J-1 Program FAQs
GENERAL PROGRAM INFORMATION
What are the basic requirements to qualify for an exchange visitor (J) visa under immigration law? Exchange visitor applicants must meet specific requirements to qualify for an exchange visitor (J) visa under immigration law. The consular officer will make the final determination whether an individual qualifies for the visa. All applicants must demonstrate that they properly meet requirements, including, but not limited to, the following:
- That they plan to remain in the U.S. for a temporary, specific, limited period;
- Evidence of funds to cover expenses in the U.S.;
- Evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad; and other binding ties which will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit.
Which J-1 categories are available for UAMS appointments? Research Scholar: a research scholar is an individual primarily conducting research, observing, or consulting in connection with a research project. The research scholar may also teach or lecture, unless disallowed by the sponsor.
- Minimum stay of three weeks required
- Maximum stay of five years
Short-term Scholar: a short-term scholar is an individual coming to the US for a period of up to six months to lecture, observe, consult, and participate in seminars, workshops, conferences, study tours, professional meetings, or similar types of educational and professional activities.
- No minimum stay required
- Maximum stay of six months (NOTE: no extensions beyond six months under any circumstances)
What are the advantages of the exchange visitor (J) status? The primary advantages of the J-1 status are that it can be obtained relatively easily and quickly and that it usually allows the spouse and dependents holding J-2 status to work while in the US.
When should other immigration classifications be considered? Visiting scholars and researchers who are unsure of their future plans with respect to employment at UAMS or in the US, and who would be subject to the two-year home country residence requirement, are advised to review and consider alternative non-immigrant work visas.
Which types of UAMS appointments are eligible for J-1 scholar status? J-1 scholar status is limited to those who hold temporary, “visiting” academic positions. It cannot be used for tenure-track faculty positions, regular faculty or support positions, administrative positions, or staff positions. Be sure to check your college’s internal policy regarding appointments, positions, lengths, and restrictions (e.g. Academic Visitor policy). Also, the J-1 program may not be used for clinical appointments or for foreign medical graduates (FMGs) who will be involved in clinical activities or for those receiving medical training. FMGs who wish to participate in clinical programs of graduate medical education or training cannot be sponsored by the UAMS exchange visitor program. The only exchange program authorized to sponsor FMGs as J-1 exchange visitors for internships, residencies, specialized clinical training, and in other positions involving more than incidental patient contact, is the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).
Can departments sponsor physicians to pursue graduate medical education such as a residency or fellowship? NO. Physicians may ONLY be involved in teaching or research. Any patient contact must be incidental and under direct supervision of a state licensed physician who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. To pursue graduate medical education or training (residency or fellowship), a physician must apply through the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).
How far in advance should planning begin to invite a J-1 scholar to UAMS? Plans to invite a J-1 scholar should begin three to four months in advance of the start date of the appointment to allow for case review, document preparation, mailing immigration documents, and visa processing. In some cases, scholar may experience significant delays in visa processing abroad. Sponsors and prospective exchange visitors are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the visa application process as specified by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.
How long will it take Immigration Services to issue a DS-2019? Upon submission of the complete sponsorship, please allow 10 business days for processing.
Who is responsible for sending the DS-2019 to the exchange visitor? The UAMS sponsoring unit is responsible for sending the original DS-2019 (whether domestic or international) to the exchange visitor.
Is documentation of financial support required to sponsor a J-1 exchange visitor? Yes. Immigration regulations require proof of sufficient supporting funds before an immigration document can be issued. Funds may come from UAMS, an outside organization, or the individual may be supported by his or her own resources. The funding document must have been issued within the past 12 months. If the funding document is not in English, it should be translated.
What is the minimum funding requirement? A minimum of $18,000 a year ($1,500/month) is required to support a single visiting scholar at UAMS; an additional $3,600 a year is required for each accompanying dependent ($300/month). In order to generate the required visa documents, UAMS is required to obtain documentation proving that the visitor has adequate financial resources to provide for estimated expenses (and the expenses of dependents) for the duration of the program.
If a department is paying the visiting scholar, what documentation should be submitted for financial support? An invitation or appointment letter, indicating program duration as well as source and amount of funding, should be submitted to Immigration Services with the sponsorship packet.
