Academic Training For Students in J-1 Status

"Academic Training" is the name used by the Department of State for certain types of study-related employment. This applies only to J-1 students. Certain conditions must be met in order to qualify for "Academic Training," and the steps to apply follow.

Academic Training is flexible in its format and offers a variety of employment opportunities to supplement a J-1 student's academic program in the United States. It is available both before and after the completion of an academic program of study. As long as students stay within the stipulated time limits, Academic Training allows them to work part-time while classes are in session and full-time during vacation periods and fulltime after degree completion. J-1 students in non-degree programs also are eligible for "Academic Training."

Your J-1 Responsible Officer

To qualify for Academic Training, students must first obtain approval in writing from their J-1 Responsible Officer. The J-1 Responsible Officer is an individual who represents their J-1 sponsor and who issues the Form DS-2019. The J-1 Responsible Officer must evaluate the proposed employment in terms of a student's program of study and individual circumstances, and then decide whether the employment is appropriate or not. For Duke-sponsored J-1 students, they may contact their Responsible Officer by contacting the Duke Visa Services. For students sponsored by other agencies (i.e. Fulbright Program, LASPAU, etc.), they must contact the agencies directly, for only their representatives can approve "Academic Training."

Clinical house staff employment is allowed on this visa ONLY if the student has used this visa to obtain a medical degree from a U.S. medical school. Foreign medical graduates whose J-1 visas are for Ph.D. programs may not use their practical training for clinical house staff employment. The students must have prior written approval for academic training from their exchange visitor program's Responsible or Alternate Responsible Officer.

Conditions

Eligibility

  1. Student's primary purpose in the United State must be study rather than to be employed.
  2. Student must be in good academic standing at the school named on the Form DS-2019.
  3. The proposed employment must be directly related to a student's major field of study.
  4. Throughout the Academic Training period, student must maintain permission to remain in the United States (maintain J-1 student status) and apply for extensions as necessary.
  5. Student must maintain health insurance and medical evacuation/repatriation coverage for themselves and any J-2 dependents through the Academic Training period.

General Limitations

  1. Student's employment may be authorized for "the length of time necessary to complete the goals and objectives of the training, provided that the amount of time…is approved by [both] the academic dean or advisor and…the Responsible Officer," to quote the regulations. It may not exceed "the period of full course of study" or 18 months, whichever is shorter. However, for Ph.D. students, their "post-doctoral training" may last as long as 36 months.
  2. Part-time employment for Academic Training counts against the 18 or 36-month limit the same as full-time employment.
  3. Earning more than one degree does not increase a student's eligibility for Academic Training.

After Completion of a Student's Program of Study

  1. Academic Training approved after completion of the academic program must be reduced by any prior periods of Academic Training.
  2. Whether the other items in the application are ready or not, a student must obtain a written offer of appropriate employment and present a copy to the J-1 Responsible Officer no later than his/her graduation date (degree program) or the last day of final examinations (non-degree program).
  3. If students plan to leave the United States after completing their programs of study and reenter the country for J-1 "Academic Training," they must obtain employment authorization and a new Form DS-2019 before leaving. If this is not done, there is no basis for being eligible for readmission.

The Application

  1. A student must obtain a letter of offer from a prospective employer that includes:
    • Job title.
    • A brief description of the "goals and objectives" of the "Training Program" (i.e. employment).
    • The dates and location of the employment.
    • The number of hours per week.
    • The name and address of the "training supervisor" (quotations come from the regulations).
    • The salary amount to be paid must be included to insure that personal living expense obligations can be met. (Proof of funding must be presented to cover living expenses before a new DS-2019 can be issued.).
    All elements must be present in order for the employer's letter to be acceptable.
  2. Employer's letter must be presented to a student's academic advisor or dean for use in writing to Duke's J-1 Responsible Officer recommending the "Academic Training." The advisor may, instead of writing a separate letter, wish to complete the Request For J-1 Academic Training Form. According to the text of the regulations, the academic advisor's letter must set forth:
    • Goals and objectives of the specific training program.
    • A description of the training program, including its location, the name and address of the training supervisor, the number of hours per week, and the dates of the training.
    • How the training relates to the student's major field of study.
    • Why the training will serve as an integral or critical part of the student's academic program.
  3. When the academic advisor's recommendation is ready, the student should make an appointment with the J-1 Responsible Officer and bring the offer letter, advisor's letter, passport, I-94 card and DS-2019 to the appointment.
  4. The J-1 Responsible Officer must evaluate the Academic Training program and decide whether it is warranted and appropriate. If so, a letter of approval will be written that will serve as the official work authorization document. At this same time, an extended DS-2019 should be issued.
  5. Academic Training must be applied for and approved BEFORE the end of the J-1 student's academic program.

Authorization to Work

A Social Security Number

To put you on the payroll, an employer must have your Social Security number, which you can obtain by applying for a Social Security card. If you do not already have a Social Security Number, take your passport (if you are Canadian, you may use another form of photo-bearing identification), your I-94 Departure Record card, the DS-2019, and the J-1 Responsible Officer's written work authorization to an office of the Social Security Administration. Your Social Security card may be stamped "Valid Employment only with INS approval." In the case of J-1 "Academic Training," this stamp means that the Social Security card is valid for working only if accompanied by a properly completed DS-2019 and a valid I-94 Departure Record card.

Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification

When you begin work, you and your employer must complete Form I-9 which requires you to document your identity and work authorization according to directions on the back of the form. Of the various items acceptable as documentation, you may find that the most convenient combination is your passport (or other photo-bearing identification if you are Canadian), I-94 Departure Record card, the DS-2019, and the J-1 Responsible Officer's written work authorization. Your employer, who keeps the Form I-9 on file, may make copies of the documents you submit and should return your original documents to you. Form I-9 is date specific and must be updated any time that you receive a renewal of your permission for "Academic Training."

Social Security and other Taxes

Social Security Taxes

In general, as a J-1 student, you will be exempt from Social Security (F.I.C.A.) taxes for your first five (5) 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.")

Federal, State, and Local Income 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 income 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 if you have a refund coming.

Note of Caution!

J-1 students are eligible for a variety of work opportunities in the United States, but employment without proper authorization is a serious violation of status. Remember that before starting any kind of employment, you first must consult your J-1 Responsible Officer, whose written approval is necessary in advance. This information is adapted from material produced by NAFSA: Association of International Educators.