart on the last day of the grace period, or even in the few days leading up to it. Regardless of the cause (weather, mechanical failure, etc.), any stay beyond the 30-day grace period constitutes an overstay and exposes the Exchange Visitor to the consequences thereof, including being barred from returning for a period of several years.

Statutory Bar: 212(e) Home Country Requirement

J visas come with several statutory bars that may attach if the right conditions are met and each with a different type of impact. Even if the practical impact is nil, the statutory bar to which exchange students are most likely to be subject is the 212(e) Home Country Requirement, colloquially called “the two-year rule”. If an Exchange Visitor meets any of these criteria, they are subject to the two-year rule:

  • The EV was funded by the US or a foreign government, whether directly or indirectly;
  • The EV’s home government requests their field of study be included on the Exchange Visitor Skills List;
  • The EV’s program consisted of graduate medical education or training; OR
  • The EV was the J-2 dependent of a J-1 primary subject to the requirement,

An individual subject to the two-year rule must be resident in their home country for a cumulative two years before being eligible for any of the following:

  • An immigrant visa or permanent residency;
  • An H (temporary worker), L (intracompany transferee) or K (fiancé) visa; OR
  • A change of non-immigrant status within the US

A note indicating whether or not an Exchange Visitor is subject to the two-year rule should appear at the bottom of the J-1 visa stamp in their passport. However, if any of the above criteria are met, the Exchange Visitor is subject to the rule, regardless of what the note on the visa may say. If needed, a waiver process is available.

This page contains links to websites outside of The views and opinions expressed on unofficial pages of Central Washington University faculty, staff or students are strictly those of the page authors. The content of such pages has not been reviewed or approved by Central Washington University.

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