Below is a summary of important J-1 regulations and procedures. This summary should not be considered a source of complete information. The topics and information presented here are intended to educate visiting J-1 professors and scholars sponsored by the University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL). Exchange Visitors (EV), who would like additional information on J-1 regulations and procedures, should contact an International Student Advisor in OIAP. Appointments are excellent sources of up-to-date information regarding any changes to J-1 regulations and procedures.
1. The Exchange Visitor Program
The Exchange Visitor Program allows scholars to visit the United States for educational and cultural purposes under the sponsorship of schools, agencies, and organizations that the U.S. Department of State (DOS) has designated as Exchange Visitor Sponsors. The University of Houston-Clear Lake is a designated sponsor for the Exchange Visitor Program.
"Employment" is any type of work or service performed or provided in exchange for benefits, such as: money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, housing, etc. If you perform this work or these services without the expectation of payment or compensation, the activity is considered to be “volunteer work,” rather than “employment.”
As an Exchange Visitor, you are permitted to receive compensation from your sponsor if the activities are part of your exchange program. If you are interested in working or volunteering for an employer other than the sponsoring school, agency, or organization specified on your DS-2019, you should make an appointment with an International Student Advisor. This employment must be directly related to your program’s objectives and activities, and should not delay the completion of achieving your EV objectives. You MUST obtain approval from the head of your department or your supervisor before your first day of employment.
If you are a professor or research scholar, you may participate in occasional lectures and short-term consultations with the permission of your sponsor. These activities must be directly related to your program’s objectives and incidental to your professional activities, but they should not delay your completion of your program.
As an Exchange Visitor, you are prohibited from engaging in unauthorized employment. Engaging in unauthorized employment is a violation of the terms of your J-1 status, and may result in the early termination of your program. If you work without a valid DS-2019, or continue to work after your DS-2019 has expired, you are at risk for termination and deportation.
J-1 researchers employed as members of UHCL’s staff must comply with university’s staff requirements. All staff positions (including research staff) must be advertised through the job posting system used by Human Resources.
3. Program Length
The program length is 5 years. Please note that the terms of your J-1 status require you to leave the United States within the 30 days following the completion of your program. Please note that the date of completion takes precedence over the date listed on your DS-2019. If you complete your program earlier than anticipated, the original date listed on your DS-2019 is no longer valid.
4. Program Extensions
Extensions are limited to a maximum of 5 years at maximum. To initiate a request for an extension, your academic department must complete and submit a new DS-2019 request form. You should begin this process at least 2 months before the end date listed on your current DS-2019. Your request will be processed by OIAP. If your request is approved, OIAP will complete a new DS-2019 and contact you when it is ready to be picked up.
5. Traveling Outside of the U.S. as an EV
If you plan on traveling outside of the U.S. during your exchange program, please make an appointment with an International Student Advisor at least three weeks in advance, so that you are aware of what types of documentation you will need. Bring your current DS-2019, passport, and I-94 record with you to your appointment. To re-enter the U.S., you will need your visa and DS-2019. Your visa must be valid and your DS-2019 should be properly endorsed by your advisor. Please note that these are only general requirements. Under some circumstances, for example, you may need to obtain a new DS-2019 before your departure, or, if your visa and DS-2019 are both valid, the signature of the Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO) may be sufficient. To avoid any oversights or complications, remember to make an appointment before your departure.
6. Transferring to another Program
As an Exchange Visitor, you may transfer from one program sponsor to another. This transfer must be directly incidental to your program’s objectives and completion, and must allow you to remain in the same visa category. Transfers involve correspondence between the two responsible officers and the notification of the Department of State (DOS). We recommend that you begin the transfer process at least 30 days before your program’s ending date and your new program’s proposed starting date in order to allow enough time for all of the paperwork to be processed. All new activities will be postponed until you receive a new DS-2019 form from your new sponsor.
7. Change of Category
In general, changes in category are not permitted. However, at the discretion of the DOS, exchange visitors may be permitted to change categories (i.e. from a J-1 Research Scholar to a J-1 Student). Any changes in category must be consistent with and related to your original objective. Changes of category that alter objectives are not permitted. If you apply for a change of category, you will retain legal status while your application is under consideration. If the DOS denies your application, you will be notified and expected to leave the U.S. within 30 days of notification or of the expiration date on your current DS-2019—whichever date is later. If your request is approved, you should receive new documentation before beginning any new activities.
