J-1 Exchange Visitors

Visitors in J-1 status come to the United States to promote international, educational, and cultural exchange. It is the most common visa type for international scholars at Princeton.  Learn more about the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program for scholars at Princeton through the navigation below.

1. COMMON APPOINTMENTS

Princeton University has been authorized by the U.S. Department of State as a Program Sponsor for individuals in the following visa categories: Professor, Research Scholar, Short Term Scholar, Specialist, and Student. The J-1 visa category is commonly used for visiting professors and lecturers of varying ranks and postdoctoral positions.

2. TIME LIMITS AND OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

A J-1 scholar may enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the start date listed on their DS-2019 document and up to 30 days after that date. If the scholar will arrive later than 30 days past the agreed upon start date, a new DS-2019 form must be prepared and sent to the individual.  All new Princeton-sponsored J-1s must check in at the Davis IC within 30 days of the start date listed on the DS-2019.
 
A J-1 exchange visitor may hold J-1 status for the following time limits:
Professors                                             5 years or less
Researchers                                          5 years or less
Specialist                                               1 year or less
Short-Term Scholar                               6 months or less

J-1 exchange visitors should be ready to present intent to leave the U.S. at the end of their program, particularly during the visa application or travel/re-entry to the U.S.

3. MAINTAINING J-1 STATUS

It is important that you are aware of your responsibilities in maintaining your legal visa status during your stay in the U.S.  Failure to maintain your visa status could result in accrual of unlawful presence time and severe sanctions, including a loss of your legal status in the U.S.

All new J-1 exchange visitors are required to formally check in with the Davis International Center (Davis IC) within 10 days of the start date listed in Item 3 of the DS-2019 to initiate validation of the SEVIS record.
 
J-1 exchange visitors are also responsible for reporting a local/current physical address to the Davis IC within 10 days of moving so that we can report it in SEVIS.  Your local/current address should always be kept current in your Human Resources Self Service profile—if you move, you are required to update your local/current address in the HR Self Service portal.
 
As a visa-holder you must have a passport that is kept valid at all times, unless exempt from the passport requirement (Canadian citizens). You must also have a valid DS-2019 form.  Obtain any extensions of the J-1 program before the expiration date on the current DS-2019.

Conduct research or teach only as allowed by the J program reported in SEVIS. If you will be at an institution in addition to or other than Princeton, a new Site of Activity may need to be added to your SEVIS record. See the section on occasional lectures or consultations if you will give talks or lectures at other schools. If you will transfer your J program to another institution, a transfer process must be completed in SEVIS.

J-1 exchange visitors are required to carry health insurance that meets minimum requirements. All J-2 dependents must also have insurance that meets these minimums.

J-1 exchange visitors should be ready to present intent to leave the U.S. at the end of their program, particularly during the visa application or travel/re-entry to the U.S.

4. TRAVEL WHILE IN J-1 STATUS

Princeton-sponsored J-1 exchange visitors seeking to enter the U.S. are required to present a DS-2019 signed for travel by an authorized advisor in the Davis IC to the U.S. port of entry.  See Travel Validation by Responsible Officer on your form DS-2019 to confirm whether you have the appropriate travel authorization.
 
If traveling outside the U.S., you must almost always have a valid visa to return to the U.S. Please confirm with your Davis IC advisor beforehand if you think your travel plans are an exception to this rule. If your visa has expired, you will need to apply for a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. You cannot extend your visa inside the U.S. There is no place/office in the U.S. to apply for a new visa. Be sure to check the website of the Embassy or Consulate where you will apply for the new visa as procedures at Consulates change over time. You should also carry documentation of your salary at Princeton (e.g.—a copy of appointment letter, pay statements).  You are not required to pay the SEVIS fee more than once per J-1 program. You should carry your receipt notice from payment of the initial SEVIS fee with you if you need to apply for a new visa as well as documentation of your funding for your J-1 stay (e.g.—copy of appointment letter). 
 
You should always be readmitted to the U.S. for D/S or Duration of Status. Your I-94 information should note this. If it does not, it probably means that an immigration officer thought you were missing a required item. You may be issued an I-515 form requiring you to resolve the matter within 30 days of re-entry to the U.S. Please report this to the Davis IC as soon as possible so that we can assist you in responding.

