Keys to Maintaining J-1 Status
Eligibility to remain in the United States and to engage in Exchange Visitor Program activities is dependent upon maintaining lawful status. When an EV enters the US, an immigration inspector asks EVs to read and sign the DS-2019 form. This signature signifies agreement to abide by the conditions of the J-1 status while in the USA. To maintain status, exchange visitors must:
- Hold a valid, current DS-2019;
- Maintain a passport that is valid for at least 6 months into the future;
- Hold an I-94 card marked D/S (D/S stands for "duration of status" and refers to the program period listen in Item 3 on the DS-2019 form. The definition of J-1 "duration of status" is the period specified on the DS-2019 plus a period of 30 days for the purpose of travel);
- Engage only in approved program activities at approved activity sites;
- Have appropriate authorization for any work. Unauthorized employment is a violation of program status. An exchange visitors program can be terminated if s/he engages in unauthorized employment;
- Follow the J-1 insurance requirement. Willful failure to carry insurance is considered a violation of program regulations and can result in program termination. The Department of State treats "willful failure" to carry insurance as a serious infraction. One's record cannot be corrected nor can one be reinstate if charged with this infraction. Please see section on the mandatory requirement;
- Abide by the two-year home country physical presence requirement;
- Have sufficient funds to support one's self and dependents for the duration of the program; and
- Notify program sponsor of any changes in program activities and any changes of address within 10 days of a move.
According to federal regulations, all J-1 Exchange Visitors to the United States must carry health insurance for themselves and J-2 dependents for the full duration of a J-1 program. The insurance policy may include the following:
- A deductible of no more than $500 per accident per illness;
- Minimum benefits of $50,000 per accident or illness;
- $7,500 benefit for repatriation of remains in case of death;
- $10,000 coverage for medical evacuation travel expenses;
- Any waiting periods for pre-existing conditions should be reasonable by current industry standards; and
- Policy must be backed by full faith and credit of a home country government or must meet minimum rating requirements established by the US government (and A.M Best rating of "A-" or above, an Insurance Solvency International, Ltd. (ISI) rating of "A-I" or above, a Standard and Poor's Claims-paying ability rating of "A-" or above, or a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of "B+" or above.
Government regulations stipulate that if a J-1 visa holder does not carry health insurance for himself and all dependents, they will have to depart the USA before completing the program as the J-1 Sponsor must terminate the program and report the program violation.
Salisbury University has made arrangements for insurance coverage with HTH Worldwide.
The two-year home country physical presence requirement established by I.N.A. § 212(e) is one of the most important characteristics of exchange visitor status and should be thoroughly understood by program sponsors and by each exchange visitor.
Certain J-1 Exchange Visitors are required to spend two years in their home country at the end of their J-1 program. J-1 Exchange Visitors subject to this requirement cannot apply for H, L, or immigrant status unless they either return to their country of nationality for two years of obtain a waiver of the requirement. A change to another non-immigrant status while in the United States is also prohibited, except to A status (diplomatic or government official) or G status (international organization). It may be possible to apply for a different nonimmigrant visa (except H or L) at a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the U.S. The authority to grant such a visa lies with the individual consular officer. If a person who has had J status and has been subject to the two-year home residence requirement re-enters the U.S. in another status, they still remain subject to the two-year home country requirement.
Not all exchange visitors are subject to the two-year home residence requirement. There are three grounds on which an exchange visitor can become subject:
- If the exchange visitor's participation in an exchange program was financed, directly or indirectly, by the United States government or a foreign government for the purpose of exchange;
- If the skills that the exchange visitor is coming to develop or exercise are in a field which the exchange visitor's "home" government requested be included on the State Department Exchange Visitor Skills list, available at the U.S. Department of State website;
- The exchange visitor comes to the United States to receive "graduate medical education or training."
To fulfill the home residence requirement, the individual subject to 212(e) must reside and be physically present in their country of nationality or last legal permanent residence for an aggregate (i.e., the time does not have to be continuous) of at least two years following departure from the United States after their program ends.
Country of nationality or last legal permanent residence is determined when the J visa or J status was acquired. An exchange visitor who later acquires permanent residence or citizenship in another country is still subject to the requirements of the country of citizenship or legal permanent residence at the time he or she became an exchange visitor.
