Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status
J-1 Exchange Visitor status is available to foreign professors, research professors, research scholars, and specialists (among others) who come to the U.S. for an educational purpose. They must be aliens who have a residence abroad that they have no intention of abandoning. The J Exchange Visitor category was developed to implement the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act (Fulbright-Hayes Act) of 1961. The overall purpose of that Act, and the objective of the Exchange Visitor category, is "to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges."
The Exchange Visitor program is managed by the Department of State in Washington D.C., which has the authority to grant sponsorship to various institutions, such as The Rockefeller University. When the Department of State approves an institution as a J sponsor, a program number and a program description are assigned. The University's program number is P-1-2194 and our description can be found in section 2 of your DS-2019 form, the document issued to all J Exchange Visitors. (The DS-2019 form is described further below.) Every Exchange Visitor who comes to Rockefeller University must perform a service that falls within the program description, and pursue the objective listed in section 4 of their DS-2019 form.
The immigration bureaus of the newly formed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) administer and enforce the Immigration and Nationality Act. The Act provides the basis for controlling the flow of aliens into the U.S. for permanent or temporary residency. It is administered outside the U.S. by the U.S. Department of State through its consular posts around the world. These collective agencies are responsible for admitting aliens in J nonimmigrant status and adjudicating certain immigration benefits for J Exchange Visitors and their dependents.
The "Responsible Officer" (RO) and the "Alternate Responsible Officer" (ARO) are the individuals appointed by an Exchange Visitor program sponsor (i.e., the University) to perform the duties set forth in the regulations and to represent the program sponsor. As the Responsible Officer, Maria Lazzaro will keep apprised of the regulations and ensure that you are informed of your responsibilities and obligations as they pertain to your J-1 status.
The basic document for obtaining an Exchange Visitor visa and obtaining and maintaining J nonimmigrant status is the Form DS-2019, also known as the "Certificate of Eligibility." The SEVIS form DS-2019 is a one-page bar-coded form with a unique SEVIS ID number printed above the bar-code. As of August 1, 2003, the only acceptable form evidencing J status is the SEVIS form DS-2019. More information about SEVIS is provided below. Prior versions of the Certificate include the IAP-66 and the non-SEVIS DS-2019. These forms are no longer acceptable for admission to the United States in J status or as evidence of maintaining lawful J status in the U.S.
SEVIS — The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System
As mandated by recent legislation, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS — formerly the INS), has implemented an electronic system to collect, maintain, and track information relative to international students and scholars. The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is an Internet-based system that provides users with access to accurate and current information on nonimmigrant foreign students, exchange visitors, and their dependents. SEVIS will allow schools and exchange programs to transmit electronic information and event notifications via the Internet to USCIS and the Department of State (DOS). More information about SEVIS is available at the USCIS website at http://www.USCIS.gov.
The J-1 exchange visitor category is a SEVIS category and therefore must operate within the context of the SEVIS environment. The SEVIS form DS-2019 described above is generated when the Responsible Officer or Alternate Responsible Officer create an electronic record for an Exchange Visitor or their dependent in SEVIS. While SEVIS did not amend the J-1 regulations, it does require the electronic submission of certain information about all J nonimmigrants. Change of name or dependent's name, change of funding source or area of research, change of address, loss of a form DS-2019, transfer of program, or early withdrawal from the program must all be reported in SEVIS. Therefore, please notify this office of any of these changes immediately.
Very Important Documents
The three most important documents to have valid and in your possession while a J-1 exchange visitor are:
- SEVIS form DS-2019;
- I-94 card (arrival/departure record); and
When re-entering the U.S. after a temporary absence, all three must always be presented to the immigration official at the airport.
Difference between Visa Stamp and I-94 Card
A J-1 visa stamp gives a person permission to apply for entry into the U.S., and the I-94 card (arrival/departure record) enables a person to remain in the U.S. after having entered. While the visa stamp need not remain valid once it has been used to gain admission into the U.S., the permission to stay (the I-94 card and DS-2019 form), by contrast, must be kept valid.
Description of Stay on Program P-1-2194
As a J-1 Exchange Visitor at The Rockefeller University, you must carry out your research in the field described in item 4 of your DS-2019 form.
A limitation of time on the J-1 visa is determined by your category classification, which is determined by your reason for coming to the United States. Rockefeller University sponsors "research scholars" almost exclusively. (We are also authorized to sponsor students in our Ph.D. program.) A research scholar is eligible to remain in the U.S. for a total of three years. A change of category once inside the U.S. is not allowed. These limitations are described on the back of page one of the form DS-2019.
Travel Abroad and Re-entry into U.S.
Before you leave the U.S., check your documents to be sure that form DS-2019 has been endorsed by Maria Lazzaro on the lower right hand side marked "Travel Validation by Responsible Officer." The form must be signed in blue ink. If the form has not been signed, please visit our office. If the form has been endorsed, make sure the signature is not more than one year old. The purpose of a signature is to facilitate your re-entry into the U.S.
Also, when you leave the U.S., be aware that the airline is responsible for collecting your I-94 card; therefore, it should be readily accessible.
Once you're outside the U.S., your main concern should be the validity of your J-1 visa stamp in your passport. If it is no longer valid, you must apply for a new one by presenting a valid DS-2019 form and passport at the U.S. consulate or embassy closest to your location.
The documents to have ready to present to the U.S. customs official upon your re-entry into the U.S. in J-1 status are: a valid passport containing a valid J-1 visa stamp and a valid DS-2019 form.
