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Types of Student Visas


The F-1 visa is the most common visa used by international students at Northwestern. Most international students are eligible for an F-1 visa as long as they have been admitted to Northwestern and can show proof of funding for at least the first year of study.


The J-1 status is often used for students who are in a specific educational exchange program such as Fulbright.  

Regular degree-seeking students are also eligible for the J-1 visa if a majority (51% or more) of their total financial funding comes from sources other than personal funds.  Funds other than personal funds may include any of the following:

  • Scholarship or Grant
  • Fellowship from an external funding source
  • Home country government
  • International Organization
  • Corporate Sponsor

Please note that funding through loans of any kind, including NU loans, are considered personal funds and do not qualify.

Currently enrolled students who wish to discuss a possible change of status between F-1 and J-1 should review the information below and then schedule an appointment with their OISS Advisor.

Which visa is right for you?

Download the F-1 – J-1 Comparison Chart to compare these visas or watch a video to learn more.

J-1 Status and the Impact on Long-Term Plans

Two-year Home Country Residency Requirement 212(e)

Some J-1 visa holders are subject to the two-year residency requirement.  F-1 students are not subjected to this requirement.  The requirement applies to J-1 visa holders at Northwestern if:

  1. They receive funding from the U.S. Government or from their home country government.
  2. The field of study is included in the U.S. Government's Exchange Visitor Skills List.
  3. The J-1 visa holder is receiving graduate medical education or training.

J-1 visa holders who are subject to the two-year residency requirement must reside for an aggregate of two years in the home country of citizenship or the last country of legal permanent residency, or have the requirement waived before being eligible for the H, L, or permanent residency immigration statuses.
J-2 spouses are also subject to the Two-Year Residency Requirement if their primary J-1 visa holder is subject. 

NOTE: Obtaining a waiver of this requirement can be difficult and expensive and will likely require the assistance of an immigration attorney.

212(e) status does not prevent a visitor from returning to the U.S. in another visa status such as F-1 student, B1/B2 as a tourist or for business or under the visa waiver program. Returning to the U.S. in one of these categories may postpone your Two-Year Home Residency requirement, but it will not eliminate it.

Please refer to the Department of State website for more information.