8. Limitation of Consecutive Program Participation
Two-year bar on repeat participation completed in less than give years
According to the DOS, individuals, who have participated in the Exchange Visitor Program as professors or researchers, are subject to a two-year (24 month) bar on “repeat participation” in these categories. You will be barred if:
- You complete the full five years of program participation with one or more sponsors; or
- You complete your program’s objectives in less than five years and your SEVIS record becomes inactive. In this case, the five-year window is “closed,” you will not be eligible to access the remaining unused time, and you must wait for two years before beginning a new program as a J professor or research scholar.
NOTE: In the event of this second circumstance, you will be subject to the two-year bar, regardless of how much time you spent in your program. To remain eligible for the full five years, your SEVIS record must remain active.
Application of two-year bar to participants who completed programs prior to SEVIS 5.4
In its SEVIS 5.4, the DOS ruled that this two-year bar only applies to professors and researchers who complete their programs on or after November 18, 2006.
The Short-Term Scholar category and the two-year bar
The maximum duration of stay for a Short-Term Scholar is 6 months. Professors or Research Scholars, who have participated in the Exchange Visitor Program and are currently subject to the two-year bar, may be invited to the U.S. as Short-Term Scholars. In this event, the expected duration of the Scholar’s program will need to be finalized before the start of the exchange.
Does this two-year bar replace the one-year bar?
No. The 12-month bar applies to J-1 and J-2 visitors who spent 6 or more of the past 12 months in the U.S. These individuals are barred from returning to the U.S. for the 12 months following the completion of their program. Professors and scholars who are restricted by the 12-month bar are not eligible to return as Exchange Visitors until the bar has been lifted. They may return as Short-Term Scholars, but time spent in the U.S. in this category will not count toward the 12 months.
There are three exceptions to this rule:
- J-1 transfers
- J-1 or 2 visitors who spent LESS than 6 months in the U.S. (Professors and research scholars who participated in an Exchange program, however, are subject to the two-year bar)
- Short-term Scholars
9. The Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement
After completing their program, J-1 visitors and their dependents are expected to depart from the U.S. within 30 days. Exchange Visitors whose programs meet the criteria explained below are required to return directly to their home country.
As an Exchange Visitor, you are subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement if your program involves:
- Government funding—if, at any point during your stay as a J-1 visitor, you receive funding (including nominal travel grants) from either the U.S. government or the government of your country of origin.
- Graduate medical training or education.
- Specialized skills or knowledge—if your skills or knowledge are necessary for the development of your home country and consequently are included on the U.S. State Department’s Exchange Visitor’s “Skills List.
If you are subject to this requirement, you cannot change to a different type of non-immigrant status (such as H, L, or K) or apply for permanent residency until you have completed the two years or unless you receive a waiver. A waiver does not permit you to apply for an extension to your DS-2019, but it does allow you to change to another non-immigrant status. Generally, it can take up to a year to receive a reply to a waiver application, so please apply with your DS-2019 expiration date in mind.
10. Health Insurance Requirement
Visitors with J status and their dependents are required to have medical insurance coverage with the following minimum benefits [22 CFR 62.14]:
- Health Benefits: Minimum of $100,000
- Medical Evacuation: Minimum of $50,000
- Repatriation Benefits: Minimum of $25,000
- Deductible not to exceed $500 per adult/illness
- Duration: Must be for the entire time the Exchange visitor is in the U.S.
11. J-2 Dependents
As an Exchange Visitor, you may invite your family members (i.e. husband or wife, and children) to join you in the U.S. with a J-2 visa. To initiate this process, you must contact an International Student Advisor in OIAP. After you receive your DS-2019, you should forward it to your dependents, so that they may apply for a J-2 visa at a United States Embassy or Consulate.
Your spouse and children may apply for employment authorization with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), but their income cannot be necessary for the support of you and your family. Contact an International Student Advisor in OIAP for more information on J-2 employment.
If your spouse or children would like to change to J-1 status, they must do so within 6 months of their arrival, and while you are still under lawful J-1 status.
12. Reinstatement Procedures
The most common violation for J-1 visitors is simply the failure to apply for an extension before the expiration date listed on their DS-2019. If you violate the terms of your J-1 status, it is possible, in some cases, to apply for lawful reinstatement. These applications, however, are approved or denied at the discretion of the USCIS. If you apply and your application is denied, your program will be terminated, and you and your dependents will be required to leave the United States.