Exchange visitor categories

General Information

When an Exchange Visitor in J-1 status is admitted to the United States, he or she is issued a Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record), marked D/S for "Duration of Status". Section 6 of Form DS-2019 is also annotated D/S.

J-1 exchange visitors may remain in the United States 30 days after the ending date on the Form DS-2019. The D/S notation means that the USCIS considers exchange visitors to be in status as long as their Forms DS-2019 are valid and they engage only in activities permitted by the Form DS-2019. They may file for extension of stay if necessary to accomplish program objectives.

It is extremely important that you keep certain documents in a safe place. You should keep all DS-2019s issued to you, as well as a copy of any immigration forms you might have completed during your stay in the United States (i.e. an application for Academic Training).

You should also keep important items such as copies of income tax returns, apartment leases, important correspondence, validated financial statements for tuition, registration slips, etc. These items may become important at a later date.

You should not rely on the Office of International Programs to provide you with copies of important documents.

When a form DS-2019 is prepared for an exchange visitor, a particular category of activities is indicated on the form. This designation of a category helps to establish and define a program objective.

For example, the student category indicates a formal program of study leading to a degree, certificate or other similar educational objective, while the research scholar category indicates the objective of academic research. In general, a change of category represents a change of objective and is not permitted.


A college or university student is defined as an individual who is studying in the United States, pursuing a full course of study leading to or culminating in the award of a U.S. degree.

College and university students shall register for and complete a full course of study as defined by the accredited educational institution in which the student is registered.

A student must continue in a full course of study except in the following circumstances:

  • During official school breaks and summer vacations if the student is eligible and intends to register for the next term.
  • If the student is compelled to reduce or interrupt a full course of study due to an illness or medical condition and the student presents to the responsible officer a written statement from a physician requiring or recommending reduction in studies.
  • If the student is compelled to pursue less than a full course of study for a term and the student presents to the Alternate/Responsible Officer a written statement from the academic dean that recommends the student reduce his or her academic load to less than a full course of study due to an academic reason.
  • If the student is participating in authorized Academic Training in accordance with Academic Training regulations.
  • If the student needs less than a full course of study to complete the academic requirements in his or her final term.

Professors and Research Scholars

A professor is an individual primarily teaching, lecturing, observing or consulting at post-secondary accredited educational institutions, museums, libraries or similar types of institutions. A professor may also conduct research.

A research scholar is an individual primarily conducting research, observing or consulting in connection with a research project at research institutions, corporate research facilities, museums, libraries, post-secondary accredited educational institutions or similar types of institutions. Research scholars may also teach or lecture.

Professors and research scholars may be sponsored as exchange visitors only if they have appropriate academic or similar credentials, will be participating in a program that furthers the objectives (to foster the exchange of ideas between U.S. and foreign nationals and to stimulate international collaborative teaching and research efforts), and have activities that are compatible with those objectives.

The exchange visitor's appointment to a position shall be temporary, even if the position itself is permanent. The individual shall not be a candidate for a tenure-track position. Temporary is an important characteristic of this sponsorship. Although the individual may be in a position that is by nature or definition a permanent one in the institution, the intention of the sponsor and the exchange visitor as to the participant's stay must be temporary.

Short-Term scholars

A short-term scholar is defined as a professor, research scholar, specialist or a person with similar education or accomplishments coming to the United States on a short-term visit for the purpose of lecturing, observing, consulting, training or demonstrating special skills at research institutions, museums, libraries, post-secondary accredited educational institutions or similar types of institutions.

Examples include educators, scientists, research fellows, writers and museum administrators.

A short-term scholar is permitted to participate in activities such as conferences, workshops, seminars and other events if these activities are stated on his or her Form DS-2019.

Student intern

Participation in the student intern subcategory is open to foreign students currently enrolled and pursuing a degree at a postsecondary academic institution outside the United States. Student interns may participate in a student internship program for up to 12 months for each degree/major.

To be eligible to participate as a J-1 Student Intern, a participant must meet these conditions:

  • Be currently "enrolled in and pursuing a degree at an accredited postsecondary academic institution outside the United States."
  • The U.S. internship must "fulfill the educational objectives for his or her current degree program at his or her home institution."
  • Have "verifiable English language skills sufficient to function on a day-to-day basis in the internship environment."
  • Be "primarily in the United States to engage in a student internship program rather than to engage in employment or provide services to an employer."
  • Be "accepted into a student internship program at the postsecondary accredited academic institution listed on his or her Form DS-2019."
  • Be "in good academic standing" at his or her home institution outside the United States.
  • The student must return to his or her academic program outside the United States "and fulfill and obtain a degree from such academic institution after completion of the student internship program."
  • Have "sufficient finances to support himself or herself and dependents for their entire stay in the United States, including housing and living expenses."

