Choosing Between F-1 and J-1 Status

Overview

There are many types of immigration statuses for foreign nationals coming to the U.S.  Each has its own purpose, restrictions, and benefits. F-1 and J-1 statuses are designated as full time student statuses.  

When you apply for immigration sponsorship from UChicago, you will be asked to choose between F-1 and J-1 status. To be eligible for J-1 status, at least 51% of your tuition charge for the first year must come from an outside source, such as a scholarship, grant, or outside award from a different source.  Personal funds, loans, or funds from family/friends do not count towards J-1 eligibility.

At UChicago, F-1 status is more common, but we do have J-1 students, too. Both of these statuses will allow you to study here, and both allow for on-campus and some off-campus work authorization. There is no "better" or "worse" status, but one or the other might be more beneficial to your personal circumstances.

Although both allow for similar activities, there are a few important differences between the two statuses, however, so please read the following information carefully and contact our office if you have any further questions about how to choose a status.

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Eligibility for F-1 and J-1 Status

The eligibility requirements for F-1 and J-1 student status are as follows:

  • F-1: All full-time, admitted students. To be eligible for F-1, you must be admitted to a full-time program of study, meet the English requirement, and be able to show proof of funding for at least the first year of study.
  • J-1: Students with outside funding only. If you meet the criteria for an F-1 visa but also have a scholarship, grant or other award from an outside source, that is equal to at least 51% of your first year's tuition charge, you qualify for J-1 Student status.  Personal/private funds, or funds from family or friends, cannot count towards J-1 eligibility.

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Comparing F-1 and J-1

If you're eligible for both F-1 and J-1 status (i.e. receiving an outside award for at least 51% of your tuition charges), you can choose between F-1 and J-1 status by reviewing the chart below:

F-1

J-1

Enter 30 days before program start date

Enter 30 days before program start date

60 day grace period to depart U.S. or change status at end of program

30 day grace period to depart U.S. or change status at end of program

Immediately eligible for up to 20 hours/week of on-campus work authorization; unlimited on-campus work authorization on breaks while remaining in F-1 status

Immediately eligible for up to 20 hours/week of on-campus work authorization; unlimited on-campus work authorization on breaks while remaining in J-1 status

Spouses in F-2 status cannot study or work

Spouses in J-2 status can study, and are also eligible for work authorization with application to immigration service

No home residency requirement, which may be an issue for J-1

May be subject to 2 year home residency requirement if receiving government funding or if you are from a country on the skills list

Main types of off-campus work authorization:  1) Optional Practical Training (OPT). Eligible after completion of one year of study for up to 12 months per educational level of full-time off-campus work authorization related to program of study. Can be used either during or after program of study. Requires application to immigration service; processing takes 3-4 months and requires a fee. Exchange students not eligible. Does not require a job offer, so you can use it after graduation to look for a job.

2) Curricular Practical Training: used by Booth and College Metcalf Fellows most commonly; also available in other units. Used in the summer or part time during the school year after completion of one year of study and while you remain a student.

Main type of off-campus work authorization: Academic Training (AT). Eligible for off-campus work authorization related to program of study up to 18 months for bachelors and masters students or length of academic program whichever is shorter, up to 3 years for doctoral students. Exchange students can be eligible for AT corresponding to the amount of time in program (i.e. 90 days study = 90 days AT eligibility). Authorized through OIA without application to immigration service or fee. Requires a job offer, so you must have a job lined up before graduation.


 

If you have another status in the U.S., such as H4, L2, or adjustment applicant, it could be possible to study in those statuses without obtaining either an F-1 or J-1 visa. Visit our page on studying in a status outside of F-1/J-1 for more information.

If you have any questions about choosing a status for study, please do not hesitate to contact our office at international-affairs@uchicago.edu.

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