What non-UAMS documentation is accepted as proof of financial support? The visitor must certify the availability of sufficient funds or proof of support from a sponsor. This documentation must be dated within one (1) year of the J-1 program start date and can take the form of:
- Personal funds: exchange visitor’s bank statement of account, meeting the requirements described above.
- Family or other individual sponsor funds: Each individual providing financial support can submit a letter indicating the exact dollar amount being provided and an official dated bank statement.
- Support from government, organization, employer or sponsor: A detailed letter from the sponsor indicating the exact amount being provided, in U.S. dollars. This letter must be on official letterhead and include the dates of sponsorship.
Why is there a health insurance requirement for exchange visitors? DOS federally mandates all J-1 and J-2 status holders to carry adequate health insurance coverage. The J-1 scholar must purchase insurance for him/herself and his/her J-2 dependents immediately upon arrival in the US. If the J-1 scholar and/or dependents fail to maintain the mandatory health insurance coverage, they will be in violation of federal immigration regulations; will be subject to termination as a participant; and must leave the US immediately. Failure to secure or maintain adequate health insurance will result in termination of the J-1 program participation.
What are the minimum health insurance coverage requirements? Medical insurance must cover the entire period of participation in the Exchange Visitor program; provide a minimum of $100,000 per accident or illness; medical evacuation must be covered in the amount of $50,000, minimum (Medical evacuation is emergency medical transportation to the home country.); repatriation must be covered in the amount of $25,000, minimum (In the unfortunate event of death, repatriation is the transportation of remains back to the home country): the deductible must not exceed $500 per accident or illness.
LIMITATIONS / REPEAT PARTICIPATION
What is the Twelve Month Bar? A foreign national is ineligible to participate in a research scholar exchange program if he or she has held any J nonimmigrant status within the 12-month period immediately preceding the start of the exchange program. This Twelve-Month Bar applies to J-2 dependents as well as principal non-immigrants. The following three exceptions exist:
- J-1 transfers to UAMS without any gap
- Prior presence in J status in the US was of less than 6 months duration
- Presence in J status as a Short-Term Scholar
What is the 24-Month (Two-Year) Bar? An individual who participates in the Exchange Visitor Program as a J-1 Professor or Research Scholar becomes subject to the 24-Month Bar on “repeat participation” in those particular categories after completing his or her program even if the program lasts less than five years. DOS has taken the position that the 24-Month Bar will also apply to J-2 dependents of J-1 Professors or Research Scholars if the J-2 subsequently wishes to return as a J-1 Professor or Research Scholar.
What is the Two-Year Home Country Residence Requirement? J-1 individuals who have received funding from their government or the US government for J-1 program participation, or whose skills are deemed to be in short supply by the home country (i.e. on the “Skills list”), are obliged to leave the US upon completion of their programs. Exchange visitors who are subject to the Two-Year Home Country Residence Requirement must “reside and be physically present” in their “home” country for an aggregate of two years before being eligible for certain immigration benefits. For more information, see the DOS Exchange Visitor Website.
While an individual is subject to the Two-Year Home Country Residence Requirement, they are ineligible for the following benefits:
- Change nonimmigrant status within the United States from J to any other nonimmigrant category except A (diplomatic) and G (international organization) statuses;
- An immigrant visa or adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident (immigrant/green card) status;
- H visa (temporary workers and dependents), or an L visa (intracompany transferees and dependents).
Can an exchange visitor request a waiver of the 2 year home residence requirement? In some cases, this requirement may be waived upon recommendation of the home government or on other grounds. The final authority to grant the waiver lies with USCIS. Please note that once J-1/J-2 receives either a waiver approval notice (from USCIS) or a waiver recommendation (by DOS), he/she is no longer eligible for any extensions, etc. as he/she is no longer considered as a bona fide exchange visitor by DOS, which oversees the J exchange visitor program. He/she can, of course, finish his/her current exchange program until the end date listed on the current DS-2019. Thus, a J-1/J-2 should plan the timing of a waiver application carefully. Visit our J-1 Waiver page for more information about the J-1 Waiver requirements and process.
