A Division of the International Studies Office

Understanding Your Legal Documents

Understanding Your Legal Documents


 Your passport is your legal identification document. You must maintain a valid, unexpired passport for the duration of your program.  If your passport will expire within the next 6 months you will need to contact the Embassy of your home country for instructions on how to extend it.

DS-2019 Form

Your DS-2019, “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status" is a numbered, bar-coded U.S. government certificate that tells the staff at an American embassy or consulate that you are being sponsored for a J-1 visa by UVA.  

To apply for a J-1 visa, you will need a valid DS-2019 form and a valid passport. Once approved, the J-1 visa will be placed in your passport by the embassy or consulate staff. It is not possible for you to obtain a J-1 visa without a DS-2019 form.

In addition, your DS-2019 tells officers of DHS, who are responsible for securing America's borders, that you should be admitted to the U.S. with J-1 status. To qualify for admission with J-1 status, you must present both a valid J-1 visa in your passport and a valid DS-2019.

The Form DS-2019:

  • Identifies the participant (block 1)
  • Identifies your program category (block 4)
  • Identifies the sponsor (block 2 and block 7, which contain the name, signature and telephone number/address of the sponsor’s Responsible Officer)
  • Provides a brief description of the program activity (block 2)
  • Identifies the beginning and end dates of the program (block 3) and the program category (block 4)
  • Provides the estimated financial support for the duration of the program (block 5).

The travel validation box in the lower right corner of the form is for short term travel outside the US after the Exchange Visitor has started his or her program in the U.S. and plans to return after traveling to continue his or her program.  

Visa Stamp


The visa stamps in passports are only used for admission to the U.S. in a specific status. Upon entry into the U.S. visa stamps are not the controlling document for legal status in the U.S.  A valid, unexpired visa is not required for maintenance of legal status.  If you will be traveling abroad during your program and plan to return to the US to continue your program and your visa stamp has expired, it must be renewed prior to returning to U.S. Do not mistake the validity of your visa for the duration of approved stay in the U.S.


The visa stamp also indicates whether it is a single (S or 1) or multiple (M) entry visa.  A multiple entry visa allows the bearer to use the visa to enter the U.S. to continue the current J-1 program as many times as wanted or needed, as long as the visa and the DS-2019 form are both still valid.

Two Year Home Residency Requirement

The visa will also indicate whether the bearer is subject to section 212(e) of the Code of Federal Regulations, also known as the two-year home residency rule.

I-94 Arrival Record

The I-94 is the Arrival Record issued by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer upon entry to the United States. The CBP Officer will stamp the individual’s passport and make a notation indicating the legal status and duration of legal admission to the US. The record is also recorded electronically and can be retrieved from the CBP website. For Exchange Visitors the passport stamp should indicate J-1 or J-2 and D/S. D/S indicates that the individual has been admitted to the U.S. for “duration of status.” The D/S notation or “admit until date” refers to the program dates listed on the DS-2019 form.  J-1 exchange visitors are also afforded a 30 day “Grace Period” at the end of their program that is included in the “Duration of Status.”

To ensure that the CBP record matches the printed stamp in the passport, the ISO requires all students and scholars to print the I-94 record and submit it along with their other legal documents during the required Check In and Orientation. 

In some cases, foreign nationals are issued a paper I-94 document. If you cross the border from Mexico or Canada by automobile you will receive a paper I-94 document that should be stapled in your passport.