International scholars and employees at Duke most often hold J-1, H-1B, or TN status. Many others hold a variety of nonimmigrant documents and work authorization documents. This information sheet will help you understand your status in the United States and some of the rights and responsibilities that accompany it.
All foreign nationals in valid nonimmigrant status are granted certain privileges and are subject to certain federal requirements and restrictions on their activities. If you are a scholar or employee at Duke, note these primary rights and responsibilities.
You have the right to obtain information, forms, counseling, and assistance from Duke Visa Services (DVS) at no charge. The DVS can help you maintain your status, obtain or retain your permission to work, and return to the United States in proper status after travel to your home or to another country.
You have the responsibility to maintain your nonimmigrant status and work authorization, to exit and reenter the United States appropriately, and to refrain from unauthorized work. If you fail to comply with your immigration responsibilities, you may lose your legal nonimmigrant status and, thus, not be eligible for work or for future immigration-related benefits.
This webpage summarizes:
  • Some of the most important benefits granted to you by the regulations of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
  • Some of the most important aspects of the regulations that apply to you.
  • Some of the most important aspects of the regulations for which you are responsible as a temporary visitor to Duke and the United States.

Immigration Documents

Each nonimmigrant classification is confirmed or validated by certain immigration documents (see list below). Remember these relationships between the nonimmigrant class and the immigration documents as you read the following information.
Non-Immigrant ClassificationImmigration Documents

I-94 marked to show E-3 status.

Appointment letter describing the activities permitted in this particular E-3 status, and showing the dates the qualifying employment should begin and end.

If you have filed and extension of stay in the United States you should also have an I-797 approval notice showing beginning and ending dates.


OPT I-94 marked to show F-1 status.

EAD specifying the OPT and showing beginning and ending dates of work permission.

I-20 marked to show OPT recommended, and the field of study.


I-94 marked to show H-1B status.

I-797 approval notice and accompanying appointment letter describing the activities permitted in this particular H-1B status, and showing the date status and work permission begins and ends.


I-94 marked to show J-1 status.

DS-2019 stating the category of activities permitted in this particular J-1 status (e.g. student, professor, etc.), and showing the date status and/or work permission ends.

O-1I-94 marked to show O-1 status. I-797 approval notice and accompanying appointment letter describing the activities permitted in this particular O-1 status, and showing the date status and work permission ends.
TNI-94 marked to show TN status, and showing the date status and work permission ends. Appointment letter describing the activities permitted in this particular TN status. I-797 approval notice for change of status to TN or extension of the TN in the United States. Usually there is no I-797 for initial border crossing.
Other temporaryI-94 or other document showing another status. United States immigration law provides for many other temporary nonimmigrant classes that are identified by different letters of the alphabet. Examples: B=Visitor, G=Foreign Government Employee, I=Information Media, K=Spouse or Fiance(e) of United States citizen, L=Intracompany Transferee, P or Q=Performances, Cultural Exchange, Arts, R=Religious Worker, etc.
Other generalI-94 or other document confirming another lawful status. United States immigration law provides for other statuses that allow people to be in the United States temporarily while waiting for or attempting to obtain Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status or while waiting for some other benefit. Examples: Refugee or Asylee, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), Voluntary Departure (VD), or Parole.

The following documents are very important. Find them among your papers and take a careful look.

  • Your passport. Generally you need to keep it valid while you are in the United States. Contact your embassy or consulate to extend or replace your passport.
  • Your I-94 card (Departure Card) showing your port of entry into the United States, your arrival date in the United States, your nonimmigrant class (E-3, H-1B, J-1, O-1, TN, etc.), and the date on which your authorized stay expires.
  • Your I-797 for E-3 H-1B, O-1, or TN status. Your DS-2019 for J-1 status. Your I-20 and EAD for F-1 OPT status. [Note, if you obtained E-3 status by applying at an embassy abroad or obtained TN status by crossing the border, you probably do not have a Form I-797. If you extend your E-3 or TN status while in the United States, you should receive a Form I-797 confirming that extension.]
  • Regarding these documents, it is your responsibility to:
  • Read and understand the information on the DS-2019, the I-797, or other immigration documents you may hold.
  • Keep your documents safe.
  • Apply for extensions as necessary in a timely manner
  • Replace lost or stolen documents promptly.

The DVS staff will be happy to discuss any of these items with you, to help you apply for extensions of stay, or to assist you in replacing lost or stolen documents.

Address Reporting

United States law requires all aliens to report changes of address within 10 days of any move.
For more information, and to report your change of address to the DVS and to DHS, please review our Change of Residential Address webpage.


Many nonimmigrant classifications permit employment in the United States. In all cases, employment is restricted or limited in some way. You must meet specific criteria and you must have written approval before beginning work. For more information, please review our Maintaining Status webpage.

Remember that engaging in unauthorized employment is unlawful!

Doing so can terminate your nonimmigrant status and render you ineligible for certain benefits. You are permitted to work in the United States only as described below. For possible exceptions to any of these rules, contact the DVS.

