Visa renewal

If you receive a Fulbright Scholarship, you are automatically on a "Fulbright visa" (category "J" for exchange visitor, unlike most students who are in "F" which is the regular student visa). However, since your Fulbright grant only lasts a year, the visa expires at the same time and you have 30 days to leave the US (grace period). 

As a consequence, I have to go back to Germany in June, renew my visa and come back to study here until October! Basically, I fly all that way to get a new stamp. That's what the German Fulbright Commission told us.

As it turned out, there is a difference between your visa and your status document in the US. The visa is the printing in your passport, but your status as a student is depending on a specific form, the DS2019, which contains information about the university you stay at, which program you're in etc. The visa is only needed when you cross the border and not afterwards. In contrast to that, your DS2019 has to be valid and up-to-date all the time.

For that reason, the American Fulbright Commission updates your DS2019 very fast and easily, so you can stay in the US even though your visa is expired! Only, when you leave the country and have to re-enter, the passport control will expect you to have a new visa (it's similar to a cinema ticket, once you're in, it doesn't matter any more). I found out about the process way too late, so my flights are booked - but there's a conference I'll visit when I'm in Germany which is worth flying back for.