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What To Do After Receiving Your DS-2019

Please carefully review and read all of the enclosed documents you receive from your department.  Be sure to read page 2 of the DS-2019 before signing the bottom line on page 1, “Exchange Visitor Certification.”  We recommend that each person sign his or her own J-1 or J-2 DS-2019, unless your child is not old enough to sign.  By signing the DS-2019 you are agreeing to all of the requirements of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program.  If you find any inaccuracies on the form you should contact your department immediately.

Regarding your DS-2019 there are several important places to check for accuracy:

  • Box 3:  Dates
    • The start date is extremely important! You may enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the start date.  Once you enter the U.S. you must check-in with OIS no later than 30 days after your start date. (See “Check-in at OIS” section).  If you do not check-in, you will be out of immigration status and unable to participate as a J-1 at UIC.
  • Box 5: Funding
    • Funding information should cover the start to end date of your DS-2019.  If you will receive UIC funding, it will state “Current Program Sponsor Funds” and the amount.
  • Box 4: Subject/Field
    • The description of your subject/field should be accurate.  You may have a very specialized research project or objective, however, it should be related to the more general description listed here.

Applying for a visa

In order to apply for your J-1 visa (and J-2 dependent visas) you will need to do the following:

  1. Pay the SEVIS Fee at least 3 business days before applying for your J-1 visa.  The SEVIS fee is a one-time fee for each nonimmigrant program in which the exchange visitor participates.  J-2s do not need to pay a separate fee.  You will need to demonstrate proof of payment before you can apply for a visa.  Once the payment is submitted, a receipt can be printed, which can be used for immediate verification of payment.  The fee can be paid by mail or electronically at  It is possible for a third party (such as a friend, relative, or other sponsor) to pay the SEVIS fee for you.  If this option is selected, the person completing the Form I-901 will need your information exactly as it appears on your Form DS-2019.
  2. Schedule a visa appointment at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy (we always recommend applying for a visa in your home country, if possible).  Present your DS-2019, proof of SEVIS fee payment, and any other documents as required by the embassy or consulate.   You may want to visit the U.S. Department of State’s website in order to view estimated visa wait times and other information about U.S. visas.  Once the visa is granted and stamped in your passport you are ready to make travel arrangements to the United States.

Canadian citizens only: You do not need a J-1 visa, but you must present the DS-2019 form, any supporting documentation, and proof of paying the SEVIS fee to an immigration officer at the U.S. border or pre-flight inspection station.  In order to enter the United States, you must have a passport.

Purchase health insurance

You are required to have health insurance (for you and your dependents) that meets specific requirements.  You must purchase this insurance before you arrive in the U.S.  Failure to provide proof of insurance will result in the loss of the J-1’s immigration status and termination in the Exchange Visitor program.  Please see the enclosed “Medical Insurance Policy Requirements” page for more information.  Some sponsoring departments may provide stipends to J-1 employees who do not qualify for UIC insurance, please consult with your department regarding insurance stipends.  For those J-1 individuals funded by UIC that meet the IRS Substantial Presence Test and are classified as Resident Aliens for tax purposes, UIC may provide UIC health insurance benefits.  For more information regarding Payroll and Benefits, please see the Payroll and Benefits website.  Please note that UIC health insurance does not cover all of the requiremetns of J-1 Exchange Visitor program, thus all J-1s with UIC health insurance must purchase supplemental coverage that provides for medical evacuation and repatriation of remains.

If you purchase insurance in your home country, it must fulfill the stated requirements and be endorsed by the home country’s government.  If the policy/card is not in English, we will need an English translation of: company name, policy number, start and end dates.

We have also included a list of possible insurance companies in your J-1 Welcome Packet.

Preparing for life in Chicago

The “Life in Chicago” section of the OIS website has a variety of information to help you prepare for your arrival in Chicago.  Information includes: climate, currency, public transportation, housing, and other topics.  You may also want to visit the main UIC website’s “Living” and “Visiting” links at

Arrival at the U.S. port-of-entry

  1. Inspection at the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol: Upon arrival you must present your passport and Form DS-2019 to the immigration officer.  The officer may ask you for additional information: for example, evidence of financial support or a letter of invitation from your academic department.  The inspector should stamp your passport and write "J-1" until "D/S" indicating "duration of status."  As of 4/30/2013, all arrival/departure information will be stored electronically.  The Exchange Visitor should provide a printout of his or her arrival/departure information, which can be obtained from the Customs and Border Patrol website at
  2. US-VISIT: Also known as, “U.S. Visitor and Immigration Status Indication Technology” system.  This is a “check-in” mechanism that records the entry of all foreign visitors to the U.S.  The US-VISIT stations will scan your fingerprints and take your photograph.  This information will be checked against national security and law enforcement databases.

Please note: The DS-2019 you have received from UIC is valid for participation at the specific UIC department you have indicated, only.  You may not enter the U.S. with UIC’s DS-2019 and decide to “immediately transfer” to another institution.  Transfers may be possible later in your stay, but you must first check-in with OIS.


Check-in at OIS

Don’t forget to check-in at OIS!  Our office is required, by federal regulation, to validate your arrival in the U.S. through the SEVIS database within 30 days of your start date. SEVIS is our mechanism for confirming your arrival to the U.S. and reporting that information to the appropriate government agencies.  If you arrive in the U.S., but fail to report to OIS within 30 days of your start date or fail to provide proof of insurance, your participation in the J-1 program will be invalidated, carrying severe consequences.

Before coming to OIS, you should visit your academic “host” department.  The next step is to check-in with our office.

Check-in times are Monday and Thursday at 2:00 p.m.

If you are not able to come at this time due to a scheduling conflict, please ask your department administrator to call our office to schedule a personal appointment at a time convenient for you.  When you come to check-in please bring:

  1. Immigration documents: passport, DS-2019, and I-94 arrival/departure card or printout
  2. Proof of insurance
  3. Your current, complete, U.S. address information.  (It is fine to have a hotel or friend’s address.)

During the check-in process, you will be invited to one of our monthly EV (Exchange Visitor) Scholar Orientations. New Exchange Visitors are legally required to attend Orientation.  We will review the benefits and limitations of your immigration status; travel and visa procedures; and adjusting to life and customs in the U.S. while highlighting campus and city resources.  

Other considerations

Delayed entry: If your visa is delayed at the consulate, or if there are other unforeseen occurrences which will prevent you from reporting to OIS within 30 days of your start date, you must communicate this with your department as soon as possible.  The OIS advisor may be able to amend your start date.

Dependents: A dependent is only a spouse or unmarried child under the age of 21 years.  Dependents are considered “J-2s.”  It is possible to have your dependent join you in the U.S. at a later time.  After your arrival and check-in at OIS, you could later show documentation that you have adequate funding to support your J-2 dependents.

Two-year home residency requirement: This potential requirement is explained on Page 2 of your DS-2019.  We will talk about this regulation in greater detail after you arrive and attend the required Orientation.

Social Security Numbers (SSNs): Please note that according to Social Security Administration regulations, one is not eligible to apply for an SSN unless he or she is employed by a U.S. institution.  If UIC is not funding your J-1 program, you will not be eligible to apply for an SSN.  We will discuss SSNs, driver’s licenses, and other identification numbers at your Check-in appointment and at your post-arrival Orientation.  You may also see our website for additional SSN information.