APPLYING FOR A J-1 VISA
What are SEVIS and SEVP? The SEVP monitors school and exchange programs and F, M and J category visitors. The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is an Internet-based system that maintains accurate and current information on nonimmigrant students (F and M visa), exchange visitors (J visa), and their dependents (F-2, M-2, and J-2). SEVIS enables schools and program sponsors to transmit mandatory information and event notifications via the Internet, to the DHS and DOS throughout a student or exchange visitor’s stay in the U.S.
What is a DS-2019? “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status”, Form DS-2019 is the document required for a scholar to obtain a J-1 visa. This form is issued by UAMS HR Immigration Services upon receipt and review of the J-1 Request/Sponsorship Packet submitted by the hosting department. If the J-1 scholar is outside of the US, the department will send the form DS-2019 to the scholar who will then take the DS-2019 to the US Embassy or consulate to get their entry visa. All exchange visitor applicants must have a SEVIS generated DS-2019 issued by a DOS designated sponsor, which they submit when they are applying for their exchange visitor visa. The consular officer verifies the DS-2019 record electronically through the SEVIS system in order to process your exchange visitor visa application to conclusion. Unless otherwise exempt, exchange visitor applicants must pay a SEVIS I-901 Fee to DHS for each individual program. See SEVIS-901 Fee for further information on how to pay the fee, and see the SEVP Fact Sheet for SEVIS fees.
What is the process to obtain a J-1 visa? Visa applicants should apply at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, generally in their country of permanent residence. As part of the visa application process, an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79, with few exceptions. Learn how to schedule an appointment for an interview, pay the application processing fee, review embassy specific instructions, and much more by visiting the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website. A list of embassies and consulates can be viewed at http://www.usembassy.gov/.
What supporting documentation is required to obtain a J-1 visa? When applying, each visa applicant must submit to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate these forms and documentation: DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status;
- Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160;
- A passport valid for travel to the U.S. and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant’s intended period of stay in the U.S. (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must complete an application;
- One (1) 2×2 photograph. See the required photo format explained in Photograph Requirements;
- Receipt showing the visa application processing fee has been paid (SEVIS Fee – $180; Visa Application Fee – $190; Visa Issuance Fee: each consular office has its own fee rate);
- Additional documentation items required should be confirmed by visiting the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website: http://www.usembassy.gov/.
Attention visiting scholars: learn how schedule an appointment for an interview, pay the application processing fee, review embassy specific instructions, and much more by visiting the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website where you will apply.
Is form DS-7002 required when applying for a visa at the US Embassy or Consulate? The DS-7002 form is ONLY required for the Trainee or Intern category of J-visa. This form is NOT required for J-1 Professor / Research Scholar or Short-Term Scholar categories. (For more information about the rules for trainee and intern programs, see the Exchange Visitor Program, Trainees on the ECA website.)
How long does it take to obtain a J-1 Visa? The wait time for an interview and processing for a J-1 Visa varies from country to country and is based on individual circumstances. Learn more about interview wait and processing times by visiting www.travel.state.gov and select “Visa Wait Times”. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. Please note that exchange visitors beginning new programs may not enter the United States more than 30 days before their program start date.
The J-1 visa has been issued, when can the exchange visitor travel to the U.S.? DHS regulation requires that all beginning (initial) J exchange visitors, and J-2 spouse and dependents enter the U.S. 30 days or less in advance of the applicant’s program start date as shown on the Form DS-2019. The 30-day limitation does not apply to current exchange participants who are returning to continue with their exchange program.
Can Exchange Visitors travel on the Visa Waiver Program? No. Citizens from a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) wanting to enter the U.S. temporarily as exchange visitors, must first obtain an exchange visitor visa. Exchange visitor program participants cannot travel on the VWP, nor can they travel on a visitor (B) visa. Those travelers coming on the VWP to participate in an exchange program may be denied admission to the U.S. by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. immigration inspector at the port of entry. For more information on VWP, see Visa Waiver Program.
