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Current Exchange Visitors

The International Services for Students and Scholars (ISSS) Office welcomes many Exchange Visitors (EVs) to Rensselaer's campus each year to collaborate with faculty and staff. Prospective Exchange Visitors should first contact the hosting department, rather than the ISSS Office, prior to arriving on campus to ensure open lines of communication between the EV, department, and ISSS.

The ISSS Office is responsible for J-1 Exchange Visitors. However, all international visitors, including those on B-1's or other visa categories must be cleared for Export Control before arriving on campus and come to ISSS to submit documents and obtain a RIN.

Departments Requesting Scholars - Please see the page for RPI Departments for more assistance.

This page was last updated on: March 09, 2020.


Rensselaer Information

Health-Related Matters

In Case of Emergency

  • Call 911
  • Rensselaer Public Safety Emergency Number: 518-276-6611
  • Samaritan Hospital: 2215 Burdett Ave, Troy NY: 518-276-3300

NOTICE: These numbers are for emergency use. If you are in immediate need of medical attention, or in a life-threatening situation, do not hesitate to call these numbers. However, if your case is not an emergency, medical fees may not be covered by insurance and can be very expensive.

For Non-Emergency matters, consider going to Urgent Care. Not sure what is urgent care or how to decide what is better for you? Check out this article from Mount Sinai for information.

  • Urgent care is often much less expensive than going to the emergency room.
Weather in Troy

Troy experiences all four seasons at their best. We have a very warm summer, where temperatures can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and a very cold winter, where temperatures can reach to 0 degrees Fahrenheit and below with lots of snow.

There are many tools to help you plan for the weather. Some tools we recommend are the Weather Channel and Swackett [for Apple only].

The Department of Public Safety also has information about how you can learn about severe weather and natural disasters:

If the weather approaching campus is severe, a message will be sent out through the RPI Alert system. To learn about this system and update your information, go here:


EV Requirements

2-Year Home Residency Requirement [212(e)]

The two-year home residency requirement [also referred to as 212(e)] means that those who enter the U.S. in J-1 status must return to their country of nationality (or country of last permanent residence) for 24 months in order to be eligible for any potential immigrant visa.

Exchange visitors can be subject to 212(e) based on:

ISSS does not determine if you are subject to 212(e).

Waiver Request for 212(e)

12-Month & 24-Month Bars

The 12 and 24 month bars are different from the two-year home country residence requirement. Exchange visitors may not be subject to the 12 or 24 month bar but may be subject to the home country residence requirement, or vice versa.

Come to ISSS during Open Hours if you have questions regarding this.


Maintaining Your Status

Expand each section to see guidelines to ensure that you are maintaining legal status in the United States.

If you are uncertain of whether or not what you are doing is legal, always check with the ISSS Office first.

Basic Overview
  • Notify ISSS of any Change of Address - This must be done within 10 days of the change. Please make sure to also keep your phone numbers (both inside and outside the U.S.) updated.
  • Keep your passport valid at all times - Your passport should be valid for six months into the future at all times. Contact your embassy on what is required for a passport extension.
  • Do not work illegally - If you are not sure what is legal, contact the ISSS staff. Unpaid and volunteer employment still counts as employment for immigration purposes.
  • Keep your DS-2019 valid - Check the Program End Date on your DS-2019. You must update ISSS within 10 days if any of the information listed on your DS-2019 changes, and apply for an Extension of Stay at least 30 days before the Program End Date on the DS-2019 if needed. For details on how to apply for an Extension of Stay, see the 'Finishing Your Program' section on this page.
  • J-1 Health Insurance - J-1 students must maintain health insurance meeting the most recent Department of State requirements.
Finishing Your Program?

As a J-1 Exchange Visitor, you have several options when you are about to complete your program.

30 Day Grace Period

There is a 30-day grace period that begins the day after your Program End Date as listed on Page 1 of the DS-2019 in Box 3.

Per the U.S. Department of State website, "Upon completion of your exchange program, you have a grace period of 30 days to depart the United States."

Request a DS-2019 Extension of Stay

All Exchange Visitors are required to complete their program by the Program End Date listed on their DS-2019.

If you will not complete your program by this date, you must apply for an extension at least 30 days before your Program End Date on your DS-2019.

Extensions filed in an untimely manner may not be processed and the student may have to return home or file for a reinstatement, which can be a costly and timely process.

To apply for a scholar extension of stay, you must submit the following documents to ISSS:

  • Completed and signed Scholar Extension Form - get here:
  • Letter of invitation from department
  • Proof of funding for remainder of stay
  • CV, which includes your employment at RPI

If the extension is more than 30 days, ISSS must obtain approval from Export Control. This can take up to 30 days.

If requesting an extension of stay, you must also provide proof of insurance coverage for the full period of the extension.

