Compiling, Evaluation and Choosing Visa Options: Factors to Consider in Deciding Between F-1 vs. J-1 Visa Categories

Most full-time international students come to the U.S. on an F-1 student visa (Form I-20), although some have the option to obtain J-1 visa status [DS-2019]. And if both choices are options, then how do you decide? It all depends on your goals – where you want to find yourself 5 to 10 years down the road. Just like you have a destination in mind when you
purchase an airline ticket, when you decide on a student visa category, you’ve thought ahead for more than just the school program.

People get overwhelmed by information, especially when it comes to life plans because unexpected change is inevitable. But the basic act of making a decision is not that difficult if you already know the outcome you desire. Success, after all is said and done, is simply achieving your personal objective(s) and the means of “getting there” are tools that may
change or become outdated. That’s why I tell international students seeking my advice about whether to come into the U.S. on an F-1 or a J-1 visa, the that answer (after eligibility) depends upon their long term plans.

Researching Eligibility: Many college websites, especially those who have a large international student body, have organized resources online for weighing the specifics and the pros/cons to help students in the global internet community. When you are evaluating choices between two options, it helps to see things in columns with basic terminology and follow-up links for going deeper into the question.

I do recommend, however, that your research be primarily targeting information from .gov [example, ] websites. Additionally there are informative .edu websites: [examples, ]. However, for .edu websites you should ensure they are up to date and accurate as immigration law frequently changes; thus you should also consult an immigration attorney.

Long term plans: Here’s seven basic factors to put beside your life plans in choosing between the F-1 and J-1 visa:

1) Eligibility requirements regarding sources of funding;
2) Off-Campus Employment options for student
3) Employment/education opportunities for dependents
4) Home residency requirement (2 year return to home country): visit for more information regarding obtaining a j1 waiver
5) Grace period after completion program/expiration of visa
6) Program changes allowed (e.g., change major)
7) Insurance requirement(s) (state/federal)

Clearly the factor that certainly affects goals/plans the most would be #4, the home residency requirement. The J-1 visa holder subject to this rule must return to country of origin for two years after completing their J-1 program, unless they have been approved for a j1 waiver. Getting a waiver 5 to 7 years down the road may not be a sure thing.

Having Plan A and Plan B worked out in advance, will prevent unnecessary upset when expectations are waylaid/delayed due to a necessary change in plans. Plan ahead, know your goals, and have at least one Plan B in your toolkit. Don’t give up – that’s the only step you absolutely have to take again and again.
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F1 Visa Benefits for Students

Immigration Lawyer in San Jose area Offers Insights into F1 Visas for Students

If you’re a full time student from a foreign country who will be traveling to the US to study at a university, college, conservatory or high school or as a language student, then you will want to apply for and secure a F1 Visa. In my practice as an immigration lawyer in the San Jose Bay Area, CA, I’ve found that this visa, which is specifically designed for students, is essential. Continue reading “F1 Visa Benefits for Students” »

F-1 Status and Extension of OPT

In my extensive experience as a immigration lawyer in San Francisco, I do a lot of work in the area of H1B visas. From my office in the San Francisco Bay area, I work with applicants from all 50 states who have been in this country under a F 1 visa and who during that time have earned a master’s degree or higher.

I am going to devote a few blogs to this important area and look at how F 1 visa holders can get an extension as they apply for their H 1B. In this blog, I’m going to consider eligibility criteria. Continue reading “F-1 Status and Extension of OPT” »

Immigration Lawyer Offers Checklist for F-1 Students OPT Application

As an immigration lawyer, I find that students with an F-1 visa who go through the OPT application procedure can often be intimidated by the various aspects of the process. From my offices in the San Francisco Bay Area, I work with clients from all 50 states on this process. Here’s a checklist for F-1 students interested in engaging in the OPT application procedure.

Recommendation Request from Designated School Official (DSO)


Those who think they would profit from practical training in their field and consider themselves to be OPT eligible should first meet with their Designated School Official (DSO), who is their international advisor, and request a recommendation. The DSO must issue a recommendation for OPT in SEVIS and provide the student with Form I-20, which has been updated. The student must submit the Form I-20 with the employment authorization application. Continue reading “Immigration Lawyer Offers Checklist for F-1 Students OPT Application” »