What is Administrative Processing? Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a Consular Officer. Applicants are advised of this requirement when they apply. Most administrative processing is resolved within 60 days of the visa interview. When administrative processing is required, the timing will vary based on individual circumstances of each case. Visa applicants are reminded to apply early for their visa, well in advance of the anticipated travel date. Important Notice: Before making inquiries about status of administrative processing, applicants must wait at least 60 days from the date of interview or submission of supplemental documents, whichever is later.
Can the UAMS Immigration office expedite my J-1 application or request to expedite administrative processing? No. There is no expedited or premium processing option for J-1visa applications, please visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website for current processing times. Exchange visitor planning should begin well in advance allowing for ample time to obtain the J-1 visa. No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. Therefore final travel plans or the purchase of non-refundable tickets should not be made until a visa has been issued.
ARRIVAL & PROGRAM ADJUSTMENTS
Why does UAMS Immigration Services need to be notified when exchange visitors arrive? Among other reasons, failure to adjust the scholar’s status within 30 calendar days of the program start date on the DS-2019 will cause the exchange visitor’s program to be automatically terminated. Please notify Immigration Services if the scholar plans to arrive later than the program start date.
How can an exchange visitor’s program be extended? A program extension (when applicable) can be requested by contacting HR Immigration Services. Be aware of the DS-2019 expiration date. This is not the J-1 visa (sticker) expiration date. If the J-1 scholar’s appointment is being extended, the hosting department must contact Immigration Services to have the DS-2019 form extended at least one month prior to the current DS-2019 end date. Keep in mind that the same criteria required for the initial appointment must be maintained or met in order to extend the appointment.
How can a J-1 exchange visitor transfer from UAMS to another institution? If the J-1 scholar wishes to transfer from one J-1 sponsor to another, he/she must seek clearance from the original/current program sponsor. Once Immigration Services has transferred the J-1 scholar’s SEVIS record and the new institution has produced a DS-2019, the J-1 scholar is then considered under the sponsorship of the new program. The scholar may not take up appointment with the new program until the transfer process has been successfully completed. The transfer of J-1 program sponsorship must be completed prior to the individual’s termination from the previous J-1 program and before the current DS-2019 form expires. For scholars transferring to UAMS, the hosting departments should complete the J-1 sponsorship request packet. Please note that time spent in a previous program(s) prior to the transfer will be counted toward the maximum stay allowed.
What documentation is required at the initial Immigration Services Appointment upon arrival to UAMS? A UAMS Responsible Officer will meet with the exchange visitor and departmental representative; the sponsoring department must ensure that the following documents are brought to the appointment:
- Passport & I-94 Card
- DS-2019 & copies of all previous DS-2019 / I-20 forms
- Verification of Insurance Compliance
- Completed Payroll Forms
- Local Residence Address, Phone Number, and E-mail Address
What are the legal rights/protections for employment or education-based nonimmigrants? Recent changes to U.S. law relate to the legal rights of certain employment or education-based nonimmigrants under Federal immigration, labor, and employment laws, and the information to be provided about protections and available resources. As a temporary visitor to the U.S., it is important to be aware of rights, as well as protections and resources available. Review the Nonimmigrant Rights, Protections and Resources pamphlet for additional information.
How long are exchange visitors allowed to stay in the U.S. after the program has ended? The initial admission of an exchange visitor, spouse and children may not exceed the period specified on Form DS-2019, plus a period of 30 days only for domestic travel and/or to prepare for and depart from the U.S.
DEPENDENTS: J-2 VISA
Can spouses and children accompany J-1 exchange visitors? Spouses and/or children (or dependents) under the age of 21 who wish to accompany or join the principal (or primary) exchange visitor (J) visa holder in the U.S. for the duration of his/her stay require exchange visitor visas. The application procedure is the same as that for a primary visa applicant. Immigration Services must approve the accompaniment of the spouse and/or children and who will each be issued their own Form DS-2019.
Can J-2 dependents work while in the U.S.? The spouse and/or child of an exchange visitor in the U.S. may only work if they have filed Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has approved permission to work. To learn more, visit www.uscis.org.
Can J-2 dependents study while in the U.S.? The spouse and/or children of an exchange visitor visa holder who are in the U.S. on an exchange visitor visa may study in the U.S. without also being required to apply for a student (F-1) visa or change to F-1 status.