J-2 Dependent

If you would like your spouse and/or child to join you in the United States, you can request the addition of a dependent through the ISSS Office. A new form DS-2019 will be printed for your dependent(s) which can be used to obtain an J-2 visa to enter the United States. As a J-2, your dependent(s)’ status will be entirely linked to your J-1 status. Thus, if the J-1 goes out of status, the J-2 loses status as well. This also means that the J-2 is subject to the same restrictions as the J-1, including 212(e).

Please note: All J-1 and J-2 visa holders must have medical insurance meeting the Department of State requirements for the entire duration of their stay in the United States. For details on this coverage, see the section on 'Health Insurance Requirements'.

Application Instructions

To request that your spouse or child(ren) be issued a DS-2019, please submit the following documents to ISSS:

  • Completed J-1 Dependent Request Form - get here:
  • Clear picture of dependent's identifying page in passport
  • Proof of relationship to dependent (e.g. birth certificate or marriage certificate)
  • Proof of sufficient finances (see form for the amount needed)
  • If the funding is not in your name, your sponsor must also provide you with a signed Affidavit of Support:

Please note that ISSS staff are not tax professionals, and ISSS is not able to provide you with any tax guidance or assistance. If you have any questions you must speak with a tax professional.

All international exchange visitors are required to file some kind of tax paperwork each year you are in the U.S.. Filing tax paperwork does not always mean that you will owe money.

The tax year in the U.S. is based on the calendar year, so from January 1 through December 31 per year. Traditionally, tax paperwork is due in April to cover the previous calendar year. An example: Tax paperwork filed for the calendar year of January 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019 would be filed by April 2020.

Every year, you must file the Form 8843 whether or not you have earned any income. This tells the government how long you have been inside the U.S. and in what status (F, J, etc.). If you earned income, you also are required to file federal taxes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

We recommend that you keep copies of all forms you mail and send them using USPS Certified Mail so you have proof of when you sent them and the address where you sent them. DO NOT SUBMIT FORMS TO ISSS.

Need Help?

ISSS recommends you find a tax accountant who is proficient in immigration tax regulations. You will need to pay for assistance from any tax accountant or tax service.

For your convenience, ISSS has teamed up with Sprintax to provide you with easy-to-use tax preparation software designed for non-resident students and scholars. The company website is listed below.



To request a transfer to/from Rensselaer, please contact ISSS via email at

Working in the U.S.

Social Security Number/ITIN

Please come in to ISSS to discuss this during Open Hours.

J-2 Dependent: Work Authorization

J-2 dependents may be eligible for full-time/part-time study in the United States as well as work authorization through USCIS. Please come in to ISSS to discuss this during Open Hours.

Unlawful Presence

Unlawful presence is a complex policy, and the best way to not have problems is to make sure you maintain your F-1 status and speak with ISSS if you have any concerns.

February 06, 2020 - A permanent nationwide injunction was issued blocking the August 2018 policy from USCIS.

From NAFSA Accrual of Unlawful Presence and F, J, and M Nonimmigration Resource: “On February 6, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina issued a permanent nationwide injunction blocking the August 8, 2018 USCIS policy memo that sought to change how days of unlawful presence are counted following a violation of F, M, or J nonimmigrant status.”

Previous Update from 2019

USCIS has revised their policy regarding unlawful presence, effective August 9, 2018.

Please see this link for additional information:



Travel Inside U.S.

Exchange visitors travelling within the United States should still carry their immigration documents with them. This includes your passport, visa, and DS-2019. You may be asked for these documents to prove your status at any time by government or law enforcement officials. Puerto Rico is a United States territory and is considered a part of the U.S.

NOTE: Exchange visitors with a pending change of non-immigrant status application or immigrant visa petition should only travel within the United States only, as travel outside the United States has the effect of abandoning the application. You should also travel with a receipt notice of your pending application. We strongly advise consulting with an immigration attorney for travel in these situations.

Travel Outside the U.S.

Skip to the below section on: 

Before You Go Travel FAQs Travel to Canada Travel to Other Countries Renewing your J-1 Visa Entering the U.S.

Before You Go

Before you leave, make sure you have

  • Passport valid 6 months into the future
  • Valid J-1 Visa
  • DS-2019 with valid travel signature signed by ISSS
    • See Page 1 in the Travel Validation section for the date of your last signature.
    • Signatures are valid for 1 year, except for short-term scholars (valid for 6 months)
    • The signature must be valid upon the date of your re-entry to the U.S.