The internship activity secured for the participant must conform to these requirements and prohibitions:

  • Student interns may participate in a student internship program for "up to 12 months for each degree/major."
  • Internships must be full-time; i.e., consist of a minimum of 32 hours per week.
  • Consist of no more than 20 percent clerical work.
  • All tasks assigned must be "necessary for the completion of the student internship program."
  • Not displace "American workers" (including full or part-time, temporary or permanent).
  • Not "serve to fill a labor need"
  • Exist "solely to assist the student intern in achieving the objectives of his or her participation in a student internship program."
  • Consist of "work-based learning," rather than "ordinary employment or unskilled labor."
  • If in the field of agriculture, meet all requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.
  • Expose the participant to "American techniques, methodologies, and technology," expand upon the participant's existing knowledge and skills, and "not duplicate the student intern's prior experience."
  • Not place a student intern in any position that involves the following:
    • Unskilled or casual labor
    • Child care or elder care
    • Aviation
    • "Clinical positions or engaging in any other kind of work that involves patient care or contact, including any work that would require student interns to provide therapy, medication, or other clinical or medical care (e.g., sports or physical therapy, psychological counseling, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, social work, speech therapy, or early childhood education)"
    • Any "position, occupation, or business that could bring the Exchange Visitor Program or the Department into notoriety or disrepute."
    • Not involve in any way a "staffing/employment agency."

• A student may participate in an internship with or without wages or other compensation. To be employed, however, the student needs the "approval of the exchange program's responsible officer and the student's home institution's dean or academic advisor."
• The internship does not have to be in the student's field of study, but it does have to "fulfill the educational objectives for his or her current degree program at his or her home institution."

Comparison with other visa classes

The visa class most often compared with the J-1 professor or research scholar is the H-1B temporary worker. The chief differences between the J-1 and H-1B are intent and purpose. The J-1 is for the purpose of exchange and requires temporary intent while the H-1B is for the purpose of employment and permits dual or future permanent intent. The H-1B, unlike the J-1, requires approval by the Department of Labor and a petition to and approval by the USCIS with accompanying lengthy delays. The H-1B does not carry the two-year home country physical presence requirement, which may accompany the J-1.


To invite dependents (wife, husband and/or children) to the United States after your arrival, you need to send them a dependent DS-2019 issued in their name so they may obtain their U.S. visas.

Dependents of J-1 visa holders will receive J-2 visas. Requests for these documents must be made in the OIP (or to your sponsor for those on DS-2019's from other agencies). Proof of adequate financial support (as indicated on the Declaration and Certification of Finances) for the family's stay will be required in order to obtain a DS-2019 from the OIP. There is a $50 processing fee for this purpose.

Once in the United States, those on J-2 visas may accept full- or part-time employment with permission from the USCIS if a job can be found and is not needed to support the person on the J-1.

Students and scholars should plan very carefully for the increased financial obligation that the family will incur (health insurance and care, schooling for children, higher rent and utilities, etc.) before deciding to bring their family members to Akron.

Note: J-2 employment handouts are available in OIP.

Guests (Temporary Visitors)

Those who wish to invite friends or family members other than spouse/children for a temporary visit to the United Statesneed not send any forms, but rather a personal letter to the prospective guest inviting them to visit you for a specified period of time.

This will enable the visitor to obtain a tourist visa at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad.

If you need a letter stating that you are a current student, you can request a Current Enrollment Letter in the Registrar's Office.

J-1 Visa Requirements

J-1 Limitation of stay and grace period

The length of time an exchange visitor may remain in the United States in J-1 status is determined by the general limitations for the category and the length of time needed to complete the exchange objective (see category breakdown below).

After the J-1 program is completed, the USCIS allows exchange visitors an additional grace period of 30 days to prepare for departure from the United States. It is important for the exchange visitor to be aware that the exchange activity and any related employment are permitted only until the ending date on the Form DS-2019.