5. REPEAT PARTICIPATION BARS AND THE TWO-YEAR HOME RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT

Time spent in the US as a J-1 Exchange Visitor or J-2 dependent might affect eligibility for future J-1 status in the Research Scholar or Professor categories.  These periods of ineligibility for repeat participation are referred to as the twelve (12) month bar and the twenty-four (24) month bar, and apply only to persons beginning an Exchange Visitor program in the categories of "Research Scholar" or "Professor." The bars do not affect eligibility for other J-1 categories, such as Short Term Scholars, Students, or Specialists, or other visa types.
 
These bars are not to be confused with the two-year home residency requirement, which may also affect those in J status.  The two-year home residency requirement applies to only those J visa holders who are subject to it and it prohibits a change of status within the U.S. to any visa category (other than A or G) and the issuance of an H, L, or immigrant visa.   It does not prevent a return to the U.S. in J status.
 
If you belong to one of the following categories, you are most likely subject to this requirement at the end of your J-1 program:

  • You have received government funding, in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of exchange, from your home government or the U.S. government.
  • You work in a field that appears on the Exchange Visitor Skills List (a long list of areas and fields identified by foreign governments as having a short supply of workers in that country).
  • You participated in a graduate medical education or training program sponsored by the Educational Commission of Foreign Medical Graduates- ECFMG.
  • You are the J-2 dependent of an Exchange Visitor who is subject to the requirement.


The two-year home residency requirement will not prevent you from reentering the U.S. as an F-1 student, B-1/B-2 visitor, or J-1 student in the future, but it will prevent you from being authorized change of status to most classifications from within the U.S., and from receiving H-1B or L work authorization or Permanent Resident status unless the two-year requirement is either fulfilled or waived.
 
Evidence of whether or not you are subject to the two-year home residency requirement may usually be found:

  • On the J-1 visa stamp page in your passport. It may bear the phrase: "Bearer is/is not subject to 212(e). Two year rule does/does not apply."
  • In the section in the lower left hand corner of your DS-2019 form labeled "preliminary endorsement."

If a consular officer or immigration inspector made an indication in either or both of these places, the indication is usually accurate. If you have any questions about whether or not you are subject to the two-year home residency requirement, contact your scholar advisor at the Davis IC. If information is inconsistent or inconclusive, an advisory opinion may be sought from the U.S. Department of State.

6. WAIVERS OF THE TWO-YEAR HOME RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT

You may be able to obtain a waiver of the two-year home residency requirement. Information about obtaining a waiver of the two-year home country residence requirement may be found at the U.S. Department of State's website.
 
Processing of a waiver of the two-year home residency requirement can be a complicated and time-consuming action. Most importantly, the initiation of the waiver process may also jeopardize your ability to maintain or extend your current J-1 visa status.  Therefore, you should first consult with the Davis IC before you pursue the waiver.  It is also common to seek the advice of an immigration attorney during the waiver process.

7. OCCASIONAL LECTURES AND CONSULTATIONS

J-1 scholars may receive honoraria, compensation, or reimbursement of expenses for occasional lectures, consultation, or other collaborative activity from an entity other than those named on the DS-2019 form after obtaining approval in writing from the J-1 program sponsor if such activity will take place in the U.S.
Request an approval for incidental activity by completing the Incidental Activity Form and returning it to the Davis IC.
 
If the activity is an occasional lecturer, permission will be granted in the form of a letter. You should present the letter to the outside entity as proof of your authorization to be paid or receive reimbursement. You must be paid as an "independent contractor". The term independent contractor means that you do not have a sustained employer-employee relationship with the person or institution for which you are working. You do not complete an I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification Form with that person or institution.
 
If the activity is of a more sustained nature such as teaching one course at another institution that will last a whole semester, the Davis IC will need to prepare an amended DS-2019 form that will include the funding from the additional entity. We will notify the U.S. State Department of these changes in activity and funding and provide you with an amended DS-2019. The amended DS-2019 along with your I-94 and proof of identity will be used to complete an I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form with your other employer.

8. HEALTH INSURANCE REQUIREMENTS

J-1 scholars and their J-2 dependents are required to have medical insurance coverage during the dates they participate as a J visa holder as indicated on the DS-2019 form. Failure to maintain the required minimum insurance coverage will be considered a violation of the J regulations and will be subject to termination from the J-1 exchange visitor program.  If the scholar will arrive in the United States before the start date or depart after the end date on the DS-2019 form, they are encouraged to arrange for other interim health insurance coverage during that time.
 
