What is a J-1 Exchange Visitor?
J-1 exchange visitors are individuals who come to the United States under the Department of State’s Exchange Visitor program for the purpose of increasing mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges. Exchange visitors accomplish this by teaching, lecturing, consulting, and/or conducting research for educational institutions such as the University of Central Florida.
Individual UCF academic departments manage the sponsorship procedure for all international exchange visitors. Once the department has offered an exchange visitor a position at UCF, UCF Global will begin the process of issuing a Form DS-2019.
There are four categories of J-1 scholars at the University of Central Florida:
Professors are individuals who primarily teach, lecture, observe, or consult at a postsecondary educational institution while in the United States. To be considered in the professor category, individuals must have been awarded at least a Bachelor’s degree. Professors can remain in the United States a maximum of 5 years and may conduct research if approved by their sponsoring department.
Specialists are individuals who are experts in a field of specialized knowledge or skill. They seek to travel to the United States for the purpose of observing, consulting, or demonstrating their special skill or knowledge. The specialist designation must not be used to fill a permanent or long-term position. Specialists are allowed in the United States for a maximum of 1 year.
Research scholars are individuals primarily conducting research, observing, or consulting in connection with a research project. Research scholars must have been awarded at least a Bachelor’s degree upon hire. They may also teach or lecture if allowed by their sponsoring department and may remain in the United States for a maximum of 5 years.
Short-term scholars are normally professors or researchers in their country of residence who are coming to the United States for a short-term visit. Their purpose of entry is to lecture, observe, consult, or participate in seminars, workshops, conferences, tours, professional meetings, or other educational and professional activities. Short-term scholars must have been awarded at least a Bachelor’s degree and may remain in the United States for a maximum of 6 months.
Obtaining a J-1 Visa
The first step in obtaining a J-1 visa is to request a form DS-2019. This request is initiated by the UCF department, not by the prospective scholar. If you are interested in obtaining a J-1 visa, please follow the link above to begin.
Prior to submitting the DS-2019 Request Form, please gather the following documentation which must be uploaded to a completed application:
- Copy of valid passport
- Resume or CV
- Proof of English proficiency
- Documentation of financial support
J-2 dependents are spouses or children under 21 of J-1 visa holders. J-2 dependents are eligible to engage in full time or part time study, and they are eligible for a work authorization.
Dependents should apply for a visa at the same time as the principle visa holder, but may also do so after the principle holder arrives in the U.S. To begin the process, J-1 exchange visitors must request a dependent DS-2019 form from UCF Global. Dependents will then apply for their J-2 visa at their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
For more information on obtaining a J-1 visa, please call +001-407-823-2337.
Maintaining and Extending J-1 Visa Status
As J-1 visa holders, scholars are responsible for understanding and following the requirements to maintain their immigration status. Upon arrival into the United States, J-1 visa holders must set up an appointment for visa orientation with an immigration adviser.
- Maintain a valid passport.
- Use only your UCF DS-2019.
- Remember the completion date/program end date on your DS-2019.
- Keep mandatory health insurance for yourself and your dependents for the full duration of your program
- Leave the United States within 30 days of program completion
- Allow your DS-2019 to expire
- Let health insurance expire during the length of your program.
- Take a leave of absence or travel outside the United States without approval from an immigration adviser.
- Enroll in incidental study without receiving prior approval from an immigration adviser.
- Engage in paid employment outside of sponsoring department without approval from an immigration adviser
J-1 scholars must notify an immigration adviser of the following personal or program changes as soon as they occur:
- Changes in name or citizenship
- Early completion of program
- Withdrawal from program for personal or academic reasons
- Extended leave from the U.S. for academic or personal reasons
- Changes to other immigration status
- Dependents’ early departure from the U.S.
Although J-1 visa holders should remain in the United States only for their duration of status, various extenuating circumstances such as delays in research may warrant a program extension for the visiting scholar. Eligibility requirements to extend a J-1 program are found below:
- Scholar must have maintained J-1 status throughout program
- Applications for program extension must be submitted 30 days prior to the program completion date (DS-2019 end-date)
- Extension must remain within the maximum allowable time limits of the J-1 visa category
- Sponsoring department must approve the extension
- Scholars must prove adequate funding for the extended time frame
To extend a current exchange visitor program, please gather the documentation below and follow the link for DS-2019 Request Form.
U.S. federal regulations require J-1 scholars and J-2 dependents to carry health (medical) insurance during the entire length of their program. Willful failure to carry and provide proof of adequate health insurance will be considered a violation of federal regulations and subject to termination as an Exchange Visitor participant.