The additional 30 days is a status very much like that of a tourist in that one may remain to travel in the United States, but may not undertake activities usually impermissible to a tourist.

J-1 Limitation of Stay: Student category

The length of time that the DS-2019 is issued for J-1 students is dependent upon the academic program and objective.

Generally, at UA, the length of the DS-2019 Form is five years for undergraduate students, three years for master's students and five years for doctoral students.

However, "exchange students" who will not obtain a degree from The University of Akron, are often issued DS-2019s for one semester or one academic year. The length of the DS-2019 may vary from student to student even at the same academic level depending on the academic program and objective.

J-1 Limitation of Stay: Professor and research scholar categories

The maximum period of participation for J-1 Professors and Research Scholars is five years.

This five-year period is not an aggregate of five years. It is a continuous period of five years given to J-1 Professors or Research Scholars on a "use or lose" basis.

The length of time on the DS-2019 Form can be anywhere from three weeks to five years.

Depending on the program and objective, the DS-2019 can be extended or shortened as requested by The University of Akron hosting department.

There is a new "24-Month Bar" on repeat participation in the J-1 Professor and Research Scholar categories. According to this rule, any individual who participates in an Exchange Visitor program in the Professor or Research Scholar categories on or after 11/18/2006 is subject to a 24-month bar on "repeat participation" in those categories.

Therefore, scholars subject to the bar may not return to the U.S. as a J-1 Professor or Research Scholar for a 24-month period after the completion of their "first" program in that category. This bar is in effect regardless of if the first J-1 Professor or Research Scholar program lasted a few months or the full five years. Once the first program is "completed", the 24-month bar begins.

This bar applies to both the J-1 scholar and any J-2 dependents. The 24-month bar does not prevent individuals from returning to the United States in any other visa status.

The 24-month bar is different from the "12-Month Bar". According to the 12-month bar, any individual who has been in the United States for more than six months during the previous year in J-1 status is not eligible to enter the U.S. as a J-1 Research Scholar or Professor for a 12-month period. Time spent in the J-1 Short-Term Scholar category does not count towards the 12-month bar.

The 12-month bar applies to both the J-1 scholar and any J-2 dependents. The 12-month bar does not prevent individuals from returning to the United States in any other visa status.

J-1 Limitation of Stay: Short-Term scholar category

J-1 Short-Term Scholars may remain in the United States for up to six months. No extensions are permitted beyond six months. The 24-Month Bar and 12-Month Bar do not apply to exchange visitors in the J-1 Short-Term Scholar category.

J-1 Limitation of Stay: Student intern subcategory

J-1 Student interns may participate in a student internship program for up to 12 months for each degree/major.

Two-Year home country physical presence requirement

The two-year home country physical presence requirement is one of the most important special characteristics of J-1 status and should be thoroughly understood by the exchange visitor.

The determination as to whether an exchange visitor is subject to the two-year home country physical presence requirement by virtue of the need for his or her specialized knowledge or skills in the home country is made by reference to the Exchange Visitor Skills List, an official list of fields of specialized knowledge and skills needed in each country, as determined by the governments of those countries.

The exchange visitor is subject to the two-year home country physical presence requirement only if participation in an exchange program began after his or her field of study appeared on the skills list.

The two-year home country physical presence requirement may be waived. The Office of International Programs has handouts on procedures for the waiver application.

Maintenance of status

All exchange visitors must maintain J-1 status by engaging only in activities permitted under the program and the category, filing timely and appropriate transfer and extension notification, refraining from unauthorized employment and maintaining required health insurance coverage.

An exchange visitor who violates or falls out of status loses eligibility for extension, transfer, employment and change of status. A student who drops out of school or fails to carry a full course of study or a researcher whose research is terminated but who remains in the United States has violated status. Both are deportable.

Unlike the F-1 student, J-1 students and scholars have no provision for reinstatement, and the United States Information Agency (USIA) has expressed opposition to any such provision.

Transfer of program

An exchange visitor who transfers from one program sponsor to another cannot use that transfer to prolong his or her stay in the United States beyond the limitations of the pertinent category, but he or she will be subject to the time limitations for the specific category

An exchange visitor in any category may transfer from one program sponsor to another if the purpose of the transfer is to complete the objective for which he or she was admitted - and if the exchange visitor remains within the same category.

