In your acceptance packet, you received your DS-2019 form, which you need to take to the United States Embassy or Consulate in your country to apply for a J-1 visa stamp. Be prepared to take documentation of your financial support, including the letter of support from International Academic Programs (enclosed with the DS 2019), and an original bank statement accompanied by a letter of financial support from parents or other sponsors. Also, be certain that your passport is valid six months into the future at the time of application for the J-1 visa stamp.
En route to the United States, you will receive a small white card on the airplane, which is called an “I-94 card.” This document is an official immigration document, and should remain in your passport for the duration of your stay in the United States. The I-94 card in combination with the United States visa stamp and a valid passport secure your entry into the United States. You must have all of these documents with you when you arrive in the United States.
When you enter the United States, an immigration official at the airport will process your papers and return the DS 2019 form to you. Keep your passport, I-94 card, and the copy of your DS 2019 form together in a safe place once you arrive in the United States. These documents are proof of your immigration status.
After your arrival in Madison, please make photocopies of the following documents:
- I-94 arrival/departure card
- Passport identity and expiry pages
- J-1 visa stamp
Bring these copies to the visa portion of the Exchange Orientation.
More information on how to apply for a visa can be found on the International Student Services (ISS) webpage and by watching the ISS International Student Guide.
ISS has also created an online Guide for International Students that will provide you with many of the basic things you will need to know as an international student at UW-Madison.
Grace Period and Academic Training
Exchange students have a grace period following the completion of their program. The grace period is meant as a time for students to make final arrangements for returning home, to say goodbye to friends and colleagues, and to travel within the U.S. The grace period ends when a student leaves the U.S.; students cannot depart and re-enter the U.S. on the J-1 visa once the exchange program has ended.
Students holding a J-1 visa may remain in the U.S. for up to 30 days following the end of their program; the end date of the program is listed in box 3 of the DS-2019.
Students who are interested in Academic Training (a period of employment authorization for J-1 students) after the completion of their exchange should review the ISS J-1 Employment webpage for more details.
Health insurance is mandatory for all students who are registered for class at UW-Madison. All international students must enroll in the UW-Madison Student Health Insurance Plan or file a qualifying waiver by September 15 for fall students or February 15 for spring/summer.
Waivers will only be approved if you meet the criteria listed on the SHIP Waiver Application. Read the form carefully before you purchase other health insurance. If you do not qualify for a waiver, you are required to enroll in SHIP.