How to Keep Your U.S. Student Visa Active

July 22, 2021

You’ve just arrived in the United States. Now what? Here are some tips for making the most of resources and opportunities that are offered to you and keeping your visa active.

Attend your school's orientation for international students

1. Attend your school’s orientation for international students

Orientation is one of the best ways to get to know services available on campus, as well as keep up with confusing immigration rules. Attending orientation is mandatory according to ISEP policy, so it’s very important you attend. The good news is that it's also a great way to meet other students from all over the world.

As soon as you arrive, give your ISEP Coordinator your DS-2019

2. Check in with your host ISEP Coordinator soon after you arrive 

Please meet with your host ISEP Coordinator shortly after your arrival on campus and bring your DS-2019! ISEP requires coordinators to send in all students’ DS-2019s for travel signatures at the beginning of the semester. The travel signature will allow you to leave the United States during your exchange, whether for vacation or emergency.

Enroll in full-time classes at your university

3. Enroll in full-time classes at your university

You are required to take a full-time course load during your exchange (generally, 12 hours for undergraduate students and 9 hours for graduate students). Online classes are temporarily allowed to contribute to this total. However, you must take at least one in-person course. Please contact your host ISEP Coordinator if you have concerns about your course enrollment.

Work in the U.S. while you're on your J-1 visa!
ISEP student Thorben was an intern on the Power Electrics Team at Tesla Motors Inc. while he studied in the U.S.

4. Learn about working on campus or doing academic training

You are allowed to work in certain circumstances during your student exchange. You may either work on campus at your host institution, or pursue off-campus employment related to your field of study through Academic Training. Please note that you must get permission from ISEP (not from your host university) before starting work, or you risk the revocation of your visa.

You can find more information on working during your time in the U.S. in the Visa and Residency section of our United States Country Handbook.

Know where to go for help.

5. Know where to go for help

If you need emergency assistance, the best person to contact is your host ISEP Coordinator on campus, who will have the best idea about campus procedures and local emergency services. Outside of business hours, you can contact ISEP at 1-301-681-2388.

You may also contact Exchange Visitor Program of the U.S. government in case of emergency directly at 1-866-283-9090 or send non-emergency questions to


6. Contact us if anything changes

If your U.S. phone number, U.S. physical address or your contact email changes, be sure to tell us about it! Students are required to submit these updates within 10 days of the change. Please update your contact information in your ISEP Dashboard in Portal. To do this, go to ‘While Abroad’ and then click 'Provide Your Contact Information.’ Lastly, make sure to click 'Save Contact Information’ to save the changes.

Have more questions? Contact your ISEP Student Services Officer for any visa-related information.

If you are planning to study in the U.S. and want more information regarding J-1 visas and residency, on-campus employment, academic training, internship opportunities and what to expect while on campus, select the Visa and Residency section of our United States Country Handbook.

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