Center for International Education


Holloway Hall
Salisbury University - Center for International Education
Immigration Advising

J-1 Visa Status

Common Procedures for Continuing Exchange Visitors

Changes of category

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.