J-1 Exchange Visitor Status for Scholars
Parties Involved in the Exchange Visitor Program
The Exchange Visitor Program is administered by the United States Department of State (DOS). It is the DOS that creates and administers federal regulations and policies governing the Exchange Visitor Program. The DOS also designates Exchange Visitor Program Sponsors which conduct exchange visitor programs. Program sponsors designate Responsible Officers and Alternate Responsible Officers who help in the administration of the exchange visitor program and perform the duties specified in the federal regulations. The Exchange Visitor Program sponsor selects exchange visitors who are eligible to participate in their program, by issuing a Certificate of eligibility called Form DS-2019. The exchange visitor uses the DS-2019 to apply for a J visa (a stamp in a passport) which is issued by the Department of State through an embassy or consulate abroad. The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP), which is a part of the United States Department of Homeland Security, makes the final determination at the Port of Entry of whether to admit visitors to the United States in J exchange visitor status to participate in the exchange visitor program.
Purpose of the Exchange Visitor Program
The exchange visitor program is designed for temporary educational and cultural exchanges and collaboration rather than long term employment. Exchange visitors are expected to return to their home countries at the end of their participation in the program to share their experience. Participants in the J-1 program include visitors coming to teach, to do research, to observe, consult, or demonstrate specialized knowledge or skill.
Eligibility for J-1 Exchange Visitor Status
A prospective exchange visitor (EV) must:
- Have an intent to pursue an appropriate activity, such as teaching, research, lecture, observation or consultation.
- Have an intent to return to her home country at the end of the program. This intent is determined by the consular officer through the exchange visitor's show of evidence that they have a residence outside the United States, or some other connections to their country of residence that will make them want to return to that country.
- Have sufficient funding for the period of program participation.
- Have appropriate credentials and experience for the activity that she will be engaged in.
- Have adequate English proficiency to have a meaningful exchange.
The J-1 visa is not appropriate for a visitor coming to fill a tenure track position. Some exchange visitors who have participated in a J-1 program before may not be eligible to return to the United States to pursue a new J-1 program immediately after completion of their previous J – program.
See the handout: Regulations Unique to the J visa and Frequently Asked Questions. The program sponsor will review the prospective exchange visitor’s paperwork and establish how soon they may return to the United States after completing a J program.
Program Categories and Time Limitations
Professor and Research Scholar: Scholars in this category may be invited to collaborate in research projects, to teach courses in non-tenured or non-tenure track positions, or to give lectures or seminars. They may come for visits of up to five years.
Short Term Scholar: The short term scholar category is suitable for scholars coming to lecture, observe, consult, and participate in seminars, workshops, or conferences, and who will definitely leave the United States within six months. Extensions of program beyond six month is not allowed.
Specialist: This category is appropriate for visitors coming for visits of up to one year to consult, observe or demonstrate specialized knowledge or skills in which they are experts.
The Department of State usually does not permit change from one J category to another. However, change from research scholar to professor category, and vice versa, is permitted.
Incidental Employment for Professors and Research Scholars
Your employment or program participation at Louisiana State University is limited to the areas specified on your DS-2019. Occasional lectures and consultations at other institutions are allowed but prior approval to engage in such incidental employment must be obtained from the ISO. Occasional lectures or consultations must be:
- Incidental to your primary program activities.
- Directly related to the objectives of your program; and
- They must not delay the completion date of your program.
You must present a letter from the offeror of the incidental employment stating the terms and conditions of the offer; and a letter from your department head or supervisor recommending the activity and explaining how the activity will enhance your program.
During your visit to Louisiana State University, you and your dependents must have enough money to live on. Your stay at LSU may be financed by various sources, such as an organization or institution in your country; your government; LSU; an organization or institution in the US that facilitates international exchange; or personal funds. We recommend that personal funds be used only to supplement other sources of funding. You must provide evidence of financial support, which may include bank letters, or affidavits of support from financial sponsors. If you will be paid by LSU, you will not need to provide proof of financial support. The total amount of support must equal or exceed $1,300 per month. If you have dependents at LSU the International Services Office will need proof of an additional $4,000 for the spouse and $3,000 per child for the period of exchange.
