This is my current situation:

I plan to study a semester abroad in the US (I'm German) at Drexel University from ~March to ~June 2016. This is a normal, exchange-like program between my university and Drexel.

Additionally, I have been given the opportunity to write my bachelors thesis at a research group at Yale University, which I plan to do right after my stay at Drexel. This allows me to save the costs for another flight and fills my German six-to-seven-month-semester nicely.

A few days ago, I realized that the visa may become a problem, as I know from people who have been working at Yale (at that exact research group), they will (typically?) issue a J-1 visa. A brief research revealed that Drexel will probably issue a J-1 visa as well. Drexel can, afaik, also issue F-1 visas, but that requires me to "be enrolled in a program or course of study thatculminates in a degree, diplomaor certificate". (Found here, p. 4)

As I also learned today, a J-1 visa requires me to return to Germany and not re-enter the US for two years after the program ends.

Now the question is this: What are my options to get all this visa-stuff right and do both, study at Drexel and write my bachelors thesis at Yale?

  1. Attempt a School Transfer from Drexel to Yale? (I only found information about that in the Drexel student handbook, same page as cited above)
  2. Attempt to get a J-1 visa from either of the two institutions for the whole duration of my stay (note that a warning about entering on a J-1 visa with a different institution named on it than the one where you plan to study can be found in the student handbook)
  3. Attempt to have the work at Yale classified as Academic Training for J-1 Students by Drexel
  4. Somehow try to get an F-1 visa and have the work at Yale classified as either Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training by Drexel (cannot post links, not enough reputation, find it on the same level as the Academic Training for J-1 Students)
  5. Do something else?

Note that I have to return to Germany to finish my study, as I'm still missing some ECTS.

  • 2
    Not all J-1 visa come with a two-year home requirement. It depends on how your stay is funded and what sub-class of J1 you are getting. Also, if you can convince one of your schools to list both schools as "places of action" on your DS-2019 form, this would allow you to use a single visa for both stays. – DCTLib Sep 2 '15 at 8:31
  • 2
    In addition to what DCTLib said (that only some J-1s have a two-year home residency requirement), even if you were subject to the requirement, it does not mean you "cannot re-enter the US for two years after the program ends". It just means you cannot get an H or L visa, or get permanent residency, until you've resided in your home country for 2 years. It does not affect getting other types of visas. – user102008 Sep 3 '15 at 9:43
  • Thank you both for your comments, that clarified a lot of things for me. And sorry for posting my first question off-topic... – mrd0ll4r Sep 4 '15 at 7:20