Intealth ECFMG

Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates

Maintaining J-1 Visa Status

It is important to know the difference between “visa” and “visa status.”

  • A visa is the physical stamp affixed to a passport page reflecting the approved visa classification for which the foreign national may enter the United States. Visas are issued only at U.S. consulates outside of the United States.
  • Visa status is the legal grouping under which the foreign national is categorized once physically present in the United States. Visa status is granted by the customs official at the U.S. port-of-entry or by the regional service center of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

ECFMG-sponsored J-1 visa status requires full-time participation in an approved program of graduate medical education (GME). In addition to meeting the academic standards required to progress through residency, J-1 physicians must maintain valid visa status in order to continue to train at U.S. teaching hospitals. Maintaining status requires, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Possession of required documents/records confirming visa status:
    • Form DS-2019 reflecting an active SEVIS record
    • I-94 record with “Duration of Status” (D/S) or future end date
    • Valid, unexpired passport
  • Mandatory residential address reporting:
    • Report any change in U.S. residential address via OASIS within 10 days of any move.
    • It is the responsibility of all J-1 physicians to maintain and update contact information throughout the course of training. ECFMG uploads all address changes to SEVIS .
  • Notification to ECFMG of any proposed changes to the approved training program or curriculum, including location, course of training, leaves of absence, termination, remediation, etc. Find required reporting forms at

Furthermore, engaging in employment outside of approved residency or fellowship training (“moonlighting”) is strictly prohibited. The J‐1 classification is explicitly reserved for educational and cultural exchange. It is not a work visa and, therefore, J‐1 physician participants are not permitted to engage in any work outside of their approved GME program (as reflected on Form DS‐2019). Detailed information on this subject is available at

Review Selected Regulations for other requirements and special considerations during your J-1 visa sponsorship, including information on change in specialty, address reporting, and mandatory insurance coverage. Failure to comply with the requirements of J visa status can result in SEVIS Termination and seriously impact an individual’s eligibility for a future U.S. visa application or stay.

[Last update: March 17, 2021]

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