Deciding on F-1 or J-1 Status

Are you eligible to choose between F-1 or J-1 status?

  • F-1 Status: All nonimmigrant students are eligible.

  • J-1 Status: Only students who meet ONE of the following criteria are eligible: 

    • Full-time, degree-seeking students with a non-personal funding source that pays for 51% or higher of the total cost of Penn (e.g. scholarship, fellowship, grant, or assistantship).  Common non-personal sources: Penn, Rotary Foundation, home government, US government, international organization (US must be a member by treaty or statute), corporate sponsor...

    • Exchange students coming to campus through a Penn Abroad program.

    • Students in an exchange program carried out pursuant to an agreement between the US Government and a foreign government.

    • Students in an exchange program carried out pursuant to a written agreement between: American and foreign educational institutions; American educational institution and a foreign government; OR US State or local government and a foreign government

Note: Students are not eligible for J-1 status if their program has a clinical component.


F-1 Status

J-1 Status

Off-Campus Employment

Both F-1 and J-1 students are eligible to work on-campus at Penn.

For further employment information and eligibility requirements, see our page on Employment.

If eligible, students may have the option of Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT).

If eligible, students may have the option ofAcademic Training

For non-degree and exchange students: work authorization may be granted for up to the length of the program.

Major of Study

May change or add additional major(s) while at Penn

J-1 student are generally not eligible to change their major while in the U.S.

212 (e) Two-Year Home Residency Requirement

Not subject to this requirement

May be subject to the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement if the J-1 study is funded by the student’s home or US government OR their field of study is in high demand in their home country, per the Skills List

If subject, students will not be able to change status within the US; obtain an H-1 temporary work visa, L-1 intracompany transferee visa or US permanent residence.

UNLESS: 2 years are spent in their home country after the end of their J-1 program OR they obtain a waiver of this requirement.

Health Insurance Requirements

Not required by immigration regulations, however Penn requires that all students have comprehensive medical insurance

Mandatory medical insurance which must meet minimum requirements set by J-1 regulations

Dependents (study/work)

See more information on our Dependents page.

F-2 dependents may only study part-time in the US.

F-2 dependents are NOT eligible to work in the US.

J-2 dependents may study part-time or full-time in the US.

J-2 dependents are eligible to apply for employment authorization from USCIS to work in the US.

Which status does the University recommend: F-1 or J-1?

  • There is no recommendation from the University or ISSS. We will process the document you request as long as you meet the eligibility requirements.

  • Please feel free to email us if you have any questions.

Department of State

Department of Homeland Security