Anyone who is planning to study or receive training in the United States must maintain a type of student status. However, how can you decide which type of student visa best suits you? Both F1 student visas and J1 student visas are meant for those studying abroad or in an exchange program, but what makes them different? Wonder no more. This article is going to outline what are the major differences between F1 and J1 student visas, just keep reading for more information.



A big question in determining eligibility for an J1 or F1 status is – “who is paying for the education”. A student is eligible for an F1 status if they are funded by personnel sources, outside sources OR a combination of the two. The difference between an F1 and a J1 student visa in terms of funding is that a J1 visa requires a large or “substantive” portion of the funding to come from an outside source, such as a university or the government.

On-Campus Employment

Many students wish to seek on campus employment while studying in the United States. In this capacity, F1 student visas and J1 student visas are very similar. For both types of visa, part-time on-campus employment is allowed during periods of full study. The difference between the two arises during periods of recess. During periods of recess, students holding F1 status may work full time. Students holding J1 status may also work full time however, they will require the permission of their Alternate Responsible Officer (OISS advisor).

Off-Campus Employment

For F-1 status students are eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Students may apply for a 12 month period of time in which they may participate in an off-site program which relates directly to their program of study. The working hours are the same for on-campus employment (part-time during session, full-time during recess) however, all time accrued counts towards the 12 month period. For example if a student’s OPT participation time over a semester added up to two months then they would have ten months left on their OPT.

Some benefits off the OPT program aside from the training received is that it is not required that an applicant have a specific employer prior to applying. Rather, only intent to work in a related field is needed.

For J1 students, academic training can occur for up to 36 months (in some cases) of work which is directly related to their program of study. This off-campus employment can be used both during studies and post-graduation. A J1 student in either undergraduate or pre-doctoral training can participate in either 18 months of employment OR the full course of study, whichever is less. In order to receive this benefit, a student must apply and eventually be approved by the OISS office (an International Advisor).

Another big difference between the F1 and J1 student visa statuses is that J1 students must already have eligible for the program. For instance, in post-graduate work, the position must be in place before graduation.


A question that typically arises in both F-1 and J-1 student visa statuses is whether or not dependents are able to seek employment. For F-1 status the answer is simple – no. Dependents or “F-2s” are not eligible for any type of employment.

Unlike F-2s, J-1 dependents or “J-2s” are able to apply for permission to work in the U.S. for the period of the primary’s (F-1) full program. This ability is obtained by submitting the appropriate form to USCIS.

J-1 Two Year Home Country Residence Requirement

In many cases, J-1 exchange students are required to maintain a “home-country physical presence requirement” for at least two years. This mainly applies to students who receive funding from their own government or the U.S. government. The two-year requirement does not apply to individuals with F-1 status.

This requirement basically requires that students who meet its criteria must reside for an aggregate of two-years in their home country before they are eligible for any additional statuses. However this requirement can be waved.

There are several instances in which the two-year requirement will be enacted. The most common example is if the home country deems the field of the J-1 to be in short supply thus; they require for the individual to return to their home country and provide their services there. For example, this requirement applies to individuals receiving medical training at the graduate level. It is strongly recommended that you investigate the full list of criteria by visiting the U.S. Department of State website and reviewing the U.S. “Exchange Visitor’s Skills List”.

12 Month Bar

Students will be barred from returning to the U.S. under the J1 research category for twelve months if they study on a J1 for more than six months.


It is my hope that this article shed some light on the differences between two popular forms of student visas. The F1 student visa and the J1 student visa can be utilized differently but both with positive outcomes. Eventually, individuals on these types of visas my wish to investigate changing statuses which can require some intelligent strategic planning. Your best bet is to seek out an immigration attorney of your choosing when you begin on your student status so that no unforeseen and negative circumstances arise later on.

Thank you for reading – I wish you all the best of luck in your decisions and please remember I am always open for questions using our contact us page or call (703) 594-4040.

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