J-1, H-1B, O-1 and TN are the nonimmigrant classifications most often used by scholars and have the following general restrictions:

  • The nonimmigrant status must be maintained at all times while in the United States and any reentries must be in the proper nonimmigrant class. Reentry in another nonimmigrant class invalidates prior employment authorization under another class. For example, if you hold J-1 status and you exit and return in B-2 status, your work permission in J-1 status has ended. Any work you do after you return is unauthorized.
  • Your activities (work, consultation, teaching, research, etc.) are limited as indicated on the immigration documents and/or petition filed with the DHS-CIS. Changes in hours per week, dates of employment, location, title, job description, or salary must be approved before the changes occur. Contact your departmental liaison or the DVS if you expect changes.
  • Clinical work as a physician at the house staff level is strictly limited to the J-1 under ECFMG sponsorship or to the H-1B or O-1 if, and only if, the original petition contained the appropriate documentation for clinical house staff-level work. The TN DOES NOT permit clinical house staff-level work.
  • Clinical work as a physician at the faculty level is strictly limited to the H-1B, O-1 or TN if, and only if, the petition filed with DHS-CIS contained the appropriate documentation for faculty-level clinical work. The J-1 under ECFMG for clinical training and the Duke J-1 prohibit faculty-level clinical work.
  • There may be individual exceptions to the rules indicated above for certain diplomats, representatives of foreign governments, and others in certain special nonimmigrant classes. These are very rare.

If you hold a form I-668 or I-766 (also called an Employment Authorization Document, an EAD, or a work permit), or any other document authorizing work, you are responsible for keeping that work authorization valid at all times to continue work at Duke. A break in your work permission means that you must go on mandatory leave from your job (that means, stop work) until DHS grants new work permission. Note that mandatory leave for immigration reasons is not official Duke leave under the Duke work rules. All of the disciplinary rules regarding unscheduled leave still apply during an immigration related mandatory leave period. You need to discuss these differences and consequences with your Duke supervisor. The DVS will help you maintain your work permission, but you must contact us well in advance of the expiration date. We recommend that you contact us at least 4 months before the expiration date.

REMEMBER, It is your responsibility to:

  • Know the terms and conditions of your work permission.
  • Know when your work permission begins and ends.
  • Contact the DVS at least four (4) months before your work permission ends to request an extension if necessary.
  • Stop work when your work permission ends.


Within the United States

You may travel freely within the United States provided you maintain your lawful nonimmigrant status and have your valid passport, I-94 card, and other documents appropriate to your status in your possession. You do not need to carry these documents on your person in the local area, but you are required to carry them for domestic travel. For more information, please review our Registration and Domestic Travel webpage.

Outside the United States

You may leave the United States at any time, but you should follow appropriate departure procedures at the airport or border crossing. Also note that your departure may affect applications or petitions that you have pending with the Department of Homeland Security, so please check before you go!

You will need your passport to return to your own country. You may need visas to travel to other countries, so please check before you go! To return to the United States and regain your former E, H J, O, or TN status, you must have both a valid passport containing an unexpired visa stamp (appropriate to your non-immigrant status) and a valid immigration document showing the status in which you wish to return.

For very important details about traveling abroad and returning to the United States, please review our Travel Abroad and Reentry into the United States webpage.

Dependents and Family Members

If you are married and/or have children under 21 years of age, you are usually permitted to have those family members with you in the United States as dependents in E-3, H-4, J-2, O-3 or TD status. For J-2 dependents, you must show adequate funds for their support. The E-3, H-4, O-3 and TD dependents do not require separate confirmation of funding. You must obtain separate immigration documents for any family member who will enter the United States without you.

For E-3, H-4, O-3 and TD dependents, family members will need copies of your immigration documents. Each J-2 dependent must have his/her own separate DS-2019. Family members, other than spouse or children, must qualify for their own tourist visas or other temporary status. If you bring children who are under 21 years old when they arrive, but will turn 21 while they are here, they will need independent immigration status at age 21. Contact the DVS at least 9 months before the 21st birthday.

Special Note to those in J-1 Status: If you wish to bring a spouse or child to the United States at any time during your stay, presently or in the future, you will be required to show proof that you have adequate funds. It is the policy of the Duke DVS that we only issue immigration documents for family if you provide us with four (4) months of United States bank statements showing accrued savings to meet the minimum funding requirements necessary to support your dependents for their stays in the United States.

Information Sharing

During your time at Duke, if you experience changes in your personal or professional life that might affect your lawful status or your relationship to Duke, please let us know. We will help if we can, and refer you to outside sources of help as appropriate.

In general Duke keeps your information confidential unless you give us permission to share it. This includes information among family members. We will talk and work with you, not your spouse or friend, regarding your immigration status or your relationship to Duke. You can only delegate those activities to your spouse or friend if you give us written authorization in an appropriate format. For more information, please review our Authorization to Release Information form.

Enjoy Your Stay Here

We hope that your personal and professional life will be enriched by your time at Duke and in the United States. The Visa Services stands ready to work with you and with other Duke offices to help you take advantage of the many opportunities that await you.