What are the Differences between F and J Students?

There are two full time student visa categories, F-1 or J-1. The majority of international students come into the U.S. on an F-1 student visa. For some students, there may be the option to enter on a J-1 student visa. A student may choose or be assigned based on his or her eligibility and long term plans.

F-1 Students

The F-1 visa is granted to a student whose sole purpose is to pursue education in the United States and who intends to return to his or her home country after completion of studies. The dependents of an F-1 student are granted an F-2 visa if they come with the F-1 student. If your spouse comes on an F-2 visa, he or she is not permitted to work or earn money in any capacity.

F-2 Dependents: A spouse and/or children (under the age of 21) wishing to accompanying the F-1 student to the U.S. can be issued F-2 dependent I-20s. While in the U.S., F-2 dependents may only enroll in courses which are avocational or recreational. F-2 dependents can only engage in full-time study at the elementary and secondary school level.

J-1 Students

The J-1 is an Exchange Visitor visa.  J-1 students must be fully admitted to the University of Maryland Baltimore through the appropriate admissions office in order to pursue degree-seeking or non-degree-seeking study. In addition to being fully admitted, they must meet one of the following criteria:

  • They are coming pursuant to an exchange agreement that the University of Maryland Baltimore (or a school of UM) has signed with a foreign institution of higher education.
  • Their studies are primarily funded from the U.S. government, their home country government, an international organization, a bi-national commission of the United States and a foreign country, or the University of Maryland Baltimore.

J-1 students from certain countries and those receiving funds either from U.S. Government or from their home government may be required to return home for two years after completion of studies (“two-year home residence requirement”) before being able to return as or change to another immigration status.

J-2 Dependents: A spouse and/or children (under the age of 21) wishing to accompanying the J-1 student to the U.S. can be issued J-2 dependent DS-2019s.  J-2 dependents are eligible to apply for work authorization through USCIS. Additionally, J-2 dependents can enroll in courses.

Two Year Home Residence Requirement

Some J-1 Exchange Visitors are subject to what is called the two-year home country physical presence requirement--INA § 212(e). This "two-year home 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 your field are identified by your home government as being in short supply and your field has consequently been included on the U.S. Government's "Exchange Visitor's Skills List." The two year home residence requirement also applies to persons receiving graduate medical education or training. If you do not know whether your country and/or field appears on the "Exchange Visitor's Skills List," check the Department of State website.

An exchange visitor who is subject to this requirement must reside for an aggregate of two (2) years in his or her country citizenship or permanent residence or have the requirement waived before being eligible for other U.S. immigration statuses, including H, L, or permanent resident status. Check the DOS website for information about the process of applying for a waiver of this requirement.