Termination of program

A program will be terminated for the following reasons:

  • Fails to pursue the activities which he or she was admitted to the United States.
  • Is unable to continue unless otherwise exempted pursuant to these regulations.
  • Violates the Exchange Visitor Program regulations and/or the sponsor's rules governing the program if, in the sponsor's opinion, termination is warranted.
  • Willfully fails to maintain the insurance coverage required under the Exchange Visitor regulations.
  • Engages in unauthorized employment. It is the responsibility of USIA, not the sponsor or responsible officer, to determine when unauthorized work has occurred and to terminate the exchange visitor's program.

Mandatory health insurance

List of Accepted Health Insurance Companies

J-1 visa holders are required by the Department of State to have medical insurance in effect for themselves and any accompanying spouse and/or dependents on J visas effective May 15, 2015.

  • Minimum Coverage: At a minimum, insurance shall cover (1) medical benefits of at least $100,000 per person per accident or illness; (2) repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000; and (3) expenses associated with medical evacuation in the amount of $50,000.
  • Additional Terms - A policy secured to fulfill the insurance requirements shall not have a deductible that exceeds $500 per accident or illness and must meet other standards specified in the regulations.
  • Maintenance of Insurance - Exchange visitors must maintain the required insurance during the duration of their programs.

The University of Akron is responsible for making the exchange visitors aware of insurance requirements and for terminating the participant from the program if he/she willfully fails to meet those requirements. The exchange visitor is responsible for purchasing the correct amount of insurance.

The University of Akron advises the exchange visitor of the insurance requirements in the pre-arrival information.


Inside the U.S.A.

If you intend to travel within the United states during your stay, there are no special documents necessary. However, be sure to carry your passport, I-94 and DS-2019 with you so that you will have legal, identifying documents in your possession should any problems arise.

Outside the U.S.A.

If you intend to travel temporarily out of the United States and return, you will need to have a valid DS-2019 for re-entry (see below). You will also need to have a valid U.S. visa to re-enter and, of course, your passport must be valid. If necessary, make sure you obtain a new U.S. visa at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad before returning, as you will not be permitted entry to the United States without it.

A valid DS-2019 is either a properly endorsed DS-2019 with an expiration date valid at least 30 days beyond the date you will re-enter the United States or a new DS-2019 issued by your program sponsor.

If your documents were issued by The University of Akron, please come to the Office of International Programs at least one week before you travel to have your DS-2019 endorsed.

Travel to Canada

All J-1 students and scholars wishing to visit Canada require a Canadian Visitor Visa unless they are citizens of countries exempt from the Canadian non-immigrant visa requirement. A list of the countries and Canadian Visa Applications are available in the Office of International Programs. The Canadian government will issue a visitor visa to a student or scholar in the United States only when convinced that he or she is re-admissible to the United States.

The Canadian government advises that, at least three weeks in advance of their planned trip to Canada, individuals submit to the appropriate Canadian consular post a completed visitor-visa application (Form IMM 1296) with required fee, valid passport, Form I-94, two passport-size photographs, proof of adequate funds for the stay in Canada and current Form DS-2019. These documents should be sent by certified mail, along with a return envelope with postage paid for certified mail.

For citizens of some countries, an interview is required before a Canadian Visitor Visa will be issued. Students and scholars wishing to visit Canada should telephone the Canadian Consulate General in their area to ascertain whether an interview is required and the days and hours of the consulate's operation.

When traveling to Canada, J-1 students and scholars should carry each of the documents required for the issuance of the visitor visa, plus evidence of return transportation arrangements and sufficient funds for the period of the contemplated stay in Canada.

Travel to Mexico

Mexican diplomatic authorities in the United States have indicated that information regarding visitor or tourist visas are too complex to be answered in a general manner. Some individuals may be exempt from visa requirements based on treaties between the country of origin and Mexico.

Requirements for other individuals vary with the nationality of the prospective visitor. It is suggested that inquiry be made at the closest Mexican Consulate.

Re-entering the United States

A J-1 exchange visitor making a temporary visit outside the United States must have the following documents in order to re-enter the United States in exchange visitor status: a valid passport and visa (unless exempt from passport and visa requirement) and a current copy of the Form DS-2019 signed for travel by an A/RO in the Office of International Programs at The University of Akron.

If the exchange visitor's visa is no longer valid or if the number of authorized entries has already been used, he or she must apply to a U.S. consulate or embassy outside the United States for a new visa.