An exception to needing a valid J-1 stamp applies if you are traveling solely to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean islands other than Cuba for a period of less than 30 days, you have a valid I-94 card, DS-2019 form and passport, and you are returning to the U.S. to continue what you were doing before you left. However, we would prefer that you contact this office before you venture to any of these countries so that I can make sure the exception still stands and give you documentation to facilitate your re-entry.
Another exception regarding back and forth travel to the U.S. applies to individuals who are subject to Section 212 (d) (3) of the Immigration Nationality Act; this requires that you obtain a waiver of inadmissibility before being readmitted in the U.S. If you are subject to this Section, the notation "(212(d) (3))" would be marked in your passport.
It is your responsibility to determine whether or not you need a visa stamp to travel to countries other than the U.S.
Extensions of Stay
When you are admitted to the U.S., section 3 of the form DS-2019 indicates the date to which your authorized stay is valid. You must either depart the U.S. on or before this date, secure an extension of stay, or change to another status. Provided you have been reappointed to the University and have not used up the time allotted to your category, an extension of stay can be done through this office. It is not necessary to leave the U.S. to extend your stay. An extension of stay can be authorized electronically by entering the information (i.e., the new program end date) in SEVIS and issuing you a new form DS- 2019. In most cases, we issue the initial form DS-2019 for the maximum three-year period, so few of you will need to have your stay extended.
Dependents of Exchange Visitors (J-2)
Dependents of J-1 holders (spouse and unmarried minor children) are referred to as J-2's and their stay is dependent on the status of the J-1. Their primary purpose in visiting the U.S. is to accompany the J-1 Exchange Visitor.
Under new SEVIS regulations, dependents in J-2 status must have their own form DS- 2019. Your dependents can no longer travel on your DS-2019 form. They must also have a valid J-2 visa stamp. Even if your dependents will travel separately, they should apply for their J-2 visa stamps when you apply for your J-1 visa stamp. They will need to present their SEVIS generated form DS-2019 when they enter the U.S. to be admitted as J-2 nonimmigrants. As soon as you know of their need to travel separately, notify this office and we will prepare this form for you to give to them.
The same rules of passport and visa validity apply to J-2 dependents.
J-2 dependents may apply for employment authorization by filing an application with the USCIS. Please contact us if your dependent is interested in applying for work authorization.
Medical Insurance Requirement
The United States Department of State, the government body which oversees the J Exchange Visitor Program, requires all J-1 exchange visitors to have medical insurance for themselves and their J-2 dependent(s) while in the United States as J exchange visitors, as detailed in the list below.
In reading the list you will discover that the requirements are not unreasonable nor the costs high, and it is likely that the insurance policy you intend to have during your stay in the U.S. as a J-1 exchange visitor will meet these requirements.
Please understand that it will be your responsibility to make sure that you are in compliance with these requirements. The penalty for willfully failing to meet the insurance requirement (i.e., making little to no effort to comply) for yourself and your J-2 dependent(s) while you are in the U.S. as J exchange visitors will be the termination of your participation in our J program and notification of such termination to the Department of State in Washington, D.C.
Most of you are eligible to enroll in one of the University medical insurance plans. These plans comply with the requirements, yet there is a financial contribution to be paid by you should you enroll in one. Details of the medical insurance plans and the contributions can be explained to you during orientation.
Medical Insurance Requirements
- The policy must provide: (1) medical benefits of at least $50,000 per person for each accident or illness; (2) repatriation of remains in the amount of $7,500; and (3) expenses associated with medical evacuation in the amount of $10,000.
- The policy may not have a deductible that exceeds $500 per accident or illness;
- The policy must backed by the full faith and credit of your government or it must meet the minimum rating requirements established by the Department of State: an A.M. Best rating of "A-" or above, an Insurance Solvency International, Ltd. (ISI) rating of "A-I" or above, a Standard & Poor's Claims-paying Ability rating of "A-" or above, or a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of B+ or above).
Two Year Home Residency Requirement — Section 212 (E)
The home residency rule requires that the alien reside in their country of last permanent residence for at least two years before being eligible to change to certain other statuses, such as H-1 or permanent resident, in the United States. Exchange visitors can be subject to the two-year home residency requirement if, and only if, any of the three situations listed below apply:
- Your stay as a J-1 exchange visitor was paid for in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, by an agency of your government, the U.S. government, or an international organization;
- You are a national or resident of a country where it has been determined your skills are needed; or
- You are a foreign medical graduate who will receive medical education or Training in a residency or fellowship program and your program sponsor is the Educational Commission on Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).
It is possible, although by no means guaranteed, to get a waiver of this requirement. Details of this process of applying for the waiver will be provided to you if we determine you will need one. We are usually aware of who is subject to this requirement; therefore, if you are subject, we will contact you in the beginning of your third year as a J-1 exchange visitor to ascertain your plans for the future. If they include remaining in the United States, we will determine if a statement of no objection is a feasible option.
Transfer of Program
It is possible as a research scholar to transfer program sponsors from Rockefeller's J-1 program to another institution's program or vice versa, provided the transfer is to complete the objective for which you were admitted to exchange visitor status, and you have not used up your time limit (3 years for research scholar). The transfer process involves notification of the host institution of your intent to transfer. This will be done by the new institution seeking the transfer. They obtain release from the first institution, who will then process the transfer in SEVIS. Please contact us if your plans include transfer to another institution.
Change of Address Notification
You are required to keep the USCIS informed about your most current local address. If your address should change at any point during your stay, a form AR-11 (available online at http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/ar-11.pdf) must be completed and sent to the USCIS. We must also be notified so we can update this information in SEVIS.
Please contact us if you have questions about any of the information provided in this manual or if you feel uncomfortable with any of your documentation.