For more information, please view the Waiver of the Exchange Visitor Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement.
The general proposition of the 12-month bar is that an alien is not eligible to begin an exchange program as a Professor or Research Scholar based on a DS-2019 issued "to begin a new program" if he or she was physically present in any J status (including J-2 status) for "all or part of" the "twelve month period immediately preceding the date of program commencement set forth on his or her Form DS-2019." This general rule is then modified by three exceptions:
A) J-1 transfers. The 12 month bar is not applicable to those who will begin a program by transferring to a new program sponsor under the transfer procedures of 22 C.F.R. § 62.42;
(B) Presence in J status of less than 6 months. An alien whose prior physical presence in J status was of less than six months duration is exempt from the 12-month bar 22;
(C) Presence in J status as a Short-Term Scholar. No time spent as a Short-Term Scholar under is counted as physical presence that triggers the bar.
For additional information visit the Department of State resource page.
An individual who participates in the Exchange Visitor Program as a Professor or Research Scholar becomes subject to a 24-month bar on "repeat participation" in those categories after completing his or her program. Under DOS's interpretation, the 24-month bar applies under two circumstances:
- If the Professor or Research Scholar completes a full five years of program participation with one or more sponsors; or
- If, before the full five-year period is over, the Professor or Research Scholar completes his or her program. In this case, the continuity of the five-year period is broken, the five-year window is "closed," the individual is not eligible to access the remaining unused time, and the individual must wait for two years before beginning a new program as a J Professor or Research Scholar.
For additional information visit the Department of State resource page.
An exchange visitor 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 to exchange visitor status and if the exchange visitor remains within the same participant category.
Before beginning the transfer process, an exchange visitor should discuss his or her plans with the RO/AROs of both programs, make a definite decision about the transfer, and make sure that all parties involved have agreed on the date of transfer.
In general, a change of category represents a change of objective. DOS must authorize a change of category before an RO can issue a DS-2019 for the new category. The regulatory standard is that "any change of category must be clearly consistent with and closely related to the participant's original exchange objective and necessary due to unusual or exceptional circumstances."
Granting a change of category is entirely within the discretion of the DOS Office of Exchange Coordination and Designation, which tightly interprets the "unusual and exceptional" standard. Changes of category are therefore very difficult to obtain.
As long as the request has been submitted prior to the expiration of the current DS-2019, the exchange visitor will be considered to be in valid program status until a response is received from DOS. He or she may continue in the activities appropriate to the original category, including employment.
If the application is denied, the exchange visitor may remain in the original category until the expiration of Form DS-2019 (plus the standard 30-day "grace" period.) The regulations are silent on whether a transfer of program or extension of stay may be processed under the usual conditions after a denial of category change, and in the absence of regulation, this should be permissible. If the DS-2019 has already expired by the time a denial notice is issued, a 30-day period is granted to leave the country, during which time the visitor is considered to be maintaining lawful status., but can no longer engage in the exchange activity.
An exchange visitor who has completed one program and exits the United States may return in a new category, or under new program sponsorship at a later time (for important exceptions to this rule which affect reentry in the J-1 Professor/Research Scholar category, see 24-month bar on repeat participation and Twelve-month bar after previous J participation). The exchange visitor, if otherwise eligible for entry, would have to use a "begin a new program" Form DS-2019 issued by the new sponsor. Once entry has been processed by the immigration inspector, he or she is officially in the new category. In this case it is not necessary to obtain authorization for a category change from the DOS. This is, however, considered a new entry in J-1 status, and not a category change.
For additional information, please see the RO/ARO.
To extend Form DS-2019 to continue in the same exchange visitor program, the RO/ARO will do the following:
- Determine that the exchange visitor has been maintaining his or her program status, and that the extension will not exceed any regulatory limits for the category (see Department of State Maximum and Minimum Duration of Participation Rules for limits on duration of stay for the particular category);
- Update SEVIS with the extended program information, including new end date and financial information. This must be done prior to the end date of the current DS-2019;
- Print and sign the revised DS-2019; and
- Give the revised DS-2019 to the exchange visitor, who should sign and retain it.
For more information, please visit: U.S. Department of State