J-1 Student Academic Training
J-1 student visa Academic Training (AT) provides authorization for experiential learning activities outside the classroom, including internship, training, co-op education, and even employment that is tied directly to your major.
For simplicity, the word training is used throughout the AT guidance here to cover the range of possible AT activities because that word appears in the term AT.
If you have a J-1 student visa, you need AT authorization for any training activity, including unpaid training.
To be eligible for AT authorization the following criteria must be met.
- The training must be tied directly to your major and supervised directly or indirectly by your VCU academic advisor.
- You must have been enrolled at VCU in a degree or certificate program or in an exchange program with your university abroad for a full course of study (FCS) for at least one semester. FCS for an undergraduate student is at least 12 credits per semester. FCS for a graduate student is at least 9 credits per semester.
- You are in good academic standing at VCU.
- You are in J-1 student visa status and have not violated any of the J-1 regulations.
- You have at least $1,000 per month of AT authorization to cover the cost of living in the U.S. during your training.
- You must maintain the required J-1 medical insurance throughout the duration of your AT authorization.
- You and your AT supervisors must submit regular, written updates and evaluations of your training to GEO.
Yes. AT can be authorized for training only in your major field.
Yes. You can be paid or unpaid for AT.
Yes. You need AT for paid or unpaid training.
Employment means work for hire. If you will be paid for your AT, GEO authorization for AT automatically provides employment authorization for it.
Yes. AT can be on campus or off campus.
AT is for use before and after you complete your VCU studies.
Pre-completion AT dates must align with VCU’s academic calendar and is available only for one semester (Fall or Spring) or scheduled fall, winter, spring, or summer break at a time.
Post-completion AT must begin no later than 30 days after your VCU program completion. Example: If your VCU program completes on May 13, you must start your AT before June 12. Post-completion AT is available for no more than 12 months at a time.
If you are a VCU degree student, you are eligible for a total of 18 months of AT authorization for use either during or after your studies. This is 18 months total, not 18 months during your studies plus 18 months after your studies!
- The total duration of AT cannot exceed the total time spent in study. Example: 1 year is 12 months. If you are in a 1-year Master's program, that's 12 months. In this case, the total duration of AT 12 months, not 18 months.
- AT used during your studies is deducted from AT available after your studies. Example: If you use 4 months of AT during your studies, you would be eligible for 4 fewer months of post-completion AT.
- Part-time AT is deduced at a full-time rate. Example: If your AT is for 4 months of part-time AT, you would be eligible for 4 fewer months of post-completion AT.
- Ph.D. students (only) are eligible for 36 months of post-completion AT minus any AT authorized during their studies. Examples: If you use 6 months of AT during your studies, you are eligible for only 30 months of post-completion AT. If you use no AT during your studies, you are eligible for 36 months of post-completion AT.
- If you require additional training in order to complete your studies (course work), you may be eligible for additional AT time.
If you are a VCU non-degree student, the duration of your AT cannot exceed the total time spent in study at VCU. Example: 1 semester is 4 months. If you are a non-degree student at VCU for 1 semester, the duration of your AT cannot exceed 4 months. This is 4 months total, whether used during your VCU studies or after.
Regulatory citation: 22 CFR § 514.23(f)(4)
AT is for either part-time or full-time training, but part-time AT is counted as full-time AT for the purpose of calculating the duration of AT available to you.
Example: If you are eligible for 18 months (aggregate of pre-completion and post-completion) AT, and you engage in part-time AT for 3 months, a full 3 months of AT will be deducted from the 18-month total, leaving you with just 15 months of AT time remaining.
Yes. AT authorization is specific to the training authorized, and so to request AT authorization, you will need to provide GEO with an offer letter from the employer.
The letter must:
- Be on employer letterhead.
- Dated within 30 days of your request for AT authorization.
- Provide extensive details about the training: start and end dates of the training, job duties, worksite address, how and when your performance will be evaluated, connection to your major, whether you will be paid (including how much and how often), whether you will receive employee benefits (such as paid time off, medical insurance, and worker’s compensation), and the name and contact information of your direct supervisor.
- Consent to inform GEO staff immediately if your training is terminated for any reason. They may not necessarily need to inform GEO of the reason for the termination, but they must inform GEO that your training has been terminated.
- Signed by an individual in the company with the authority to offer and supervise training. This individual may be contacted by either GEO staff or the U.S. government with inquiries regarding your training.
We encourage employers to write their own offer letters for AT authorization purposes.
However, if your employer would like a template offer letter, GEO can provide one to them. They are not required to use the GEO template, but they are welcome to use it if they wish.
Please ask your employer to email us at GEOIS@vcu.edu (Subject Line: Academic Training Offer Letter Template) and to cc: you on the email. We will send the AT offer letter template to them.
AT authorization is provided by GEO Immigration Services. To apply for AT authorization, please follow these steps:
- Send an email to GEO Immigration Services at GEOIS@vcu.edu (Subject Line: J-1 Student Visa AT Authorization).
- We will respond with a GEO Request for J-1 Student Visa AT Authorization (form), which you will need to complete and return to us by email. (This form is not available online. It is available from GEO only by request.) You will be providing the employer’s signed training offer letter to us with this form.
- We will review the request. If we can approve the request, we will prepare and issue an updated DS-2019 marked for employment and a letter detailing the terms of the authorization.
Yes. If you are authorized for AT, you must comply with all of the relevant J-1 visa regulations, including the J-1 medical insurance requirement. Noncompliance with the J-1 visa regulations leads to a loss of J-1 status and AT authorization.
You will also be required to provide regular, written updates and evaluations regarding your AT to GEO. These reports will be retained in GEO’s files, but they may be made available to the U.S. government upon their authorized request.
Yes. Although AT is authorized by GEO Immigration Services, we are legally required to submit information about your AT to the Student and Exchange Information System (SEVIS).
This means that the U.S. government will know about your AT authorization, and they are entitled to ask questions about, or otherwise review, the employment or the authorization if they choose to do so.
Either U.S. government agents or GEO staff may, at their discretion, make in-person site visits to your AT worksite to ensure that you and your employer are following the AT regulations.
Such site visits by U.S. government agents could be unannounced. (GEO staff site visits would be pre-arranged.) Site visits for AT compliance are very rare but they are not unheard of.
For additional information about AT authorization, please send an email to GEOIS@vcu.edu