Overview of Student Visa Categories

F-1 Student
  • An F-1 student is a nonimmigrant who is pursuing a "full course of study" to achieve a specific educational or professional objective at an academic institution in the United States.
  • Students are issued a Form I-20 to obtain F-1 status.
  • F-1 students may be eligible for off campus employment authorization - Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT) - if the employment is directly related to their major.
F-2 Dependent
  • An F-2 dependent is defined as the spouse and/or unmarried child (under the age of 21) of the primary F-1 visa holder.
  • F-2 dependents are not eligible for employment.
  • F-2 dependents may attend non-degree avocational or recreational courses on a part-time basis.
  • F-2 dependents cannot study full-time or in a degree program.
J-1 Student
  • The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program is part of a larger U.S. Department of State mission to foster cultural and educational exchange between countries.
  • J-1 Exchange Visitors participate in the Exchange Visitor Program within a particular Exchange Visitor category. J-1 students are usually in the College and University Students category. 
  • To be eligible for J-1 student status, a substantial portion of the participant's financial support must be from a source other than personal/family funds. . This can include Brandeis funding or a scholarship from another organization. Students with personal/or family funding only, are NOT eligible for J-1 status.
  • Participation in the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program may subject the student to a two-year home country physical presence requirement.
  • Students are issued a Form DS-2019 to obtain J-1 status.
  • J-1 regulations require all exchange visitors and their dependents to maintain specific health insurance coverage.
  • J-1 students may be eligible for Academic Training (AT). Its duration is equal to the length of study or 18 months, whichever is shorter. PhD students are eligible for up to 36 months of AT.
J-2 Dependent
  • A J-2 dependent is defined as the spouse and/or unmarried child (under the age of 21) of the primary J-1 visa holder.
  • J-2 dependents are eligible to apply for employment authorization.
  • J-2 dependents are eligible to pursue a degree part-time or full-time at the college/university level. However, an F-1 or J-1 may be more appropriate for full-time study.