USA Student Visas: F-1 vs. J-1

Now that I am immersed in the process of requesting a visa to go to the USA and start an MBA at Fuqua Business School, I have more insight about the process and about the differences on the most common student visas types. In this post I want to share with you the main differences on two of the most common visas, something that not all of us know until we start this process.

The most common student visas are the following:

  • F-1 Student Visa
  • J-1 Exchange Visitor Student Visa

Student Visa

You can’t apply for a student visa if you haven’t been accepted to a study program in the USA. Also, make sure that you are able to prove sufficient funds to support you throughout your studies and to return back to your country of origin once your program is complete.

It is advised to apply for a visa as soon as possible.

Next, you will find the most important differences between these two visas:

Eligibility Restrictions

The only visa with eligibility restrictions is the J-1, which requires some sort of funding from a third party, unless the student is participating in an exchange program.

On-Campus Employment

Both visas allow students to work on-campus up to 20 hours per week, and up to 40 hours per week during school breaks, such as holidays.

Off-Campus Employment

Both visas authorize students to work before or after the studies are finished in case of unforeseen economic hardship.

Practical Training Employment

Both visas allow practical training employment. However, the F-1 visa allows to just spend 12 months of practical training, whereas the J-1 can allow up to 36 months, depending on the student’s degree.

A job offer is necessary within 30 days of competition of studies in the case of the J-1 visa. In the case of the F-1 visa, a job offer may not be necessary.

Change Visa Status

The possibility of changing visa classification is easier for the F-1, and it might be complicated for students with the J-1 visa because of the Two Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement (also known as “Two Years Rule”, explained below).


The F-1 visa does not allow spouses to work. On the other hand, the J-1 allow spouses to work if they prove that the salary is not needed to fund the stay; approval needed.


The F-1 visa does not require any insure, although the school requires all student to have one. J-1 students need to have an insure, as well as all dependents.

Stay After Completion of Program

F-1 visa allows student to stay in the USA for 60 days after completion of their studies. J-1 visa allow students to stay up to 20 days in the country.

Two Years Rule

This is a clause that basically forces students to stay in their home country for two years after the completion of their studies.

The J-1 exchange program is designed to facilitate international educational exchange between the U.S. and citizens of other countries. Therefore, J-1 should be used only for temporary activities and not as a bridge to permanent resident status. The student will have to be physically present in the home country for 2 years before returning to or remaining in the U.S. in a visa class that permits employment.

The “Two years rule” apply to the following four groups of people: 1) those who receive U.S. government funding for exchange such as Fulbright scholars or National Institutes of Health fellows; 2) those who receive foreign government funding for exchange such as AMIDEAST-Peace Fellows; 3) those whose skills or training are on a “skills list” filed by the home government with the U.S. government; and 4) foreign physicians, regardless of funding or skills list, who receive clinical graduate medical training in the U.S.

I hope you found this helpful!


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