J-1 Academic Training

The US Department of State Exchange Visitor Program regulations allow J-1 student visa holders to apply for Academic Training (AT) before and/or after completion of their program of studies.

Only students pursuing a degree are allowed to apply for Academic Training. Students become eligible for AT after they have been in lawful, full-time student status for one full academic year.

The cumulative period of Academic Training is 18 months, unless the student is pursuing a program that requires fewer than 18 months, in which case the period of Academic Training is shortened accordingly.  The period of Academic Training cannot be longer than the period of time the student takes to complete his/her program of studies. For example, a student who completes a Master’s degree in one academic year (10 months) is allowed only 10 months of Academic Training authorization.

Students who complete a Ph.D. program may be eligible for an additional 18 months of Academic Training authorization for post-doctoral training opportunities after completion of degree (for a total maximum of Academic Training based on the Ph.D. degree equal to 36 months).

Below are some common questions that students ask about J-1 Academic Training, followed by general answers to those questions. On the reverse side is an explanation of how to apply for Academic Training. If you are a J-1 WVU student and would like information about Academic Training, please come to International Students & Scholars Services and make an appointment to speak with an International Student Advisor.

Q. Who qualifies for Academic Training?

A. Students who are degree candidates and in good academic standing can apply for Academic Training before completion of studies. Students who have completed all of their requirements, including thesis, are eligible to apply for post-completion Academic Training.

Q. How many hours can students work?

A. J-1 Academic Training can be authorized for Full-time employment during vacation periods (Summer Vacation), and up to 20 hours per week maximum when school is in session (Fall and Spring semesters). All authorizations require the support/approval of your academic program and must be directly related to your field of study and furthering your specific academic experience.

Q. Is the period of Academic Training used during the summer subtracted from the 18 months total?

A. Yes. Any period of pre-completion Academic Training is subtracted from the total of 18 months (or fewer, depending on the length of the program).

Q. Is there a deadline for applying for post-completion Academic Training?

A. Yes. Students have only 30 days after completion of their program of studies to apply for and receive authorization for Academic Training. Since you must first meet with an International Student Advisor and then wait to receive authorization, it is recommended that you make an appointment well in advance of the 30 days.

Q. Is there any way to extend the deadline, if students are late with the application?

A. Unfortunately no, because the 30-day deadline is specified in federal regulations.

Q. Do students need to have a job offer before applying for Academic Training?

A. Yes. Students must have a specific job offer, so that their academic advisor is able to write a detailed letter of recommendation.

Q. How long does it take to receive authorization for Academic Training?

A. Academic Training authorization will be granted to students within two weeks of the date of their appointment at ISSS, provided the International Student Advisor has all the necessary information.

Please note: If WVU is not your J-1 program sponsor, ISSS cannot authorize Academic Training for you.  You must contact your J-1 visa program sponsor (who issued your Form DS-2019) to confirm if you are eligible for Academic Training authorization and the procedures to complete with your sponsor to secure the Academic Training authorization.

How to Apply for Academic Training

To apply for academic training through ISSS you must be sponsored by West Virginia University. If your sponsor is the Institute for International Education (IIE) or another agency, you must contact your sponsor to process your academic training. To determine your sponsorship, please check section #2 of your Form DS-2019.

  1. Have a formal employment offer, written on official letterhead from your potential academic training employer. The job offer letter from your employer must include:
    1. Your job title
    2. A brief description of the goals and objectives of your training or employment
    3. Dates and location of training or employment
    4. Number of hours per week, salary and benefits
    5. Name and title of your training supervisor
  2. Obtain a letter of recommendation from your Academic Advisor or Dean recommending this academic training. You will need to provide him/her with a copy of your employment offer letter. The recommendation letter from your Academic Advisor or Dean must include:
    1. The goals and objectives of the specific training program
    2. A description of the training program, including all the information listed above
    3. How the training relates to your major field of study
    4. Why this employment is an integral or critical part of your academic program
    5. The length of time necessary to complete the goals and objectives of the academic training
  3. Complete an Academic Training Request Form for J-1 Students
  4. Schedule an appointment with an International Student Advisor   
  5. Bring the following documents with you to your appointment:
    1. Completed Academic Training Request Form for J-1 Students
    2. Employment offer letter
    3. Letter of recommendation from your Academic Advisor or Dean
    4. Copies of your current and all previous Forms DS-2019
    5. A copy of your passport biographical data page and visa page

IMPORTANT: During the duration of your studies, as well as your Academic Training period, you are required to inform both ISSS and the USDHS/SEVIS of any address change — temporary or otherwise — within 10 days. You may inform ISSS by updating your address using our Change of Address Form. If you no longer have access to their mix account, send an email to isss-students@mail.wvu.edu with your new address. Failure to report an address change in a timely manner could result in loss of your Academic Training authorization and, possibly, loss of your legal status in the United States.

IMPORTANT: As an international student at WVU, you are responsible for maintaining your own legal status. This means you must ensure that you are registered full-time every semester, and that the validity of your immigration documents does not expire. Be certain to report any changes in your academic level, funding, and/or completion of studies date within a timely manner to an International Student Advisor in ISSS. If you allow the date on your DS-2019 to expire, you will fall out of legal status and may suffer serious consequences.