Minimum Requirements are:
- Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness
- Repatriation of remains (preparation and transportation of remains to home country) in the amount of $25,000
- Expenses associated with the medical evacuation(transportation to home country when directed by attending physician) of the exchange visitor in the amount of $50,000
- A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness
- Coverage for pre-existing conditions after a reasonable time period (as per industry standards)
- Covered benefits must be paid at 75% or more per accident or illness
- Policy must not unreasonably exclude coverage for perils inherent to the exchange visitor’s program
- Insurance carrier must have an approval rating that is accepted as per Part 62.14 (c)(1) of Section 22 of the Federal Code of Regulations
The insurance policy, translated into English, and any insurance compliance forms must be submitted to an immigration adviser before the scholar may begin his or her program.
A health plan backed by the full faith and credit of the government of the exchange visitor’s home country is accepted. Exchange visitors are required to complete a special form provided by an immigration adviser and submit official confirmation of government support.
To facilitate your search, below is a list of companies often used by Exchange Visitors:
- International Student Protection (Tourer Plan) – intlstudentprotection.com
- HTH Worldwide – hthtravelinsurance.com
- ISO Student Health Insurance – isoa.org
- Marsh Affinity Group Services – gatewayplans.com/gw_usa/index.cfm
- Travel Insurance Services, Inc.’s Study or Visit USA Healthcare Plans –buyamericaninsurance.com
- Betins, Inc.’s BETA plan – betins.com (repatriation and medical evacuation ONLY)
- International SOS Assistance, Inc. – internationalsos.com (repatriation and medical evacuation ONLY
- International Student Insurance – internationalstudentinsurance.com
212(e) TWO-YEAR HOME RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT
One of the most important characteristics of the J Exchange Visitor Program is the two-year home residency requirement, also known as the 212(e). This statute requires exchange visitors and their J-2 dependents who are subject to the 212(e) to return to their “home” country once they have completed their exchange program, and remain there for at least two years before being eligible to apply for an immigrant visa, permanent residence, or nonimmigrant H or L visa. This requirement also prevents those exchange visitors and their J-2 dependents from changing their nonimmigrant J status to any other status while in the United States.
There are three ways in which exchange visitors become subject to this rule:
- If any part of the exchange program is financed by their government or the U.S. government.
- If the skills that the exchange visitor is coming to the United States to develop are in great need in the “home” country.
- If the exchange visitor comes to the United States to receive “graduate medical education or training”.
12-MONTH AND 24-MONTH PARTICIPATION BAR
Individuals interested in an exchange visitor program as J-1 Professors or Research Scholars are not eligible to use these categories for a 12-month period if they were on a J-1 or J-2 visa for more than six months in the previous year. The 12-month participation bar does not apply to time spent in the U.S. as J-1 short-term scholars or to J-1 visa holders that are transferring to or from UCF.
Exchange visitors who participate as J-1 Professors or Research Scholars are restricted to a 24-month bar on “repeat participation” in the same categories after completing their program. The 24-month bar becomes effective whether or not the professor or research scholar uses part or all their allowable time (3 weeks to 5 years) under these categories. Thus if a participant leaves or completes their program (becomes inactive in SEVIS) before the five year limit, they become subject to the bar.
The 24-month bar is a different regulation from the 212(e) home residency requirement. The 24-month bar does not require exchange visitors to remain in the home country for two years and it does not prevent them from returning to the U.S. in another J-1 category (e.g. short term scholar, student) or eligible immigration status (e.g. H-1B visa, permanent resident).
Scholars wanting to transfer from UCF to another U.S. institution may do so by requesting a record release date in SEVIS from an immigration adviser. To be eligible, the purpose for the transfer must be to continue the same program goals and objectives as those pursued at UCF and under the same J-1 visa category. After scholars have received a sponsorship from the new institution, an appointment must be made with an immigration adviser. A completed J-1 Scholar Transfer Out from UCF form and supporting documents are required for the transfer.
Whether scholars are leaving their program by their DS-2019 end-date or earlier, they are requested to notify an immigration adviser. Scholars should also contact their hiring department to update contact information for payroll and tax purposes. Scholars on J-1 visa have a 30- day grace period from the DS-2019 end date. During the grace period, scholars may not continue to engage in their program activities. They may travel within the U.S., depart the U.S., or apply to change to another status if not subject to INA 212e.