Minimum Requirements:

  • The medical insurance coverage must provide the following minimum benefits as per the J federal regulations [22 CFR 62.14]:
  • Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness
  • Repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000
  • Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of the exchange visitor to his or her home country in the amount of $50,000
  • A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.


An insurance policy secured to meet the benefits requirements as per the federal J regulations [22 CFR 62.14]:

  • Must be underwritten by an insurance corporation with an A.M. Best rating of "A-" or above; a McGraw Hill Financial/Standard & Poor's Claims-paying Ability rating of "A-" or above; a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of B+ or above; a Fitch Ratings, Inc. rating of "A-" or above; a Moody's Investor Services rating of "A3" or above.
  • Or the participant's policy may be backed by the full faith and credit of the government of the exchange visitor's home country.

Princeton University Health Insurance Plans:
J-1 exchange visitors are eligible for health insurance benefits that meet these minimum requirements based on their appointment at Princeton University.  The J-1 Visa Health Insurance Plan and the AETNA HMO Health Insurance Plan offered by Princeton University both meet the required minimum requirements. Further information about these health insurance benefits is available on the Office of Human Resources website or by calling the Human Resources Benefits Office at 609-258-3302.

9. DEPENDENTS

Spouses and unmarried children up to the age of 21 qualify for dependent status of a J-1 exchange visitor. Dependents carry J-2 status.   
 
J-2 dependents of J-1 exchange visitors who are subject to the two-year home residency requirement are also subject to the two-year home residency requirement.
 
J-2 dependents are also subject to the 12-month bar from becoming J-1 professors or research scholars if they have been in the U.S. for 6 months in the previous 12 months.   
 
Dependents cannot work automatically once they arrive, but are eligible to apply to the United States Citizenship & Immigration Service for work permission/employment authorization. See more information at: J-2 Work Authorization.

10. PROCESSING THE VISA

If the individual is outside the U.S.
Once an appointment is approved and the Visa Information Form and any supporting documents are submitted to the Davis IC, a Certificate of Eligibility/DS-2019 will be issued using the Student & Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS).  The DS-2019 and further instructions are sent to the individual by express mail.  Using the information provided on the DS-2019, the individual pays the required SEVIS fee and makes an appointment at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The individual appears for the scheduled interview/appointment and the visa is issued.  Some individuals will have to undergo additional security clearances before a visa can be issued that may take weeks-months.
 
If the individual is transferring their J-1 status from another institution
Once the appointment is approved the Davis IC will contact the current J-1 program sponsor and request the transfer to Princeton effective on the appointment start date. The individual will need to follow instructions from that institution for transferring out from their J-1 program.  
On the effective date of the transfer/start date at Princeton, the Davis IC will be able to access the U.S. government database (SEVIS) and print a new DS-2019 for the appointment at Princeton and give it to the individual.   Because there can be no gap in dates in the J-1 program, the individual must end at one institution and begin at the next institution the next day. As a result, travel outside the U.S. between J-1 stays is difficult, and would require negotiation of vacation time at the end of one program or the beginning of the next.  
 
If the individual is in the U.S. in another status and wants to change to J-1 status from within the U.S.
If changing status from within the U.S., the individual is required to file a Form I-539 Application for Change of Nonimmigrant Status to USCIS.  The application must also include a DS-2019 Form, a filing fee and supporting documentation. It is important to note that the processing time for changes of status to J-1 are unpredictable and can take 3 to 5 months. Therefore, unless sufficient lead-time is available for the process, it is usually recommended that the individual travel outside the U.S., apply for the J-1 visa and re-enter the U.S. in J-1 status.   

11. TRANSFER TO ANOTHER PROGRAM

You may transfer your J-1 program to another U.S. institution for the remainder of your allowable stay, if the program at the next institution is consistent with your program at Princeton and as long as there are no gaps in the dates of your J program. In other words, if you finish at Princeton on June 30, you must begin at the new institution on July 1. Professors and research scholars could be subject to the 24- month bar if there is any gap in the dates of the J program.
 
You should follow the instructions provided by your new J-1 program to begin the transfer. The new program will eventually contact the Davis IC at Princeton to request the transfer of your J-1 record in SEVIS.    
 
Please note: the new program will not be able to print out a new DS-2019 for you until the effective date of the transfer. They will not be able to provide you with a DS-2019 ahead of your start date. This makes travel outside the U.S. around the time of transfer very difficult, if not impossible. Please discuss any travel plans you have with your new program sponsor and the Davis IC before making any travel plans.