What is the difference between my visa and my immigration status?


This is the stamp placed in your passport by the US Embassy. This is simply a document that allows you to travel to the US. Based on this document, and others (DS-2019, SEVIS record), the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immigration inspector will authorize or deny your admission to the United States.

Your visa can expire while you are in the US as long as you maintain a valid immigration status.

You need a valid visa if you intend to travel and need to re-enter the US.

Immigration Status

Your status is J-1. Your DS-2019 proves this. The DS-2019, combined with your I-94 and an active SEVIS record, are the documents that allow you to stay in the US. It determines your duration of status (D/S).

Your DS-2019 must remain valid during your entire stay in the US.

You must always be in between the start and end date listed on the form.

form covers period

Can a J-1 Research Scholar enroll in classes at UAB?

Yes, but only as a part-time, non-degree seeking student.

Can a J-1 Research Scholar or Short-Term Scholar with a DS-2019 issued by UAB engage in graduate medical education/ training (i.e., residency or clinical fellowship)?

No. Only ECFMG can sponsor foreign medical graduates to pursue graduate medical education/training under a J-1 program.

Will I be subject to the two-year home residency requirement, also known as the rule/ Section 212(e)?

The Consular Officer/Department of State will determine if you are subject to this rule if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • You received any funding from a foreign or US government.
  • Your skill is listed on the Department of State’s current Exchange Visitor Skills List
  • You are in the US for the purpose of graduate medical education/training (i.e., you are an ECFMG-sponsored medical resident or clinical fellow).

Note: If you are subject to the two-year home residency requirement, then your J-2 dependents are as well. This rule prevents you from changing your immigration status within the US (for example, from J1 to H1B).

How do I obtain a waiver of the two-year home residency requirement?

Waivers are available in very few situations. For detailed information, please refer to the Department of State website.

What is the 12 or 24-month repeat participation bar?

J-1 Exchange Visitors are subject to specific bars preventing them from re-entering the US as a J-1 Research Scholar or Professor after a previous participation in a J-1 Program.

These bars are completely separate from the two-year home residency requirement. NO waivers are available.

Read more information about this topic

Can I hire an outside attorney to assist me with immigration issues?

Yes, but only for non-employment-based immigration processes. The attorney can represent only you — not UAB. All paperwork filed with a federal agency based on an employment-based petition must be reviewed by ISSS and receive the required signatures through routing.

What happens if my child is born in the US?

Your child will be a US citizen and receive all benefits and privileges afforded to US citizens.

What visa should my relatives obtain to visit me in the US?

J-1 can sponsor his/her direct dependents (i.e. spouse and children under the age of 21) for a J-2 visa. The J-2 status is appropriate for dependents who plan to come to the US and stay with the scholar during the entire program. Otherwise, a B-2 visa or ESTA is more appropriate.

Other relatives can apply for a B-2 visitor visa to enter the US. If you are from a Visa Waiver country, they can come on an ESTA.

Does the visa stamp in my passport need to be valid during my stay in the US?

No, the visa stamp in your passport is only your permission to enter the US. Your SEVIS record, non-immigrant documents (i.e., DS-2019) and most recent Form I-94 are your permission to remain in the US. See above question 1.

Can I travel to Canada or Mexico to obtain a new visa?

Yes, if you have maintained your status while in the US.

Citizens of countries other than Canada or Mexico must make an appointment with US consulates/embassies in Canada and Mexico.

Please consult ISSS prior to traveling abroad and visit our travel page.



Do I need a US Social Security Number (SSN)?

Anyone authorized by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to work in the US, or is eligible to work incidental to their immigration status, can apply. This includes:

  • J-1 Exchange Visitors
  • J-2 dependents AFTER they have obtained a work authorization (or EAD).

You are required to apply for the SSN if UAB is paying you; otherwise, there is no obligation to apply

How do I obtain a US Social Security number (SSN)?

To apply, ISSS Office must validate your SEVIS record. This validation takes place after you come to J-1 Scholar Orientation.

The Social Security Administration in Birmingham is located at:

1200 Rev. Abraham Woods Jr. Blvd North
Birmingham AL 35285

Open Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM (free parking available).

Please refer to the ISSS Social Securty Number and Driver License page.

Can my J-2 spouse work or volunteer in the US?

Yes, but only with proper work authorization. Your spouse must apply for an Employment Authorization Document with form I-765 in order to work.

“Volunteer” work is only applicable to things like helping the local animal rescue shelter, feeding the underprivileged at a local food pantry, or picking vegetables for the farmers market (charitable activities for a non-profit organization).

Read more information on J-2 work authorization.

How do I apply for an Alabama Driver’s License?

If you do NOT have a social security number (SSN), you must obtain a “proof of denial” from the Social Security Administration in order to apply for a driver license or State ID.

To learn how to apply and what documents to bring, please visit the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) website (HERE) and carefully review the list of documents required to apply (HERE). The office is located at:

908 Bankhead Highway
Birmingham. AL 35204
Phone: (205 252-7445

Open Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Please refer to the ISSS Social Securty Number and Driver License page.

Can I work part time or participate in a clinical trial for compensation?

As a J-1 scholar, your main purpose in the US is to participate in the program described on your DS-2019. Part time employment outside of your original program is NOT authorized. In addition, we would strongly advise against you participating in clinical trials for compensation. It could be interpreted by DHS (Dept. of Homeland Security) in the future as unauthorized employment and is not worth the risk to your J-1 status. It could also have negative implications for future visa applications.


UAB Procedures

How many steps are there until I can have full access to UAB systems once I am on campus?

It depends… ISSS is not responsible for the entire process. Your Department must also accomplish their share.

  1. Attend a J-1 Orientation in the international center, where we will collect your documents and complete your Form I-9 (if you will be employed by UAB).
  2. Your department is responsible for the onboarding process and must submit the “ACT” document that must be approved before you can create a BlazerID and have computer and lab access.

How do I create a BlazerID?

Once your ACT document is complete, it will generate an employee ID number, which you can use to create your BlazerID.

How can I enroll with VIVA UAB for health insurance?

Not every J-1 Exchange Visitor is eligible for VIVA UAB. It depends on your HR status. Please check with your Department if you are eligible or not.

When eligible, you have to contact UAB Benefits to learn more about the enrollment process.

What about the immunizations?

To be able to access some labs on campus and depending on the nature of your research, you are required to provide proof of immunizations.

This requirement is handle directly by UAB OH&S Occupational Medicine Department and Dr. Timothy Key and his team. You should have completed an enrollment form together with your supervisor at UAB before your arrival at UAB. If not, please do so, follow the instructions listed on the 1st page and communicate directly with OH&S Department. ISSS office does not need to be in copy.