Federal regulations require all exchange visitors and their dependents to obtain and maintain health and accident insurance during their stay in the United States. Willful failure to obtain or maintain adequate health and accident insurance for yourself or your J-2 dependents will result in the termination of your exchange visitor program. The following minimum coverages are required:
- Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness
- Co-insurance provisions requiring Exchange Visitors to pay up to 25% of covered benefits per accident or illness are permitted.
- $50,000 to cover expenses associated with medical evacuation of Exchange Visitor (or dependents).
- Repatriation of remains in the amount of at least $25,000.
- A deductible that does not exceed $500 per accident or illness.
You must sign and have a completed "Certificate of Insurance" form before or upon arrival at Louisiana State University. You may bring proof of insurance which meets the above requirements, purchased from your home country; or you may obtain the insurance immediately after arrival at LSU. Information on insurance plans offered by U.S companies, which meet the above requirements, is available at International Services office and will be discussed during your mandatory ISO orientation.
The estimated average cost of insurance purchased in the United States is $543.00 per year for the exchange visitor, and $1019.00 per year for the accompanying spouse. Coverage for a child(ren) is $1018.00 per year (regardless of number of children). Please note that these costs are only estimates and are subject to change without notice.
Program Extension, Transfer, and Completion
Extension: The International Services office will send notices to your department prior to the expiration of your DS-2019. However, it is your responsibility to be aware of the expiration date on your DS-2019. The ISO will issue a new DS-2019 extending your program upon request from your department. If you are not paid by LSU, you must provide evidence of funds to support yourself and your family during the period of the extension ($1,300 per month for you, and an additional $4,000 and $3,000 for your spouse and each child, respectively). We need this documentation to establish that there will be sufficient funding for you and your family's support for the requested period of extension. Typically, we process extensions 2 to 4 months prior to the expiration date of the DS-2019.
Transfer: Once you are at LSU, it is possible to transfer your J-1 program to another institution within your program time limit. In such a case, the new program sponsor will request the current sponsor (LSU / ISO) to release you from its sponsorship. If eligibility requirements for the transfer of program are met, the ISO will release your record to the new sponsor. In order to transfer your program, you must be intending to pursue your original program objective.
Completion: If you withdraw or complete your program a month or earlier than the expiration date on your DS-2019, please inform the ISO.
You have a period of 30 days, called the grace period, at the end of your program which you may use to pack, travel, or remain in the U.S. but you are not allowed to work during the grace period.
Two Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement
This requirement is based on S212(e) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act. You are subject to this requirement if any of the following are true:
- Your financial support comes from the US government, your government, or an international organization;
- Your country and field specialization are listed on the Exchange Visitor Skills list as being in short supply in your country. (The Skills List can be accessed from the Department of State’s website at: http://travel.state.gov).
- You come to the United States to receive graduate medical education or training.
If you are subject to the home residence requirement:
- You may not become a permanent resident of the United States.
- You may not obtain an H or L visa from a US consulate.
- You may not change status in the U.S., except to A or G.
Unless either of the following are true:
- You spend an aggregate period of 2 years in your home country after completing your J program;
- You receive a waiver of the requirement from the Department of State and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration and Service.
Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 enter the U.S. in J-2 status. You must have proof of adequate funding and insurance for them. They are subject to the two year home residency requirement if you are subject. They may apply for work authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The work authorization is granted mainly to enhance the cultural experience of your dependents. Therefore, when applying for the work permit, they will have to show that you are already self-sufficient financially and that the income derived from their employment will not be used to support you. Once they have received an employment authorization card, they may work for any employer in the United States as long as the work permit is valid.
- Insurance Coverage Evaluation Form
- Form I-94
- How to maintain your J-1 Status
- International Travel Requirements
- Request for Travel Validation
- Applying for Social Security Number
- Driver's License, Transportation, Driving in United States
- Notice of Departure
For further information on the J exchange visitor status, please visit the U.S. Department of State Web Site.