According to the Department of State (DOS), the purpose of the J-1 Exchange Program is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States (US) and the people of other countries by means of education and cultural exchange.
The exchange of visiting scholars promotes interchange, mutual enrichment and linkages between research and educational institutions in US and foreign countries. Participants in this program will enter the US with a J-1 visa, identified as “exchange visitor”.
As a J program sponsor, the College of Charleston is responsible for issuing DS-2019 forms to prospective exchange visitors. The DS-2019 form is one of the documents needed to obtain J status and a J visa. Prospective exchange visitors who reside abroad are required to obtain a visa from a U.S Embassy or Consulate General’s Office to request permission to enter the U.S. However, entry to the U.S. is not guaranteed, even if a visa is issued to the exchange visitor.
J-1 scholar appointments at the College of Charleston fall into one of these categories:
- Professor: a professor is an individual primarily teaching, lecturing, observing, or consulting. A professor may also conduct research.
- Minimum stay of three weeks required
- Maximum stay of five years
- 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.
- 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 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, no extensions beyond six months under any circumstances
Twelve-Month Bar: A foreign national is ineligible to participate in a professor/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.
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.
Health Insurance Requirements
Unlike any other immigration categories, DOS federally mandates all J-1 and J-2 status holder to carry adequate health insurance coverage. If the J-1 scholar and/or dependent fail to maintain the mandatory health insurance, they will be in violation of federal immigration regulations, will be subject to termination as a participant, and must leave the US immediately.
DOS required insurance must meet the following:
- Medical insurance must cover the entire period of participation in the Exchange Visitor program
- Medical benefits must provide a minimum of $50,000 per accident or illness
- Medical evacuation must be covered in the amount of $10,000 minimum
- Repatriation must be covered in the amount of $7,500, minimum
- The deductible must not exceed $500 per accident or illness
Scholars are required to verify their insurance requirement with the Center for International Education. If you already have your own health insurance submit your personal health insurance policy to CIE to verify your insurance coverage.
Scholars who do not have health insurance can procure insurance at such providers as Compass Benefits Group or Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI). Note that the College of Charleston maintains no association with the companies listed.
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, 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 a total of two years before being eligible for certain immigration benefits such as an H visa or any other nonimmigrant category. They are not eligible for an immigrant visa or for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident.
In some cases, the Requirement may be waived upon recommendation of the home government or on other grounds. The final authority to grant the waiver lies with USCIS.
Payment of SEVIS Fee
Scholars must have proof that they have paid this fee to the US government before they visit a US consulate to apply for their J-1 visa or enter the US.
To pay the SEVIS fee online go to https://www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/ and print out a confirmation receipt that you can use as proof of payment.
Exchange visitors who currently reside in the U.S. and change from another nonimmigrant status to J status must pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee before submitting an application Form I-539 (For an In Country Change of Status) to change status with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The Form I-539 must be filed before the expiration date of the exchange visitor’s current status.
Maintaining Legal Status
The J-1 scholar must take care during his/her stay in the US to maintain lawful J-1 status, as failure to do so can have serious consequences.
Fortunately, there are some simple steps the J-1 scholar can take that the stay in the US remains valid:
- Following the J-1 scholar’s initial entry to the US, he/ she should report to the international advisor for a document check. Bring along your passport, form DS-2019, form I-94 proof of health insurance and local address.
- Be aware of the DS-2019 expiration date
- Keep the passport valid
- Do not accept unauthorized employment. Occasional lectures and consultations incidental to the primary activities must be approved in advance and in writing by the international advisor
- If offered a comparable position at another college/university, discuss plans with your international advisor in advance to make sure that the required J-1 transfer procedure can be accomplished
- Report any address change to your internatio0nal advisor within 10 days
After Completion of J-1 Stay
J-1 scholars have a 30-daay grace period to leave the US from the program end date. The grace period cannot be used to work in the US.
J-2 Dependent Status for Spouses and Children
The spouse and unmarried children (under 21 years of age) of the J-1 scholar are eligible for J-2 status. Each J-2 dependent must be in possession of own form DS-2019.
J-2 dependents are eligible to apply for employment authorization as long as the employment is not for supporting the J-1 scholar.