Travel FAQs

  • What if I did not get a travel signature?
  • I received a Form I-515A at the Port of Entry. What do I do?
    • First, contact ISSS immediately. A Form I-515A must be resolved within 30 days of issuance and ISSS must provide you certain documentation to resolve it.
    • Study in the States has created a handout to help you understand the process to resolve a Form I-151A. See this link for more information:
  • Do I need a new visa?
    • If it will be valid for your return date to the U.S, no.
    • If not valid, yes. Plan accordingly and contact the U.S. Consulate/Embassy and schedule an appointment before you depart to ensure you have enough time to get your visa to return. To find a U.S. Consulate/Embassy, use this link:
    • To renew your visa, make sure you have the following documents:
      • Passport
      • DS-2019 (If anything needs to be updated on the DS-2019, come in to ISSS at least two weeks before leaving to request an updated DS-2019.)
      • Financial Documents (should match the finances listed on Page 1 of your DS-2019)
      • Academic Documentation, including: letter from department, description of your research plan and current CV

Travel to Canada

Travel to Other Countries

  • If you are visiting a country other than your own, you may need a visitor's visa to enter. Contact that country's embassy or consulate in the U.S., or search for their website.
  • If you are “transiting” into a country, meaning that your flight home requires an intermediate stop in a third country, find out if a transit visa is required, and if so, if it needs to be obtained in advance. For example, you may need a visa to transit Canada or the United Kingdom.

Renewing your J-1 Visa

Our office recommends applying for a renewed visa in your home country, rather than another third party country. Canada has recently begun limiting the number of third-party country visas it will issue, and if you visa application was denied, you would have to return home before returning to the U.S.

Applying for a new visa can be a lengthy process, so make sure you allow sufficient time.

The visa is an entry document, meaning you can remain in the United States on an expired visa stamp as long as your J-1 status is still valid.

To prepare for your visa interview, see this link for help:

Administrative Processing

Any individual applying for a visa, but especially individuals from certain countries or who are pursuing degrees in certain “sensitive areas of study,” may have to undergo a criminal background check and/or undergo administrative processing before obtaining a visa. This can be a very lengthy process and can delay your visa, so please allow time for processing if you believe you may be subject.

Entering the U.S.

What to Expect

The Federal Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), in conjunction with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), will inspect all internationals entering the U.S. Expect close examination of your documents by these officials. Answer all questions politely and briefly. You are not required to provide them more information beyond the scope of the questions asked.

When first approaching the officer, have your passport, visa, and signed DS-2019 ready for inspection. You should not give any other supporting documents unless requested. We recommend having supporting documents on hand to provide only if requested, such as Rensselaer ID, financial documentation, or a letter from your department detailing your course of study if you are majoring in a sensitive area.

CBP officials are required to record your arrival data into SEVIS at the time you enter, and return your SEVIS DS-2019 to you, after they have stamped it. However, not all CBP officials will have access to SEVIS at their booths in the "primary lanes." Depending upon the Port of Entry, some students may be directed to a secondary inspection area or "student lanes" so that their data can be entered into SEVIS.

Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM)

The Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM) is an entry/exit record-keeping system for all non-immigrants traveling to and from the United States. In addition to the usual inspection procedure conducted by CBP officers when you enter the U.S., each non-immigrant will have their fingerprints taken by placing their index fingers on an inkless fingerprint scanner. A digital photograph will also be taken.

Cash Regulations

It is a federal law that anyone carrying more than $10,000 in a monetary instrument of any form must declare that money, or risk having it seized by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials.

Electronic Devices

Travelers should be aware that both CBP and ICE have the right to search any form of electronic media, which CBP and ICE define as any item that may contain information, including computers, floppy and compact disks, DVDs, drives, tapes, mobile phones, personal digital assistants or PDAs, BlackBerry smart phones, cameras, and music players (including iPods and MP3 players), without necessarily suspecting that the individual may be carrying unlawful information. If the computer or other electronic device is used by others, check the browser history and make sure that the contents will not cause problems if searched.

Form I-515A and Denied Admissions

If you are missing documents, or if your DS-2019 does not have a valid travel signature, the border official may issue you a Form I-515A. This allows you temporary entrance into the United States. You will have 30 days to submit the documents requested on the Form I-515A to federal authorities. If you receive a Form I515-A, please contact the ISSS Office immediately.

Anyone who is denied admission at the port of entry should be cautious. Arguing with the custom official is at your own risk and may result in a “expedited removal” which will result in five-year bar on admission to the U.S.. If you are denied admission, first contact the ISSS Office for assistance, but also let the immigration official know that you are willing to withdraw your application for admission to the country rather than be subject to expedited removal if you so choose.

Baggage and Airport Security

Please consult the TSA’s website here:

Any passenger’s baggage may be selected for screening for the Federal Transportation and Security Administration (TSA). This means that they are authorized to open your baggage by any means necessary, even if it is locked, for inspection. If your bag was inspected, there will be a note inside. You should familiarize yourself with what is and isn’t allowed in your baggage, especially your carry-on, before traveling.